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Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

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  • Photos! Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

    An exploratory hike from Simatai towards Bailingguan on March 1st 2014. Probably the best I've seen so far on the Great Wall, remote and scenic.


  • #2
    Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

    <iframe src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/67630672@N07/12933995264/player/cd9fc954fc" height="281" width="500" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen></iframe>

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    • #3
      Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown


      DSC00964-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

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      • #4
        Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown


        DSC06546 by IMHY1, on Flickr


        DSC06561 by IMHY1, on Flickr


        DSC06580 by IMHY1, on Flickr


        DSC06584-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


        DSC06595-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


        DSC06621-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

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        • #5
          Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown


          DSC06701-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06797-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06846-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06882-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06891 by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06903-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06934-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


          DSC06939 by IMHY1, on Flickr

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          • #6
            Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown


            DSC06949 by IMHY1, on Flickr


            DSC06953-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


            DSC06969-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


            DSC06979 by IMHY1, on Flickr


            DSC07000 by IMHY1, on Flickr


            DSC07018-1-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


            DSC07041-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

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            • #7
              Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

              Outstanding report - thanks! Makes it very clear. Great pics and the captions really help. That walk is on my list, too.
              If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
              Journeys, &c

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              • #8
                Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                Fantastic. Thanks for sharing your photos!

                Can you tell us what it was like?
                Bryan

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                • #9
                  Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                  BFX,

                  If you can wait, perhaps we can do this section, coming September? with Chinook?

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                  • #10
                    Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                    OK, here is more information and pics for those who would like to repeat this hike. It's a day hike, a bit strenuos but otherwise straightforward. We spent just over 12 hours on the trail, carrying light daypacks. You could sleep in some of the towers on 10-tower ridge, they are in fairly good shape.

                    Recommendations:
                    Overnight at Dongpo guesthouse and coordinate pick-up at the end of the hike with the owner. Mobile phone coverage up on the ridge is good.
                    Best done in winter. The trail will be more difficult to find when slopes are covered by foilage.
                    Sturdy jacket and trousers. Soft gear could be ripped apart by the thick brush.
                    Some light protective gloves, else be prepared for bloody hands.
                    Warm hat and gloves for icy winds on the ridge.
                    Flashlight: to exit from this hike one needs to desced high cliffs covered by thick brush. If you're caught by darkness you'll need a flashlight here.
                    No water to be found on this hike.

                    How it was:
                    We left Dongpo guesthouse early at 6:00 am to avoid the guards. Hit the wall at Simatai East tower No.6, hiked up to the forbidden section, climbed Heavenly Ladder to Fairy Maiden tower, from there took the easy detour on the north side around Sky Bridge and reached Wangjinglou tower around 8:30 am. Note: if you don't want to hike the forbidden section of Simatai, they say there is a direct forest path from the guesthouse to Wangjinglou. Enquire with Dongpo.

                    Regarding the section of Great Wall east of Wangjinglou, we didn't find any information on this forum. The owner of Dongpo also didn't know much, except that the locals call this section “The Wall without a name“. However, on Google Earth one can see some distinct features that help to structure this hike:
                    1. “The Triangle towers“ - 3 towers in a triangular setting with wall in between, straight east of Wangjinglou
                    2. “The Highest tower“ - the tower next to the highest peak of the Simatai ridge. To find it on Google Earth, follow the ridge from the Triangle towers to the north-east. The Triangle towers are approx. in the middle between Wangjinglou and the Highest tower.
                    3. Stone quarries No.1 and No.2 on the north (Dongpo) side of the wall. These are possible exit points and very easy to identify on Google Earth.
                    4. “10-tower ridge“ - the ridge heading north-east after the Highest tower, featuring 10 towers and a few fragments of wall. To find the last tower of this ridge on Google Earth, go straight east from stone quarry No.2.
                    5. Still further east and clearly visible on Google Earth is a stretch of continuous wall with approx. 8 towers. At the end of this section is a massive mountain, much higher than anything on the Simatai ridge, with a tower on top of it. To my understanding this tower is already part of the Bailingguan Great Wall.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                      So off we went. Our goal was to reach at least the Highest tower. We had arranged with the Dongpo owner to meet us either at stone quarry No.1 at 3 pm, or at stone quarry No.2 at 5 pm. This would allow us to catch the last bus to Beijing from Jinshanling or Miyun, respectively.


                      DSC00964-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                      Directy after Wangjinglou comes another tower apparantly called Ju Xian tower, then a fragment of wall. All of which is easy to hike.


                      DSC06621-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                      From here we looked down to our next goal, a little pass, beyond which we could see more peaks and cliffs.


                      DSC06671-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                      We descended through thick brush and cliffs on the north side of the ridge. Some climbing was required, though not difficult. Looking back to where we descended:


                      DSC06679 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                      At the little pass there is a very small fragment of wall, also visible on Google Earth. Immediately after, a huge cliff blocks the way on the ridge. Some sort of trail was visible on the south (Beijing) side of this cliff, but we didn't attempt it since any fall here would be fatal. Instead, we headed down through thick brush on the north side, trying not to lose too much elevation, and climbed up to the peak on the ridge as soon as the territory would allow. The view from here goes back to Wangjinglou...


                      DSC06696 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                      ...and forward to the Triangle towers.


                      DSC06701-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

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                      • #12
                        Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                        Next, we climbed down the ridge towards the Triangle towers. We found our way among the cliffs, trying to keep a safe distance from the steep drop on the Beijing side.


                        DSC06706-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06713-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06715 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                        We reached the first of the Triangle towers around 10:30...


                        DSC06720-3 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06733 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                        ...and looked back at the cliff we just had descended.


                        DSC06734 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                        Next, we climbed the peak that sits between the Triangle towers. From here the view goes back to Triangle tower No.1 and Wangjinglou...


                        DSC06739-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                        ...and forward to Triangle towers No. 2 and 3, and to the Highest tower.


                        DSC06750-4 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                        I had hoped that from this vantage point we'd get an idea on how to move forward, but couldn't make out any obvious route yet. It became clear, though, that there were no towers or wall on the ridge ahead between the Triangle towers and the Highest tower.

                        From the vantage point there was no easy way forward, so we climbed down the same way we had come up and then moved on the wall to Triangle tower No.2. From here we could finally make out some trail leading from Triangle tower No.3 along the wooded slopes in the direction of the Highest tower. If it were not for the snow on that trail, it would have been quite difficult to spot in the thick brush. We continued on the wall to Triangle tower No.3.


                        DSC06762-3 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06765 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06771-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                        There we picked up the trail we had just spotted. We even saw small red flags every now and then to indicate the right way, but often the trail was difficult to follow and it also involved a little climbing once in a while. Looking back, we could see the Triangle towers and Wangjinglou.


                        DSC06779 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06780-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                        DSC06790-6 by IMHY1, on Flickr

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                        • #13
                          Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                          Around noon and 6 hours into our hike, we reached the Highest tower.


                          DSC06792-3 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06798-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                          From here there are splendid views in all directions: back to the Triangle towers and Wangjinglou, with Jinshanling in the distance...


                          DSC06793-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06846-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06800-8 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                          … and forward towards 10-tower ridge and Bailingguan. From the Highest tower, both stone quarries No.1 and No.2 are visible and you can see them in the previous and in these pictures.


                          DSC06794-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06797-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                          From the Highest tower an obvious trail leads down to the beginning of the 10-tower ridge. Once we reached tower No.2, cliffs were again blocking the way and the trail became difficult to follow. Here one must descend but not too far. Climb back to the elevation of tower No.2 as soon as you can and regain the trail, if you lost it.


                          DSC06865 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06882-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                          Ahead was tower No.4, but before reaching it we had to negotiate a sharp ridge at tower No.3 and then pass a steep drop on the Beijing side.


                          DSC06885-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06891 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06898-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                          We reached tower No.4 at 2:30 pm. I guess the holes in the rock next to towers are rain collectors?


                          DSC06899-3 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06910 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06914 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                          DSC06927-3 by IMHY1, on Flickr

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                          • #14
                            Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                            From tower No.4 onwards it's all plain sailing – a gorgeous hike along the ridge with great views to both sides. And the towers are all in relatively good shape.


                            DSC06933-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06934-route by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06944-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06950-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            Tower No.7 and the view back to Wangjinglou...


                            DSC06951-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06952 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06953-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            ...and forward to towers No. 8, 9, 10.


                            DSC06969-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            Hiking towards towers No. 8 and 9. Down to the right one can see the stretch of continuous wall with approx. 8 towers. By now it was 4 pm and we had decided to continue hiking as long as daylight would allow. We'd miss the bus and instead would find some car to take us back to Beijing. Another stay overnight at Dongpo would have been great, were it not for the flight that I had to catch next morning.


                            DSC06973-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06978-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06980 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06982-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            The hike from tower No. 9 to 10 required some detour through the brush and some climbing again.


                            DSC06987-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06990-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC06991-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            Finally, around 4:30 pm, we stood at the last tower of 10-tower ridge, which we named “Hong & Bob“ tower to celebrate our achievement. Hong had developed a leg problem halfway through today's hike and it was obvious that he had endured quite a bit of pain, so an achievement it was! Especially when looking back at all the peaks and ridges we had scaled, starting from Simatai, to arrive at this point!


                            DSC06998-3 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC07015 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC07018-1-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            From this excellent vantage point we considered our exit options. To the west and north were some villages, linked by road to Jinshanling and thus to Dongpo. Down the ridge to the east was the stretch of continuous wall with 8 towers that we knew from Google Earth, followed by the massive mountain towards Bailingguan. From this strech of continuous wall, it seemed fairly easy to hike down north to one of the villages on the Dongpo side of the wall. Even more easy appeared the hike south to a village on the Beijing side. But we needed the north/east side of the wall, as we wanted to be picked up by the Dongpo car.


                            DSC07020-1 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC07027-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr


                            DSC07028 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            However, when we tried to climb down the ridge towards the stretch of continuous wall, we soon ran into trouble. There was some sort of trail, even marked by red flags, but the ridge became ever more sharp and dangerous to descend. At one point we had to negotiate a natural “sky bridge“ with huge drops on both sides. A little later the ridge was cut by a vertical 10m gap, with no obvious way to climb down or to continue on the other side. Curiously, there was a little red flag that supposedly indicated that there is a trail here, but we could not see one. If there is a way to link to the stretch of continuous wall with 8 towers, it is probably more easily found when climbing up rather than descending. With daylight in short supply, we decided not to risk but turned back and climb up the sharp ridge the same way we had come down.


                            DSC07041-route by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            Back on 10-tower ridge at 5 pm, we figured that the valley below tower No.9 would ultimately lead us to a village next to the second stone quarry. So we climbed down to tower No.9 and then descended into the valley through thick brush without no trail at all. To avoid some dangerous cliffs, we generally stuck to the right side of the valley. What followed was the toughest part of today's hike – more than an hour of crawling through the brush, always following the valley, until we reached some fields and the going got easier.


                            DSC07053-2 by IMHY1, on Flickr

                            Around 6.30 pm with darkness quickly moving in, we stood at the little village of Houying, population 6, from where we called Dongpo to pick us up. All in all, a very beautiful hike and quite remote, too – we didn't meet anybody all day long on this gorgeous Saturday.
                            Enjoy!

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                            • #15
                              Re: Simatai beyond Sky Bridge: from the forbidden to the unknown

                              I rated this thread five stars.
                              Bryan

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