I’m pretty sure that most people in Taipei don’t realize that they live at the base of a volcano. What might be even more unsettling is that all indications show that there are still active magma cambers under northern Taiwan.
The Tatun Volcanic Group 大屯火山群 is a group of volcanoes that make up most of Yangming Shan National Park 陽明山國家公園, the large mountainous park that is just to the north, but technically within Taipei City limits. The largest is Qixing Mountain 七星山 (Seven Star Mountain) at 1,120 meters (3,675 ft); the next is Datun Mountain 大屯山 and there are many smaller parasitic volcanoes whose peaks can be seen around the park.
One of the most obvious to the naked eye is a mountain called Huangzui Shan 磺嘴山, to the northeast of Qixing Shan and Taipei City. It’s also one of the only ones with an obvious cauldron that you can hike into…
Unfortunately, we chose to visit on a day that you could barely see you hand in front of your face…
I have an obsession with Google Earth. I mean I really have it bad. I’ve spent entire days looking at deserts in Northern Africa, mountains in South America and tiny islands in the South Pacific. I’ll bet you that I’ve looked at every photo posted in northern Taiwan. I’ve even used it before photo shoots to “scout” the location. I often shoot corporate executives and I’ve used it to scope out their buildings to see if it might have cool architecture to use as a background… Needless to say, I love it.
One afternoon, I was poking around Yangming Shan National Park when I noticed something strange… something that looked like the cauldron of a volcano, right there in the middle of the park. If you have Google Earth, copy and paste: 25°10’43.20″N, 121°36’16.24″E into “Fly to” and you’ll see what I saw. If you don’t have Google Earth… See what you’ve been missing! Download it!
I took a motorcycle ride around the park a few days later, and confirmed my curiosity that it was indeed volcano shaped.
It doesn’t take much to talk my friends into going on a hike and to my luck, Stu looked into it and applied for the special permit needed. It turns out that the volcano is smack in the middle of a limited-access, special nature reserve area… even cooler!
Having to apply for the permit a week in advance meant that we had little flexibility if the weather turned bad… which it did. But, we knew the hike wasn’t a difficult one, and proceeded in spite of the bad weather.
Unfortunately, when we got to the top, there was a strong wind and very little visibility. It was so windy when we got to the peak that we all had to huddle behind the tall grass for shelter. We never saw the cauldron clearly but could tell when we were in it from the small pools of water that gather there.
Later that night, back in the safety of Taipei and enjoying an after-hike beverage, we decided that it was a good day despite the weather, and we’ll try to do it again on a nicer day. If you’re interested in visiting Huangzui Shan, You’ll need to apply for a permit from Yangming Shan National Park’s website.
Also have a look at Stu’s account of the hike and, as usual, the practicalities that I’m too lazy to write up!