Wild side of Great Wall draws many tourists
The Jiankou section of the GreatWall is undoubtedly the most precipitous part of the world wonder in Beijing.
While in the past, some people have died while trying to climb the wild parts of the Wall here, places like Badaling and Mutianyu in the outskirts of the Chinese capital are suitable for all tourists due to the availability of cable cars and the rebuilt gentle slopes.
But located in Huairou district of Beijing, Jiankou’s scenic views have made it a popular spot for photographers and hikers. One has to use both hands and feet to climb the rough cliffs here.
The 20-kilometer Jiankou section of the Wall was built in the Tang (618-907) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties.
It takes nearly 150 minutes to drive to Jiankou from downtown Beijing. One should wear mountaineering shoes, skid-proof gloves and carry sufficient water and light food. It is better to carry an alpenstock or some sort of walking stick in winter.
Xizhazi village, which is at the foot of the Jiankou Great Wall, has farmhouses where tourists can pay and stay. The village has toilets that hikers should use before a trek because most of Jiankou is in the wilderness.
It is easier to climb the east part of Jiankou than the west. The first beacon tower leads to a dilapidated section, which is almost vertical. One needs to balance one’s body while climbing as there are no bars for protection. For the western side, one may need other people’s help to ensure a smooth hike on the cliffs.
The best place to watch the sunset is the Zhengbeilou Tower, where one can enjoy the mountain views and the surrounding tranquility. It is better to go downhill while the light is still there.
Accidents may happen if one is not familiar with the landform, so climbing Jiankou with those who have earlier been here may help. Familiar routes are also safer.
In 2013, Zou Yi initiated the volunteer group the Giant Gooo-go Great Wall, to guide outdoor sport fans to Jiankou every Saturday and collect garbage thrown by other tourists to protect the environment. They only cancel the activity on really smoggy days or when there’s heavy rain or snow.
The group’s members carry plastic bags and stroll around to pick up plastic bottles and other junk at the site. As they take the rubbish away, some tourists also help them.
“The natural beauty of Jiankou inspires awe. It is important to preserve its original form. The Great Wall symbolizes our nation. You leave only your footprints here, not rubbish,” says Zou, 55, an office worker from Beijing.
He says Jiankou is pretty in all seasons.
But the group cautions people against trying to climb the dangerous parts of the Wall here, such as the watch tower whose name means the “eagle flies face upward”. The tower’s 4 meters of stone steps have corroded over the years. Last year, the group helped a female American teacher who was trapped in the watch tower.
The local government is now repairing parts of the Wall here.
“To protect the historical site itself is also vital. Sometimes we stop those who try to take away the bricks of the Wall,” Zou says.
According to him, the village data show that between 200,000 and 300,000 tourists visit Jiankou every year, including some foreigners. The peak season is summer.
He says about 2,800 people have joined their weekly excursion to Jiankou so far, and each time they’ve gone with one or two dozen people.
One of them is Yuan Fangchen, who often takes his wife and son to Jiankou with the group.
“Such activities are good for families. My 9-year-old son also learns the importance of environmental protection,” says Yuan, 51, a partner in a Beijing lawfirm.
The Great Wall symbolizes our nation. You leave only your footprints here, not rubbish.” Zou Yi, volunteer
Members from a volunteer group in Beijing visit Jiankou every Saturday and collect garbage thrown by other tourists.