Hiking matters #174: The initial leg up ‘Black’ Cilai Ridge, one of the most challenging hikes in Taiwan

DAYULING, TAROKO NATIONAL PARK- As a send off to Nemi, our newfound friend in Hehuanshan, we accompanied him to the first leg of the trail leading to Cilai Ridge, 3560 MASL, whose notoriety has earned for it the nickname ‘Black Cilai’. This mountain (pronounced ‘Chilai’) is considered as a very difficult peak among Taiwanese hikers, and although we did not have the time nor the permit to actually do the 2-3 day hike, we decided to follow Nemi as far as Minor Cilai, which gives a foretaste of what a Cilai Ridge climb will be like.
The first part of the trail passes by the Yushan canes, but it quickly leads to a very beautiful pine forest. Here, some parts of the trail are steep, and have some fixed ropes installed. There are also some ravines, which again foreshadow the steep ascents of the higher parts of Cilai.
We were in Minor Cilai when we finally parted ways with Nemi. The total length of the trail to North Peak is about 7-8 kilometers; and I realize that Cilai can, theoretically, be dayhiked if one is physically and mentally prepared for such a challenge. Yet, just like in the Philippines, the best views are in the early morning and it may not be a visually rewarding hike to climb Cilai in just one day.
Still, Black Cilai is so far the most powerful invitation for me to go back here in Taiwan as soon as I have the time for it – hopefully fo autumn this year or spring next.

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