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  • Mutianyu to Simatai?

    Hello, I am planning a solo hike of somewhere between 4-7 days around the 2nd week of March. I have some hiking experience, but definitely wouldn't describe myself as experienced. I just bought Bryan's book to help prepare me, but I was hoping to get some additional advice. I haven't read all of it yet, but I have skimmed a few of the sections I thought would be most relevant, and that, along with internet research, has given me the impression that Mutianyu to Simatai or vice-versa might be a good choice. Since I also want to move at a comfortable pace, I may get off before arriving at either end. Some basic questions I have:

    Do you think this is practical given that I have no vehicle and the wall is not continuous between these sections?
    Are there a decent number of towns or ways off along the way? (for my first extended hike on the wall, I would prefer not to go for more than a couple days without being able to re-supply if needed).
    Is the weather reasonable for a hike roughly March 6th-13th?
    Is there another hike you would recommend for me instead?

    From the book, I read that West Five Eye tower is one of the best spots, so I think it would probably be a good one to reach. Speaking of the book, for some reason the maps don't enlarge on my ipad and so are mostly unreadable, but I will probably need to get more detailed maps from this website anyways.

    Sort of a side question, I was planning on researching this shortly before arriving in Beijing (I'm in Xi'an right now), but since you may know, are there are any rental shops you recommend for hiking gear in the Beijing area?

    I probably have more questions, but I think this is a lot for one post anyways, so I will stop here. Hope to hear from people!

    Thanks,
    Josh

  • #2
    Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

    Probably better off buying than renting gear - not sure where you could rent unless you speak/read Chinese.

    March weather is fine if you have a good sleeping bag for o/n. It was quite warm today near Simatai.

    Without transport you will find it difficult but not impossible to get between MTY and SMT areas.

    If you are not experienced, you may not realise a couple of things. There is no independent source of water anywhere on the wall near Beijing - either carry it, or resupply at villages. You should plan on a bare minimum of 3-4 liters a day. Same goes for food. More than 2-3 days at a stretch, unsupported, is not realistic.

    You should download the forum map and study it carefully.
    If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
    Journeys, &c

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

      Another couple of points:

      Some of the wall around Beijing (for example the Beijing Knot, Eagles Fly Facing Upwards and Zhengbeilou towers around Jiankou) are pretty steep. Generally there are detour paths around the worst bits, but if you're carrying overnight loads (sleeping bag, extra water and food) your gear can be quite heavy. You need to be very confident you can climb up or down the steep crumbling steps with those loads on your back.

      An alternative you may wish to consider is the long stretch between Zhenbiancheng and Shixiaguan. Look in the forum for several threads on the area, under the Hebei West section. It would be suitable for a multiday hike as it has a few spots you can possibly resupply in, and for the most part does not have major dangerous scrambling (and what there is, you can skirt around).
      If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
      Journeys, &c

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

        There are much more problems for this hike. I did it last autumn. Especially if you are not an experienced hiker (of the Great Wall) it gets at least difficult.

        For example:

        1. Lianhuachi to Shentangyu: The path is difficult to find. If you miss it you will end in dangerous area. Even to get out might be dangerous, depending when you understood you are wrong.

        2. Hefangkou to Qinglongxia: Unless you have a whole day to find the continuation there you wont get through. Maybe there is no continuation. There is a climbing possibility. I did that, but I would not do it again (too dangerous). I never would do it with a heavy pack. You will pretty easy find yourself above or below very dangerous cliffs. You can't see where they are because you are in dense vegetation. No fun, dangerous, takes a long time to find (if possible), you can't see anything, difficult terrain. All in all not a nice combination ...

        3. Qinlongxia eastward. There is no real path. If there is a walking possibility it is very unlikely you will find it. Maybe it is easier in winter, when there is no foliage. To get out there it took me a whole day and a very difficult and sometimes dangerous walk. If you get lost it immediately will get dangerous. Between the steep cliffs you sometimes even don't have GPS satellite reception. Making it difficult to find the way back. There is no continuous wall, only isolated towers. In all seasons but winter I consider it impossible to walk from one tower to the next.

        4. Heilongtan: The path is very difficult to find. If you don't know where to walk it is just no fun. For hours. Further east there is no path. If you don't know where exactly to walk it is something between impossible, difficult and dangerous. The wall continuation is easy to miss.

        All in all to walk there is nothing I can recommend. Unless you are better prepared than I was. Unless you exactly know what you are doing. Unless you are in best shape and know how to rescue yourself in case of troubles. Many places don't have cell phone coverage, some places don't have GPS satellite reception.
        You need to carry a high amount of water (something like 8l). Making everything even less fun.


        -chinoook
        chinoook's 1st law: Structurally weak walls tend to have double structures.
        chinoook's 2nd law: Newer walls are built next older walls, not over them.
        chinoook's 3rd law: Similar problems lead to similar solutions.

        The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of people, who have not viewed the world. (Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), German naturalist and explorer)

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

          Awesome, thanks for the great info guys! I must have forgot to subscribe to email notifications from this post, so I havent yet researched your suggestion of zhenbiancheng and shixiaguan, but i will do that presently. I've read so many good things about jinshanling to simatai as I was researching it, that I think I will try to do at least that part as a day hike and then separately do zhenbiancheng. Anyways, i will look into it. Cheers!

          Btw, I happened to find this company called sanfo in beijing that rents camping equipment. I havent gone in person yet, but according to their email, it should be about $50 for 3 days (and less after that) for sleeping bag, tent, air mattress, backpack, headlight, walking sticks, stove, and pots. I'm sure you guys don't need any of this since you are experienced trekkers, but in case anyone else was curious.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

            Sanfo is a good shop with several branches.

            Don't forget, JSL to SMT is an easy day hike. You ought to be able to go from Gubeikou to SMT in a day, too.
            If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
            Journeys, &c

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

              Once again. To walk from Mutianyu to Simatai is about impossible.


              -chinoook
              chinoook's 1st law: Structurally weak walls tend to have double structures.
              chinoook's 2nd law: Newer walls are built next older walls, not over them.
              chinoook's 3rd law: Similar problems lead to similar solutions.

              The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of people, who have not viewed the world. (Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), German naturalist and explorer)

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                Yea, after reading more, I definitely think ZBC to SXG is better than MTY to SMT. After googling it, I found a very helpful blog, not realizing until now that it is actually yours bianfuxia. I was also thinking of starting at bijiashan, but after reading about the difficulties you had, and also the good parts of ZBC, i think it will make a good starting point. I will also try to make it all the way to badaling instead of stopping at SXG if possible, since transport from there would probably be easier.

                Anyways, after I read through your blog a few more times, get equipment/supplies, and buy the beijing area map, the only thing left is to figure out how to get there which I imagine will be a mix of bus and private transport. Just out of curiosity, is the mr zhao that you mention normally in the business of taking people to the wall? Or is he just a personal friend? I would definitely prefer a driver that someone with experience has used, if possible.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                  I will send you a message
                  If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
                  Journeys, &c

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                    Hello !

                    First, thank you all for helping all the newbies... I promise I'll give you a feedback when I come back !

                    I am interested in walking exactly the same trail as you Sisko, as I will be in Beijing from 5 to 18 april and plan on walking for at least a week. If I follow Bianfuxia and Chinook advices, the best walk for unexperienced Great wall walkers (I am an experienced hiker, but this will be my first time on the Great Wall) would be from Zhenbiancheng to Badaling?
                    Is there already a post on this forum about this trail ? (Sorry, I'm very new here...) Especially about water supply...
                    Is a GPS necessary on this part, or printed maps would do? (I'm gonna buy Brian's map).
                    Bringing only a warm sleeping bag is okay, or a tent would be better ?
                    As for the transport to ZBC from Beijing, what would be the cheapest way? (Being a student, I'm rather short on budget...)

                    Sorry for all the questions, maybe there's already a thread on all this...

                    Thanks a lot,

                    Delphine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                      The best thing to do will be see if Sisko succeeds, and if he does, read his trip report and see if you can replicate it.

                      That stretch is not easy, as it has a couple of quite difficult bits, but resupply is the main issue. GPS is preferable but maps will do - it's hard to get lost on this route if you stay on the wall.

                      The only time I tried to do it all in one go, I didn't succeed, due to underestimating the amount of water I would need.

                      If you are not prepared to bivvy out then you will need a tent. There are very few intact towers along the route.

                      As far as I understand it there is no public transport to Zhenbiancheng.
                      Last edited by bianfuxia; 03-06-2014, 11:25 AM.
                      If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
                      Journeys, &c

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                        Hello again all. I finished my hike recently, and I plan on posting some pictures when I have my computer again. For now, I would just say that I had both an amazing and a challenging time. A big thanks to this forum and all that helped, especially bianfuxia, who gave me so much good advice. Hopefully this was just the start, but it was already one of the most amazing experiences I've had to date, so muchas gracias amigos.

                        For Delphine, I will give you a short summary of my hike. I wanted to do at least 2 nights but preferably 3, but due to a few factors, I settled for one. So here it goes:

                        I started just south of Chenbianjiao (spelling?), not at ZBC. Starting at ZBC may be better though. From the south of CBJ, I started in the afternoon and hiked at a steady but leisurely pace until it started getting dark. One of the biggest problems I had was that the company that rented me my equipment, Sanfo, didn't have the cheapest (and presumably smallest) tent available, so I had to get the bigger, fancier kind. It was nice except that it didn't fit inside the alcoves in the towers, meaning I had to camp outside.

                        The first night was a little windy, but not so bad. As I progressed higher the next day though, the wind became incredibly strong. So much so that I realized without being able to camp inside the towers (it was still pretty windy inside most of them as well), I wasn't comfortable camping outside in that wind for fear that I would wake up in Kansas. Then, I hit a steep drop in the wall that was just rubble on both sides. I didn't want to struggle through the rubble to the next tower to potentially discover that it also wasn't suitable to camp. CBJ was not far though, and easy to go in and get water, for example, if you needed to. So I ended up heading back early.

                        To try and answer some of your questions:

                        I haven't done so many walks on the wall, so I can't give a good comparison for newbie paths. BUT the main problem with this route appears to be the wind and the towers. On other walks I did, the towers were much more intact and spacious (at least they felt that way) and there was very little wind. However, I didn't stay on those sections for days, so I don't know that they are possible to do continously from one point to another. So if you have a nice, compact tent and you're here in April instead of March, I bet it would be much more practical.

                        Again, depending on your pace, ZBC to just north of CBJ could take you at least a couple days, meaning you could refuel at the first stretch in CBJ. There are more towns along the way, so I think you shouldn't have too much problem with water.

                        I thought the printed maps were sufficient.

                        Private transport from Yanqing station to ZBC (or CBJ) is the only way since there is no bus.

                        To recap, I brought too much water (and weight), ill suited equipment, and had crappy weather. If you do better in those categories, you will likely have a much better time on your hike!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                          Thank you for your feedback!

                          Could you give me the name of the private company you called for transportation?

                          I do have a very compact and light tent.

                          When you say "On other walks I did, the towers were much more intact and spacious", which parts of the wall are you thinking about ?

                          As for water, would it be possible, if I plan to hike for a week, to make regular detours through the nearby villages in order to refuel? Or are there too few villages on the road?

                          Thanks again!

                          Delphine

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                            I would be very interested to find out how the hike turns up keep me updated. I would like to try it in the end of October.
                            It seems like a great part of the trail through some more authentic chinese villages.

                            If you could pass your transport person, if you have his number, to me that would be awesome.

                            Sounds like a tough hike, I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Mutianyu to Simatai?

                              Sisko made it out there courtesy of a friend of mine, something I hooked up for him, not really a repeatable situation, just a lucky break.

                              Your best bet is to look on the forum here for the thread on drivers, or hunt on the internet for driver services. There are actually many around, often English speaking, and generally for pretty decent prices.

                              You need to have a good knowledge of where you want to go, and a clear map with Chinese places names (use the mapping feature on www.baidu.com or google maps sometimes seems to display the chinese names) and print it out and help your driver navigate. They wont know all the small little villages.

                              As Sisko's trip notes show, the wall is not a walk in the park, even at areas close to villages and where it is relatively easy. He did well despite his modesty but the lesson to draw is (and he did not make this mistake) that you cant just slap it together.

                              You should download the forum map, and spend some time familiarising yourself with it. A walk from the section that begins near zhenbiancheng village to say chenjiabu or shixiaguan is much more of an undertaking than it looks on the map. You should reckon on an average speed of 1 km/h if you are a fit hiker, allowing time for the usual stops but also for navigation errors.

                              In my opinion that walk described in the previous para is at the very least, for someone who knows the route, a four day undertaking, and only then with considerable planning.

                              Not trying to sound like a wet blanket but it is a windy, dangerous area (three died in a snowstorm in november 2012, one that came out of the blue) and as Sisko attests, "windy" means *windy*! And it is worse on the stretch further west - near chenjiabu is relatively sheltered.
                              If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
                              Journeys, &c

                              Comment

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