Of all my experiences from living in Taiwan for 9 months, backpacking the Holy Ridge Trail in 5 days was one of the highlights. The Holy Ridge (or “雪山聖稜線” in Chinese) is an awe-inspiring, often razor-thin ridge of mountains in Taiwan’s Shei-pa National Park. It spans from north to south, connecting the famous Snow Mountain (“雪山” / “Xueshan”) all the way to Mt. Dabajian (“大霸尖山” / “Dabajianshan”). At 12,749 ft, Snow Mountain is Taiwan’s most famous mountain and second highest. As we traversed this ridge in an O-shaped loop, our views spanned the mountain range and we summited several peaks along the way and climbed more than a few sketchy scrambles. From sparse, steep rocky bits to lush forest hiking, this trip had some unforgettable views and even better memories.
We started off the 5-day trek with a TON of elevation gain. I didn’t hydrate enough in preparation and found myself winded and dizzy. I was feeling so rough that Isaac ended up strapping my backpack on to his chest. Johannes, our other trekking buddy, captured this moment of defeat/relief.
Surveying the trail as we come to a talus slope.
taking a break on our first peak of many on this ridge!
A view of the Holy Ridge.
check out that view!
Making our way up another peak.
A beautiful sunset view on Night 2.
Another peak! Holla!
Snow Mountain, or Xue/Syue Shan, is a sought-after peak for many Taiwanese hikers.
It’s a long way down…
We had enough time one morning to leave our packs behind at the mountain hut where we had stayed the night before to quickly scramble up this humble little peak. It ended up having some of the best views of the whole trip!
I call this the booty-poppin’ shot.
One of the several mountain huts that became our shelter along the way. We planned our trip around these various shelters, which ensured that we didn’t need to pack tents to save weight! Though in our registration process many of these huts were supposed to be filled with other applicants, when we got to them on the trail most of them were empty. It was great to unwind after a long day with a cozy shelter all to ourselves!
The trail dips in elevation below the timberline and winds you through the forest. It felt so good to be surrounded by trees.
One of the more treacherous passaged on the trail. Mt. Sumida has a reputation for this tricky, steep bit with old knotted ropes to guide people down. I’m not very surefooted, so Isaac is helping me find my way down.
Some mist started rolling in.
Feeling on top of the world!
A lunchtime spot. Hammock key for ultimate relaxation.
Another steep rocky section. Not for those who are afraid of heights.
On our last night after having completed the bulk of the trip, we shared a GIANT hut with many other Taiwanese hikers who came to summit Snow Mountain that day. They were celebrating with a massive feast of pork belly, fresh soup, and hot steamed rice (all cooked on a ton of camp stoves) and kindly shared their feast with us. After several days of dehydrated food, this was the best meal of our lives. Pictured here is the leader of the group who invited us in a poured us shots of (very) strong Taiwanese liquor. He kept saying, “today is your lucky day!” A lucky day indeed.
Finally at the end of the trail! As we started nearing civilization again, we ran into some officials who checked to make sure we had the right certificates to be there. Then they stamped it for us!
A close-up of the stamp. Thanks, Shei-pa National Forest officials!
Waiting for the bus to arrive, celebrating with some coke and pringles.