Hiking Up Mt. Qixing (七星山)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

If you're a fan of hiking, I highly recommend visiting the popular tourist destination, Qixing Mountain or "Seven Star Mountain" (七星山) located at the centre of Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園). Not only is it the highest mountain in Taipei with a peak of 1,120 metres (3,675 ft) above sea level, it's also the highest dormant volcano in the country.

I try to be as active as I can when travelling—I don't like spending a lot of time overseas stuck in a shopping centre or a shopping district because, let's be real, there is only so much you can buy—so after seeing all those beautiful photos online from the peak of the mountain, I knew I needed to go.

Avoiding the weekends, we went on a Monday, but unfortunately, we didn't exactly choose a good day to go. I was aware that the weather when we in Taiwan wasn't that great at the end of November (it was quite gloomy and humid for most days), but I was still hopeful that we might get a glimpse of something. When we left our hotel, it was like any other day—cloudy and humid—but it wasn't raining. Therefore, I didn't think much of it and made our way to the subway station. Once we reached Shilin Station (士林站), we took a bus to the Yangmingshan Stop (陽明山站), and then took a second bus to the Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre (小油坑游客服務站).

As we approached the Visitor Centre, I quickly realised that I had overlooked the fact that Yangmingshan National Park covers a very mountainous area of the city. The weather got worse soon it was pouring with rain that even the bus driver was warning everyone to stay safe and keep warm. (So kind!) When we got off the bus, it wasn't raining too heavily, but it enough to give us second thoughts if we really wanted to proceed. Because it wasn't just the weather that was the problem, we could barely see anything. At the Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre, I was hoping to snaps some shots of Xiaoyoukeng (小油坑) or literally "small oil pit", a post-volcanic geological landscape area known for its fumaroles, sulfur crystals and hot springs, but we saw nothing except fog.

After looking at each other back and forth for about 10 minutes, Shirley and I decided to march forward—we were there anyway—and other people were going up too, so why not? The trail we took is called the Mt. Qixing Main Peak-East Peak Trail (七星主峰東峰步道) and the path we took is as follows: Xiaoyoukeng Trailhead (小油坑登山口) → Mt. Qixing Main Peak (七星主峰) → Mt. Qixing East Peak (七星東峰) → Lengshuikeng Visitor Centre (冷水坑游客服務站). To come back down the mountain, we took a bus from the Lengshuikeng Visitor Centre directly back to Shilin Station.

Ascending, the steps weren't really particularly hard to walk up per se, but it was difficult due to the slippery surfaces. (Luckily I insisted on getting sneakers with traction!) ★Tip: If you're travelling to Taiwan during their wetter months, always opt for waterproof shoes with some grip. Don't buy "breathable" sneakers with a thin piece of mesh at the top, because they won't keep your feet dry.

During our hike, Shirley and I were both sweating a lot despite the cold weather. It was sprinkling for the most part, so I wasn't too sure whether it was water from the rain or my actual sweat (ha). However, the worst part of it all was the smell. The smell of the sulfur was so bad that we needed to use face masks to ward off the small. The good thing was that the smell was only prominent on certain parts of the mountain.

Due the bad condition of the weather, I couldn't be bothered taking photos with my camera so all these images were taken on my phone—hence why the photos are not as nice. Forget the views of other mountain peaks or rivers/ocean, what we saw for the entire hike is like the one below: all fog. We could barely see more than 5 metres of what was in front of us (like the first photo of this blog post).

We started our hike at around 12:00pm noon, and reached the main peak at around 1:00pm, and then took another 15 minutes to reach the east peak. All up, we took about 1.5 hours to 2 hours for the whole trek. But besides all that sweat, rain and leg muscle pain, the "encounters" we had on our hike up were quite memorable too. When we going going up, we bumped into some elderly people who were coming down at the same time. We immediately stepped aside as a matter of courtesy, but they insisted that we go first and even added a "加油喔". Also, a big thank you to the three guys who sort-of "stayed" with us on our hike up and down the mountain.

Overall, the hike up Qixing Mountain (well at least, the one we went on) was not particularly difficult to complete so I would definitely want to again the next time I'm in Taiwan—hopefully during the warmer months so I can get shots of all the pretty. I'm sure we would've stayed a bit longer if it wasn't for the cold, but despite the poor weather conditions, it made a great day trip and workout :)

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