A barefoot hike on Tai Mo Shan

Tai Mo Shan is the highest mountain in Hong Kong, culminating at 957 m. Despite being in Hong Kong for two years already, I had not visited Tai Mo Shan until recently. It must be said that it is a bit out of my way, and I already have the famous suicide cliff near to my place. I even went back there recently, but that will be the object of another post.

A photography meetup

I went up Tai Mo Shan with the members of a photography meetup, the PASM meetup. We went the day before the Typhoon Mangkhut hit the city, because prior to the typhoon, there is always some marvelous atmospheric effects in the sky.

Having missed the bus to Tai Mo Shan, we caught an Uber to be on the safe side. The side benefit of taking an uber was that the driver took us up about halfway up.

A windy start

Being on the side facing Yuen Long, we faced strong headwinds. An attempt to take off with my drone ended in a crash-landing that created some damage to the gimbal, although that damage was not immediately apparent.

Despite the wind, we managed to take some pictures on a rocky outcropping.

Bailey at Tai Mo Shan.
Bailey shooting pics on the protruding rock on Tai Mo Shan.

Climbing up

Although we had come halfway up on Tai Mo Shan, we still had halfway to walk, and so, we started climbing. Along the way, there is a viewpoint over the town of Tsuen Wan. While it is just the habitual cityscape of Hong Kong with high rises and some view of the sea (read: unremarkable), it was interesting to play with the drone around that area.


Bailey and Grace and Tsuen Wan
Bailey and Grace with Tsuen Wan in background

Of course, since the scene was there, I did take a dronie… Barefoot of course, as I was hiking the whole mountain barefoot.

Dronie on Tai Mo Shan
Dronie on Tai Mo Shan

The most fun was when another Mavic Pilot came down the mountain with his own drone, while he was actually riding a scooter. We then exchanged dronies capturing each other with our respective drones.

Two drone pilots in a dronie
Two drone pilots taking a dronie

The sunset over the mountain

Finally, after having climbed even higher, we came to an ideal position to see the setting sun. We were blessed with some angel lights shining through the clouds which made the sunset quite spectacular. Despite the proximity of the typhoon, and despite being on the exposed side of the mountain (again), there were no gusts, so the drone managed to be quite pliable.

sunset over Tai Mo Shan
The sunset over Tai Mo Shan.

Despite the lower dynamic range of the Mavic Pro, the picture is quite similar to the picture shot with the Nikon D 750.

View of the angel light through Nikon
A view of the angel light through my Nikon D750.

The reason for the absence of reddish sky is due to the wind which dispersed the pollutants which habitually diffract the blue part of the solar light. Habitually, Hong Kong and Bangkok are gifted with quite spectacular sunsets due to the high presence of pollutants in the sky. An approaching typhoon, obviously disperses these pollutants.

Going down

Once the sunset over, we started going down, also to get home on time to shelter from the typhoon. Nevertheless, that is when the sky started showing some spectacular hues.

Barefooting down the mountain
Bailey going down the mountain barefoot.

It was the occasion for me to shoot a pic of Bailey who, after a lot of prodding, finally decided to take off his shoes and start barefooting down the mountain.

Obviously, I took it to the next level, when I decided to jog down the mountain with my heavy backpack, still barefoot… But that is how a barefoot hike can be as much fun as a barefoot run!

Getting to Tai Mo Shan

We took it the easy way, as we hired an uber which took us up to halfway the mountain. Nevertheless, if you wish to climb Tai Mo Shan more “classically”, you must first head to the Tsuen Wan West MTR station. From there, you grab bus n° 50 and alight near the mountain. From there, it is impossible to get lost, as the path to the top is straight and paved until the end.

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 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.

 

A stark warning for Suicide Cliff

Today, as I was passing on Fei Ngo Shan road, I found a new message affixed at the bottom of the stairs leading to Kowloon Peak. This is a stark warning for suicide cliff, a hike that has seen recently at least one death and several rescues every month.

Stark warning for suicide cliff
The Government warns hikers to turn back on the path to suicide cliff

A useless warning?

This warning has not dissuaded visitors in the least as can be seen on this picture. Furthermore, hikers deliberately disregard the warning. In other web sites, some hikers post pictures of very dangerous attitudes, such as hanging by the hands from a rock. As a lawyer, I guess this is a way to exclude the liability of the government should someone else fall to his death on this hike.

The fame of suicide cliff has attracted a motley crowd, often composed of foreigners and newcomers who desire to visit this place, without knowing the route at all. On busy days, you just follow the crowd. On less busy days, the potential for an accident is quickly come. You should thus document yourself on the route, and more particularly, to take it slow.

Hiking safely

Even though web sites and blogs such as this one do celebrate the beauty of the place, I must repeat the need for caution. I hiked to that place with a group for the first time. I covered that hike several times, in group and without group, before doing the hike barefoot. This hike can be dangerous if covered without the appropriate precautions or too fast. It is also important to recognize the terrain beforehand. You must also be aware that this hike cannot be covered in less than three hours and this is from the most well-trodden route.

Finally, it is better to climb to suicide cliff, and not to go down. The potential for slipping and falling is 100x bigger when going down a steep wall, rather than climbing it and going down the stairs. Shortcuts do not exist without dangers in mountain. Similarly, do always pack a light in your luggage if starting the hike in the afternoon. It is better to carry a little more and be safe.

 

Avoid Jat’s incline route

And again, a reminder that I often do on this blog: avoid Jat’s incline route at all costs. That route is dangerous, challenging and deadly. The beauty of suicide cliff can be seen in so many ways, that it is absolutely useless to endanger yourself beyond reason. Hike safely and hope that the stupidity of some does not oblige the authorities to close this marvelous place to the public.

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

Sunrise on Lantau Peak

Last Sunday, the PASM photo meetup organized a hike cum photoshoot for the sunrise on Lantau Peak.

An event postponed several times

Owing to the spat of bad weather that had been affecting Hong Kong, this hike had to be postponed several times. Obviously, bad weather does not make for very interesting photos, especially when you are in the middle of the clouds.

As a reminder, we had something like 3 typhoons in succession over three weeks. The bad weather scourge unfortunately also affected us this time. In fact, we had another typhoon skirting Hong Kong during this hike (again!).

Stairs, stairs and more stairs

As to the hike, per se, it is not that difficult. You just have to keep climbing unending stairs. Contrary to Kowloon Peak, there are no real dangers here, provided you don’t feel adventurous and decide to test the edges of the cliffs.

The real difficulty instead is the physical effort of climbing hundreds of stairs at night. With humidity, some rocky passages might be pretty slippery. The other inconvenience was that a 30-odd group of youngsters decided to do the hike as well. Where this would be an ideal walk in the night, this became a very noisy occurrence, with yells and music disturbing the peace of the night.

Viewpoints

There are several viewpoints over the Hong Kong airport. Obviously, needless to remind, do not fly a drone over that mountain: it is prohibited by Hong Kong laws to fly a drone within 5 kms of any airport.

Hong Kong airport
The great view from Lantau peak on the Hong Kong airport.

The second interesting viewpoint (at the top of the mountain) is on sunset peak, the neighboring mountain. Apparently, this place can be the occasion of seeing the very interesting phenomenon called the “sea of clouds”.

This requires however certain atmospheric conjunctions which are not always easy to get.

A sleepless night

After having sweated all the way to the top of Lantau peak, we tried to rest a bit at the top, but the wind blowing on top of our sweaty clothes got as result that we could not shut eye. Around 5 AM, we got an alert by the HK observatory that a thunderstorm was headed our way. In order to avoid being too exposed to lightning, we decided to go lower and made our way to a protective rock somewhere lower from the top.

At nearly 6 AM, we got caught in a real rainstorm (with luckily no lightning striking around). The kids who remained on the top must have been even more drenched than us. As the rain stopped, we got lucky and caught a break in the sky with clouds parting to offer us some blue sky and the reddish reflection of the sun on the clouds.

That’s how we were lucky to see something very close to a “sea of clouds”.

sun rising
The sun rises behind the “sea of clouds” on Lantau Peak.

Sunrise on clouds
The sun shines on the clouds on Lantau Peak

Going down

Going down after the rain was an exercise in patience. We had the thirty-odd kids queuing behind, and that put some pressure on me to walk faster. That’s how I slipped and fell down at one point, despite my hiking stick. There are stairs all the way down, but those stairs are very slippery when it rained. I was wearing Lowe hiking boots, but the rigidity of the sole and the slippery nature of the floor meant it was not such a good choice.

However, while going down, you have an excellent view over the coast of Lantau, and in particular the giant Buddha of Tien Tan.

Giant Buddha
A view over the Giant Buddha of Tien Tan from Lantau Peak.

How to get there?

You must first take the MTR to Tung Chung station. From there, you must walk to a bus station where you can catch the bus 3 M. In general, it starts at midnight, and last one is around 1 AM. When climbing, tell the driver you want to go to Pak Kung Au, as the far will be reduced by a few HKD.

When you get down, cross the street, continue walking about 100 m in the same direction and you will find the trail entrance. Thereupon, the trail is very clear, just follow the stairs. To see the sunrise on Lantau Peak, you should ideally start your hike at midnight.

Hong Kong, the vertical city

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There is no other way to apprehend why Hong Kong is often called “the vertical city” than to climb upon a mountain and to look down on the city. The pictures in this post are taken in Kowloon.

Human Density

Kowloon is one of the most densly populated areas of Hong Kong and also cumulates a number of the poorest areas such as Sham Shui Po or Yau Ma Tei.

The human density on this part of the city led to a profusion of high-rise buildings erected as far as the eye can see. In some way, this both answers to and replicates the human density with an architectural density.

In a previous post, I wrote about “architectural compression” in Hong Kong when talking about Montane Mansion. Here, we are talking about a different “compression”.

Compression takes place in height, rather than in space. With the limited space available, logically, most buildings are erected upwards.

View from a mountain

All of the pictures featured in this post were shot from a mountain, namely Shatin’s pass, between Kowloon Peak and Wong Tai Sin. It is a lovely hiking route, with almost no danger (excepted the cars attempting to replicate a mountain rallye race). In addition to the lovely route, Shatin’s pass affords some exceptional viewpoints when the sky is clear.

In this case, there was some haze (treated partly under Lightroom), so not the ideal situation.

A vertical city soon in crisis?

Despite the construction craze which can be seen in some of the pictures, the HK Government has kept on warning hongkongers to beware of a backlash and possibly a drop in real estate pricing. Pointless to say that with some cultural factors such as no lady accepting to marry you if you don’t have your own flat, such warnings fall into deaf ears. Real estate prices still climb, fed by cheap money with the low interest rates for mortgages.

How to get there?

Ok, I forgot to tell you how to get there… Two routes. Either you get down to Wong Tai Sin MTR and walk up to Shatin’s Pass, or you take the thougher route which is to climb the whole Jat’s Incline after alighting at Choi Hung MTR. Either way, be prepared for some tough climbing even if it will be on perfectly paved roads.

The old man and the sea

An opportunity picture, shot on the outskirts of the fishing village of Tai O, in Lantau which made me think of Hemingway’s “the old man and the sea”. This fisherman was staying under the harsh sun to carry out some subsistence fishing.

A sunny day

This picture is somehow reminiscent of the book by Hemingway, the old man and the sea, for the communion that can be felt between the sea, the mountain in the back ground and the lone figure of the fisherman.

That day, the sun was almost “cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead” as it was when recounted by Albert Camus in “l’Etranger”:

Because of that bright sun, the final image resulted almost monochrome, and hence was  a good candidate for a treatment in black and white.

The context

While this picture conveys an impression of remoteness, and distance, the context is a little bit different. Tai O is nowadays a big touristic destination. So, about 100 m behind, you have crowds of tourists making their way to another point of the island. The peacefulness of the scene is further sometimes disturbed by tour boats passing just in front of the fisherman. Obviously, I captured one of the peaceful moments, and apparently, no tourist paid attention to this fisherman.

A lesson out of this picture? Be on the lookout and generally look in other directions than most of the crowd. Your most interesting pictures will happen when your eyes look differently.

Suicide cliff at night

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Suicide Cliff, an excellent spot for night photography

 

Last night, I decided to climb the Kowloon peak to manage to take a nice night picture of the city at night with the backdrop of the suicide cliff. I was not alone, as a hike leader of Hong Kong Hiking Meetup was with me.

It took however all of one hour to get to the top, but the reward was the magnificent view of the city by night and with the backdrop of the suicide cliff.

However, as shown in the daylight pics in my other post, this hike should not be done alone if you are not familiar (and even if you are) and certainly not at night if you never did that route before. It can be dangerous as there are some tight passages and there is no lighting on the way (you must carry your own torch).

Please note also that once you get near to the top of the mountain, there is often clouds over there (giving you the impression of “walking in the clouds). The inconvenience is that, of course, that may obscure visibility for your hikes.

 

The Suicide Cliff in Hong Kong: a hike to die for!

Suicide cliff is one of the most researched topics for readers arriving on this blog. I do regularly edit this post as to give you more information on the conditions and the route to follow for the hike. Look at the slideshow for a visual description of the route. You have below a Google maps route to find your way from the MTR.

A place which became famous in Hong Kong after featuring in the National Geographic, “Suicide Cliff” is so called because it is a rocky outcropping just like a springboard, with a magnificent view over the city.

A word of warning

Sadly, my original title got true as a hiker died on 29 November 2017 on Kowloon Peak. It is a dangerous hike if it is taken too lightly!

I must also admonish you if you are considering this hike: don’t be one of those hikers who end up rescued by the Government Flying Service with a helicopter like I report in several posts. I strongly advise and recommend to AVOID the Jat’s Incline route. All of the hikers who died, disappeared or needed to be rescued on Kowloon Peak happened to have taken this route. I also advise all groups hiking on this mountain to avoid imposing a fast pace to the hikers. This mountain must be climbed with patience, it is not a race to complete, given its steepness. Avoid groups such as Hong Kong Hiking Meetup which tend to impose too fast a pace when hiking.

Helicopter rescue on Kowloon peak
On 26 November 2017, at almost midnight the GFS rescues hikers stranded on Kowloon Peak.


A photographic route to the top

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Is it dangerous?

To be totally honest, the answer to this question depends on several factors. Firstly, if you have never done this route before, you are certainly increasing the risk factor. If you are not accustomed to hiking on unmarked paths and clambering over rocks, then you increase the risk factor even more. I never actually felt in danger on the southern ridge path, but then, I have some experience with hiking, and I am now familiar, having done it very frequently. If you want an idea of what it is to climb the suicide cliff from an FPV perspective, check out my post about my latest barefoot hike on suicide cliff.

It is an unmarked trail, very steep and thus could pose issues if you have fear of heights. There are some tricky passages and when it rains, rocks and mud become slippery (I know, I have been up there in the rain). Hence my second advice, definitely get shoes with a good grip and a hiking pole. This being said, the last time I climbed, I saw an old guy going down with flip flops! On the other hand, rigid hiking boots do a disservice on such terrain: you need flexibility to nestle your feet in the nooks of the terrain. In this respect, you may want to read my post about my barefoot hike on suicide cliff.

My concern over my frequent visits to suicide cliff has been mainly with the erosion of the path. The high traffic on suicide cliff is doing no good to the mountain and participating to its erosion are most people use heavy boots and hiking poles.

You can climb it at night too (see my other post here), but be sure to keep a headlight or torch in your kit in that case. You should, under no circumstances, attempt climbing suicide cliff at night if you did not climb it at least several times during the day or have an experienced guide with you. In the dark, it could be easier to lose your bearings and end on the wrong side of a cliff.

And again, please be careful. I have seen at least seven or eight times a helicopter coming to rescue people near the top of the cliff or in the middle of Jat’s incline route. That is not something for which you want to disturb rescue services. So, unless you have done the hike countless times by day, please do not hike by night and in particular, do not hike the Jat’s Incline route.

What to take with you?

Get a lot of water (2 liters is barely enough) and some snacks with you. The path is totally exposed and there is no shelter along the way, so either you get roasted by the sun, or you will be buffeted by wind and/or rain. It can get quite windy and cooler up in the mountain, so better get a change of clothes too. A light is also useful if you are caught up by the night.

In the final approach to the suicide cliff, the view is vertiginous.

The different ways of reaching suicide cliff

As it is near my apartment, I climbed it several times, at the beginning from the “easy” path, namely a set of stairs set in the mountain which offer an easier climb (although tiring if you are not fit). Get a lot of mosquito repellent, as they are quite aggressive in the forest part!

Since that first time, I climbed through a more demanding and unmarked path in the mountain starting at Fei Ngo Shan Road (Southern ridge). It was far more fun, as each time you turn around, you have really a wonderful view over the city. Most of the people climb on the Southern ridge then go down through the stairs. A few daredevils take the opposite route (which certainly shortens the way back to the city). All in all, this covers no more than 7 km, but it is demanding because of the steep initial ascent (500 meters in less than 2 km).

Some people then push through with hiking all the way to the Kowloon Peak viewpoint (which involves going up and down through three different hills on the way)

The view over Kowloon and Kowloon Bay from Kowloon Peak.

When to climb?

The issue with Hong Kong is that there is often a lot of haze on the city, hence obscuring the view. To avoid the haze, the best would be to go immediately after a shower or a thunderstorm. However, that would be increasing the risk tenfold, so I will advise against doing that. Furthermore, the little stream that crosses the path at one point (see pictures in the slideshow) may become a torrent with rain.

Best is to climb in winter, on a sunny day, in early morning (bearing in mind that the dew will give you conditions equivalent to rain) or late afternoon, to enjoy the sunset. Despite the remoteness, this place sees quite a lot of visitors during week-ends and suicide cliff can get crowded…

How to get to Suicide Cliff?

To get to suicide cliff, the best way is to start at Choi Hung MTR station. From there, grab the bus n° 16 and get down at its terminus, near Good Hope school. You will be very near to the mountain, but will still have to walk somehow to get to the starting point of the trail.

If you want to take the stairs, you must continue walking on Fei Ngo Shan road. You will see stairs starting to climb with a number “328” written in red on a rock.