Snow Mountain North Peak – 雪山北峰 – July 2012

Snow Mountain’s North Peak.

Snow Mountain, with its Main Peak at an elevation of 3886m, is Taiwan’s second highest mountain.  After an exciting climb up the Main Peak in deep snow and inclement weather the past January (Snow Mountain – 雪山 – January 2012), I was eager to return for more hiking.

Snow Mountain’s Main Peak, viewed from the north ridge.

Having already made two winter hikes of the ‘standard’ eastern route up the Main Peak, I decided to take a longer, alternative route up and along the mountain’s ridge-line to visit Snow Mountain’s North Peak, and spend the night camping up on the ridge.

This map outlines the route I followed:

My hiking route.  Longer and more strenuous than the traditional Main Peak ascent, but worth it for the experience of hiking the ridge!

Day 0: Bus to Yilan, rented a scooter, drove to the eastern trailhead at Wuling Farm.  Hiked for ~45 minutes to Chika cabin, arriving quite late.

Day 1: Up eary, and hiking by 5:30 a.m.  The sky was clear, and the morning moon was bright.  As the trail moved higher up a series of switchbacks, the views got better and better.

The morning moon.

The air was clear, and to the east there was a great view of Nanhuda Shan (left), and Zhongyangjian Shan (right).

The weather was fantastic.  Blue skies and almost no clouds, but very hot.  A far cry from the winter weather I was accustomed to on this trail!

The trail looked unfamiliar in the summer weather.

After several hours of hiking, the trail reached Snow Mountain’s East Peak. In the wonderfully clear air both Snow Mountain’s Main Peak and the northern ridge were visible, looming in the distance.

On the East Peak of Snow Mountain, the Main Peak and north ridge in the distance.

A closer view of Snow Mountain’s Main Peak (far left) and North Shoulder (middle), as seen from the East Peak.

Further away, the Wuling Sixiu ridge could be seen.  At an even greater distance, Chilai Shan scratched the horizon.  The bright, clear sky was truly delightful.

The Sixiu ridge from the eastern Snow Mountain trail: Pintian Shan, Chiyou Shan, and Tao Shan left to right.

Chilai North Peak (left), and Main Peak (right) were visible far, far away.

Below the East Peak, 369 cabin rested in an alpine meadow, a barren stretch of terrain created by a forest fire.

369 cabin to the west, below the East Peak.

I reached 369 cabin at 9:00 and took a good rest.  I left 369 cabin at 10:30, heading along a rough forest path and across a stream, towards Kailantekun Shan and the north ridge of Snow Mountain.

The forest route looked great in the morning sunshine.

A small stream crossing near the end of the forest.

Higher up, the trees began to thin out, and eventually disappeared altogether.  As I broke out of the forest, I was greeted by an intimidating sight.  The fearsome cliffs of the northern ridge towered above me, and a steep trail of loose scree led upwards, cutting past the cliff faces and onto the ridge itself.

As I ascended above the treeline, this cliff face was my first view of the north ridge.

The north ridge is startlingly steep, crowned by vertical cliffs.

The path upwards was steep, and covered in loose scree.

The scree was tiring and unpleasant to climb, especially given my full backpack and large water supply. From the top of the ridge, I had great views of Snow Mountain’s northern ‘2nd’ glacial cirque.

The north, ‘2nd’ glacial cirque of Snow Mountain, located right behind Snow Mountain’s North Shoulder. This bowl-like formation is a remnant of ancient glacial movement.

Further along the ridge-line, I could see the North Peak jutting out to the west.

The North Peak beckoned.

369 cabin and the East Peak looked tiny below me.

369 cabin and the East Peak below.

As I moved north along the ridge, the weather began to deteriorate.  Huge, dark clouds began to form.  Thunder boomed in the distance, and the temperature dropped.

Ominous clouds were forming, accompanied by thunder. A gap in the clouds revealed blue skies over Zhongyangjian Shan.

The trail along the ridge wound up and down, alongside vertical cliffs and across rocky slopes.  The ridge offered some really exciting and enjoyable hiking!

The ridge trail followed the cliffs.

To the west, thick clouds billowed up and over the ridge.  I was certain that a downpour would begin any minute.

The clouds were moving in, and rain seemed imminent.

I finally reached the base of the North Peak.  Cairns of rock marked the summit.

Cairns on the North Peak.

The heavy clouds obscured any views from the top.  A roughly constructed rock sign sat atop the largest cairn.

The triangulation marker on top of the North Peak.

The North Peak summit sign.

As I returned south, heading towards the Main Peak, the clouds began to clear. I was lucky to avoid rainfall; the ridge is exposed, and any amount of rain would have been uncomfortable.

As the storm clouds cleared, the view returned. Here 369 cabin and the eastern trail are framed by Nanhuda Shan and Zhongyangjian Shan.

Further south, I passed back over the summit of Kailantekun Shan, marked with a neatly engraved metal post.

The Kailantekun signpost.

I reached the Kailantekun Shan saddle at around 5:30 p.m., and upon finding a small area of flat ground, decided to pitch camp.

My rough campsite on the ridge. The spot was very tight, and while my vestibule was a little bit crooked, I had just enough flat ground to sleep comfortably.

The sun began to set, and I enjoyed a colorful evening sky as I ate dinner in the vestibule of my tent.

I had a nice view of the horizon from my tent.

The sunset was colorful and very pleasant.

After a great night’s sleep, I awoke at 4:15 a.m.  The sunrise was unimpressive, and mostly obscured by clouds.  I cleaned up my campsite, and continued heading south, towards the Main Peak.  Looking back, I could see the winding ridge I’d traveled, the North Peak (far left) prominent.

Looking back at the north ridge.

At the base of Snow Mountain’s North Shoulder, more scree awaited me.  Scree is remarkably annoying to ascend.

More scree on the way up Snow Mountain’s North Shoulder.

The top of the North Shoulder was marked with another neatly engraved post.  Below, I could see huge groups of hikers headed up the ‘standard’ eastern route towards Snow Mountain’s Main Peak.

The top of the North Shoulder.

Below me, big groups of hikers were headed up the eastern trail to the Main Peak.

Watching the crowd below, I was happy to be approaching the Main Peak from the north, to this point with the trail all to myself.

From the top of the North Shoulder, a steep descent took me to a saddle between the Main Peak and North Shoulder.

The North Shoulder cast an interesting shadow past the saddle.

Looking back, the North Shoulder’s cliff was an impressive sight.  The route down towards the Main Peak curves past the sheer drops.

Looking back at the North Shoulder’s sharp face.

The Main Peak was crowded with other hikers.  It was a strange sight, given I’d been completely alone with the trail all to myself since passing 369 cabin the previous day.

The Main Peak was very crowded, and I had to line up to take a photo with the summit rock.

On top of the Main Peak.

From the Main Peak, I had a great view of Dabajian Shan.

Dabajian Shan, with the North Peak in front of it, from the Main Peak.

In the summer weather, the route down from the Main Peak was much different than the icy, snow-drift covered face I had experienced on previous Snow Mountain hikes.

The eastern Main Peak trail, my descent route.

Behind me the North Shoulder looked impressive on the way down.

The North Shoulder, viewed from the eastern trail.

Further down, I returned to the evergreen forest.  It was vibrant in the morning light.

I descended back through the forest, enjoying sunshine through the trees.

An opening in the trees, glowing with sunshine, marked the end of the forest.

From 369 cabin to the trailhead, the hiking was uneventful but pleasant.  The weather was hot and sunny, but not the slightest bit humid, and so quite comfortable.

One final signpost near the end of the trail.

I reached the trail head at 12:30 p.m., had a snack, packed up my gear, changed my clothing, and drove my rental bike back to Yilan.  This had been a fantastic hike, and I left feeling grateful to once again have had great luck with weather.  Camping on the ridge was exciting and beautiful, and the strenuous first day (most notably that short burst up the north ridge’s scree slope) had paid off through great views and enjoyable hiking terrain.


Wuling Farm, where the trailhead is located, is fairly easy to access.  I drove in via rental motorbike from Yilan. You need a Taiwanese driver’s license to rent.

Hiking Snow Mountain requires a national park entry permit, as well as police issued mountain entry permits.  Both are easy to apply for.  The Shei-Pa National Park permit website (in Chinese) is located here, and offers a very intuitive, easy to follow interface (perhaps the best of all Taiwan’s national parks):
Police permits can be applied for here (In Chinese).  For the website to load, you need to use Internet Explorer and adjust the encoding for ‘Chinese Traditional, Big5′ (found through Page -> Encoding):

Snow Mountain Main Peak – 雪山主峰- January 2012

The north shoulder of Snow Mountain, as seen from the glacial cirque at its base.  This photo was taken during my December 2010 trip.

At 3886m Snow mountain (雪山) is the second highest mountain in Taiwan.  So named due to the heavy snowfall it can experience during the winter, the Snow Mountain trail hosts some of Taiwan’s most beautiful hiking.  Across snowfields, into an ancient forest, and finally up through a unique glacial cirque, the east Snow Mountain route takes one through several ecological zones and some marvelous terrain.

The mountain had seen heavy snowfall just prior to our trip.

Last year, in December, I made a trip to this mountain with a group of five friends.  Cold weather and icy conditions made for a real adventure to the summit.  This year’s trip promised to be equally exciting.  I expected the January weather to present a real winter landscape, and I wasn’t dissapointed.

Heavy snow in the black forest.

Here is an outline of our hiking itinerary:

Our three day hiking route.

Day 1: We started our trip with a four hour bus-ride from Taipei to Wuling farm in Shei-Pa National Park.  The cherry trees were in full blossom.

Cheery trees in bloom at Wuling Farm

From Wuling Farm we hitched a ride up to the trailhead.  Our plan involved a short 2 km hike from the trailhead to the Chika mountain cabin, where we would spend the night.  The second day, we would hike 8.9 km from the Chika hut to the summit, and then 3.8 km back down to the 369 hut, where we would spend the second night.  On the third day, we would hike 7.1 km back to the bottom.  The trail to Chika was short and easy – time permitting it is much better to hike to 369 hut on the first day.

The short trail to Chika runs through some nice forest.

The hunchback of Chika Cabin. We had some time to kill!

Day 2: At Chika we woke up at 3 a.m., and after breakfast, hit the trail at 4:30 a.m.  Above Chika, the air became colder, and we got our first glimpses of snow.

The trail above Chika gave us our first glimpse of snow.

The trees were very beautiful.

The air wasn’t perfectly clear; a thin mist hung over everything.

We reached 369 cabin and found it mostly empty.  A park ranger greeted us, and warned that the weather had been poor higher up in recent days.

369 Cabin was blanketed.

A snowy landscape.

Above the 369 hut, we entered the black forest, a beautiful and haunting place in the winter.  On our way through the forest, we met a team of five climbers from Hong Kong, on their way back.  They didn’t greet us or smile.  We would learn later that they had gotten past the forest, but had decided to turn around due to the poor visibility.

The Black Forest.

The path through the forest.

It was hard to believe we were still in Taiwan!

Huge icicles in the black forest.

The snow became deeper and deeper.  Undeterred, we pushed onwards.

The snow was getting deeper.

After the forest we reached the primary glacial cirque, a unique ‘bowl’ formation at the base of the ridgeline which marks the final leg of the route to the summit.  It began snowing when we arrived in the cirque, and in places the ground was covered with a good 2 feet.  Visibility was very poor, but our spirits were high.

At the cirque, the weather quickly worsened.

The ridgeline above us was invisible due to the snow, and the trail markers were buried.  I had hiked this route before, and knew where we needed to go.  We forged along the face of the mountain, headed south-east towards the ridge, kicking and stomping footholds.  The poor visibility made the going slow.

Heading up to the Main Peak of Snow Mountain.

Finally, I saw the ridgeline and we burned a trail straight to the top.  We were a bit unsure whether we were north or south of the summit – but a quick hike confirmed that we were to the south.  Ten minutes later, we were at the peak.  All three of us made it, and it felt like a real accomplishment.

On Snow Mountain Main Peak.

We got back to the 369 hut one hour before nightfall, right on schedule.  In all, we had been hiking for roughly 12 hours – slow due to the visibility.

Day 3: The next morning we woke up at 6 a.m., and hit the trail at 8 a.m. – plenty of time to cook a nice breakfast.  On our way down, the weather cleared up a little bit.  The Ranger at 369 took off for the summit, keen on what appeared to be a break in the weather.

A view of the ridge – the main peak obscured by clouds – on the way back down.

Clouds were billowing past, and we had interesting views on the way down.

Under blue skies, the landscape was very pleasing.

As we descended the air warmed at lower altitude and the snow slowly disappeared.  We found ourselves enjoying the sunny pine forest which we had hiked mostly in darkness on the first two days.

Lovely sunshine warmed us up.

The forest was cool and refreshing.

Our adventure complete, and successful, we caught our bus back to Taipei!


The 369 cabin is large, and while basic, is fairly comfortable.  There is a reliable water source at both Chika and 369.  Hut space can be booked online, during the permit application process.

Wuling Farm, where the trailhead is located, is fairly easy to access.  We took a bus from Taipei to get there (~4 hours).  Be warned that buses don’t run to the trailhead itself, only to the Wuling Farm visitor center.  It is fairly easy to hitch a ride up to the trailhead – try politely asking the park staff.  More information on the bus we took here (in Chinese):

Hiking Snow Mountain requires a national park entry permit, as well as Police issued mountain entry permits.  Both are easy to apply for.  The Shei-Pa National Park permit website (in Chinese) is located here, and offers a very intuitive, easy to follow interface (perhaps the best of all Taiwan’s national parks):
Police permits can be applied for here (In Chinese).  For the website to load, you need to use Internet Explorer and adjust the encoding for ‘Chinese Traditional, Big5′ (found through Page -> Encoding):