Bijiashan (Beacon Hill) Ridge Walk

Sadly the light was poor that day so most of my photos are dark.

Sadly the light was poor that day so most of my photos are dark.

The Bijiashan Ridge stretches from Maokong to the town of Shiding. It forms part of a long ridge that goes into the Pingxi area. Another interesting section is the Huangdijian Ridge, which heads east from Shiding. This trail heads west. I first heard about it from this excellent hiking blog here , and determined to try it the next day. However I decided to start from Shiding, as I thought it would be nice to end in a restaurant in Maokong. Myself and a friend (Richard) caught a bus from Muzha MRT station. The 666 does not run especially regularly, and does not show up on the Bustracker Taipei app. However we didn't wait for too long, and it didn't deliver us to eternal damnation either. 

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Shiding is a small town clustered around a river fork. It was extra sleepy as everything was closed for Chinese New Year.

Shiding is a small town clustered around a river fork. It was extra sleepy as everything was closed for Chinese New Year.

Shihding looks like an interesting little town, but I will have to explore it more when I return for Huangdijian. To get to the trailhead, we walked up the river, and crossed the bridge next to the old coal bridge (it has a miner and cart statue on it). We then followed a short river trail, under the enormous new highway bridge, and to a junction of trails. The trail entrance had a yellow warning banner across it. However I've been on trails with such warnings on before, and seen no reason for them. We had already come this far, and so decided we could just double back if the trail was out. Turned out the trail was fine and I could see no reason for the banner. 

Cross this green bridge and follow the trail upstream. You'll pass this tree with sharply ridged roots. I'd love to know the name of these trees, but I don't, so I call them dinosaur crest trees,  because the roots look like the head crests some dinosaurs have. A slightly childish name, but probably more memorable than the real one.

Cross this green bridge and follow the trail upstream. You'll pass this tree with sharply ridged roots. I'd love to know the name of these trees, but I don't, so I call them dinosaur crest trees,  because the roots look like the head crests some dinosaurs have. A slightly childish name, but probably more memorable than the real one.

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Starting from Shiding, shortly into the hike you will come to a (for me) unexpected fork. One trail goes straight up on some rough steps. Another goes to the right, and crosses a small stream, before heading steeply up. Follow this second trail. The climb up to the ridge was muddy and slippery, even though it had not rained for two days. I was glad to not be descending it. Halfway through the hike we passed a few Taiwanese families. Everyone was in spotless New Year new clothes, and a little unsure of footing even on some easy parts. I have a feeling their clothes were not quite so clean after descending this slope. According to the Pashan Blog I read about this hike on, there are leeches in these parts. Thankfully we didn't encounter any. 

The first viewpoint comes quite suddenly after the long forest climb. I don't have a bad head for heights, but the sudden realization of how high a cliff we were on made me a little nervous.

The first viewpoint comes quite suddenly after the long forest climb. I don't have a bad head for heights, but the sudden realization of how high a cliff we were on made me a little nervous.

Part of the ridge path. It is quite narrow, but because of the forest either side it feels reasonably safe.

Part of the ridge path. It is quite narrow, but because of the forest either side it feels reasonably safe.

Soon you'll pass a power line tower and then be on the ridge itself. The views from the ridge are amazing. The path can be quite narrow, with steep drops either side. Although the ridge is not exposed in most places, there are some parts where you can stand on a bare rock summit and look 360 degrees around you. Sadly it was a bit overcast, but we could still see for many miles. It's a testament to how ridiculously tall 101 is that we could see it poking out from behind a peak far to the north.

101 far in the distance, and a typical rope section.

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The ridge was interesting and not too difficult. There were many sections of rope climbing and small ladders, but the ropes all felt very secure. The trees are gnarled and their branches twist around the rocks, making useful handles. Apart from a few unusual birds, and some Taiwanese magpies, we didn't see much wildlife. The forest is not dense, and in parts is sculpted by the strong winds that pass through here. Occasionally the path was half solid ground, half suspended detritus, so stick close to the rocks. 

A rope section that looks more difficult here than it actually is. R: Looking back towards Shiding from what I think was Bijia Peak.

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Although it appears to be a short distance hike from the map, the amount of climbing and careful descent meant it took us about four hours to complete. The ridge has numerous small peaks and viewpoints, and one particularly cool outcrop near the Maokong end, with a natural seat a couple of hundred foot above the valley.

On the rock seat high above the valley.

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There are very few trails branching out from the ridge. The only officially signposted one looked very overgrown and unused, and seemed to descend towards Shenkeng. Heading into Maokong we came to a junction, with a choice between Ergeshan and Houshanyue. There was also a small lane here called Erge Road, so it would be possible to taxi up here and start the hike without much of a climb. We headed towards Mt Houshanyue as it seemed it would join the Maokong Road. It was about here that Richard introduced himself to some rocks and ended up with a gash on the side of his head. It looked worse than it was thankfully, but still thought it best to get to Maokong quickly by road. 

At the clearing with this sign, head on the up trail for Mt Erge, and the down trail to Houshanyue, which will come to Zhinan Temple Gondola Station. I've planned a loop route with both trails, but may not blog it. So best to find it on the Hidden Taiwan Map here.

At the clearing with this sign, head on the up trail for Mt Erge, and the down trail to Houshanyue, which will come to Zhinan Temple Gondola Station. I've planned a loop route with both trails, but may not blog it. So best to find it on the Hidden Taiwan Map here.

We exited the trail where it crossed the first small lane and hitchhiked back to Maokong.