As scary as it seems, the first time I saw this hike at Mount Huashan featured in a YouTube video, I immediately added it to my bucket list. Plankwalk in the Sky is the exact hike on the mountain that we are talking about here. Mount Huashan has 5 peaks, but none offer the danger and thrill of the infamous Plankwalk. It is rumored to be the most dangerous hike in the world and I was determined to conquer it for myself!
This may not be something everyone is interested in doing, but if you are up for a little adventure, this will not let you down. I like living life on the wild side from time to time and while the photos and videos looked terrifying, I was excited to finally experience the Plankwalk!
David and I arrived in Huayin (the town at the foot of the mountain) the night before our hike and got our plans in order. We did not take the 6 hour stair route up the mountain, but rather opted for the new West Cable Car (140 RMB/pp each way, $22 or 100 RMB/pp with student car, $16). Once you get on the mountain itself there are 4-6 hours of hiking, so unless you want to hike 12-18 hours, cable car is likely your best bet. If you are set on hiking up, around and then down, take a look at our listed tips for a few suggestions…
Now for the real deal on the PLANKWALK IN THE SKY. Why do people call this the most dangerous hike in the world?? And is it?
While this can be debated – many rumor that there are 100 causalities per year, but no one confirms where the deaths occur or why. So is the death toll real? We don’t think so. They’ve done quite a lot in recent years to increase safety and at this point it seems pretty secure.
I will tell you the entire mountain does have areas that are dangerous. Across all five peaks there are very steep drops, narrow stairs, vertical passes up and down in addition to chain-lined walkways in the hopes of accident avoidance.
The plankwalk I guess is no real exception, except for the fact that you have to wear a harness in order to hike it. Now what you chose to do with that harness is entirely up to you and yes, technically it would be possible for a fatal casualty to occur with one wrong step (only if you unhooked your harness entirely).
During the actual walk you are walking across a narrow plank walkway nearly 5,000 ft in the air after all during the least intense part of the hike. The remainder of the trail is composed of iron rods protruding from the mountain, small cut outs in the actual rock for your feet and/or chains for gripping yourself close to the mountainside.
The path itself is TWO-WAY traffic for the entire day, which means you are sharing an already extremely treacherous path with limited space often. You will be required to move your harness over other hikers heads and step on the outside of them, sometimes only having room for one foot to stabilize. It gets especially tricky when sharing either of the ladder areas and/or cliff cut outs, as they have even less real estate to offer.
All that being said, I don’t actually feel that the Plankwalk is a dangerous hike at all. When you are on the mountain, any fear you may have expected escapes you. You are strapped in and control your own destiny entirely. I can honestly say it was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my life and I hope you too take the plunge to experience it!
We’ve compiled a series of tips, photos and videos to get you all the information needed to make the best of your trip to Mount Huashan – I promise you will not regret it!
The most valuable information to know before you go:
- This particular hike is officially called the “Plankroad in the Sky” – remember this when you look for signage on the mountain.
- You do not have to hike the 6 hours up the mountain to get to the Plankroad – there are actually two cable cars that can take you up in less than 30 minutes. The easiest route is to take the NEWER – West cable car – and then hike the 30-40 minutes from the West Peak to the South Peak where the Plankroad is located. Then follow “Plankroad in the Sky” signage and you will arrive at the site in no time.
- The Plankroad itself only takes 30 minutes or so to complete. It consists of a staircase down which is metal rods in rock (with large gaps at times), becomes stone cut outs on the cliffside, then comes the actual plank and lastly more stone cut outs leading to the small temple. When you are done you must turn around and go back exactly the way you came.
- Know that the Plankroad is a TWO WAY trail and you will be required to pass on the outside of others at times. If you are truly afraid of heights you may want to be mentally prepare for this fact.
- You do not need to bring or purchase a harness. You will rent a mandatory harness upon arrival at the Plankroad and it currently costs $5 USD.
- Gloves are not really necessary for the Plankroad itself and in certain seasons you may actually feel uncomfortable with the heat.
Prices and instructions on where to purchase as of Summer 2014 are as follows:
- Tickets for everything other than the actual harness itself can be purchased at the Mount Huashan visitors center. To get onto the mountain you will need the following:
- Entrance to the mountain is $30 USD ($15 USD with a valid student ID)
- West Cable Car Fees – $6 USD each way for the bus and $22 USD each way for the cable car itself ($16 USD with a valid student ID)
- North Cable Car Fees – $3 USD each way for the bus and $13 USD each way for the cabe car itself ($12 USD with a valid student ID)
- If you choose to hike the mountain it will take anywhere from 4-6 hours and is extremely strenuous. We only recommend this for those in very good shape. It is also advisable to hike the mountain at night (really early in the morning) and catch the sunrise. The trail up is illuminated, so no worries there. You can also opt to spend the night on the mountain itself, as there are several lodging options available.
- The cable cars down stop operating at 7pm, so be sure to time accordingly if you plan to get down that way. You can chose to take one cable car up and the other down, just buy a one way at the bottom and then get a return on the mountain when you are ready to head down.
- The are food options all over the mountain – prices are high, but good to know that they are there. Bathrooms also exist at every major peak and sometimes in between, so it is pretty convenient.
- Plankroad in the Sky can have a backup of adventurers waiting to get on the dangerous hike, so you may have a wait. They only let a certain number of visitors on the path at a time (for safety reasons of course) and they also close it down at a certain time of day (around 5pm), so if you have your heart set on the trail, you may want to arrive on the earlier side. We also heard that weekends and holidays can get even busier, so plan accordingly!
- If you want to make it to all the peaks on the mountain, plan for 4-6 hours depending on your speed. David and I decided to run from the West peak all the way to the North peak, which we were told is a 3 hour hike. We made it in 35 minutes, so it is possible that you could do all the peaks in less time, but I wouldn’t necessarily advise it considering the dangerous nature of many parts of the trails.
- Getting there and away – you can choose to visit the mountain as a day trip from Xi’an (by bus) or spend some time in the town of Huayin (accessible by train or bus several times daily – approximately 2 hrs).
If you are planning to visit Mount Huashan and have any questions – please feel free to drop us a line!
Thanks for reading! We have something very special planned for fans of travel. We’re not ready to talk about it quite yet, but you can find out a little bit more here.