Snow Mountain (雪山) is Taiwan’s second highest mountain at 3,886m (12,749ft). Located in Shei-Pa National Park, the most popular trail to the peak is called the East Xue Trail and is quite a beautiful one. The trail passes through a variety of scenery including open grass fields, several different pine forests and a stunning ex-glacial cirque. Despite the fact that I say the following after nearly every hike in Taiwan: This might be one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on!
It’s possible to hike Snow Mountain (aka XueShan or Syue Mountain) on a two day weekend from Taipei, but it’s difficult. We spent an excruciating Saturday hiking for about 13 straight hours. Our day started at 3 am and finished at dusk. In between, we were lucky enough to have some beautiful weather and see some beautiful sites…
We started our adventure in the afternoon on Friday. Bags were packed. A car was rented. And we were on the road by 4pm. This helped us to beat the traffic out of Taipei and arrive at the trail head in Wuling Farms by about 9pm. From there, it’s a one hour hike in the dark to the totally empty Qika (七卡) Lodge.
There are two lodges on the East Xue Trail, the first is Qika, the second 369 (三六九). Most people start from trail head early in the morning and hike the 4 or so hours to 369. They sleep there, summit the next day, then either sleep at the 369 Lodge again, or head back down to Wuling before dusk.
Our itinerary was a bit more ambitious. We woke up at the Qika Lodge at 3am after only a few hours sleep. From there, its about a 2 hour hike to the East Xue Peak for an amazing sunrise, then another 30 minutes to the 369 Lodge for breakfast.
We left 369 Lodge at about 9am and immediately found ourselves in a beautiful grassy area. I think this is where the beauty of the national park really started to hit me. Walking through a wind swept grassland towards a place called The Black Forest, then on to a high mountain peak can help you to appreciate the beauty of the world.
After the beautiful forest, we entered the alpine cirque. I remember feeling particularly fatigued at this point, as we had been hiking for nearly 9 hours on only 3 hours of sleep, but the allure of the deep blue sky and the site of the nearby peak drug us on.
We summited at about 1pm and took a few minutes to enjoy the view over the clouds. Off in the distance, we could see the peaks of mountains that we have climbed in the past and others that we hope to climb in the future. Occasionally, when the going gets tough, we ask each other why we do these things, but at moments like this we only ask each other why others don’t.
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For practicalities and more information on hiking Snow Mountain, check: