The day had finally arrived. For months I had been googling, asking about, face booking friends, and feeling a bit anxious about my walk along the “most dangerous trail in the world.” That is how the internet describes it. Why did I want to do this? I do not know. Several years ago, when my son was in middle school, I took he and a friend to our local water park. They wanted to go down the huge water slide, so I decided to climb along with them. I got to the top, sat down and just couldn’t make myself go down the slide. They offered to give me a push down the slide, but I chose not to do that, rather I would climb back down the stairs to the bottom. So with that in mind, I still had my doubts about walking across this plank at this height, especially in China where there are few to zero maintenance and safety checks on their equipment.
My friend and I began our climb of Huashan Mountain, steadily getting closer and closer to being on that plank. She was busy taking photos on the way up and I got ahead of her. I needed to get this done before I changed my mind, or as is everything in China, you think something is open, only to get there and find that not only is it closed, but it is gone! I couldn’t risk not making it in time. So I waited for her to catch up, and told her I was going to go on up. After all, I had been sweating this/looking forward to this for months. It was now officially on my bucket list.
Arriving near the top, I met a couple of guys from England who had just walked the plank. One did the whole walk, while the other said it was scarier than “h___.” Uh Oh. They weren’t willing to go again, as I did ask them. They told me I was just five minutes away from the sky plank. Upon arrival, I encountered a long line of people waiting to cross this plank. I waited and waited, saying a prayer or two, or three. I texted my friend and told her I was in line and to just push and shove her way to the front to join me. That worked out quite nicely. She was able to take her photos, and I was able to secure a descent place in the very long line.
We watched as people were coming and going, while hooking in and out of cheaply made harnesses. As we inched closer to being harnessed in ourselves, I decided I may as well strap in and get it done. After three steps into my journey, I came to the “ladder.” The ladder was so frightening!! Each rung of the ladder was only wide enough really for one person, however, there were two to three people per rung most of the way down. I noticed some of the metal stairs were loose and cemented into the side of the mountain. Though, I think that was the least of my fears, as too many people were coming and going on those stairs, our caribeeners kept crossing on the thin line that we were “secured” to. So unless one person unhooked, there was no moving in either direction. Someone reached and unhooked mine to move it out of their way! YIKES! NO, I don’t think so. I told them I could unhook my own, and they could do the same.
I finally made my way down to the bottom of the stairs and I was SO relieved that the planks on the side of the mountain at 7,000 plus feet, attached by spikes hammered into the wall, was actually a relief. I was able to walk along for a bit, scooting my guide rope along, clipping and unclipping my carabiner until the people who had gone before me, began their return trip on the plank. Uh Oh! Somebody has to go behind the other person. It wasn’t going to be me. Not this time anyway. I leaned in and hugged the wall as best I could, hoping they could easily get around me, because I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to do that on my return trip.
About midway, there was a photographer who would take our photos, but he wanted money. The money was in my bag, located inside my passport holder. Hmmmm. How was I going to get that? I didn’t want to let go, and I didn’t want to get my passport out and take the chance of dropping it. I had to do both. He did however, unzip my bag for me and I reached in with one hand and pulled out the passport holder, he reached in and grabbed the money then shoved it back in my bag and zipped it up. Whew! Done! I didn’t fall, and I didn’t drop my passport. Life is good!
I continued on my trek only to be pelted with ice chunks, similar to an Oklahoma hailstorm. What the heck? It was hitting our heads, and sadly now landing on the plank ahead of me. It was looking a bit slick. We carefully maneuvered over the wet part and made our way across the plank to the end.
After a few photos, we had to complete our trip, which meant we had to go back across those boards. We hooked back onto the line and started our way back thru the hailstorm and the oncoming people. I don’t remember how many people I had to go around and behind, but we all actually worked together and made it happen safely. As we kept walking, we were able to visit with a couple guys from Poland, and without going into too much detail, they said everything we had heard about Polish people was true, and that it actually does take three people to change a lightbulb! (their words).
We finally made it across the planks and had to climb those stairs again. This time however, the people going down actually moved over a bit and waited until we were able to pass them, which was a bit easier than before. I hurried up the ladder in the quickest way possible, took off the harness and thanked God I survived. I was glad this experience was over, but was also glad I was able to conquer my fear of that plank. CHECK! The bucket list narrows.