China-2023: Tianmen Mountain (through the fog).

After our intensive two days checking out Wulingyuan’s rockinesses, it was time for our next touristic location; namely: Tianmen Mountain, not far from the city of Zhangjiajie (try pronouncing that after a few beers:).

And so – Tianmen Mountain, aka – 天门山, aka – Heaven’s Gate Mountain. First we got ourselves over to the mentioned Zhangjiajie (which isn’t all that far from Wulingyuan), and checked into our hotel. The hotel had been chosen strategically, for it’s right opposite where we needed to be to get transported to Tianmen Mountain – the base station of the cable-car. Here’s the view thereof from my hotel window:

Gotta love Chinese… massive-ism! This colossal construction, for example, is the aforementioned cable-car base station. That’s right – and not the city’s airport or central train station!

Alas, that’s where the positivity ended, for it turned out that all tickets for a cable-car ride up the mountain had been sold. Eh?! But, what about the post-Golden-Week lull? Doesn’t that apply here?! Still, I guess we could have expected such a turn of events: early that morning we saw a long line of folks queuing for the ticket office.

There being no tickets left didn’t have anything to do with Golden Week though; the reason is that mountain visitor numbers are restricted (to a maximum of “just” 49,000 thousand per day:) ->

We were contemplating taking the bus to another cable car, but that would have taken ages. But then we discovered a VIP lane. Hurray! For a few extra yuan, we were able to bypass the long line! Naughty – but nice ).

Note to those who may come here one day: buy your cable-car tickets online long before getting here!

Ok; now – about this cable-car…

First – the base station is situated in the center of the city, not, at the foot of the mountain it goes up, as you might expect.

Second – the length of the cable-car route is a full seven (7!) kilometers! ->

This, for sure, is the longest cable-car ride I’ve ever had. Oh – and it turns out it’s the second-longest cable car in the world! And I can believe it; we were sat in the cabin quite a time…

First we traveled up above the city, passing its train station:

Gliding over the railroad station, I found out that not all Chinese cities have a high-speed rail connection. That’s a curious fact – and surprising given the awesomeness of China’s railroads and the trains the travel upon them.

// And when I say high-speed, I mean 350km/h!

Meanwhile, we’re getting higher, now out of the city…

We hadn’t arrived at our destination for this day yet – but that didn’t mean the “show” hadn’t started! ->

If you look carefully, there’s another cable car runs parallel; it apparently ends lower down the mountain – so we’d chosen the right one ->

We were going all the way up – to the plateau atop the mountains/rock formations:

Such splendid views:

The cliff-faces were getting near-vertical:

We arrive! ->

The map of the tops:

Readers have been enquiring as to what the weather was like when we were in China (in mid-October). My answer – not bad. Mostly warm and sometimes hot, so it was t-shirts and shorts mostly:

A few times it was rather chilly and damp – especially up around the peaks; however, the temperatures never went below 12°С – even at night.

Occasionally it drizzled rain, so out came the lightweight waterproof jackets we all had in our rucksacks:

And if you love always being very warm, a light down jacket is what you need too:

Another thing you really need: proper trekking boots. Sneakers are risky since besides smooth paths and solid steps, sometimes things be like… ->

At the start of our China trip we were treated to clement weather: dry, sometimes sunny, sometimes even hot (Enshi Grand Canyon, Enshi cliffs, Pingshan Canyon, Wulingyuan). But up on the peaks of Tianmen we had to endure fog, murk, damp and sometimes rain. Not nice…

Still, no matter how bad the weather got, the photo ops were still plentiful. We’ll just have to come back to be able to see all this – and more – in sunny weather ->

In all we were on the cable car for half-an-hour (my photo timestamps confirm this). After alighting, the route was straightforward: once around the peak top in a circle ->

The walk is an easy one – given the smooth paths (and just a few steps here and there). As per – the hand rails were faux-wood ->

As is practically always the case in Kamchatka – if only the fog would have been absent everything would have been fine and dandy. Alas, it wasn’t to be. And talking of Kamchatka, this weather here reminded me of the Kamchatkan mirages: the surrounding scenes totally invisible! ->

Now for a few words about logistics/timing…

After two active days in Wulingyuan national park, we were up a little later than usual and after breakfast found ourselves at the cable car base station at around 10:00. After buying tickets therefor, which turned out to be no simple task – even for a native, we were on said cable car by ~10:30. Half-an-hour later we were up top. Our walk in the fog lasted three-and-a-half hours (if there’d been sun – we’d have walked for longer). Then it was onto an escalator (which goes under the natural rock arch – see below) back down toward the city; then onto steps and down further; after that onto the other cable car; and finally on to a bus – and all that took two hours.

All that was in go-slow mode; we were too tired for Herculean efforts after the previous two days…

Along the way – a Chinese favorite: a walkway with a transparent floor. You’re given soft over-shoes so you don’t scratch the glass:

If only it hadn’t have been foggy the glass floor thing would have been rather awesome if a little scary for some. Which reminds me of an old Russian joke:

“When Natalia Alexandrovna, our teacher of Russian language and literature, did her first parachute jump out of a plane, she was clearly stunned, overwhelmed, and badly shaken; however, on her way down the words she screamed out certainly didn’t include any of those!”

Btw – for the squeamish, there’s an alternative path that doesn’t hang off a cliff with a glass floor; it goes mostly through forest. But we stuck to the glass-floor path…


…Well that at least confirms we could have had it worse weather-wise here ).

Onward. And occasionally (only for the brave) – outward! ->

I could just imagine the views from this bridge on a nice day…

Guigu Cave – that way. Alas – no time to venture over to it for a look. Next time…

Another Chinese hit: padlocks – for love, happiness, and/or… having children (the latter – for it to be a boy or a girl). No guarantees given, however :).


Rain. Experience has shown that if you take a photo of blanket-cover fog, it sometimes magically lifts :). So we multiplied such efforts by four. This time the fog didn’t clear though :( ->

There did seem to be a small disturbance in the matrix (a slight increase in visibility)… but nothing more ->

And here’s the arch – 100% natural – from the side ->

We just had to get closer… You take the escalator to get there ->

Twenty minutes later and you’re under the arch ->

Through and under the arch and then furthe downward you can take the escalator or the steps (all 999 of them!). Guess which I went for? :-). Btw – the steps are called the Stairway to Heaven.

But we were taking the stairway down from heaven ->

In the below pic there’s a monument to Alain Robert (the “French Spider-Man”) who once scaled these cliffs with no ropes – just with his hands and feet! ->

At the bottom of the Stairway to Heaven, we needed to descend even further – we hoped via this here funky serpentine track:

The track’s shown somewhat differently on the internet. Apparently it was built before the advent of cable-car technology – when it was the only way of getting up to the foot of the mountain. Alas, these days it’s closed. Still a beaut, mind ->

(Photo taken from here)

And here’s another (from here) ->

Red Bull drifters been here! ->

Since it’s closed, we went on foot down to the second cable car, and then took it down to the buses below.

Down below:

And that was that – fog walk: done ).

The city at the bottom looks something like this. Note the big green screen – it seems to be advertising downhill skiing. What, here? A little steep, no? The mind boggles…

The rest of the pics from my China-2023 vacation are here

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