September 1st, 1992 – by: bluemarbletreader
Climing the holy mountain of Taishan.
I arrive at the base of one of China's holiest mountains: Taishan. All of china's elite rulers have either climbed it or claimed to have. There are regular cement steps all the way to the top and it's a very steep climb. I'm passed by old men sprightly zipping their way to the top. I'm struggling to make it with my heavy bag. At the top is a single hotel and a few "sights", none worth seeing. The view to the plains below is breathtaking. I decide to camp on the far side of the mountain. I find a ledge and tie my tent down to a small tree nearby. The wind starts to pick up a little and it looks like it might rain. Guess I'll turn in early.
I'm awakened at around 11 by the sound of howling wind that is shaking my tent viciously.
Clearing tres after the storm
I'm beginning to fear that my tent will blow over. As if to confirm my fears, within an hour, the aluminum poles have bent, the tree has bent and the tent is nearly collapsed. Water is seeping into the tent in various places and I'm slowly starting to feel moisture in my sleeping bag. It's not warm moisture either. Outside, the wind is an absolute maelstom of noise. Soon, I'm completely soaked and the tent has all but fallen over my face. I open a side vent for oxygen and have cold rain pummel into my face. It's cold, but I can breathe. I can't sleep the whole night. I'm starting to shiver by daybreak and there is no end in sight to this massive storm. I start to worry that it's not going to let up as soon as I had hoped.
One hour, two hours, four hours go by and if anything the storm just gets worse. Like a flash I suddenly realize what is going on. It's the very taiphoon (category 4 I find out later) that was moving its way up the Yellow Sea the other day, making landfall in Shandong. I would have thought I'd be far enough inland not to be that affected, but at this altitude, I guess not. That's when, soaked to the bone, I had to make a decision as I shook uncontrollably with hypothermia into the early afternoon. To not succomb to the elements, I would have to ditch my now useless tent, sleeping bag and backpack and carry the few other things I can back to the top and find the hotel for shelter.
Mural in Tai'An
As I ran up the mountain, my shivering almost caused me to fall off a ledge. I walk through the sliding doors af a posh hotel and stand there, dripping from head to toe, looking like I just swam the ocean from nowhere. The hotel guests just look at each other for an awkward moment with a disbelieving expression before helping me to a room where I pass out and sleep for 18 hours.
When I came to the next morning, it was a beautiful sunny and warm day. I hiked back down to where I left my belongings and found them scattered all over the mountainside. It could have been me down there. After collecting them, I paid the hotel, repacked and began the trip down the steps which as luck would have it, were on the windward side of the mountain. That meant I was spared the worst of the storm by camping on the leeward side. All down the mountain, the trees were broken in pieces and lay across the steps. Some large trees looked like they'd been snapped in half. If the storm was this strong here, I can only imagine what it must have done along the coastline. Crews were out already chopping up the downed trees for firewood. A close call indeed.