Having hiked a surprisingly large amount during my three months in China (considering the gym was ditched months ago, as were my hiking boots), I now view myself as quite the mountain connoisseur.
So it is with a somewhat authoritative tone that I can declare that though Mount Huangshan is the most beautiful, the Great Wall is the most awe-inspiring, Emei Shan wins the award for most diverse, magnificent and surreal.
Located 150km south of Chengdu and costing 185 RMB (unless you’re a student), Mount Emei is neither the most convenient nor best value mountain to hike. But the UNESCO world heritage site is 100% worth a visit – thanks to the vegetation, animals, spiritual significance and views from the summit.
A winding two hour bus journey took us from Baoguo Temple to Leidong Ping where, with the help of bamboo hiking poles and snacks in abundance, we started the ascent.
We were lucky that being there in late November meant relatively few tourists, but even luckier that it was a relatively clear day – an unusual phenomenon in Sichuan.
As we hiked up, the scenery changed bizarrely quickly, becoming wintry, frosty and scarily slippery.
Though an undoubtedly strenuous hike with more unforgiving staircases than I could shake a (bamboo) stick at, the view two hours later was out of this world.
Or, more accurately, on top of the world.
The mountain itself is culturally significant as the place where Buddhism first became established on Chinese territory. This is marked at the summit by a multi-faced statue (pictured above) of Samantabhadra.
I had never been anywhere like it in my life – the clouds gave it a very surreal, peaceful feel and added immeasurably to the beauty.
We spent a good hour walking in an excited daze around the stunning summit.
Eventually we roused ourselves and got a cable car down as, in the space of a few minutes, the weather had changed dramatically as an eerie fog rolled in.
The quick changing weather was not the only thing to surprise us – we were also greeted by some extremely close-up monkeys on the descent. They had clearly lost their fear of humans due to over-feeding by tourists, their proximity was strangely aggressive but also great for photos ops!