Hua Shan Plank Walk

My friend Craig and I climbed Hua Shan and went on the Plank Walk in May of 2010. I’ve previously posted pictures from the mountain to my flickr and facebook accounts, but didn’t blog about the experience. In light of an article making the rounds calling the plank walk the most dangerous hike in the world, I thought it might be good to offer my perspective on the subject.

First, if you are afraid of heights, stay off the walk. It is as simple as that. If you want to do some immersion therapy, do it somewhere else on the mountain. The path has two-way traffic, and having someone frozen in fear just isn’t conducive to the harmonious environment that we who live in China seek.

This is the path leading to the entrance of the plank walk. Notice that there are chains on both sides of the path.

Most of the articles I’ve read that talk about how dangerous the plank walk is gloss over or omit that people use safety harnesses (with redundant connections to dual steel safety lines) when walking on it. The harnesses are available for a small fee (which I think was refundable on return).

I’ve seen old pictures of the walk where there weren’t any safety harnesses or cables, but I’m fairly sure these have been in place since at least 2008 (for the influx of tourists coming to see the Olympic Games).

Craig on the ladder leading down to the plank walk. Again, notice the dual chains, as well as the steel safety cables on either side of the chains.

And, of course, the beautiful landscape below Craig.

Skyward view from the ladder. The weather was wonderful that day.

Two entrepreneurs setup a picture taking and printing service about midway out the walk.  When Craig and I were there, they were smoking and listening to music really loudly.

Locks left on a link of chain (for good luck).

Looks back towards the start of the plank walk.

Again, absolutely beautiful terrain.

The destination of the plank walk (or at least the present incarnation of it).

A sign in traditional Chinese. My friend Loren translates the characters as:

  • sì = to think, reflect; meaning
  • guò = to pass by, past;
  • yái = cliff, bank, ledge, precipice.

He further states, “[p]ut them all together, and you should get the general idea”.

We passed these two women on the way back. As you can tell, everyone in the shot was horribly shaken by the hiking experience.

Craig calling home. Yes, there was cell reception.

One last look down before heading up the ladder and off the cliffside.

Craig took this picture of me on a portion of the walk that was just carved out of the stone. I really liked this part of it.

And, finally, on what was probably the most dangerous part of the trip, doing a bit of free climbing.


    1. It was a fun time. Nearby Xi’an, so if you make it over here again and want to see the Terracotta warriors, we can do both.

  1. Never mind the plank walk, I couldn’t make it from the North Peak to the East Peak! There’s something very humbling when 80-year-old women are passing you while your legs tremble. You two have nerves of steel.

    1. 🙂 A lot of people concentrate only on the plank walk, and not on the amount of climbing needed on the mountain (although I think there are trams and such).

      I think I have more tolerance for things that other might find scary, but it also helps greatly that I love heights. 🙂

      An aside, there are folks carrying loads on their shoulders all day up and down the mountain. I took one load from a regular (much smaller man that I am) and could barely make it 10 meters.

  2. I keep looking at these photos–my soul drops out of the bottom of my feet each time. I do not believe I could do that. Amazing!

    1. That’s what upsets me about articles that try to make it a hugely frightening experience or otherwise embellish the walk… the grandeur of it stands on its own.

  3. what a wonderful journey you just took us on.. a story in .photos and words that enlightens, grounds (!) and is humorous too. actually, the story you laid out does what the chinese words state.

    1. Thanks. I worked on it for about three days (off and on). Mostly going through the photos, editing them down, and then redeveloping them.

      1. yes, it would have taken work…because it reads as a wonderful story. i hope you do that with other blogs…when the spirit moves you. very rich.

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