Having been confined to a window-less hospital room for a whole week, AJ already felt seriously twitchy and the once in a century taifun Nepartak had made a big deviation around the north of our formose island. Two serious reasons to get out! A great scenery, lots and lots of water and 12 (about, we didn’t really count them) rappels of up to 50 meters into the void were waiting for us (AJ, 醋黃瓜 [CùHuángGuā, Sour Cucumber], Justin who has been jetting over from The States for a few days and my humble self). The last rappel of course took place in the darkness. If not, why would you bring headlights then?
We take MRT to XinDian and then the bus to WuLai. There we indulge in a quick second breakfast: CongYouBing, a local style onion pancake. A taxi brings us to an unconspicuous and unmarked trail at the edge of FuShan village. Two hours of steep and sweaty ascent in full gear and with lots of climbing stuff through the sweltry and humid primary forest follow. It’s of course pretty exhausting and I begin to consider turning back, but then the trail finally is becoming rather flat and easier to go, as we reach the remains of an abandoned forestry road which has been battered much by many landslides. This road is leading us to the entrance of the ShanYangDong Canyon.
Quickly we enter the creek and then our direction is down, for the next 8 hours. We attach our ropes to trees and if the 60m which we brought are too short for a standard double strand rappel we make use of a special knot: It allows us to use the full length of the rope as a single strand and when we all have gone down, the knot is untied by pulling on the rope, after a safety lock has been removed by the means of a pull cord. For the last one in the team, who of course has to remove the lock from this contraption before he begins his rappel, this is not without risk. For this reason the carefully placed pull cord has a different color, to avoid touching it by mistake.
Heavy rain is setting in. At tropical temperatures this is rather a cool blessing, as we are soaking wet anyway. However, now there is some danger that the water levels might rise uncomfortably. The ShanYangDong does not have such a huge catchment area that one might need to expect flash floods at normal rain showers. As the past few days already had brought some rainfall, we had chosen this river deliberately. But the therefore relatively high water levels (usually, ShanYangDong is rather a streamlet) bestowed us upon several exciting abseils which one might simply climb down when there is less water. Of course, we were thoroughly rinsed, when we sometimes had to rappel mids in a waterfall, because at the edge there was no way down, or there was no edge at all.
Meanwhile it got dark. The last steep wall we had to take in the light of our headlamps, before we were scrambling along water pipes through the forest in order to get out from the canyon and to reach the road. Exhausted but satisfied we changed into the dry clothes we had stowed in our water proof bags. Soon our taxi driver arrived and returned us to WuLai.
Practicalities: A long, challenging and very exhausting canyoning trip. We needed 8hrs for the descent, we’ve heard that others had to go for 12+ hrs with much less water in the gorge (link) and came down in the wee hours. It is strongly advised that you only commit to this endeavour if you’re familiar with the terrain and you have appropriate experience. (AJ has done the canyon already 3 times in both directions and, in addition, he is a trained and certified canyon(eer)ing guide). Rappels are up to 50m requiring suitable static (!) ropes [If you’re not familiar with unlockable knots and pullchords, you need a 100m+ length or you’ll have repeated time consuming fun with „passing the knot“!]. As anchors you have to use what you can find: trees! There are no bolts or whatever. We brought two ropes (40 und 60 meters) and a 60m pull-chord, which we used simultaneously whenever possible, in order to save time. Once you have entered the canyon, you must work yourself through, there is probably no chance to get out along the way, as the flanks of the gorge are very rocky and steep. It should be almost impossible to climb out and if, you’ll end up in completely pathless grounds. To our knowledge, there is no trail nearby. Also climbing the gorge up towards the forest road might be quite difficult. No mobile phone reception in the gorge. Down at the road we had TaKeDa network, but no ChungHwa (usually, it’s the other way round).
And here you may watch the video about our adventure!
醋黃瓜 in the Washing Machine (about 8 minutes and uncut):