Barefooting above the abyss: second barefoot hike on suicide cliff

A little less than one year ago, I had started my history of barefoot hiking, by electing to climb suicide cliff. Since then, I climbed several other times on Kowloon Peak, some times by night, other times with my daughter… But I did not go back on the Southern ridge, climbing the steep walls that lead to suicide cliff… Until now! In October, I started my second barefoot hike on suicide cliff.

An early start

As suicide cliff can get quite frequented later during the day, it is preferable to climb in the morning. I thus prepared myself to start my hike around 9.30 AM, and obviously, even if not recommended, I climbed alone. Early departure allows also to skip the issues with sun beating down on the mountain later in the day.

I started off barefooting from home. While initially, it was uncomfortable doing so with the guards at my condo, with time it got easier as I tend now to run and hike barefoot quite regularly.

What changed from one year ago?

To be honest, no huge changes affected the trail this year. There were however two noticeable differences: a small tree fell across the trail at the beginning, consequence of the typhoon Mangkhut, and there is now a stark warning about climbing to suicide cliff.

warning board on suicide cliff route
Warning board on the Southern ridge route to suicide cliff.

These boards are also affixed at the other main entrance to Kowloon Peak, namely the stairs. Besides these warnings, the hiking conditions on the path have not significantly deteriorated from one year ago, so hiking is still very practicable.

Despite this, it seems hikers get regularly stranded or even disappear on this mountain. It is thus not an endeavour to undertake alone. I provide a walkthrough in this post, but please do not climb the mountain alone if you are unfamiliar with the place.

The initial climb

As this time, I had a gopro camera with me, I filmed the main parts of my climb, mainly to give a feeling of what it is to hike on this route. I would invite you to watch the climbing videos in order for you to better understand the challenges, especially if you plan on climbing for the first time.

The start is taking place in the forest as starters.

The start of the climb on Kowloon Peak

The beginning of the climb is not really serious. Most of this path takes place within the forest, and you can grip to rocks or branches to secure your climb. The real technical part of the climb starts once you are out of the forested lower part of the mountain.

The fork

At a point, you are going to reach a fork in the path. To the right is the most challenging path (which eventually joins the first one), but I do not recommend using that path. One of the reasons being that I never took it, the second being that it is way more sandy than the other side. At any rate, I filmed the passage across the small stream, but be aware that the ropes which have been placed there are used and should not be relied upon.

The passage of the fork leading to the second half of the climb.

Rock scrambling

The second part of the climb, once you are out of the bushes is something of a rock scramble, more than a hike. You need to use all of your body to pull yourself up. This is a quite physical effort, which means that you can easily be drained after climbing the rock for two hours.

The second half of rock scrambling on Kowloon Peak

Open Air

View from Kowloon Peak
First stage, where you come up, above the bushy part of Kowloon Peak.

After all the rock scrambling, you will arrive to a plateau, where there is sufficient space to ensure that you can rest. The view on the city is also quite gorgeous at that point, and it is where you will take a breather after the intense efforts. This is where I flew my drone too, but had to land it quickly, as the wind was threatening to fly it against the mountain or have it escape my control. For being short, this video does a good job of providing a contextual view of the mountain.

I then resumed my climb, as it was the final leg towards suicide cliff.

The ledge to suicide cliff

Before getting to suicide clfif, proper, you must walk a tight ledge. Explaining how it looks does not help much, and you will only feel the thrill when you walk it yourself.

The final ledge to suicide clif

Needless to say, while looking very risky, this ledge is large enough to be walked along comfortably. Nevertheless, it is best to be slightly slanted towards the mountain, in order to avoid any loss of balance tipping you cliffside.

Obviously, on suicide cliff, the necessary selfies must be taken…

Selfie on suicide cliff
A selfie on suicide cliff
On suicide cliff
On suicide cliff

Scrambling upwards

Rock scrambling does not end with the suicide cliff. Not in the least. To get away from suicide cliff, you can only go down by the same path you came up (very steep) or continue climbing upwards (and that involves some more rock scrambling).

Rock scrambling

While not terribly technical per se, this involves however passing on a narrow ledge giving on a ten-meter cliff. Here again, unless you are scared of heights (in which case you should not even be attempting this climb!), no real issue. Just remember that taking your time and advancing prudently is key to hiking safely.

Once you get over that part, then, you must still get around a huge boulder, and it is not obvious unless you have already been there (although you can just follow the trail in the vegetation).

Getting around the boulder

Once at the top, you end up with big stones and rocks that can be a bit technical to navigate barefooted, but perfectly feasible. Here is an example:

Resting on Kowloon peak
Resting bare feet on the top of Kowloon Peak

Ending the hike

The final leg of the hike involves both getting around a communication tower with barbed wires and climbing to the radio tower and the helipad.

The final leg climbing up to the helipad

The last part of the hike is going down the stairs. Under no circumstances think about taking the “shorter” way down on Jat’s incline side! That route is treacherous and extremely dangerous, please always take the stairs, they present no risk at all.

Climbing down the stairs

As a conclusion, my advice is once again, to be very careful. It is always prudent to start a hike on a new route with someone who already knows the route. And if you wish to start a hike barefoot, make sure you recognized the terrain beforehand and that you pack a pair of shoes (there is no shame in adapting to the terrain). Finally, don’t think you need to prove anything by taking the most dangerous routes when there are less dangerous ones available. Kowloon Peak is a famous mountain, but it stays a mountain. It must be respected and handled with caution. Safe climbing!

Barefoot hike with a little girl on Kowloon Peak

Kowloon peak is close to the place where I live and so, it is a very easy hike, when you do it via the stairs. I did it previously via suicide cliff shod and barefoot. I did go back up barefoot and at night. This time, I wished to satisfy my daughter, who had been demanding a hike for a while now. It is not often that you see a child on Kowloon Peak.

Children on Kowloon Peak?

Although it can be dangerous on the Suicide cliff side, some parents do take their kids up on suicide cliff.

Japanese family and daughter
A Japanese family brings along their daughter on Kowloon peak.

However, given that my daughter was only aged six and had never been there before, I did not wish to confront her immediately with the challenge of climbing suicide cliff by herself. We thus headed for the stairs, but walking until those did already put a couple kilometers in the legs of my daughter. We had to stop several times to make a break along the way. Finally, we got set to start climbing.

Bottom of Kowloon Peak
At the bottom of the stairs with the ominous warning

The trail on the stairs

The big inconvenience of the trail was that it had rained the day before. As a result, on the shaded part, a number of very hungry mosquitoes took us as targets. My daughter ended with about 12 bites, despite having used insect repellent. I had a few less, but the presence of aggressive mosquitoes is a new factor (they were less of a nuisance the previous times).

While it climbs continuously, the presence of stairs does not make it as challenging as the climb on suicide cliff.

Nevertheless people who are not trained may find the climb arduous (as I did the first few times I climbed Kowloon Peak). We made several stops along the way, to allow Maria-Sophia to take a breather.

Once arrived at the top, Maria-Sophia was totally exhilarated.

On the top

At the top of Kowloon Peak, there is usually quite a strong wind, so caution must be used when flying a drone. Despite this, we managed to take some “dronies”.

Dronie
Dronie on Kowloon Peak

Later, we moved lower down, closer to suicide cliff. When there is no fog, the views are spectacular.  However, with the fog, the spectacular views on the side of the cliffs were hidden under coton-like clouds. We passed near a radio tower and the passage is a bit tight, but my daughter handled it marvelously and with confidence.

Cliffs on Kowloon Peak
On either side, spectacular cliffs on Kowloon Peak

As can be seen, I continued hiking barefoot all the way, while my daughter kept her hiking shoes.

Going down

Going downstairs proved much slower than climbing. In part, this was because my daughter was unaccustomed to the place, so sought my hand to climb down from rocks or stairs. Myself being barefoot, I took extra care. On the way down, we encountered two groups who admired my daughter for her fortitude. Being aged only 6, it was quite a feat for her. The length of the hike took its toll, in the end, and she started showing signs of fatigue, once we got down, despite frequent halts.

In the end, it was a wonderful bonding moment for father and daughter, with my little girl enjoying the possibility of catching the clouds on the mountain. You should never hesitate taking your kids with you when going out, whether barefoot or not!

A night barefoot hike on Kowloon Peak

After having climbed suicide cliff barefoot and by night, I still had to more. That’s why, last Sunday, I decided to do a night barefoot hike on Kowloon Peak to catch the sunrise.

Starting off at 3 AM

Although I live very close to Kowloon Peak, arriving at the top on time still requires starting off early. I thus left my home at 3.30 in the morning. Being night time as since I was alone, I decided not to climb via the Suicide cliff, as it would have been too risky. I took the stairs on Fei Ngo Shan road. As I do now more or less regularly barefoot running, my cardio has improved. I managed to climb without making any pause. This being said, being barefoot also requires me to be slower and to watch where I set my feet. I had a headlamp as hiking by night requires you to see where you walk, all the more as you hike barefoot.

Upon arrival, it was still dark, although the first embers of dawn could be glimpsed. However, very annoyingly, the tip of the mountain was covered in clouds (and was quite windy too). Topping 500 meters, Kowloon Peak is often shrouded in clouds.

Helipad kowloon peak barefoot
Taking a pic on the helipad of Kowloon peak with my walking torch.

I then sheltered from the wind. As the daylight was slowly increasing, I attempted to shoot some pics of the city. Unfortunately, given the strong winds, my tripod was not so stable, so several shots were spoiled. I still managed to shoot some  pics with my iphone on a moment where the clouds parted.

View from Kowloon Peak
A veiw from the topmost part of Kowloon Peak at dawn, as the clouds parted for a short instant

Dawn breaking

Later, towards 6 AM, as the dawn was breaking, and the sky started taking the “blue hour” color. Fortunately, the clouds and the fog also started dissipating.

Kwun Tong in the clouds
Kwun Tong emerging from the clouds like a modern fairy tale castle

The blue hour also manifested itself in this picture.

Blue hour on Kowloon Peak
As dawn breaks, the blue hour shows on Kowloon peak

It must be said that the clouds kept covering the top of Kowloon Peak. This gave however a lovely feeling to the area, as Kowloon peak is one of the few places where you can be said to be “walking in the clouds”.

Drone view of Kowloon Peak

The winds at the top were quite strong, so I was not too adventurous when flying my Mavic Pro. I tried however to take some context pictures that would show the area and how it really feels.

For example, an iconic shot at the top of Kowloon peak is the helipad on the top. A “dronie” with the helipad helps to show the path down from the top of the mountain.

Dronie from Kowloon Peak
A dronie from the platform of Kowloon Peak.

Kowloon peak also has very gorgeous view on Kowloon itself.

Dronie and view on Kowloon
A dronie with a view on Kowloon

As the dawn advanced, the clouds started to clear up, but on the other ridges of Kowloon peak, it gave a lovely Chinese watercolor effect.

Clouds shroud middle peak
Clouds shroud middle peak.

Going down

Normally, going down should be quicker than going up. That’s true but when barefoot, you have to be more careful, obviously. The danger is not so much about hurting your feet as of losing your balance. The technique I used is to land on my forefoot (similar to barefoot running) and being watchful when resting the remainder of my foot; indeed, landing on a pebble might be discomfortable (or even slightly painful), but with training, you take it in stride (your foot redistributes the weight differently). If you jump or land too heavily, there is a risk of losing balance (I had a rucksack and a tripod) and falling. That’s why, barefoot hiking should be done with as light gear as possible.

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On the whole, the sunrise experience was perfect in the timing and the pleasure of hiking barefoot in the mountain, but a bit marred by the lack of sunrise. I only got to see some sun when going down.

Rising sun over Sai Kung
A rising sun shines over Sai Kung

A drone flight and a barefoot hike around Ma On Shan park

Weeks go ahead, and I try to go regularly out for a barefoot hike. Lately, I acquired a Mavic Pro drone, and while still learning to function with it, I combined a drone flight and a barefoot hike around Ma On Shan park.

 

Barefoot hike around Kowloon Peak

My barefoot hiking started originally around Kowloon peak, so it is logical that I went back there as this is very near to my house. As previously mentioned, this is a pretty easy hike, as the terrain is completely flat with cemented roads all the way. It gets however treacherous in some parts but not because of unstable terrain. You have rather to deal with very fine gravel spread out on the road, and those can be pesky to walk upon. I tried to film my gait to show that it is pretty easy to hike barefoot on flat terrain.

Overall, nothing unusual, except much less abrasion on my feet, as I was not running this time around. There is a little mountain on the side of Kowloon peak, which is a moderate and pretty easy climb. Many people go up there and  fly rc planes or gliders. I stopped midway, as I wished to fly my Mavic Pro.


Drone views over Ma On Shan Park

The view by drone is absolutely gorgeous from above.

Drone shot Sai Kung
Drone shot with Sai Kung in the distance

On the left, you can see the mountain on which people climb to have a magnificent view over Sai Kung.

Turn more to your left and you can see the new town of Shatin in the distance.

Shatin
A view from Ma On Shan park on Shatin.

And of course, there is a video with the complete view of the area.

This is the first of my drone videos, and they will be featuring more regularly now, as I may explore new areas and their views. Of course, it would not have been complete without a “dronie”.

Dronie
A “dronie” as I am barefoot in Ma On Shan park

I was not really “minimalist”, as I carried some gear, but still I did complete the whole 7 kms barefoot in about 2 hrs (including the time flying the drone).

I am looking forward to carrying on with more drone flights and barefoot hikes. While in Lantau, sunset peak and Nong Ping are very interesting hikes, unfortunately, Lantau peak, for one, is way too close to the airport and it is illegal to fly a drone within 5 kms of the airport of Hong Kong. Nong Ping seems within a reasonable distance.

 

Barefoot hike on Suicide cliff

I mentioned that possibility in a previous post, and I finally did it: A barefoot hike on suicide cliff! Originally, I wanted to test myself with a barefoot hike on a less steep terrain, such as the Dragon’s Back hike. Seeing how packed that hike can be on weekends, I decided instead to do the suicide cliff. I am probably the first (maybe will remain the only!) to pull off this feat. Disclaimer: this post does not mean to incite you to replicate the fact without proper preparation/training.


For the record, this is a trail I covered five or six times this year with trail running shoes or hiking boots each time, so I knew the terrain and the risks beforehand. I also took it slow and easy and did not seek for thrills.

Going light!

Lightness was the key to going barefoot. As most of the previous times, I had packed around 15 kgs of photographic gear (and a tripod), this time, with bare feet, lightness was a must, otherwise, the impact when descending might have been increased with the weight supported (not to mention balance would be off by a degree). Originally, I wanted to take a hiking pole, but then decided against it as most of the uphill route involves using your hands to push on rocks.

I just packed a camera, 1.5 l. water and some change of clothes.

Lovely temperatures

In winter, at least, the temperature is far from that sweltering heat of the summer, but it is still a hike that demands some work as it is a continuous climb from the start to the top. However, I would say that we are in the golden season for this hike, as temperatures are moderate and ground is dry.

Still, despite this, I sweated quite a bit due to the effort. But let’s get to the nitty-gritty of this hike: how did I make it barefoot?

Midway to suicide cliff barefoot
The vertiginous view midway to suicide cliff

Why doing the hike barefoot?

I explained before when relating my hike on Kowloon Peak, I started running barefoot a month ago. This allowed me to strengthen immensely my feet and my overall form. The other point was that I got really fed up with the hiking meetups to which I participated. Half or three quarters of the participants were doing more of a trail running than real hiking. In a very Hongkongese manner, hiking is something to be completed asap and almost “business-like”. And otherwise, you will pollute the whole atmosphere with music boxes because you are “bored”. The concept of admiring or communing with nature is totally unheard of.

Slowing down

Doing a barefoot hike on suicide cliff is a way of opening your mind to everything that surrounds you and to the sensations of your body (you better listen to your feet!). It is also a very nice tactile feel. And finally, it was an achievement I wanted to realize after climbing so often on suicide cliff.

And last but not least, you are obliged to take it slow and deliberately and look where you place your feet. Despite all this, I kept ahead of two other shod hikers who started about five minutes after me.

In tight terrain, bare feet do a good job

If you have not yet done this hike, then let me give you a tip: most of the climb is made of small nooks in which you must place your feet. I did this hike with hiking boots, with trail running shoes and barefoot. Of all these times, it was the easiest when I climbed with trail running shoes and barefoot. In fact, the feet and its plant, in particular, do a good job of nestling into the limited space left in the rock. Hiking boots and their rigid sole make it much more difficult to climb. Furthermore, on delicate passages, where you might lose balance because your shoe is in equilibrium, the bare foot does claw around the rock to keep you stable.



 

Caution and care

Obviously, you will never hike barefoot if you are focused on completing a trail fast. You must be careful where you place your feet. You cannot kick or throw your feet anyhow, unless you wish to hurt them. Because of this, hiking barefoot is a form of hiking that has less impact on the environment. My feet left a minimum impact on the trail (which is worryingly suffering some heavy erosion with the huge number of hikers).

I hiked alone, but this was not much of a danger on a week-end, given the number of hikers taking this trail (sometimes, there is a real queue for getting to the suicide cliff).

Some delicate passages

A delicate passage is the sandy (and eroded!) path near suicide cliff itself. You must hold yourself with hands and/or a hiking pole, because, obviously, the sand is quite slippery. Another important point is never to jump or land heavily. I would say that the barefoot hiking style would be akin to a puma progressing in the mountain (your steps and progression must be smooth and feline).

I must however point out that the way down (via the stairs to Fei Ngo shan road) is otherwise more demanding when barefoot. As a number of wooden stairs have been worn out on the trail, all that is left in some places are protruding metal bars (there is  metal also on the existing stairs, but as they just appear as bolts, the feet just adapt around). Those metal bars when uncovered could easily injure someone absent-minded or tired (but so could a heavy landing on rocks). So, I would recommend wearing shoes in any case to go down (even if I did not follow that advice!).

Resting feet on grass
Resting on the grass on Kowloon peak after the barefoot hike on suicide cliff

The look of others

Again, as previously exposed, reactions vary. Generally, surprise and admiration are superior to the people taking you for a madman. A girl asked me if this was a challenge. Another group admired the feat, with one lady commenting that it must be very painful. I answered that it was not as I run barefoot.

But as I also mentioned earlier, you must have the strength of will to withstand criticism and be confident even without shoes.

Training for hiking barefoot

On the point of pain, if you are not accustomed to run barefoot, if you have tender untouched feet, do not try this at all. You must be accustomed to bearing your weight on reflexology stones touching your feet (many paths available in HK’s parks). You should be able to walk on one without wincing or being obliged to move to avoid the pain. Why is that? Simply because on the mountain, you might land on stones. When accustomed, your feet will shift the weight around that protruding intruder. It may be a sort of pressure induced on your feet, but if unaccustomed, it might feel a lot like pain. As such, when unprepared, you might be thrown off balance and lose your footing.

Silver grass on the hike

Silver grass on Kowloon peak
Silver grass line the stairs to the radio tower on Kowloon Peak

Right now is the ideal season for seeing “silver grass” on the mountain. From what I could see, a number of hikers were happy to take selfies on background of the silver grass. But this should not be the only reason for climbing up there. You should also think about the magnificent views up there, such as the view on Sai Kung.

Sai Kung and foggy mountains
On the first plane, you can see the city of Sai Kung, with, in background, a number of mountains enshrouded in fog.

I was lucky enough to arrive early, when the morning fog did not yet clear from the mountains. This gave that famous vapory look so typical of Chinese woodblocks.

All in all, a wonderful hike, and you are never disappointed by the sights of Hong Kong from Kowloon Peak. However, the heavy circulation also means you encounter 50% of hikers who are unable to hike without a music box.

Suicide cliff viewpoint
The real view from the edge of Suicide cliff

An umpteenth helicopter rescue on Kowloon peak

I guess that becomes repetitive, but this is the umpteenth helicopter rescue on Kowloon Peak. The helicopter had to come back twice!

A treacherous route

It seems hikers get lost quite easily on the Jat’s incline side (one of the hardest sides to hike), especially when going down. So, I know I have said and repeated it several times, but if you are considering to hike on suicide cliff, please abstain from going down through Jat’s Incline route, especially at night. You are not only endangering yourselves, but you are also mobilizing uselessly important rescue resources for being stupid.

Jat’s Incline route should never be attempted if you did not do it previously with an experienced hiker. It should, under no circumstances be undertaken if you never went to suicide cliff.

There is a very easy and riskless way down, which is to take the stairs. Going down via Jat’s incline at night in paramount to being irresponsible and unconscious.

Suicide cliff, a trendy  hike… Too trendy?

Most readers land on this blog because of a search on suicide cliff, and these searches originate all over the world. It is a challenging hike for non-experienced hikers, let alone people who come there for the first time. Doing it in daylight is hard merely because of the physical exertion and the difficult passages to overcome. Doing it at night demands extra care because of the lack of visibility and the risks involved with climbing a mountain.

The issue with the trendy side of this hike is that it appeals to a number of people who have often no clue about safety. The issue with posts such as those on this blog is that they might give wrong ideas to people. So, I must emphasize that I never went down on Jat’s incline. I strongly recommend not to take that route, given the risks involved. Climbing suicide cliff via the northern side and going down via the stairs can be done with little to no risks. Going up or down via Jat’s incline is not to be done, especially when it is the first time.

Overestimating one’s capacities

One should never overestimate one’s capacities or take extra risks, just because there is a rescue system in place. Rescue costs money to the community, so calling a helicopter in is no ordinary fat. All the more as the helicopter must hover very close to the mountain, hence putting its crew at risk.

So, if you are planning on climbing Kowloon Peak or going to suicide cliff, please be responsible and be careful. You don’t want to be another of those irresponsible hikers.

Kowloon Peak barefoot!

While I often climb Kowloon peak and suicide cliff in particular, so far I always did it with hiking boots or trail running shoes. As a few weeks ago, I started running barefoot, I decided this time to run/hike to the top of Kowloon peak barefoot.

Barefoot on Kowloon peak
At the top, enjoying the magnificent view over Kowloon.

Why running barefoot?

Firstly a few words of explanation for what might seem an unconventional decision at first. I have had an ACL surgical reconstruction about one year ago (ruptured the ACL with karate). Rehabilitation has been overall good, except that I would continue having pain at the patella tendon when attempting to run with shoes. I had a period of barefoot running when I lived in Paris and was much younger (because shoes were hurting my toenails).

Here, as I was growing frustrated with being unable to revert to a more engaged fitness lifestyle, I decided to try running barefoot in the park in front of my apartment. Incredibly (but not astonishingly, given the biomechanics of barefoot running), I didn’t feel any pain in the knee. It is true that the running track in my park, is pretty absorbing and hence rather forgiving for the joints. It also helps that many parks in Hong Kong have reflexology paths.

After I started running barefoot, other areas of the body have improved too, from calves to ankles which have also been reinforced. I have, on average, covered around 5 kms per session, with about 1/2 hr running and feel much better physically. The feeling of freedom is also impressive. I added burpees and jumping jacks to my training routines, and, of course, do a lot of squats. On the other hand, the calves and ankles were extremely sollicited. As I took it nice and easy though, I did not suffer too much with those muscles.

The logical development was to attempt running on longer distances and a logical target was my favorite mountain, Kowloon Peak.

Kowloon Peak barefoot… but only on road!

The day before this hike, I took a stroll to the 10,000 Buddhas monastery with trail running shoes, and I emerged out of it, quite exhausted in my legs and feet. I was looking to release the tension.

Obviously, for a first time, I was not going to attempt suicide cliff barefoot, so I opted to take the road which climbs up to the Kowloon Peak observation point. Overall, the road is quite flat, but there are a lot of gravel in places, so it can be uncomfortable in places when running. As my cardio is not yet up to par, I walked on the steepest sections, but it was still lovely.

The level of sensory feedback from the feet is quite different. I am not a hippie and I am very far from the pseudo-naturalism of some barefoot running/hiking proponents or stories of “earthing”. Return to nature is not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned, it was a nice experience (try feeling the warm asphalt under your feet in autumn). Sometimes, you have to feel free to do things differently.

As for the impact on the body, strangely enough, the impact is much less than with shoes as long as you run with the forefront of your feet (and not landing on your heels). I must say I felt quite light on my feet (if you recall, had a pair of falls on my last hike, due to ankles buckling – but I was also carrying 15 kgs gear!).

 

Walking the line
Walking the line barefoot and feeling the warm floor beneath.

Views along the way

Kowloon Peak offers a number of interesting view points, especially on Sai Kung. On this period of the year, silver grass start showing, so that makes a quite lovely foreground for pictures. As I was focused on running, I did not take much photographic gear with me, using only my Iphone for these pics.

Silver fern
A lovely view of Sai Kung with silver fern in the foreground.

At the Kowloon peak observation platform, you can sometimes take some nice nostalgic pictures of onlookers while they embrace the view before them.

A lady looks on Sai Kung from the Kowloon peak observation point
Kowloon Peak observation point

 

Reactions from others

Of course, running/hiking barefoot is an activity a bit extreme/marginal, so you will inevitably elicit reactions from the people you cross (and God knows there are a LOT of hikers on Kowloon Peak on a Sunday!). Hongkongese are quite conservative re. footwear, but they are accustomed to walking barefoot at home. Some reactions are of surprise, others can inquire if you are ok (a lady asked me if I was ok, when she saw me walking barefoot). One older guy even gave me a thumbs up.

A smile and confident demeanor will solve those little situations. After all, you do what you like. Obviously, barefoot running is not for you if you cannot feel free to be “different”. It also requires quite some confidence in yourself.

Wild Encounters

Three wild boards
Wild boars forage on Jat’s Incline

I guess this passage will come across as cliché when it comes to running “close to nature”… But I did encounter some wild boars on Jat’s Incline. I stopped by to take a picture and then resumed running. While many accounts talk of the danger of these animals charging you, I left them alone and they didn’t care about me running past.

So, if you ever encounter wild boars, just give them a wild berth. In this case, it was three specimens with a juvenile. Trying to caress these animals, feeding them or getting too close might lead them to feel threatened and to charge, so please never try anything like that.

Hiking barefoot?

As I mentioned earlier, this time, I hiked/ran on a flat road. While there were inconveniences such as gravel and stones, it was not climbing up on suicide cliff in any way. I have not yet done something like that, as my main focus when hiking is safety.

However, from past hikes, I can confirm two points. Firstly, I did find that having hiking boots with a rigid sole was rather an inconvenience when hiking on a mountain. The lack of flexibility of the sole does not adapt well to climb on rough terrain. I do climb better with my trail running shoes which have a much more flexible sole, so I guess bare feet are even better. Secondly, I did see an older guy going down the suicide cliff route with flip-flops (which is more dangerous for tripping/slipping), so that seems feasible even if it sounds a bit crazy.

Finally, I live in a tropical country, where the floor is often populated by insects or other animals, and you certainly don’t want to be caught by a snake barefoot, but most of the time, snakes will just slither away, as long as you don’t walk on their tail.

So, the issue is still open to debate in my mind. I will certainly try hiking the Dragon’s back barefoot (I saw people tackling the trail in flip-flops) before taking on more challenging trails.

This brings me to my conclusion: never attempt to start hiking barefoot on trails that you don’t know! At the very least, you should have done a couple of reconnaissance hikes shod and should be aware of both, the terrain and the configuration of the hike. Finally, you MUST bring along some shoes/flip-flops and some first aid. This will help protect against mishaps or cross difficult passages.

 

Some more references on running/hiking barefoot:

For more about minimalistic running (no, I don’t advocate those Vibrams or other “minimalistic” shoes), here are a few resources:

Running World article on barefoot running (a measured view on the phenomenon)

Biomechanics of barefoot running

Sports science on barefoot running (a scientific study)

And as it is interesting to show both angles of a discussion, this article warning against barefoot running:

Why barefoot running isn’t best for most runners Quite obviously, barefoot running is not made for everyone, as it requires changing a lot in your posture and approach.

Finally, on the slightly different subject of barefoot hiking:

Should you hike barefoot An interesting nuanced approach to the question.

Pros and cons of hiking barefoot Another nuanced article.

Society for barefoot living And finally, to conclude this series a link to the website from the “Society for barefoot living” which features webinars with catchy titles such as “shoes: the silent killer”. Sorry, I couldn’t help but laugh at that one.

All about grounding And finally, to top it all, an article debunking that myth of “earthing”.

 

Sunset at Suicide Cliff

Once again, I was back up on Kowloon peak. After previous visits with the photography meetup, with the hiking meetup at night, and solo during the day, I joined a hiking meetup that was passing through suicide cliff. I abandonned the group once at Suicide Cliff, mainly because hiking meetups are focused on covering as quickly as possible the most distance, whereas I prefer to focus on photography. In this case, I was aiming at shooting the sunset at suicide cliff.

A long wait

As the hiking meetup climbed Kowloon Peak at a breakneck pace (I was last and dragging with 15 kgs gear, yet broke my own personal record), we arrived up there at around 14.00 to 15.00. As you can imagine, 3pm is not exactly the time for sunset. So, I shot  all the members of the meetup who wanted their pictures taken at that picture perfect spot.

Hikers on suicide cliff
The HK Hiking Meetup team posing for a picture on Suicide Cliff.

Later, I broadcasted a periscope (unless I am mistaken, the first one ever taken from up there) https://www.pscp.tv/w/1ypKdNDAALdJW .

Shooting people

Of course, to occupy the long wait, I tried to shoot some pictures right and left, and obviously, the most interesting were the people posing for selfies on the suicide cliff. A Filipina who had been already taking shots on the rock above emerged as the winner…

Filipina selfie
A Filipina takes extra risks for a selfie on hazy background.

The other surprise of the day was seeing a Japanese family bring their kid along for the hike. I guess that it is generally considered as pretty “safe” despite the steepness of the mountain and the rock clambering required.

Japanese on Suicide cliff
A Japanese family brings along their daughter on Kowloon peak.

 

Finally the sunset at suicide cliff… and an “Apocalypse Now moment”

After three long hours of wait, the sun began to descend on the horizon. It was the occasion of starting to shoot, and obviously, the big issue was that everybody wanted their picture with the sunset, while I was hoping for an empty cliff. However, the addition of a human element allowed to provide a size element for a sunset at suicide cliff, so that is the picture I opted to keep.

As the sun kept going down on the horizon, I was gifted with my very own “Apocalypse Now” moment. A Government Flying Service helicopter decided serendipitously to fly into the setting sun allowing me a wonderful shot (obviously, as I was shooting with an 80-200, I had to crop to the max to isolate this picture).

Apocalypse now pic
A GFS helicopter decided to fly into the setting sun as it reached the final moments of sunset.

After the sunset took place, suicide cliff looked barren. I did not stay for a night picture, as you can see a previous attempt here. Instead I wanted to move up, away from suicide cliff before nightfall. Incidentally, I wished to take a pic from the rock above.

After sunset
Suicide cliff after sunset

Night at suicide cliff

Obviously, the view from Kowloon Peak is majestic and impressive, and even more so during the blue hour, immediately after sunset. I got the occasion of using my tripod there, as I had been dragging it for the whole hike (I think my combined gear was around 15 kgs). Fortunately, after sunset, the haze that had been worrying me before sunset dissipated greatly allowing some interesting shots of the sunset.

View over Kowloon
View on Kowloon from Kowloon Peak.

I took several pics, but chose to focus on a general view of Kowloon and this other picture, which focuses on Kowloon Bay.

Kowloon Bay
Kowloon Bay at night

Epilogue

After these pics I headed down through the stairs leading to Fei Ngo Shan. I must have been pretty tired, as I tripped once, grazing my right knee. My ankle also kept buckling, so my guess is extreme tiredness. I was wearing low-cut Reebok trail running shoes (ideal when climbing, contrary to my hiking shoes, whose sole is too rigid). While good for climbing, the shoe does not support your ankle when buckling.

I ended so tired coming down, that I took out my shoes and walked the rest of the way barefoot (thus enjoying a free massage too).

There is one point on which I would like to call your attention, if you are planning on going to Suicide Cliff. A helicopter of the GFS had to come again and rescue hikers from the mountain today, around sunset. This is becoming pretty usual now, and that testifies to the inexperience or callousness of many hikers. When you don’t know the way, take the stairs on Fei Ngo Shan. When you are inexperienced, don’t go through Jat’s Incline route.

If you are tired or prejudged from your strength, you should have thought about it beforehand. Helicopters are used on important rescue missions, not to help wary or lost hikers. So, please, please, do be careful and don’t be too adventurous when tackling suicide cliff. There are well-marked trails which are adventurous enough without going on dangerous paths.

Full moon on Kowloon Peak

 

I posted a few weeks ago a picture of a moon crescent over Kowloon Peak. Yesterday night, the stars were aligned again, this time with the full moon.

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What is different this time?

For starters, it is a full moon, versus a crescent. I also experimented some more this time. Took shots with faster shutter speed, higher isos…

The clouds gave both a mysterious tone to the mountain, and at the same time, as they covered completely the mountain at times, spoiled several of my shots.

 

 

Harrowing rescue on Suicide cliff during Typhoon Pakhar

The past week-end, while typhoon Pakhar was approaching Hong Kong, two hikers had to be rescued on suicide cliff.

Suicide cliff: asking for trouble!

Contrary to the routes I described in an earlier post, these hikers took it the reverse way, going down through the cliff. Now, in normal time, going down a very steep cliff is already an exercise fraught with danger, but these hikers went down during torrential rains and typhoon-strength winds.

In the story described by the South China Morning Post, the woman fell and injured her leg. Having been on Kowloon peak several times, I can confirm that even with a slight shower, the rocks and more particularly the floor is very slippery.

To compound it, from the pictures taken by the rescuers, the hikers seem to have mistakenly taken the route towards Jat’s incline, which is one of the toughest and most dangerous to climb, let  alone to descend.

Rescue efforts mobilized around 150 firefighters which is truly overkill for the situation. 10 hours later, the woman’s stretcher was finally brought to the top of the cliff then taken down through the stairs to Fei Ngo shan road. The man descended by his own means. So, this time again, nobody got hurt.

Suicide cliff, too famous for its own good?

Nevertheless, the whole suicide cliff hike is becoming a bit too famous for its own good. In the past month alone, I saw at least 2 different helicopter rescues on suicide cliff, and this was by nice weather (see pics below).

You can clearly see a person being carried up into the helicopter.

The helicopter hovers very near to the mountain walls.

So, once again, as I mentioned here and here, please be very careful if you don’t know a route. It is prudent to take it, at the very least the first time, with a group and not to do it alone. Furthermore, never mind your level of fitness, beginning hikers should never start without more experienced hikers when it involves any degree of climbing on cliffs.