2011/10/26

Jiankou Great Wall Hiking

Jiankou translate from Chinese to English is 'arrow nock'. Jiankou Great Wall is named after its peculiar shape, which likes a bended bow with intangible arrow ready to be released to the target. Jiankou Great Wall is going to be the focus of hiking and photography enthusiast. Unlike the Mutianyu Great Wall in its east and Huanghuacheng Great Wall in its west, Jiankou Great Wall with more twists and turns wriggles up to the high mountain ridge retains in the natural state without any restoration and reveals the beauties of imperfection, wildness and primitive simplicity. Thus it is regarded as the most precipitous and picturesque section of the Great Wall built in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).

Jiankou Great Wall is located in mountains of Huairou District, which is only about 73 kilometers from Beijing. It could be reached either from the south side near the Wofo Mountain Resort (Wo Fo Shan Zhuang) or the north side at Xizhazi Village. The route to climb up from the south side to Jiankou Great Wall is very steep and takes longer time. Also, the route will lead you to the lowest point of Jiankou Great Wall, where one can hardly find safe way to go eastward. Therefore, most people choose to access Jiankou from the north side.

Jiankou Great Wall
Jiankou Great Wall

You can take bus No. 916 at Dongzhimen bus station and get off at Huairou Fangshan after 1 to 1.5 hours' driving. Then the mini bus can be chartered at a cost of CNY50.00 to CNY60.00 from Huairou District to Xizhazi Village, and you will spend about 1.5 hour on the way. Alternatively, the bus No. 936 (支) could also take you to Yanxi Huandao in Huairou District, where you can also take mini bus to Xizhazi Village. It is worth noticing that both Bus No. 916 and bus No. 936 (支) only run between 10:00 and 15:00. Xizhaizi Village is the base camp of Jiankou Great Wall hiking, especially for those who intend to have two or three days hiking. Most of the farmhouses in the village offer accommodation to guests and the cost are cheap. The admission fee for Xizhaizi Village is CNY20.00 per person.

The complete Jiankou Great Wall includes three parts from west to east as follows: west part - Nine-eye Tower via Beijing Knot (Beijing Jie) to Arrow Nock (Jiankou); middle part - Arrow Knot to Ox Horn Edge (Niujiao Bian); east part - Ox Horn Edge to Mutianyu. Jiankou Great Wall has about 56 watchtowers and its total length is about 22 kilometers, including the 12 kilometers for the west part, 3 kilometer for the middle part and 7 kilometers for the east part. Most visitors choose to hike the middle part for it is comparatively easier to climb up and down than the other two parts. It is said by the local that the first part should be highlight of Jiankou Great Wall as it is the most beautiful, adventurous and exciting part.

If there is traffic jam, the transportation from Beijing to the foot of Jiankou Great Wall may not be very easy, you are suggested to arrive at Xizhazi Village at afternoon and have a good rest overnight at farmhouse of the 5th Team in the village and then try the following routes, which are popular among experienced hikers.

Nine-eye Tower (Jiuyanlou) - Xidaqiang - Beijing Knot - Eagle Flies Facing Upward (Ying Fei Dao Yang) - Sky Stair (Tianti) - General Guarding Pass (Jiang Jun Shou Guan) - 38 Giant Steps (38 Deng) - Arrow Nock (about 12 Kilometers)
You need to get up early to start this day hiking route. It takes about 1.5-2 hours to get to the Nine - eye Tower(N 40°28.914',E 116°30.126',Alt 1194m)from the 5th team, Xizhazi Village. You can climb up the hill by the village back trail. After crossing a few mountain passes, you will arrive at a watchtower, from where you need to turn right and move north towards the Nine-eye Tower. You may hire a villager to guide you to the Nine - eye Tower as there are many branch trails on the way, which makes one get lost easily. The Nine-eye Tower is conceived as the largest watchtower along the Great Wall. Originally having three layers and nine windows on each side, the watchtower was a significant command post during the ancient wars. Although only one layer with 7.8 meters high and 13 meters wide on each side remains today, the scenery is still imposing.

Tip: If you want to avoid hiring local villager, you can follow the following route with GPS coordinates to get to the Nine-eye Tower.
1. Starting Point(hillside back the village):N 40°27.917', E 116°30.805',alt 850m (approximate alt)
2. Fork No. 1(left):N 40°28.074',E 116°30.838',alt 716m
3. Fork No. 2(right):N 40°28.182',E 116°30.678',alt 765m
4. Fork No. 3(middle one):N 40°28.343',E 116°30.524',alt 740m
5. Fork No. 4(left):N 40°28.362',E 116°30.559',alt 740°m
6. Fork No. 5(left):N 40°28.505',E 116°30.479',alt 773m
7. Fork No. 6(left):N 40°28.594',E 116°30.225',alt 843m
8. Fork No. 7(left):N 40°28.610',E 116°30.173',alt 860m
9. Fork No. 8(right):N 40°28.612',E 116°30.168',alt 868m
10. Fork No. 9(right):N 40°28.626',E 116°30.152',alt 893m
11. Fork No. 10(right):N 40°28.636',E 116°30.146',alt 897m
12. Fork No. 11(left):N 40°28.840°',E 116°29.905',alt 1015m
13. Fork No. 12(right):N 40°28.865',E 116°29.890',alt 1023m
14. Fork No. 13(right):N 40°28.901',E 116°29.918',alt 1105m
15. Destination(Nine-eye Tower):N 40°28.914',E 116°30.126',alt 1194m

Xidaqiang Great Wall
Nine-eye Tower

After that, you are advised to hike down by the same way to the small watchtower that you passed on the way up, and then go southward. This section is called Xidaqiang (Great Western Wall) and the wall en route is badly collapsed and almost vertical against the mountain. In this case, you have to take the path along the wall and move carefully. Xidaqiang has an abrupt slope that likely to approach 80°. It is an extremely steep ascending route with three sections.

When you climb over the third section of Xidaqiang, you will reach the Beijing Knot (N 40°27.772',E 116°29.669',alt 985m). Beijing Knot is a smaller watchtower, where three walls coming from different directions meet. The cracked steps of this section are comparatively stable and easy to climb. Till now, you may spend about 4.5 hours hiking from Nine-eye Tower to Beijing Knot.

Beijing Knot
South wing of Eagle Flies Facing Upward

After passing through Beijing Knot, you need to move in the direction of east instead of south to a indispensable part of the wall, the Eagle Flies Facing Upward(N 40°27.385',E 116°29.928',alt 1013m), which is known for its extremely steep steps up to the lofty peak that best for taking photos. It is said even eagles have to fly facing upward to reach the summit, so potential danger is self-evident. There are three cliffs in the west wing of the Eagle Flies Facing Upward and you have to make a detour by taking the path beneath the cliffs, so as to climb up to the watchtower. You should start climb upward to right from the path under the first cliff. Two paths are there - one upper and one lower, but you are advised to take the lower one.

From the Eagle Flies Facing Upward, you can descend the mountain by walking along the wall to arrive at the Sky Stair(N 40°27.339',E 116°30.100',alt 912m)that significantly stands two watchtowers apart. Although climbing the first watchtower is easy, it is hard to go down and you have to take the path from beneath that leads down the mountain. When arriving at a fork(N 40°27.360',E 116°30.031')at mountainside, you need to move eastward so as to return to the Great Wall that at the foot of Sky Stair. The fall of Sky Stair seems not as high as the Xidaqiang, but the former rakes more steeply than the latter. The stairs almost vertically ascend to the second watchtower and sometimes it is difficult to get a footing on the steep stairs. The narrowest part of the wall only allows one person to get through and one has to climb the precipitous stairs on all fours. Please note that if you want to climb up the Sky Stair, you have to edge along to get down those stairs so as to move on from west to east.

Sky Stairs of the Great Wall
Sky Stairs

Continue to move forward by passing a small watchtower (N40°27.381',E 116°30.332',alt 862m), you will get to an easy climbing section, the General Guarding Pass (N40゜27.387',E116゜30.342', alt 874m), which is an hidden gateway of the Great Wall. It fits the description that 'if one man guards the pass, then thousand are unable to get through'.

The following route becomes comparatively easier. When you see a watchtower stray from the wall, you should take the path beneath it in order to detour the landslide section ahead which is hard to step down. Then after passing a few small watchtowers, you will reach some abrupt steps, which is the so-called 38 Giant Steps. The steep slope may cause one's psychological pressure, but virtually it is not so hard to gingerly descend.

After about 2 hours hiking, you will arrive at the last destination of today, that is the Arrow Nock(N 40°27.333',E 116°31.476',alt 694m). Arrow Nock is a watchtower that located at the lowest spot of the V-shaped wall along the mountain ridge. You can head northwards for about 0.5 hour to get back to the 5th Team in Xizhazi village (N 40°27.897',E 116°30.705',alt 629m). A good rest at the farmer's home tonight is a must after almost 11.5 hours hiking.

Arrow Nock - Western Oil Basket (Xi You Lou) - Shrinking Neck Tower (Suo Bo Lou) - Sharp North Tower (Zhengbei Lou) - the Ox Horn Edge (Niu Jiao Bian) - Mutianyu Great Wall section (about 10 kilometers)
You are advised to climb up to the Arrow Nock by tracing the same route that you descend to the village yesterday. Upon arrival at the Arrow Nock, you need to move eastwards by passing a dangerous watchtower, namely the Western Oil Basket. It is important to note that the only path up the Western Oil Basket is very difficult as the steps are serious damaged and there is only something like a wooden ladder leaning against the wall. After climbing the ladder, you should turn right and mount to a breach, where you can climb rocks back to get inside the Wall.

Wall between Shrinking Neck Tower
and Sharp North Tower
38 Giant Steps

The next spot you need to pay attention to is the Shrinking Neck Tower(N 40°27.320',E 116°31.983',alt 876m), which is the lowest watchtower between the two peaks. The path starts to ascend more steeply because the broken wall here is connected by a vertical iron ladder along the edge of the cliff. In view of safety, you may detour the Shrinking Neck Tower by taking the trail in its left wing instead of climbing the ladder.

Up to now, probably you have already hiked about 3.5 hours and you would arrive at the Zhengbei Tower (N 40°27.289',E 116°32.159',alt 975m). This watchtower is the highest one among those between the middle part and east part of Jiankou Great Wall. Thus, it is the hottest spot for photographer to take idea pictures. It stands to reason that photos taken from here are published in various books and magazines.

Hiking further eastwards for about one hour, you will get to the Ox Horn Edge (N 40°27'17",E116°32'39"), which is a section of reverse U-shaped wall that connects the Mutianyu Great Wall in its south. It is about 45 minutes easy hiking from the Ox Horn Edge to the get down the wall at the front entrance of Mutianyu(N 40°25.976',E 116°33.513,alt 398m). Now your Jiankou Great Wall hiking comes to the end, you are suggested to take mini bus to Huairou Fangshan before 14:00 and transfer to the bus No. 916 or 936 back to Beijing city.

Common sense for Jiankou hiking:
1. It is much more difficult to hiking on the Jiankou Great Wall, so those who are inexperienced should carefully weigh before participating.
2. Join in a group instead of do it alone.
3. A pair of glove, nylon climbing rope is necessary tools.
4. Wear comfortable cotton socks and prepare one or two pair of socks.