Hiking matters #341: Cilai Ridge (奇萊山) Day 2 – Crossing Cilai Ridge from Main Peak to North Peak

This is a blog entry about Taiwan. Check out the PinoyMountaineer in Taiwan page for more of Gideon Lasco’s adventures and blog entries about Taiwan mountains and hiking in Taiwan!

Continued from Hiking matters #340: At the Chenggong Cabin where we spent the night, we woke up at 0300H and began the long day of hiking at 0420H. It was immediately an ascent through the subalpine forests, but very soon we were trekking/scrambling on scree slopes which to me were reminiscent of Holy Ridge. A kilometer up the trail, we encountered a fork — right goes to Main Peak; left goes to North Peak; we decided to turn right, although in retrospect I would have opted for North Peak first, since it would prove to be the tougher challenge.

The scree slopes somewhat end upon our arrival at the ridge itself, which is around 3300-3400 MASL at its lowest portions. Covered with Yushan cane (Yushania niitakayamensis) – the same ‘dwarf bamboo’ we see in Mt. Pulag, it is understandable that the mountain at times look like the highest peak in Luzon. Unlike in the Holy Ridge where the ridge itself is a challenge, many portions of Cilai Ridge are actually quite easy to cross.
Arriving at the ridge, we were enthralled to see the peaks of Hehuanshan, and behind them, Xueshan and possibly the other peaks that form the Holy Ridge (I have yet to become familiar with the topography of Taiwan’s mountains). Since we were crossing a ridge, the view was dramatic, with seas of clouds all over, and many other views that on their would have been deemed magnificent; but taken together, each constituent bit becomes ‘ordinary’.
Only when we reached the base of Cilai Main Peak did the challenge resume – this time, a 250-meter ascent up a rocky slope, its periphery fragile as it is precarious. By 0745H, or 3 hours and 25 minutes after we started trekking, we reached the peak, 3560 MASL. We explored it a bit and came upon some (more) dramatic rock formations. Again, the view was Hehuanshan and the valleys between the mountain ranges of Central Taiwan.
From Cilai Main Peak, we backtracked on the ridge and continued on to the more challenging Cilai North Peak: it is actually the highest peak in the range, at 3607 MASL. The pictures speak for themselves, even though they fail to capture just how precarious the trail is leading to the summit. This is the section that has claimed the lives of many hikers in the past and were extra careful — at the same time thankful that the weather has held up to that point.
By 1140H, we arrived at Cilai North Peak, and saw for ourselves just how precariously perched it was; with rocks seemingly in the continued process of eroding, crumbling, and falling off. It was a place I was anxious to get away from, the moment we reached it!
And indeed, we just stayed for a few minutes, before performing an equally challenging descent; by 1330H we were back at the Chenggong Hut and we decided that since there was still enough time; we would go all the way to the trailhead and stay at the Songsyue Hotel for the night. This decision was ultimately a good one, but it required ascending 450 meters – a very challenging task considering how long the day has been. Still, it was great to finish Cilai Ridge in two days! What a great hike it was!
I will be back in Taiwan for more hikes!
CILAI RIDGE (奇萊山) 2013
Hiking matters #340: Cilai Ridge Day 1
Hiking matters #341: Cilai Ridge Day 2
Hiking matters #342: Outdoor shops in Taiwan updates
Cilai Ridge Pictures on PM Facebook

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