I can’t remember who gave me the tip but ever since I first heard about it I’ve wanted to climb mount Wuliaojian (五寮尖山). Due to circumstances I haven’t been able to until now. I have to say right from the start that I’m really happy I finally went, because it’s a really good climb. The mountain isn’t particularly high, only 639 meters, but there are several near vertical sections that require some proper climbing and you more or less need to use the fixed ropes to get up or down. This makes it a lot more exciting than your average hiking trail. Most of the trail goes through the forest but once you get up near the top, where the cliffs jut out above the tree tops, you get some nice views of the surrounding landscape. The views are, in my mind, not very spectacular, for that you need to go to other mountains. What makes this trail worth hiking is the fact that there’s so much proper mountaineering, as compared with many other trails in Taiwan where you basically just go for a walk in the mountains.

To give myself a bit of an extra challenge, and to test my climbing skills, I tried to avoid using the fixed ropes as far as possible. A lot of the time I managed but there were a few places where I had to give in and use the ropes. I probably could do it completely without the ropes, but I recognized that it would have been too dangerous considering how hard it would be to extract me if something did happen.

Random collection of shots from the hike

The trail is relatively well known so ther can be quite a lot of people there. The nature of the trail makes it hard to pass slower hikers so you will get traffic jams at some of the more difficult sections. I had hoped that starting to hike at 7 am would let me beat the crowds but apparently not, and I ended up waiting for slower people a couple of times.

While this is a fun trail to hike, I don’t think it’s suitable for everyone. Firstly, all those steep sections makes hiking Wuliaojian quite physically strenuous. It’s not extreme but you need to be reasonably fit to do it. A less fit person would probably still be able to go all the way with a few extra breaks, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Mind you that I did see a few elderly people as well as a couple of young kids on the trail but I also noticed they were struggling a fair bit. Secondly, there is a certain level of risk involved in climbing using fixed ropes like this. Basically, relying on nothing but fixed ropes means you have no safety other than your own hands. There’s one specific section where you need to get down a long, steep slope by walk backwards holding on to a rope and if you should loose your grip there’s really nothing stopping you from falling down. I wouldn’t say this a particularly dangerous climb, but that risk is something to keep in mind.

Once you’re down from the peak ridge you descend down a few more steep sections to a bit of a crossroad by a giant tree. From there it’s just a short (but steep) climb to the summit. You then head back down to the crossroad where there’s another section of trail leading back to the starting point.

If you want to hike Wuliaojian yourself, here’s some practical info that I think could be useful. There are a couple different trails that start in the same place. I took the one that goes up to the summit of Wuliaojian then loops back down to the trail head. Another one continues on from the Wuliaojian peak to mount XX then back to the starting point in a much bigger loop. Since I didn’t hike it I can’t tell you much about it, but it’s visible on the map and there are signs pointing to mount XX at the relevant crossings. The shorter trail that I hiked is about 4.5 km all in all. Including breaks and traffic jams it took me roughly four and a half hours to complete.

GPS track of my hike. I forgot to turn off the tracking when I came down, ignore the parts on public roads.

The trail head is right next to a major road. It is possible to park along the roadside but because the trail is popular the spaces close by quickly fill up. To avoid the crowds onthe trail, and also to get a good parking space, I recommend arriving early, perferaly starting to hike before 7am. There is a small cafeand a shop by the trail head but otherthan that there are no facilities on this trail. Since climbing is physically demanding, plus you’re quite exposed to the sun up on the ridge, I recommend bringing lots of water as well as some snacks to refill your energy reserve. I saw several people on the trail with hiking poles but from what I could see, they seemed to just be in the way when climbing. I would recommend having somewhere to stow them out of the way if you hike this trail. Other than that, it’s always good to have a general level of preparedness when hiking, especially for more difficult trails: proper shoes and clothes, a hat or some sunglasses, basic first aid stuff, and a jacket in case it gets cold, are always good to have.