Morning mist painted mountains white as we trekked through timid waterfalls and the immense greenery of Tianzi Shan. The towering pillars of rock that make up the Avatar Mountains made for a spectacular backdrop to the forest walk.
At one of the first viewpoints on the trail, a keyhole in the mountain (much like Tianmen Shan) unlocked views to a distant vista. The brushstroked mist rose higher and turned to cloud, snaking its way up the columns of rock.
We drew level with the tops of the first pillars, our gaze now unobstructed by the dense foliage. We took in Tianzi Shan's monoliths. Cracked armour and steep vertices. Trees sprouted from the cracks and arced gracefully towards the sky. The 'heavenly platform' looked out upon the hundreds of pinnacles which line Tianzi Shan's valley. Their numbers were overwhelming.
The chasm of shards interlocked in a way that made you lose your perception of depth. If this was a heavenly platform, they were an armada of angels.
At Tianzi Shan's summit is a tiered pagoda. From here, we watched distant triangular peaks swimming in dancing cloud. Tianzishan is the highest point in the scenic area. If you can fight your way through the crowds, you are able to look around 360 degrees upon much of Wulingyuan.
The descent followed open ground. Rim lit pinnacles were picked out from the dense haze which had accumulated in the empty space between. They bathed in golden light, seeming to grow in size as we descended. At the summit, the pillars had overwhelmed us with numbers, now a single pillar was enough to dwarf us entirely. It put the scale of the land we had seen from above into perspective.
The final stretch followed an incredible gallery of sky-scraping shards. One after another, they just kept coming. They were like old gods, watching over us.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@radventuresofficial) // Summer 2016
Access from Wulingyuan township. Buses run there from Zhangjiajie city (12 元, 40mins) They are not numbered and read 武陵源. Entry to the park is 245元 (standard) 160元 (student >24yrs, pretend driving license is student card for discount).
From the park entrance board a bus bound for Tianzi Shan (天子山). The route starts at Sansuo Crossing from Wulingyuan. You need to show the driver these characters to get him to stop there: 天子山三所.
See Getting Around Wulingyuan for further information.
Take the bus from Wulingyuan entrance to Sansuo Crossing.
Begin the climb up Tianzi Shan. Follow the sign labelled Tianmen and then signed for Tianzi.
At the food/drinks vendor T-junction turn right for Tianzi Shan.
At the summit, explore the plateau. It is possible to take a bus/walk to/from Shentang Gulf/One Finger Peak.
Retrace your steps to the food/drinks vendor, but this time cross over towards the Heavenly Platform/10 Mile Gallery (it would have been the left-hand turn when you were first ascending the mountain).
Continue the long walk down the mountain, visiting viewpoints as you please and pass alongside the train tracks.
At the bottom, board a park bus back to Wulingyuan.