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!

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.

Another hiker dies in Hong Kong

It has become a sad litany this past month, with this being the third time a hiker dies in Hong Kong in under a month. This time, however, tragedy hits closer to home, as I had met the deceased hiker on Suicide cliff during a previous hike.

 

Presuming of one’s strength

Apparently, Albert Poon, the hiker, had been hiking in the geopark of Sai Kung. He then tried to swim to an island and was overcome when returning from that island, according to records in the media.

Local water temperature must have been around 15°, which would be easily conducive to hypothermia. Furthermore, starting a swim in cold water after the stress of a hike, must have taken an additional toll.

Albert was not hiking alone. He was with a group of hikers, but he presumed of his own strength. Hiking groups are often flaunted as a solution to reduce the danger of hiking… But if someone presumes of his strength and/or is pushed beyond his limits, they offer no security. However, the friends of Albert were able to call for help to get him evacuated.

 

Why does it hit close to home?

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I met Albert during one of my hikes up on suicide cliff. At the time, he had even asked me why I was hiking alone. I took a picture for him, and we exchanged our phone numbers. Albert came across as a friendly and cheerful guy and from the looks of it, he was extremely fit.

In a way, when we lose someone we knew personally, it is always a reminder that we are mortal. And since we are both hikers, it is an additional reminder to be careful when hiking. Hiking is a stressful experience for the body. So, when you do that, you should always be taking care of not pushing your body too far.

So rest in peace, Albert, and thanks for that brief encounter on suicide cliff.

 

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.

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.

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.

The dangers of hiking: evacuation on suicide cliff

Yesterday, there had to be a helicopter rescue mission on the top of Kowloon peak with an evacuation on suicide cliff. Whether it is extreme dehydration (with 35 ° C, yesterday was a day of hell) or injury, this proves that you should never attempt difficult hikes without having more experienced climbers with you.

The difference between hiking safely and being evacuated

Despite this, I went back through a different route (Middle Hill) to Kowloon Peak with a group. While not excessively difficult, it passes near to some cliffs, and hence requires being careful. The extreme heat was a complicating factor too, but we were a nicely knit group from the Hiking meetup. So, don’t forget to take a lot of water, and go slow rather than too fast. And better go with someone who knows the route.

Photo taken approximately from Middle hill on the final leg to Kowloon Peak.

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.