Day 10: Wutaishan summits

Lire en Français : Jour 10 Les sommets de Wutaishan

At the second temple today leeward in the flow of prayers travelling the wide-open spaces.

5.20am everybody seams asleep

I dress then get down to the lobby where I have to wake-up my host in the neighboring room. Before that I want to eat. I need hot water. In theory there is some in the lobby but now it is barely warm. I can hear some noise upstairs, I go and ask the kettle to the group of Chinese girls getting ready to take a bus.

The group is nosy enough to wake up my host; good point as he did not react to my early calls. I eat half of my big meal (a freeze-dried tagine, I take the remainder with me). My host is asking me once more if I really want to go, telling me the weather is not so good.

Content of my bag for the day

The lightest as possible but with all security elements. Therefore I take all my warm clothes (down jacket, fleece jacket, long sleeve sport shirt, gloves), enough energy food for the entire day, equipment for repair and orientation. I have a map of the valley in English and Chinese, off-line maps with my GPS position in the phone, a GPS that records my trace in case I need to get back in the mist. I don’t take medicines except strips, a photo lens, phrase books and image book. I don’t know if I’m getting use to it but I feel my bag is light even with the 3.5ltr of water in it.

It is bloody freezing and misty. Even my host is suggesting me to stay in for the day.

On the way to the first temple

In the end I am on the way to the first temple at 6.20am. It is cold, there is mist and I am almost wearing every layers of clothes I have.

The cold is bearable at start. I really hope that the mist will dissipate to ease the orientation.

P1050454The sun is rising in the mist while I am going through the first temple of the day.

The slope that leads to the first temple quickly makes me take-of two of the warmer layers of clothes and soon I am only wearing a tank top.

I’m visiting the first temple while the day will be long. The temple is being renovated in depth.

P1050440An area of the temple recently renovated – very quiet in the early morning.

A trail to the second temple

I am getting out of the temple and I follow the instruction given to me yesterday. I take a path that transforms into a trail going up behind the temple. It is rather easy so far, it is a trail;).

trail running wutaishanA “splendid highway” for a trailer; “a difficult countryman trace, sometimes narrow” for a random Chinese hiker. It is not always easy to get a rational appreciation from the information I collect before being on the mountain.

That is how I get to the next temple. There I realize that the map’s perspective is open to discussions nevertheless I find my way. The second temple’s renovation state could be called “construction”! Only one building is standing. The rest of the temple is ruins or underpinning.

trail running wutaishanTemple being “renovated”. The Chinese invest a lot in tourism. Soon it will be a historical attraction.:)

Direction: central summit

A quick look at the GPS and at the off-line map to confirm my understanding of the map. I am running toward the central summit on this map, which is not the central summit according to other maps.

trail running wutaishanGoing toward the central summit. You can figure out the path that goes up to the West summit.

The track is flat, even going down. I run. Reaching an isolated temple, a pilgrim in a car kindly offers me some water and wishes me a nice trip. The climbing slope starts again, I am running towards the fork between West and central summits.

trail running wutaishanA remote temple on the way to the summits, behind the first mountain barrier of the valley.

Detour via the West summit

Quite pleased with my progression, since the morning mist rise, I’m moving toward the West summit instead of going directly to the central summit. A that moment I come across the pilgrim in the car again, just starting his way down, he congratulates me. I start on the path and quickly go free-ride, the steppe providing an acupuncture session for free.

trail running wutaishanSort of a trail quickly turning into free-ride to the West summit ; acupuncture session for free.

One done! I reach the West summit. Just below the west summit a small precarious village yet with at least one inhabitant.

trail running wutaishanAt the West summit ! Just below the summit a small precarious village.

Under the summit too, a trail that leads to the central summit, clearly signed with stone posts (each engraved with few words) every thirty meters. I start to doubt seriously about the supposed difficult orientation.

trail running wutaishanThe trail that starts just below the West summit leading to the col between central and West summits.

trail running wutaishanThe col between central and West summits.

I quickly go down to the col and climb up again quickly toward the central summit. I reach to pairs of hikers, every time I try few words and get back to running.

trail running wutaishanAn happy encounter with an enthusiastic hiker, on the central summit plateau.

trail running wutaishanThe central summit and its ancestral monument (the real one).

P1050626Prayers flying in the wind at the central summit.

The future temple of the central summit

On the central summit, once again, there is one building still standing and an enormous construction is started. Nearby, there are stocks of bricks and Buddhas :) While I’m shooting few photos, the last hikers are coming. They offer me to have lunch together at the temple. Unfortunately, I still have a long way to go and I must decline the offer.

trail running wutaishanA huge stock of Buddhas for the next, gigantic, temple of the central summit.

Further, higher, to the North summit

From there, I go down again to a large col before starting a new climbing section to the North summit.

trail running wutaishanAt the start from the central summit you can catch sight of the North summit. Another considerable distance open to meditation.

The end of the slope is steeper and the hight may also impact my feelings. The North summit (3066m) is under the clouds, the temperature is chilly. I am still wearing the tank top but soon after my arrival at the summit, I am putting on two layers and my gloves. Indeed, the temperature is close to zero. There is ice in one of the temple’s pond.

P1050655A freezing wind is blowing on the North summit’s temple (3066m).

This temple is smaller but it is not under work. Here, far from the tourist flow of the valley, the atmosphere is favourable to serenity and meditation.

trail running wutaishan- temple of the North summit -

Long way down to the valley’s top entrance

From the North summit, I go down directly to the col, access to the valley and passage to the East summit.

P1050677For orientation leaving the North summit, you need to differentiate kerns from Buddhist erections.

The road is quite long but it is paved. Therefore, I am running almost all the way down, taking short-cuts as much as possible, straight in the slope between every turns of the road.

trail running wutaishanGoing down from the North summit.

On that section, few rain drops come into the scene but not enough to wet the bag, I don’t stop.

trail running wutaishan
At the top entrance of the valley, junction to the East summit.

After 30km, on the way to the East summit

Reaching the col, I eat some of my freeze-dried meal then go in the direction of the East summit. I’m well on time, the sun is still high.

The slope is quite steep, with now around 30km completed, I start feeling it.

trail running wutaishanThe trail that goes to the East summit.

I finally reach the East summit, this temple is accessible by car without paying any entrance fee. It is not the most enhanced site of the valley.

P1050723 Arriving at the temple of the East summit.

P1050728East summit temple.

Free-ride start

I have now to start the long downhill not mentioned on the local maps – but I have a GPS trace. The beginning is easy, you have to get on the crest that start under the East summit, before plunging in the valley.

P1050731Free-ride on the crest before the long downhill to the bottom of the valley.

Soon I see that the “trail” is visible in the grass. The way back should not be that difficult. While I’m still before the break to the valley, the wind carries chants.

trail running wutaishanAt the edge of the crest, the wind carries prayers and chants.

trail running wutaishanStarting fast on the way down. Here the fall is well settled.

Another nice encounter

I keep going and further down I see three people, a man, a woman and a kid about ten years old, going down the trail. I quickly reach them. We exchange few words, take pictures. The man is offering me to have dinner with them tonight. I could go down much faster, arrive before sun-set and catch the last valley shuttle but I keep going with the three pilgrims, it is nice and friendly.

trail running wutaishanEncounter with a pilgrims family, a foot in each world.

They are so attentive to each of the kid’s step, only child, sacred child! A small stumble, a small slip, they hold their breath. We even take an alternative path to get around a steeper slope – that the kid could take. Yes, he is wearing runners with plain sole.

P1050794Trail and friendly exchanges at sun-set.

I ease the women from her coat. That’s the opportunity to take pictures, sing chants, go around Buddhist towers. A very nice way to end a marathon trail. We reach the road, I have 42.2km on the watch with over +2300m of positive altitude variation.

P1050806The last temple is another opportunity for chants, rounds a prayers. The night and the cold are coming fast.

P1050809Here and there heaps of coal to face the cold autumn nights and the winter.

The sharing

Few meters from our arrival on the road we get in a house with a courtyard. It is a volunteers place for Buddhist instruction that offers free meal and accommodation. So, I am invited to share the meal with numerous guests, kids to elderly persons. Everybody is taking great care of me.

trail running wutaishanA very nice and friendly meal. Curiosity and generosity are part of the evening.

After the meal, it is almost 9pm, the man is driving me back to my hostel while we drop his family at their hotel.

The story

At the hostel, they ask me how was my day and I tell them the itinerary via the four summits on the map pinned in the lobby, in front of the small audience in awe.

I don’t make it last long, a shower, few words typed on the phone and I fall asleep.

P1050661The temple of the North summit. On the dreams menu tonight: wide-open space and Zen. What? “became Buddhist”? :)

Posted in Trip
One comment on “Day 10: Wutaishan summits
  1. Omar Fonseca says:

    Each step of the travel is amazing.. nice pictures..better reading..I look forward to reading the next story. What a wonderful adventure Pierre.

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