My plan was to visit the Great Chinese Wall. This ended in my semi-annual near-death-experience. In total maybe the third time during my trip. It happened yesterday and I am still pretty exhausted. I am sitting in a service area on the chinese highway and want to write this story down, as long as I am still so affected. Behind me three chinese woman are standing, which are working here, looking across my shoulder, elongating cautiously their arms and opening my notebook with their fingers. Those pilferers.
I arrived in this little chinese mountain village. My driver raised his eyebrows, when he realized, where this place was. But that was already after he assured, to bring me there. Now it there was nió way back. In the village I had to leave the car, because there was a gate and it was not possible to pass by car. Also there was a little ticket house, where you could buy an entrance ticket for about 4€. I just walked through and nobody seemed to bother. Anyway I did not plan to pay.
It was a very nice village. All of the inhabitants were farmers, which made some extra money with tourism. But I did not see tourists at all. My first objective was, to have a shower. After days on the road it can be difficult to have a proper shower. I found one of those „private hotels“, asked the lady if I could shower here and she agreed. Not even wanted money for it. Very friendly.
It was a wonderful, sunny summer’s evening. Blue sky and I was fresh as fuck to start the two hour climb up to the wall, which I could already see on the back of the mountain. If I go straight I might do it till sunset. At the end of the village an old grandpa was sitting in the field. I asked him which way I should go and he told me to follow the arrows. He was the last person I would see for a while. I approached a very wild and abandoned part of the wall. Along the path there were several signs which said, that this part of the wall is not open for tourists. Probably the reason, why I did not meet anyone in the village. I couldn’t care less and started hiking.
The path was really difficult to follow. There were no arrows. Just two at the very beginning. I had to turn around after 10 Minutes, because I walked the wrong direction. It was very warm and a swarm of flying insects was having a massive mosh pit around my head. I tried to get rid of the, using my hand or my basecap. Unsuccessfully. So I started walking faster.
I found another path which seemed to go straight uphill. If I have the choice, I always take the steeper way. Eventually you will reach the top faster. I followed this path. At some point the ground changed. A lot of leaves. More leaves. Followed by ankle-deep foliage. But I saw some trash, so it should not be completely wrong. So I continued. I had no clue where I had to go, but straight uphill shouldn’t be too wrong in my eyes. The path turned steeper and steeper. At some point I realized, that I might follow the course of a river.
I was to lazy to turn around. The normal path was way behind me. I was in the open field. I went on, always straight up. It became steeper and steeper. I had my 12kg backpack and a full tote bag of food with me. The ascension took all my energy. Again and again I had to pull myself up with the ehelp of trees. Some broke, when I crabed them. Hard work. More climbing than hiking. And one of those moments, where I profit from the fact, that I climbed that much, before I left Germany. The terrain I was moving in was far from being accessable by „just walking“. I brachiate through this abyss from tree to tree, always uphill. The plan was so simple.
In between I had moments, where I turned around and realized how steep it was. It must haven been around 80-85°. I felt a bit scared, hen looking behind me. The problem is, that ging up is always easier than going down. And it looked very dangerous behind me. I would definitely not turn around. So there was only one direction left. I could see the sun in the trees already. A safe sign, that I would get closer to the end of the mountain. Somteimes it was really hard to get through with my backpack. I had to crouch between branches, then pull myself up again, find a safe point to stand stabile and then do the next step. Slowly and controlled I climbed towards the top.
As I was already quite far up, a rock face appeared in front of me. Trees turned into bushes, the ascent became overhang. It was impossible to continue here with my backpack and without some proper climbing gear. I was already at the wall and touchgin for some holds when I decided not to approach this part. Much to dangerous. No way up. But I was climbing for around 45 minutes already and according to this the area behind me was looking like. What to do? I observed my surrounding area.
Right of me, at least it looked like, was the cliff not as abrupt and maybe here I would find another way up. In between was a 3m long transition, probably the steepest part of the hill, without any trees to stabilize yourself on it. Seems like here creek would shoot down into the valley, when he carries water. I had to to at least two, if not three steps, to get across this to the next hold point.It was necessary to stand in the abyss freely, to get to the other side. Difficult mission.
I looked back. It was so steep going down, that I hardly could imagine to take this direction. The ground was very earthy, if I only would dig my feet deep enough into it, I might find hold here to get to the other side. First step. Still I could hold at the tree I was standing at. Earth trickled down. Somehow I found hold. My foot stood stable. Second step, I still hold on the tree. Feet one was still stable in the earth. With a proper jump I should be able to reach the other side and grab the next tree. Then I let go of the tree to stood freely without any security.
I immediately lost footing and felt down. After that I am not sure what exactly happened. I picked up speed pretty fast, in the beginning I tried to press myself onto the slope. At some point I overturned, lost orientation. I felt around 10m downwards. And this was just the beginning of a long, long slope. As if by a miracle a tree stopped my crash, which I thunk into with my chest. The impact was so strong, that all my air was pressed out of my lunges. In the moment of the impact my glasses slipped of my face and dissapeared in the abyss, covvered by earth and rubble on the way downwards.
I could get hold with one hand but still had my backpack on me and my food supplies in the other hand. Somehow I hung at this abyss. It was not over yet. After the tree there was the next part, going down 20-30m, maybe more. And there were no more trees that would stop my drop.I couldn’t pull myself up, cause my food supplies somehow stucked between me and the tree. I thought about dropping them. But what would I do without food? I could hardly imagine to get back to it, once I drop it. Pulling, stabilizing, swing around the tree, somehow I managed after a while to get behind the tree and sit on the abyss to take a rest for a moment.
I was shocked. First of all I send a voice message, because I had internet connection here. Then, isntead of going down, I continued sidewards along the abyss, to get into less steep terrain. Actually I just wanted to get back into the village and close this whole mission. Enough of this shit. Well and while I was progressing sidewards, I suddenly found the real path. You could see it. It was marked by plastic bottles they pulled over the tree branches. Well even after this, I was already on top, so why not continue then? So I did. The new path was not less dangerous than the part I was on before. Same steep sections, same climbing shit. I got lost as well. It took me another 15 minutes to reach the „real“ hiking path, where it was actually possible to walk normally without climbing in between trees and rocks. I reached the Great Chinese Wall before sunrise.
I was very lucky. A sprained finger, hermatome at the leg, lost glasses and a dirty hitchhiking suite. My left foot was a bit numb, which was because of the crash on my solar plexus. I could life with that. Lost my glasses already two times, when I had my heavy car accident and when I crashed with a Paraglyder before. Just my semi-annual near-death-experience. Hope this was the last for the rest of my trip.
But I reaced the wall. Accidently I arrived at the most scenic spot of the world heritage, watched the sunset and afterwards I made a bond-fire and camped on op of the wall. No humans here, just the eagle owl singing in the night. After the crash I was so agitated, that I could hardly sleep this night. Also being alone in this middle age stone construction was kinda scary. I had slightly anxiety states. At 04:30 I woke up to watch the sunrise.
Afterwards I hiked three hours along the wall. In the morning sun. It was quiet and peaceful. I hiked all the way down to the valley on the other side, crossing the more wild and abandonde parts of the wall. At some point I reached an „Continue forbidden“-sign and entered the restored, touristic part of the wall. Completely alone. There was no one else. All morning long I was alone. The wall was empty. Usually this experience is only for US-Presidents, for whom the whole wall gets closed, when they walk it. I got it for free. What a beautiful walk. And I was happy being able to experience this.
Here some impressions: