Ascent of Tai Mo Shan on 2017-04-09

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:Larry Clemente
Megan Harloff
Date:Sunday, April 9, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Tai Mo Shan
    Location:Hong Kong
    Elevation:3140 ft / 957 m

Ascent Trip Report

Naturally, I somehow turned my GPS off at the gate to the restricted area and did not notice it until I started descending. I marked the gate as "Tai Mo Shan," even though this is not the highest point or highest accessible point. While I was hoping to tell a tale of meeting a cool gate guard and trading him a USS Makin Island coin for access to the high point, that did not happen... I actually approached the gate guard to attempt to sweet talk him as he released 3 wayward hikers, but he would not even hear my first sentence. Oh yes, wayward hikers found their way into the compound and were clearly caught by the Chinese Army. They came out of a building near the front with the irritated-looking guard and were released back to our side, where a large number of other hikers and bicyclists were relaxing after their ascents. I can only assume that some sort of documentation was taken inside of that building. I can guess that an American Navy officer caught inside the fence with a GPS, camera, and iPhone would not be a good thing...
We did circumnavigate the whole fenceline to try and ascertain the highpoint. There are 2 possible locations, both of which rise about 10 vertical feet from our location over small grassy mounds. One is the location that is marked on peakbagger. We got within 20 ft of this one. The other is on the NW edge of the compound. Per the global GPS map, there is a small enclosed contour line here. We were inside the contour, but the high ground was about 15 ft away and about 8 ft higher than our feet. However, for the peakbagger willing to risk imprisonment in a Chinese military prison, there are 3 separate locations along the fenceline that have been damaged, allowing easy access for humans (likely entry point for the 3 hikers we saw back by the gate). There are broken fences within 15 ft of the NW corner candidate and about 30 ft from the southern candidate. Believe me, I stood there for a minute or two contemplating how quickly I could run to these spots, snap a pic of myself and dash off into the fog... However, I decided that my pension from the US Navy was too close at hand to jeopardize risking my career over those last 8-10 ft of gain over class 1 terrain. I can assume that my ship would not be pleased to pick me up from a Chinese Army prison. So, with a heavy heart, we snapped pics of the broken fences and where we stood near them and called it good enough.
So, the peakbagging community can judge my logging of this as a successful ascent, even though the highest ground was mere feet away. While I would never condone logging a peak because one was scared or ill-equipped to surmount a technical summit block (Center Pk, Bishop Pk, etc), I feel that in this case the summit was well within my abilities, visible within 15 ft of my location, barely higher than my head, but not bagged due to threat of imprisonment in a Chinese prison coupled with an international incident that would likely affect my current employment.
Otherwise, I can say that our route is the best route to ascend this peak. We took the MRT to Tai Wo station and then took bus 25K to our trailhead at Ng Tung Chai. Of note, bus 64K also goes from Tai Wo MRT station to Ng Tung Chai but 25K happened to arrive first. I had written Ng Tung Chai on a piece of paper the night before in both English and Chinese script so that when the bus arrived, we would be able to ensure that it was going the right direction on its route. Thankfully, this worked very well as the first 25K to come to the bus station was going the other way. We hopped on the second 25K bus (cost HK$6) for the 10 min ride to the trailhead. There are signs in English and Chinese to the waterfalls. We opted to hike to all 4 of the waterfalls for their scenic value as we made our ascent. Our descent from the west side of the peak follows a use trail that is actually on the global topo map on the mobile app for peakbagger. From that use trail, we took the MacLehose Trail west to Route Twisk and bus 51 down to the Tsuen Wan MRT station to search for lunch.
We found an excellent eatery that had no English menu, so we pointed at pictures, tried to do some symbol matching, and ended up getting 6 of the 7 things that we wanted correct. The incorrect item was good anyway! We all tried roasted pigeon. I can say that it was excellent, especially with the sauce. I am not sure if this was the same bird that we would think of as a pigeon in the US, but whatever.
If you are going to be in Hong Kong for a few days, buy the Octopus Card at a MRT stop. It is a stored value-based transit card that has worked on every bus and train that we have taken so far in Hong Kong. It deducts the price of the ride from its stored value so that you are not constantly dealing with exact change, ticket kiosks, and holding up the line. When you leave from your final ride, you can turn it back in to an MRT information booth and get the HK$50 deposit back. You can add value to it at any kiosk (generally cash only from what I saw) and you can use it to make consumer purchases at many shops and even restaurants in Hong Kong.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3075 ft / 937 m
    Total Elevation Loss:197 ft / 60 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3075 ft / 937 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2878 ft / 878 m; Extra: 197 ft / 60m
    Loss on way in:197 ft / 60 m
    Route:From Ng Tung Chai
    Start Trailhead:262 ft / 79 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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