“The Lonely Mountain! Bilbo had come far and through many adventures to see it, and now he did not like the look of it in the least.”
It was at 7:10pm that we realized that our overnight train to Huangshan – the Yellow Mountain – would leave at 8:15pm. That’s when panic set in. 8:15pm was over two hours before what we had thought (D had miscalculated the 24-hour time notation) so we abandoned dinner, to frantically pack, walk the dog, and somehow get to the train station, hoping our Uber would ignore traffic rules to get us there in time.
Against better judgement, we had decided to take the overnight train to the Yellow Mountains. The 12-hour overnight train is always a one-of-a-kind experience. The second class cabins have three bunks of beds and no doors to shield sleepers from the hallway lights. The first class cabins have doors and blankets, but still the same chain-smoking uncles littering the hallways, and the same lull of the train. Our cabin mate was a middle-aged woman who went straight to sleep, which was the best-case scenario. We fell asleep rocked by the train’s lull and the polyethylene smell of the cabin
When you get to the Yellow Mountain and start climbing, it feels as if the clouds are going through you. Huangshan is a brutal climb. It’s 8km, straight uphill, with no real safety barriers, and 60 degree inclines. It’s moments of hugging the mountain wall, because there are no ropes or no safety restraints. It’s the perpetual reassurance that “you have one hour left”, although it’s really been an hour since someone told us we have an hour left and we still keep hearing the same refrain.
The climb up takes about 3.5 hours, not including the 1.5km+ trek up the the actual summit. On the way up, we pass countless middle-aged men with calves of steel, who carry up 200lb packs of food to be sold at the top of the mountain. They strain under the weight of their packs. We eat cucumbers soaked in water to rehydrate. We rest every 200 steps, because the climb becomes unbearable and my back is soaked in sweat. My phone tells me that we’ve climbed over 333 floors.
But the view at the top makes it all worth it.