The second day of the Great Wall hike started out with an early and filling breakfast to get us prepared for the journey ahead of us. With an eager and positive feeling that this day was going to be a fantastic day for a journey along the Great Wall, our team was ready to hit the road and begin in on the adventure.
Day 2 was expected to be a much longer trek than the one we started out with on Day 1. We were informed that it would take about 6 hours of hiking at an average of 500 meters above sea level for a total distance of 6 to 7 kilometers to complete the adventure. It would start at Jiaoshan and journey through until the ending destination of Sandoguan.
Excited to get started, the next 6 hours looked to have the potential to be life-changing in numerous ways.
History & Importance of Jiaoshan-Sandaoguan
Jiaoshan, our starting point, is located approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from Shanhaiguan. This ancient city was named after Jiaoshan Mountain, the highest peak to the north of Shanhaiguan Pass, as well as the first mountain the Great Wall climbs up after the Pass. Unlike the recently restored parts of the wall, this ancient section of the wall has in fact not undergone any renovations or restorations, giving it a unique and historical feel as you journey across it.
Sandaoguan, meaning “3 Passes,” was built with the purpose to defend against enemy intrusions during the ancient wars. It also served as a strategically important part of the wall and appears as another dragon that is plunging forward to the top of the cliffs and then suddenly rushing down to the bottom of the valley below.
Built by layering stones, many of the segments of this part of the Great Wall were built right into the cliffs. Because of this unique structure, it earned an appropriate nickname: “The Wall Hanging Upside Down.” It is made up of three different branches. The first one guards the entrance of the ravine, while the second guards the midway of the ravine, and then the third is located at the upper part of the ravine.
The Long but Rewarding Journey
The entrance of the Jiaoshan Great Wall was built to imitate the architectural structure of the Ming Dynasty, much like many other parts of the wall. The next stage of the hike, however, was nothing like any previous Great Wall sections I have done before.
Following a local guide through a faintly marked trail, we were forced to bash through thick vegetation and thorny bushes to continue on our way. It was not long before I realized that the conditions of the Great Wall were going to make for a rather tricky and challenging hike. Add in the fact that the wall is not restored in most areas, it meant that there were many minor slips and falls along the way that we had to really watch where we were going.
This meant at times we could not look up and marvel at the breathtaking beauty that was surrounding every inch of us to make sure our footing was secure. We proceeded on and took several stops along the way to make sure we could enjoy the vistas which surrounded us.
One of the first things I noticed about this section of the Great Wall was that in some sections, the wall is only built on one side. On the other side were deep cliffs with a big drop. This encouraged me to stay on track and mind my step wherever my feet went. This was especially important on the sections which were marked “mountain-supported wall.” It altogether took about an hour to get through.
A quick lunch to fuel up our bodies, the team soldiered on.
Once we emerged out of that zone, we arrived at Taipingding Peak (大平顶), which is the main peak of Jiaoshan Mountain. With a complete panoramic view of the Changshou Mountain and its scenic areas, we decided to stop for a moment and marvel at all the natural beauty around us. Although we were not even near close to being done at this point, the journey so far had been absolutely worth being able to see this area. On a clear day, one might be even lucky enough to see parts of Shanhaiguan City, Laolongtou, and the Bohai Sea.
After spending some time taking pictures, we went towards the eastern slope where we passed by Qixian Monastery, which is a popular pilgrimage temple amongst the locals. That’s when we saw salvation in the form of a chairlift facility. This ensured a speedy descent to Sandaoguan Pass, which we came to find out is a twin watchtower.
The journey was definitely difficult and came along with a couple falls here and there, but to be able to see such spectacular, historical, and significant parts of the Great Wall was something that I will never forget – and don’t even get me started on the adrenalin-pumping hikes!
There is also a lesson to be learned here. We must be careful with some footsteps because the journey can be dangerous. We must help those who are with us on our journey so we all arrive safely. We must also stop for a moment despite those dangers, admire what Mother Nature has provided, and rejoice in the accomplishments we have along the way.
Day 2 had difficult moments, but the good news is that the journey is not over yet. I have day 3 to look forward to tomorrow!
Today’s activities were recorded using Fitbit Surge.
View this exercise here
The Great Wall of China hike #gwc2015 was organised by TravelledPaths.com and supported by the Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers’ meetup group. If you are interested in joining TravelledPaths’ organised meetups, please subscribe to our mailing list here
The Great Wall of China Hike Season 2