The Jade Screen Cableway was established in 1996 carries tourists from the Merciful Light Pavilion (Ci Guang Ge) to Jade Screen Pavilion (Yu Ping Lou) near the top of the mountain. One cable car accommodates six persons at one time. The car slows as the previous guests exit the car and we climb aboard car #13. I wonder, if the number has any significance and then discount it as a superstitious thought. Our car glides swiftly up a distance that would otherwise require 3 hours on foot. I see the stairs descending below and silently thank the people who constructed this cableway.
Our guide springs up the next set of stairs as if he is part mountain goat. We are climbing up toward Celestrial Peak, the highest peak in this area. At times the walkway and stairs seem to jut out from the mountain wall into mid-air. At one brief stop, I pause to enjoy the view and the cool breeze sweeping up from below. The wind brushes my face lifting my spirit upward. Forgive me as I become a bit poetic and reflective of the memory but my heart soar as on wing. The views were awe inspiring . . . and yes, I treasured the moment to rest and catch my breath!
I can easily see how Mt. Huangshan has inspired many poets, philosophers, and painters throughout history. Li Po, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty wrote: "…Once I was on its lofty summit, admiring Tianmu Pine below. The place is still traceable where the immortal stood before ascending to heaven made elixir out of jade." The names of the peaks and formations escape me now and my little camera is not capable of capturing the beauty. If I take this journey again, I will need to hire my own porter to carry my tripod, cameras, lenses and filters . . . in hope of capturing some portion of the endless beauty from every vantage point.
Did I mention that I have a healthy respect for heights? At this very moment I want to confess to a fear of falling! Never have I climbed down such a steep stairway that appears to fall away beneath your very feet. I really cannot enjoy the view before me as I climb down the stairs. I focus on one step at a time . . . concentrate placing one foot firmly on each step before moving the other foot. I forget to take a photo as I dare not take my hands away from the wall. My fingers search for any rough edge to cling to as if I were climbing down a mountain face without a rope . . . now that I reflect on the experience, I wish I had a rope around my waist to ensure that I would not fall. If I did I fear I would knock down several hundred other tourists before falling into the valley below. (The photo I did manage to snap was taken from the climb back up the opposite side of the valley. Sorry, folks . . . you will have to envision the experience based on my description.)
Yesterday we saw a sign at the grottos instructing us in “Chinglish” do not enjoy the views . . . while walking! Well I heeded the instructions while descending this “ladder” into oblivion. Someone pointed out Mt. Tianmu to the east, Mt. Lushan to the west, and Mt. Jiuhua . . . somewhere out among the gray mountains that seemed to go on forever. Once I find myself on level ground, I take a moment to turn around and look back up the 100 step ladder. I steady myself as if viewing this ladder alone is sufficient to make one faint. If I were not standing here I would never believe that I had succeeded in this feat of courage! After admiring the 180 degree views, I ask where to next. They point out the trail across the mountain as it snakes up another peak. Okay where is the emergency escape route out of here? Have I lost my mind in attempting this trail? Seriously, I need a reality check. I draw deep into my inner self to muster the courage to attack this next mountain. Another deep draw from my water bottle and a handful of almonds help fortify me for the next assault.