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A New Hiker Approaches!

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  • A New Hiker Approaches!

    Hi All!

    My name is James. I am a long distance hiker from the United States interested in (eventually) hiking the Great Wall from end to end.

    I have a good deal of hiking experience, including three thru hikes.

    i lived in China when I was younger and remember a little bit of my Mandarin, but not enough to function independently in rural areas.

    I will be ordering the Great Wall Forumís book soon and beginning my preparation and planning.

    Any and all advice is welcome.

    Thank you!


  • #2
    Welcome and good luck. Please read this first:
    If you're tired of the Great Wall, you're tired of life.
    Journeys, &c


    • #3
      People underestimate what it takes to thru-hike the Great Wall. I recommend lots of research and a few short hikes before you commit yourself.


      • #4
        I appreciate the advice. I lived in Beijing for three years and have visited the rebuilt sections around the city on several occasions and camped farther west in what at that time was called the 'wild wall.'

        I hardly underestimate the challenges such an expedition would pose, which is precisely why I am posting here and seeking the advice of those who have completed sections and thrus of their own, and hold specialist information about the route and history.

        I read you opening post before making the request, Bryan. Forgive me for failing to allay your concerns about amateurs trampling the historic sites along the route. I am not and will not be one of those.


        • #5
          You do have the right attitude. I wish you success. If you complete a genuine thru-hike of the Great Wall, in one push and without street walking, you will be one of the first if not the first ever.

          I assume you mean to hike the Ming Dynasty Great Wall? What is your planned route? Will you be hiking alone? Will you have support? What three thru-hikes have you done?


          • #6
            On my previous hikes west of Beijing I encountered permitting problems and irreparable/fragile sections of the wall. I hope with proper planning and authorization to avoid or mitigate the first issue, but I welcome any and all advice on the state of the wall at various points along the route.

            I hope to hike as much of a continuous route as possible from Yumenguan to the sea.

            I understand whole provincesí worth of the wall in the west were constructed from local materials which have degraded over time - to the point where the route is barely recognizable, if at all. Here I expect the main challenge to be distances covered, remoteness of resupply, temperature (I will want to start early in the year), and the local dialects.

            In the mountainous sections at the middle middle third of my hopeful route (through Gansu and Shanxi), I expect a good deal of collapsed and neglected wall. Stone for building was pletiful according to the sources Iíve read (so far), but no authorities found it worthwhile to rebuild large tracts post Mongols so they remain ancient and fragile. This is the section about which I have the least information, and plan to devote several years to learning and planning over. (As I improve my Chinese) I also plan to train in rock climbing and mountaineering as the terrain profiles I have seen for these sections looks intimidating.

            The final third, including many of the sites visitable from Beijing I am more familiar with, but still want to look into carefully. I remember a number of military bases (including firing ranges and other installations) nearby the foothills on the way to two of the sections of Wall I hiked. I want to have the permits and administrative okay to get me through or around those stretches without too much difficulty. If I am not mistaken, this is the area where the greatest diversity of possible routes exists, as walls of different dynasties and along perpendicular ridge lines come together. I would love advice on the best through-route, from the perspectives of structural integrity, local government sensitivity, access to resupply, and to my final destination where the wall meets the sea.

            My previous thru-hikes were the Appalachian Trail, the Camino de Santiago, and Lands End to John OíGroats. On each of those I was a route purist, walking a continuous route from beginning to end. I recognize (partly from reading some of the digital edition of your book) that such a thru might not be possible along the wall, no matter which dynasty route, and regardless or the amount of preparation. I have accepted that, but would like to get as close as possible, without putting myself or anyone accompanying me in needless danger.

            I have some contacts in China, mostly in Beijing, though there are a few in the south who might be willing to offer some support if I were able to offers clear and detailed instructions. They include westerners and native Chinese, with strong language skills and resourcefulness though they are not long distance hikers themselves.

            Several years ago I began approaching gear companies in the US for support and sponsorship, though life circumstances forced me to delay the effort. This time around I want to plan several years in advance, lay a strong foundation, and raise money either for medical causes in the States or for Wall research, maintenance, and education, or both if possible. I would very much like to speak to someone who has completed either long stretches of wall or a thru in regards to a budget and a prospective timeline. I saw the list of timelines that the forum has collected on another post, but until I have a route and profiles in front of me, and the former hiked on the phone, I wonít have a good sense of how quick or slow each of those expeditions was.

            Suffice it to say, I know there is a lot I donít know, but I want to begin the process of educating myself and gathering resources.

            Tahnk you again,



            • #7
              Starting at Yumenguan, that's some pretty challenging terrain. I guess from there you'll follow the path of the Han Dynasty Great Wall for roughly 200 miles until you near Jiayuguan, then walk south to join the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, which you will follow until you reach Shanhaiguan.
              Good preparation and mapping work will be one of the keys to a successful hike. Perseverance will be too. You've done some long (and interesting) hikes so far so that part should be no problem. I look forward to hearing about your progress!


              • #8
                Thank you! I'll take any well wishes I can get.

                Yes, I believe the terrain will indeed be difficult, and I know I'm not physically or logistically ready for the attempt (yet). I'm aiming for a couple years from now to go.