October is a pleasant time in Beijing: Temperatures are cooling down, it is generally dry and as the heating season hasn’t started yet, we are lucky to get some days with a decent blue sky and quite some sun. As the last days had been really pretty with amazing air quality, two colleagues and I decided to venture out on a little trip and check out „Fragrant Hill“ (Xiang Shan 香山)。That is a prominent hill in the West Mountains that can be either climbed by walking or by taking a cable car up. This mountain range is about 15 km to the west and there is even a new subway line running all the way out there to the park.
But when we changed subways for the second time and were about to go to the station where the subway for the last leg would leave, we suddenly realized that we were not the only people who had that idea to venture out and explore the West Mountains. There were hundreds, if not thousands of people waiting and queuing in amazingly neat and by security guys well organized lines. Then it occurs to us that this weekend is one of the most crowded weekends on that mountain: marveling at the fall colors is something people love and as there are many people in Beijing, there are proportionally many more people especially on a nice sunny Saturday.
I honestly had that moment of „Are we sure we wanna do that?!“, but it quickly dissolved as the lines were long but moving surprisingly fast. As expected the train was packed, but after maybe 15 minutes we arrived at the park entrance with everybody else. So in tiny mini steps we moved slowly towards the entrance, got our tickets and continued slowly in this huge bubble of what felt like at least half of Beijings population.
We slowly made our way up that 1,830 feet/558 meter high mountain (Beijing itself is at an elevation of 143 feet/45 meter). It was in parts a steep, but never a sketchy climb as the path going up is all – this is typical for China – concrete steps. On top of the mountain is a little temple and a couple of stone steles. If there wouldn’t have been that many people around me, I would have had amazing views over the surrounding mountain scenery of the West Mountains 系山 and over the city of Beijing. Unfortunately it still was a bit too early for more impressive fall colors, but as it is relatively easy to get there, this time for sure wasn’t the last time I have been there.
As we decided to take the cable car down, we had to queue for another 1,5 hrs. In the meantime we could catch some amazing views to the west where the sun slowly set, but also with the setting sun it got so cold, that even two jackets weren’t enough. The ride down the mountain provided some amazing views over the city that lit up step by step. A day nicely spend with awesome people … and also a lot of time in queues – but … who are we to measure time by hours?!