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June 23, 2017

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Climbing Yushan Front Peak

Taiwan's Yushan National Park (玉山國家公園) is a place of immense beauty. With panoramic views, overlapping mountains and deep, plunging valleys, Yushan has some of the most stunning mountain scenery anywhere in Taiwan.

Seas of dense, billowing clouds often fill the valleys, giving you the impression that you're standing on top of the world. Jade Mountain itself, or Yushan (玉山) as it's known locally, stands at over 3,500 meters and provides the perfect centerpiece for the area.

One of the best things about the park is the dramatic change it undergoes with each passing season. I have been there four or five times and have seen something different with every visit.

Spring is a burst of color as flowers everywhere come into bloom. Green fills the landscape in summer and fall, when the plants and trees are at their fullest.During winter, much of the plant life dies away and the views are a lot cleaner and more crisp, and you should even see snow on the top of Yushan.

Then there's the sky. You could lose yourself in the skies above Yushan. Blues of the very deepest and richest shades fill the heavens during the daytime. At sunset, sharp reds give way to a subtle purple that gently blankets the entire landscape. In the black of nighttime, the stars are so bright, so clear, and seem so close that you'd swear you could reach out and touch them.

At its best, the morning sky is filled with some of the most dazzling displays of colors. From a brilliant red at the horizon, through oranges and yellows, to greens and ever deeper and darker shades of purple and violet, you cannot come here and fail to be entranced.

To climb Yushan Front Peak, you'll have to first go to Tatajia (塔塔加). To get there, follow the No. 18 road to Alishan (阿里山) and keep driving about 25 kilometers past that town. Serving as a home base for most visitors' attempts to reach Yushan's Main Peak, Tatajia is one of Taiwan's best hiking destinations in its own right.

You should start your walk early, when the weather's better and the air is clearer. If you'd like to spend the night in Tatajia, there is a small hostel you could stay in. Separate male and female dormitories and a bucket of cold water for a shower make for very simple accommodation. It's little wonder that most people just pitch a tent in the parking lot by the side of the road.

From Tatajia it's a short and very pleasant walk to the gate of Yushan National Park. To keep going past this point you will need a permit (for information, visit After the gate, its just 3.5km to the top, but don't let that modest distance fool you—this is a challenging walk. For nearly a kilometer, the path takes you up an extremely steep slope, covered with loose and angular rocks. However experienced a hiker you are, you'll be glad to reach the top.

Yushan Front Peak is a small but intriguing hike set in one of Taiwan's most beautiful areas. Suitable for both experienced walkers and complete beginners, you should definitely give it a go. Keep one eye on the weather when you plan your trip, though. Yushan's charms can be stripped away almost entirely in murky, cloudy weather, so avoid those times and visit when it's sunny. You will be treated to some of the finest views you're ever likely to see.

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