Mount Tai, also known as Mount Taishan (it is called this on the UNESCO World Heritage website, even though it is redundant: Shan means Mountain) or Tai Shan, isn’t high by world mountain standards, at a mere 1545 meters above sea level (5,069 ft) but to ascend is to climb a whole lot of stone steps. Mount Tai is in the Shandong Province. In the fall of 2015 my son got a couple of days off work when I was visiting and we took a quick trip to check it out. In the photos he is the one with the pony tail and grey athletic pants.
The recorded number of steps varies, most sources put it fairly close to 7,000. Some sources attribute the differing numbers to how many of the temples and shrines one visits along the way. I personally believe that when one is ascending it is too easy to loose count, and honestly, how much does it really matter. It felt like a million to this slightly over the hill mama, and I didn’t even go the whole way afoot.
Near the halfway point there is a cable car that takes you to a spot a bit above the famous entrance gate. You then follow a path that takes you down a bit and through the entrance gate.
I felt like it was cheating but my son was obviously relieved when I gave up the idea that I was going to make it all the way. He had been once before [he has also climbed both Mount Olympus (7.980 ft) and Mount Rainier (14,411 ft-although the climb starts at about 5,400 ft)]. He had been trying to figure out how he could carry both of our packs up the steepest part (known as Shiba which means eighteen, a nearly vertical stretch of eighteen steps) and stay behind me to keep me from an unbroken fall. Sometimes he can be very sweet! I am not the best balanced person in the world.
My decision was eased by two things: visibility was low so I wouldn’t get any views to compensate for the labor…and I learned that emperors didn’t climb the whole way themselves, they were carried up in litters to near the gate the walked through the gate themselves. Before that I was being very impressed by the level of fitness expected of an emperor!
Even taking the cable way there were plenty of steps to experience between the station and the top.
If you are interested in more details about our trip to Taishan see my series of posts called Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye.