“Because it is there;” “because it is calling and we must go;” “because we have always seen further from the shoulders of giants;” because the eye is called to ever further horizons; because it is an adventure; because it is a challenge; because to stand upon a ridge line and to see the rise of deeper unexplored mountain ranges stirs something in the soul; “because there’s always going to be another mountain.” Whatever your reasons are for venturing to Yu Shan (玉山), or Jade Mountain, we get it. It’s not Everest, but at 3,952 m, or 12,966 ft, it is the tallest peak in Taiwan and the fourth highest point of any island in the world. You will have to travel as far north as Kamchatka, or south to Malaysia and Indonesia before you run into anything of greater elevation in the western Pacific region. In this edition of our blog, we are going to provide you with all that you need to know so you can lace up your boots and take on the climb to the summit. Happy reading and happy trails.
Known as “Patungkuonʉ,” “Saviah,” “Tongku Saveq,” “Tanungu’incu,” and “Kanasian” among other names to the indigenous tribes of Taiwan, Yu Shan or Jade Mountain has also been called, “Mugangshan” (wooded mountain), during the Qing Dynasty along with “Batongguan,” “Baiyushan” (white jade mountain), and “Xueshan” (snow mountain). The western world briefly knew the peak as “Mount Morrison” after an American captain who logged a sighting of the mountain while aboard the freighter The Alexander in 1857. The Mountain was later known as “Mount Niitaka” or “Niitakayama” (New High Mountain) under Japanese Colonial rule. The Japanese would go on to incorporate the name into the strike signal that was used to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941: “Climb Mount Niitaka 1208.”
The first recorded summit of Yu Shan took place in 1900 when a pair of Japanese anthropologists, Torii Ryūzō and Ushinosuke Mori, made their way to the peak. Prior to their expedition, and throughout much of the 19th century, much of the Yu Shan region remained unexplored by the Japanese and Han Taiwanese on the Island on account of the difficult terrain and the hostile (head-hunting) tribes in the area.
The mountain has long been sacred to many people in Taiwan. Both the Bunun and Tsou tribes have legends that speak of finding refuge on Yu Shan during a great flood, alongside a number of other oral histories that connect them with the mountain and region. In 1947 the KMT rechristened the mountain “Yu Shan,” as a means of restoring the mountain to its title during the Qing Dynasty and reverse Japanese influence over the Island. In the Chinese celestial cannon, the mythological Jade Mountain is considered to be where the goddess The Queen Mother of the West lives. Today, many tourists visit both Yu Shan National Park and Yu Shan itself as a means of connecting with the Island and its highest point.
There are five peaks that make up Yu Shan. The Main Peak or the central on is the highest and is most commonly accessed via Dongpu Lodge in Nantou County. The mountain can be summited as a longer day hike or as an overnight trip with a stay at the Paiyuan Lodge on the mountain. All visitors need to apply for an entry/hiking permit online prior to their visit. There are only 60 spaces per day and so we recommend you do this early.
Taipei — > High Speed Train to Chaiyi or Puli –> Local/ Tourist bus to Dongpu Lodge
Dongpu Lodge is the starting point for the trail and a dormitory where you can stay overnight if you make a reservation ahead of time. Expect the trip from Taipei to take in the neighborhood of 5-7 hours. If you have a car or are renting a car the trip is between 4.5 – 5.5 hours. If you drive yourself you will need to reserve a parking permit online as well.
Yu Shan is open to the general public March through December.
The Mountain is often closed January through the end of February on account of snow and ice. It can rain a lot on Yu Shan and so the dry season, October to December, is generally the most advisable time of year. Regardless of the time of year, however, bring plenty of extra layers as temperatures can often be close to freezing or below freezing at the summit, even in the summer time.
Nuts and Bolts of the Hike