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One small step

Crossing the Aoyu Bei (Carp's Backbone)

Huangshan, China


You must conquer your fear of heights, or at least ignore it, to experience the beauty of Huanghsan. What its mountains lack in overall height -- the highest reaches only 1,850m (6,115') -- they make up for in unparalleled steepness.


At 1,810m (5,937'), The Tiandu Feng, "Heavenly Capital Peak", is the third highest peak. It has quite the views, however to get there you must first ascend and pass the Aoyu Bei, "The Carp's Backbone", a thing ridge with sections dropping off on both sides pretty much all the way to the bottom. The rope railing provides little reassurance, and just when you start celebrating your crossing, you realize you will have to cross it again to get back down.


Halfway across the backbone, my friend Elaine froze and screamed. Her altophobic husband fared better but spent the time coining new names for it, like, "Shit-Your-Pants Pass". We made it, but like clockwork, whenever we stopped to collect our breath and commend our bravery in Huangshan, we'd be passed by a tour group of old Chinese women wearing flats.


For some armchair traveling, there's a neat site that has 360 panorama movies of some World Heritage sites. www.world-heritage-tour.org/. The movie for Huangshan is interesting but looks to be taken from one of the less intriguing areas. Although, if you drag your mouse down and spin it around you'll get a sense of the dizziness some of the trails induced. Or you might just vomit from vertigo.


(Part of the Huangshan set)


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Taken on September 27, 2007