A Travellerspoint blog

The Greatest Workout Ever (Hiking the Great Wall) (Micah)

Climbing, hiking, sprinting along an ancient wall shrouded in mist.

Clouds of mist blew across the winding stone corridor hanging precariously atop the jagged mountain peaks.

Hidden from view were miles of walls first built in the 5th century B.C.E., extended by subsequent rulers until reaching more than 5,000 miles long- when construction ceased in the 16th century.

China's Great Wall cuts across the country's ancient northern frontier - extending from the Yellow Sea to Inner Mongolia's deserted expanse - a feat of engineering genius that protected Chinese empires from its rival's warriors and marauding Mongols.

Today's hordes ride a cable car (or climb hundreds of steps stretching from the valley floor) to reach the Wall's lofty mountaintop perch. Joanie and I arrived to The Wall's Mutianyu section at around 8:30 am after fighting a posse of hucksters eager to bleed us of cash. It started in the Beijing subway, where where a woman approached us and directed us to the nearby bus terminal to catch the public bus to the Wall.

We found the station but she wouldn't let us go. Joanie and I went to the bathroom (there are public, free bathrooms of negligent cleanliness everywhere in Beijing) to try and shake her, but when we emerged she was standing in the shadows of a nearby pillar waiting for us. She told us the bus number we needed to take but then tried to shuffle us to a minibus (where she would likely take a cut from the driver). Luckily, we found the bus we thought we needed and jumped into the rush of people boarding. The fare was 2 Yuan (around $0.35) but i didn't have any small bills and in a moment of frustration and panic (people were pushing and jostling past me) I dropped a 20 Yuan note for the driver and took my seat (which Joanie had luckily secured a few rows back).

Off we went, haze and fog darkened Beijing's morning streets. The bus stopped along the way to pick up and let off riders. As we neared a stop a rider standing by the door told us we needed to get off - that it was our stop. Call us gullible or too trusting, we descended from the bus and a pack of drivers circled us offering a minibus ride to the Wall (which we could have reached by public transportation had we not been lured off).

After negotiating with the swindler who lured us off the bus for a round trip ride to the wall for around $20 we climbed into his minibus (think Volkswagen Vanagon except more cramped and much less safe). Half hour later we arrived at the wall. The driver came to the ticket window with us and pressured us to buy a cable car and slalom ticket (the slalom descends from the wall back to the village below for an additional $15) which we flatly refused (he was pissed because he wasn't going to get his cut).

I paid the driver for the one way of our trip and agreed on a pickup time: 11:30 am.

So we hiked up - up hundreds of stairs, under a canopy of trees, dripping with the morning mist.

When we reached the wall, our calves were already burning and Joanie's feet sore (a normal occurrence these days as I'm a slave driver and never seem to need to rest - sleep included).

The Mutianyu section were were hiking was built in 1368 and later renovated in 1983. It's not as busy as other sections of the wall and since we arrived so early, we were able to experience the Wall's magnitude in relative solitude - joined only by clouds and an occasional shower.

I'd hoped to run along the Wall's ancient stones, but they were too wet and after realizing it's essentially a giant calf and knee busting staircase I resigned myself to a few stair sprints and short runs.

But I did have my trusty GPS watch though and recorded our hike. Click the link below and be sure to check the Aerial or Hybrid views:

The satellite view of our hike along the wall.


At the ends of both sides of the Mutianyu section was a sign that said do not pass:


But for us, that's only an invitation for adventure so we walked past the barrier and climbed the stairs. The Wall continued for another 1/4 mile or so until falling into disrepair: collapsed guard towers, pathways overgrown with trees and bushes, loose stones and crumbling ramparts. I felt transported to another time, humbled and amazed at the skill and perseverance of the Wall's builders - and waited for an ancient soldier to materialize from the chalky mountain mist.

Click this link for pictures from the Wall (if the pictures haven't posted yet, they will be ASAP - as soon as China's Great Firewall lets them pass.


Posted by bucketbath 17:49 Archived in China Tagged great stairs mist wall asia rampart

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Awesome adventures! Thanks for sharing! What a wonderful country. Sounds like you are really getting to see/do a lot.

Take care, be safe, have fun.
Love, Mauri

by Mauri Johnson

Awesome, love hearing these stories...Just remember, TUK TUK

by Chad

Wow love the pictures and the updates. Hope I get to see you again soon on Skype. Love Aunt Pam and Uncle Hal

by Pam

What an experience... just keep those 20 Yuan notes close by and take some time to rest and relax! I love the pictures.

by Andy

Jonathon just passed along your link - I'm truly thankful! I'm enjoying your writing and your experiences. Amazed that you would leave for such a distant place and "different world" without having arranged where to stay; you state that you've been planning for some time, so I assume there is much less mystery than I first sensed. Wish you both well, and look forward to experiencing this part of the world through your adventures!

by Darryl Barricklow

Micah - Amazing travels and beautiful photos.. enjoy the adventures! I'll allow myself to live vicariously.

by Rachael

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.