Scaling towering Mount Jade, Taiwan’s highest peak, is a welcome challenge for budding mountaineers © Chun-tso Lin, Dreamstime
Soon after stepping on to the trail, you may see Taiwan laughing thrushes scampering ahead of you; they’ve become totally unafraid of humans.
This is the peak everyone wants to bag. Consequently permit applications often exceed the fixed daily quota by a ratio of 10:1. Visitor numbers are kept down to protect the mountain’s fragile ecology and also because there isn’t much space in Paiyun Lodge 排雲山莊. Apart from limited camping options, the lodge is the only accommodation between the trailhead and the peak. It’s much easier to get permits for midweek dates than for weekends, but applications must be submitted well in advance. The process can be completed online (start at www.npm.cpami.gov.tw/en) but it’s best to get a hiking outfit to do the ‘paperwork’ for you. Mount Jade and some other trails in the national park are closed to the public for a month each year, sometime between January and March. The precise dates vary from year to year and may be brought forward or extended because of weather conditions.
Most hikers spend two days and one night on Mount Jade and scale the main peak only. Before beginning the walk to Paiyun Lodge it’s necessary to go to the police checkpoint (06.00–18.00 daily) to have your permits inspected. You’re advised to fill your water bottles there, especially if you’re tramping the 2.8km to the actual trailhead at Tataka Anbu. Private vehicles are not allowed past the checkpoint; the only alternative to walking is to jump on one of the minibuses that shuttle between the highway, the checkpoint and the saddle (NTD100 pp one-way). From Tataka Anbu (2,600m) it’s 8.5km to Paiyun Lodge. The track to Mount Jade is to the left. The surfaced road dropping down to the south is only open to scientific researchers. Soon after stepping on to the trail, you may see Taiwan laughing thrushes (Garrulax morrisonianus) scampering ahead of you; they’ve become totally unafraid of humans.