This mountain is high. Higher than the previous scarily high mountains that we have been up. It is over 1500 meters high (4980 feet) which for any UK readers is higher than Ben Nevis. But unlike any British mountain which has a wide base and gentle inclines, this again was mostly sheer cliff faces rising majestically towards the clouds. It is the highest point in the whole of the Hunan province.
To reach the summit you take a cable car which alone took half an hour. HALF AN HOUR of swinging precariously over great gaping yawning sheer drops!!! I tried not to look! It is apparently the longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world.
Alternatively there is a road with 99 bends which also reaches the middle of the mountain. 9 is an auspicious number in Taoism. Some keen (crazy) drivers do challenges on this road.
Tianmen means ‘Heaven’s Gate’ Mountain. The name comes from the feature hole near the top. There is also a myth that an ancient general hid stolen treasure in the mountain because it was so inaccessible.
Some keen (crazy) pilots have actually flown through the hole, which is impressively skillful flying!
For us, we spent the day walking around the flat top. There are several routes you can take but ALL of them include the solid but narrow paths built on the side of the cliff face.
In fact for much of the walk I was like this
Or clinging onto Kevin’s hand, especially the highest, narrowest and most exposed sections. The group were very good at saying encouraging things to me as we walked. They even tried singing to take my mind off it but only came up with ‘Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away’ or ‘Don’t fear the reaper’. To be honest even some of our group who don’t have vertigo said that their stomachs were churning a little at those points.
I did at least have the option of avoiding the glass walkway. Phew!
We didn’t go to the very highest point which was here.
The platform you can see is the point from which the totally insane launch themselves off in wing suits. This daredevil sport (!) is known as flying squirrels and even the most hardy in our party blanched at the thought of doing that.
What was stunning was the beautiful red ribbon area. People write wishes or prayers and tie them to the trees. It’s nearer to heaven I suppose.
We wrote one for the family and I very bravely went near-ish to the edge to find a space to tie it on.
The walkways were fortunately very sturdy and made from concrete. It made me shudder just wondering HOW they built them at such heights. I later learned that they would have constructed bamboo scaffolding like this on the cliff face.
What was fascinating was the way the concrete was constructed around the trees
Oh and you have to laugh at some of the translations on the signs
Then there was a short suspension bridge which I liked least of all because it MOVED as we walked across. I traversed that as rapidly as I could.
I decided that I needed to conquer this fear so I tried very hard and did this
Take a look at the railing. It was strong but it does have gaps in it. What was most shocking to us all were the number of people up here with small children. Toddlers who were not on reins! Would you bring a small child up here?!?! We were extremely glad that we visited while the Chinese schools were still in session. We might all have had heart attacks if there were more children running around.
The way down was easier with an extremely long escalator ride inside the mountain which just felt like being in the London Underground.
Then there was the final challenge. 999 steps. Those auspicious numbers again. And they were STEEP
In 2018 a Range Rover drove up the 99 bends and 999 steps as a challenge. They did it in 23 minutes 41 seconds which was quite an impressive feat. Check out You Tube if you are interested.
We certainly put in some steps and stairs over the 4 days. All in all it was quite an adventure and I feel proud of what I achieved. Well I do now that I am safely back on the ground! As the book says ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ and I certainly did that.
Next holiday should perhaps be somewhere flatter.
Many thanks to Ron, Laurie, Janice, Arthur, Lisa B and Kevin for sharing their photos