It was foggy and drizzly when I walked towards the bus stop in Xi’an that morning, but I didn’t care. I was going to climb that damn mountain. Accompanied by a quiet Belgian guy from my hostel, I held a flimsy umbrella over my head and ate steaming buns filled with mystery meat that I’d bought from a street vendor along the way.

Almost two years ago, I climbed Huashan, a sacred Taoist mountain on the outskirts of Xi’an, located in central China. We met two German guys on the bus who specifically traveled to China to walk along Huashan’s exhilarating cliff walk, a narrow path snaking around the edge of the mountain.

When we arrived, a throng of poncho-wearing tourists were already lined up outside the gondola, carrying us to the mountain’s midpoint. Thick layers of fog prevented us from seeing anything but a pure shade of white, like a giant canvas that had just be gessoed, propped up against the wall drying, not quite ready for the first layers of thick, bright pigments to be applied.

We climbed up rows of lopsided stone steps and dirt paths, avoiding puddles of water and trying not to slip. The Germans raced at the beginning and I kept a steady pace. They soon lost their momentum and trailed behind me gasping for breath. They’d obviously never lived in Korea.

Throughout the day, I couldn’t see anything but the nearest gray stones, steaming bowls of noodles that we’d bought for lunch, and bright red ribbons attached to clusters of padlocks, but the mountain was peaceful as ever. Too bad the cliff walk was closed.


-Text and photography by Sarah Shaw @ All rights reserved.