Even the longest structure to ever be built by mankind started the very same way as the smallest, with meticulous planning and execution.
Foundation is the key to every success in life.
~ Travelled Paths ~
The Ming general stands proudly at the podium of his fortress as he makes his final inspection of his warriors. There are 5000 of them, who fought side by side with him throughout the years, and he has known them all by names and called them brothers. His eyes meet the eyes of his trusted aide, Tan Lun, who has battled with him against the Japanese pirates in the battle of Fujian.
They understood each other’s inner thoughts. They have to rely and call upon this band of brothers yet again for one more battle, this time against the Mongols from the north, and this time in Jizhou.
The autumn wind is especially chilly this night. General Qi Jiguang gives his final rally call to the troops and returns to his tent. The imperial convoy has been waiting at the sides for some time now, waiting for General Qi to return and convey the imperial edict from the Emperor. It would be his next assignment – to oversee the construction of the of the fortress wall for another 1000 watch towers.
Itinerary – Today we will make our way to Jiankou, a section that is increasingly becoming a hot spot for amateur photographers and “Wild Wall” lovers.
People are flocking to Jiankou because it is the place where there is a truly unique construction to the Great Wall. It’s a hotspot for photography and it is easy to see why once you gaze upon it in person. The name, which means “Arrow Nock,” actually comes from the shape of the mountain of this region, not because of the build of the wall.
Jiankou starts from the Xizhazi Village, which is about 30 kilometers to Huairou County in Beijing. This is also a Ming Dynsasty section of the Great Wall and was one of the era’s most important sections. Built from local dolomite, the visual appeal of this section is immediate apparent once it is seen.
The Wall has degraded over the years and the climb can be very dangerous. There are steep inclines that must be traversed over nearly 15 kilometers as it connects Mutianyu and joins with Huanghuacheng. It is winding, has many obstacles, but offers many rewards for those who are able to complete this adventurous undertaking.
Here are the specifics of Day 2 at Jiankou:
The most beautiful and yet dangerous section of Ming Dynasty’s contribution to the Great Wall.
Type of terrain: cornfields, jungle path, collapsed ridges.
There is an almost completely vertical climb on broken stairways. Slippery slope.
Time taken to complete this hike: 6hrs. Distance covered: 5.54km
Compared to first day of rain and fogginess, we were greeted by clear skies. This part of hike is the most unrestored part of the wall that we had to walk across during the entire 5 days on this architectural masterpiece.
Jiankou challenged us almost immediately. As you can see, the climb up the wall is more like free climbing up a fairly steep summit more than an even climb that is traditionally associated with the Great Wall. One false step could be bad news!
The joys of Jiankou go beyond the vistas that are seen with every footstep on this travelled path. It is a place that allows you to reflect, challenge yourself, and accomplish things that you may have never thought to be possible before.
Reaching the foot of Sky Stairs. We had to pose for a group photo here. It was an amazing accomplishment!
What other says about Jiankou in Trip Advisor
“Approaching our access point on the Great Wall with our guide, my wife and I were a bit surprised at how underdeveloped the access to this location was. There were no signs suggesting that many others than local traffic come up this way. We pulled up into a small village then proceeded to hike up the side of the cliff through a forest to our first watch tower. This was a steep ascent of (what our guide says) 600 metres. Exhausting, but the views you are greeted with at the top are second to none and well worth the effort getting up there. You can see for miles in any direction, and the crumbling, unrestored sections of the wall in this area only add to the appeal of the location.”
“More authentic side of the Great Wall. The unrestored parts were amazing to see!”
“China’s Blue Sky Emergency Rescue Team (part of the Beijing Red Cross) reported that hiking the Jiankou was “the most dangerous outdoor recreation site in Beijing”. This crumbly section of the Great Wall is for serious hikers in good shape. Because it’s largely unrestored,
it feels much more authentic. The views were awesome and there was a great sense of accomplishment getting to the highest tower.”
“The green mountainous terrain, the serine country side, lush alpine forests and fog filled hill tops made a memorable introduction to the eventual arrival at the Wall. And then there we were, the Wall beneath our feet and snaking around the hilll tops forever more and out of site. Thousands of pilgrims but yet there were more than plenty of quite reflective spots to sit back and just take it all in.”
There Were Many Challenges in Day 2
If you can complete the journey of Jiankou, then you can complete almost any path. It is rugged, difficult, but rewarding. I particularly enjoyed seeing the structure of the wall, including the passes and the signal beacons.
The passes in the Great Wall are the places where the strongest sections tended to be. It was where trade routes passed through the wall, so access ramps for horses, livestock, and soldiers to cross the Wall were in place. The bastions could be up to 10 metres high and up to 5 metres wide at the top. As you can see in the images, many are made from brick, not stone.
As for the signal beacons, these towers were used primarily for communication. Lanterns or smoke allowed for long distance communication, while gunpowder, banners, or clappers could be used for short range communication. There were often stables and living quarters included in the towers as well.
Jiankou will challenge you, but if you come prepared, you can conquer this stronghold. There are great moments to be found along this section of the Great Wall for everyone and it will leave an indelible mark on your soul. Have you conquered Jiankou in the past? What would you share as advice with others about a journey they’re thinking about?
Leave us a comment below. We love to hear from you.
Follow our series on the Great Wall Hike 2014
Day 1 – The Great Wall of China Hike (HuangHuaCheng)
Day 2 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Jiankou) – currently reading
Day 3 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Jiankou to Mutianyu)
Day 4 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Gubeikou to Jinshanling)
Day 5 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Jinshanling to West Simatai)
See the video we have created from the images we captured during this journey