Spending a few days in Hong Kong on our journey back to London gave us the chance to do some classic Hong Kong walks including Lillian’s first ascent of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain at 957m. The cooler weather was a reminder of what would be waiting for us when we returned to the UK. A few weeks before our visit, Hong Kong experienced the coldest weather on record with a temperature of minus 5 degrees centigrade on the top of Tai Mo Shan. This resulted in crazy scenes of Hong Kongers calling the local fire brigade after being unable to walk back down the icy road from the summit! See Frost Chasers Stranded on Tai Mo Shan.
This was an effective method of recovering from jet lag on our first day back in Hong Kong. Lion Rock is one of the mountains on the ridge that forms the northern border of Kowloon so it is close to the city and easy to get to. We caught a taxi to Lion Rock Park (Si Ji Shan Gong Yuen) and followed the path which climbs steeply to the main ridge. Soon we were looking down on Kowloon.
It made me a bit nostalgic for the many times around 20 years ago when I walked up same path to go climbing. Back then (I know I am sounding old) you were able to watch the planes flying below you and landing at Kai Tak Airport. Kai Tak was closed and replaced by the new International Airport at Chek Lap Kok in 1998; the site of the old airport is on the left of the picture below and, as you can see, most it is still not redeveloped.
Another noticeable change in the last couple of decades is that, in spite of there being many more local Hong Kong people walking in the hills, there is much less litter now being dropped which is a positive development.
At the main ridge we picked up the smaller trail up to the summit, where we were accompanied by a pack of ‘wild’ dogs.
They were very friendly; we ended up talking to a local guy who said that this pack of seven dogs had been following him on his regular walk up Lion Rock since there were puppies.
On the summit we had a look down the east face of Lion Rock and I told Lillian (not for the first time) that I (along with Martin Lancaster) had completed the first ascent of a climbing route up the left hand side of it, called The Lion King. It’s nice to have done a new route in such a visible location.
After Lion Rock, we continued along the ridge to Shatin Pass and returned to the city by walking down Shatin Pass Road. We saw a young lad riding up this on a road bike and some inspection of the map afterwards showed that it would be a challenging bike ride and a good training climb. There were hardly any cars on the road and if the road is followed to its end the total ascent is 500m; we’ll have to try to ride this next time we are in Hong Kong.
Our walk was in total 5km long with 450m of climb; a great option if you only have a couple of hours in which to do a hike.
This is probably Hong Kong Island’s most popular hike, with views of the sea on either side as you walk along an undulating ridge. There is even a page on it on the Hong Kong Tourist Board’s website (Discover Hong Kong: Dragon’s Back). That may have accounted for the number people doing the walk; nearly everyone on our double-decker bus from Shau Kei Wan MTR station to Shek O got off at the bus stop at the start of the trail. It actually wasn’t a problem as we were walking with our friend Christian and his three children so we weren’t trying to go quickly and the crowds soon spread out. However, we were far from being alone as this photo on the high point of the ridge shows.
My advice would be not to come here on a weekend if you want to enjoy the solitude of the hills! The first 2.5km of the walk is the more scenic section along the ridge. The path then contours through forest for another 2km before you reach a point where you can walk back down to Shek O Road to catch a bus back to Shau Kei Wan; alternatively, you could turn east like we did and continue for another 3km to Big Wave Bay (Tai Long Wan). See the map below. (Note that this map is half the scale of the other two ones in this post.)
Descending to the bay, it was hard to believe that only a couple of kilometres to the north there is a city of towering apartment blocks. There are several cafes/restaurants in the village next to the beach. We tucked into some noodles, and then watched the surfers on the beach below which was a nice way to end the morning.
Tai Mo Shan
The cloud cleared on our final day in Hong Kong and we woke up to a bright sunny day and clear blue skies. We had originally planned to walk up Needle Hill (see my previous blog: Outdoor Hong Kong (Part 2)) but the good weather, and the fact that I found out that Lillian had not climbed it previously, convinced us to climb to the top of Tai Mo Shan.
We took a direct route up to the south ridge of the mountain from the Shing Mun Reservoir. To get there you need to catch the MTR to Tsuen Wan then take a taxi or minibus to the Shing Mun Country Park Visitors Centre.
The path initially climbed steeply through forest which then became open grassland.
Once we reached the upper slopes of the mountain the path wound its way past several boulder-fields.
One or two of the boulders were even big enough that they could have had some climbing routes up them. I couldn’t find any information about the boulders on the internet so maybe there is some potential for some new routes on our next visit…
When we reached the end of the trail we joined the tarmac road to the radar/listening station on the summit of Tai Mo Shan and followed this for about 0.5km to its end. This is as close as you can get to the summit. We saw several cyclists and wished we were on our road bikes riding up with them.
We became particularly jealous of them when they overtook us as we were walking down the road to Route Twisk, which is the main road north through the mountains from Tsuen Wan to Fanling.
There were a surprisingly large number of people on the road to the summit walking up or down; it is nice to see how popular hill walking has become. As well it being a good thing that more locals are enjoying the hills, it should also hopefully ensure that there is strong support to maintain Hong Kong’s amazing Country Parks.
It was 4.5km down the road to Route Twisk where we caught a bus to the Tsuen Wan MTR. In total, the walk was 9.5km long with about 800m of ascent.