Aug 13 13
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Work has taken me to Beijing for two weeks, and while I don’t have much time to play, I got a day off to go hiking on the Great Wall. I went with my friend Dave from Houston, and we arranged to join a 10km walk along a wild (unrestored) stretch of the wall with Beijing Hikers, who organise walks most weekends. The walk started from a small village not far from the tourist part of the wall at Mutianyu. From there we walked up a wide track up a valley, with occasional glimpses of the wall high above on the ridge. After ten minutes or so, we turned onto an unlabelled, quite overgrown track that rose steeply up the valley side in the forest. It was extremely hot, so we were glad of the shade, but the 450m climb was certainly hard work! Half way up there was a cave at the side of the path and we were all very glad of a rest in the cool air inside.

The climb up finally ended at a gate into the wall, and from there we climbed up onto the wall, and then onto one of the watch towers. The views were lovely, with forest-covered hills in every direction, and views of various parts of the wall on the ridges. Being unrestored, there was forest growing on top of the wall, with just a narrow path winding through the trees.

We finally reach the wall after the steep climb up the hill.

We finally reach the wall after the steep climb up the hill.

After a short rest and some food at the tower, we set off up the ridge, walking on top of the wall. The views along the wall were excellent, and the air was full of butterflies as we hiked along. We also chased lizards along the paths and at one point watched a chipmunk run along the outside of the wall.

Looking through an archway in the first fort we reached.

Looking through an archway in the first fort we reached.

The first part of the walk was along a spur off the main wall, which climbed steadily to a high point at another tower where we met the main wall. From there we had great views of the wall heading off in three directions, with a series of steep descents and towers on the continuation of our route.

The wall descends steeply along a ridge.

The wall descends steeply along a ridge.

After about 6km along the wall we finally left the wall at another arched gate for the descent into the next valley over from where we’d started. The path was very steep in places, but parallelled an even steeper section of the wall, which looked almost impossible to traverse, let alone build. On the other side of the valley was an even crazier section, with the wall climbing up a ridge, then dropping over a sheer cliff before climbing again on the next ridge.

The wall builders show off their engineering prowess!

The wall builders show off their engineering prowess!

At the valley bottom we reached a second village where we had a very nice late lunch in a restaurant before the two hour drive back to Beijing. Given the heat, the 10km walk was probably all we wanted – we’d drunk most of our water by the end, and had to give the rest to another member of the group who had collapsed with heat stroke. However, it was a really good walk, the organisation by Beijing Hikers was excellent, and the guides were helpful and interesting. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to see a wilder section of the Great Wall.

Back in Beijing, the day ended with a spectacular thunderstorm that went on seemingly for hours.

Lightning strikes over Beijing.

Lightning strikes over Beijing.

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