The sky darken. We were no where near the top. We had to move quicker. The faster we climbed the more clothes we peeled off. But taking a break was out of the question. Stopping meant the possibility of getting frostbite. There are 7,200 steps to the top of Taishan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had never climbed so much in my life before.
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that extreme but the higher we climbed the hotter we got inside and the colder it got outside. Weird, but if you’ve ever climbed a mountain on a cold November day, you’ll know what I mean. We made it to the top with the last few glimpses of light. Looking down from the highest peak of the mountain, it was an overwhelming feeling. I thought to myself, “So this is what tall feels like.” I couldn’t believe I huffed and puffed all the way up. I felt so much bigger than 5’2”. It was empowering.
Coming down was a trip in itself. Night fell shortly after. JC and I were racing against time to make it down to the middle of the mountain for the last bus down. On top of that, there was absolutely nothing to guide the way. No lamps. No lights. No nothing. But of course there were plenty of shops lined along the steps to sell you flashlights at prices higher than usual.
We chose to improvise. Using the light on my phone, we made our way down. Now, it wasn’t a matter of time. It was a matter of how long the battery life in my phone would last. It didn’t help that I was gasping for air. It didn’t help that my calves were cramping up. And it certainly didn’t help that others who were making it down the mountain hovered over me like flies to honey. They were attracted to the light on my phone. I was paranoid I’d trip over a foot and fall to my death.
Luckily, I didn’t. We made it down in about half an hour. That must have been record time since it took us close to 4 hours to get to the top. It was probably because we were so busy enveloping ourselves in the mountain terrains and almost tangible clouds. We also had to stop to recharge at 中天门. The exact transliteration is middle sky door. The not so exact translation is middle door to the sky.