Tianzi Mountain

  • Tianzi Mountain
  • 1098 m
  • Primary factor 300 m
  • Location: North 29:19.891 East 110:25.517 (GPS at the summit)
  • Hunan, China
  • Difficulty: YDS class 1
  • Climbed: August 20, 2009


How to get there: The starting point for this trip would almost always be the city of Zhangjiajie in the Hunan province of China. This city is served by direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai as well as other major Chinese cities. In 2009, these flights seemed to only arrive in the evening with correspondingly late departures from Zhangjiajie. This resulted in very poor connections when flying from Europe.
The peak is located in China's first national park, a very popular place among Chinese as well as foreign tourists. The landscape is truly unique, monolith peaks created by sub-sea erosion of sandstone rock. With the tropical jungle vegetation and perhaps a few dots of fog or mist this creates a fantasy world, a place one would only expect to find on a planet somewhere else in the universe.
Expect (at least in August) a huge crowd of people almost everywhere. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage location, the official name is Hunan, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The access is carefully monitored and all visitors must buy an entrance ticket. The park is a short drive from Zhangjiajie, please consult the Google map provided below.
Route description: If you arrive at the park entrance (location N29:19.891, E110:25.517) marked on the map below, then walk a short distance from the entrance gate and locate the trail. Ask around if needed, there are likely to be many people around this place.
Once on the trail, one cannot get lost. The trail is paved and partly consists of steps all the way to the top. There are about 2900 steps (with a total vertical gain of about 700 meter) before you reach the top. There are many good viewpoints along the way. Also, the upper part of the slope seems to be a popular habitat for monkeys.
One can also visit this summit by way of a gondola lift, porters are also around to carry anybody (that pays) up the steps while sitting in a chair.
On the top, there are numerous viewpoints to the rugged and very special landscape in this park. Additionally, there are souvernir shops, restaurants etc. The highest point is occupied by a temple looking building with 360 degree viewing balconies from several floors.
There is an alternate park entrance located only 5 minutes down the street from the hotel marked on the map. If you enter the park here, you can take a (free) shuttle bus along the lake (this lake has a dam just above the park entrance) and into a valley with a trailhead. From this trailhead you can walk about 7 kilometer following a creek in order to reach the trailhead described above. This hike (one way or as a return hike) is strongly recommended. It gives you a very good view of the exceptional landscape that has made this park world famous.
Comments: The 19th. intenational conference on domain decomposition methods took place in Zhangjiajie. I travelled from Norway on August 15th. via Shanghai where I had time to set a new personal speed record on the advanced (magnet levitation) airport train.
I continued by domestic flight and arrived in Zhangjiajie shortly before 2200. I stayed at the modern Zhuanjiacun hotel, one can already see hints of the unique landscape from the hotel entrance. The conference was successful and on Thursday the organizers had scheduled a tour to the famous national park. We left the hotel by bus around 0930 and travelled to the main park entrance.
We entered the park and divided into two groups, people hiking Tianzi and the ones that wanted to take the cableway. I had a very nice walk up the 2900 steps in company with professor Caroline Japhet, as it turned out she is a very active outdoors person doing mountain climbing as well as scuba diving. We kept a reasonable pace, but made numerous stops and short side trips to look at the fantastic rock formations that can be seen almost everywhere. The monkeys also offered interesting observations. The babies hang on to their mothers, I realized that this certainly must strengthen their arm muscles in preparation for doing their own climbing. We made the summit in about 1:15, then spent time looking around from various viewpoints as well as waiting for lunch.
Later, we hiked back down the same way as we ascended, then walked the famous 7 kilometer trail along a creek. This trail has many great viewing spots from where one can admire and study a number of steep, sandstone peaks. Eventually, this trail will bring you to an alternate park entrance point. One arrives at a paved road and free park shuttles then take you down to the park entrance that is located a very short walk from the hotel that is marked on the map below. We were surprised by a tropical rain storm that hit us about half way. By the time we arrived at the parking, everyone and definitely Caroline and Petter were soaking wet as if we had been swimming in the creek. Many thanks to Caroline for nice company this day.