The Climb

For just about every weekday morning here in China, I wake up around 6:00 and, after some morning prayer, I set off across campus to a little mountain trail called “The 1000 Steps” for some exercise. To be honest, I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better way to start off every day here in Hangzhou: to stay active and healthy despite living in the middle of one of China’s larger cities is quite a blessing indeed! The following images are just a sampling of the morning routine I’ve adopted:

Campus road

The ~5 minute walk I take through campus to the trail. With all of the trees and grass, walking through Zhejiang University’s Yuquan campus feels just like home in Raleigh!

Bike parking

…Well, except for one small thing: the parking situation.

Hey, let’s all park our bikes in a calm and orderly fashion. Nobody, ever, in China

Entering the neighborhood

Right behind campus is a side street leading to a tiny neighborhood, at the back of which is an entrance to the trail. Oftentimes the people living here will walk up to the top of the mountain to have a picnic breakfast or lunch while listening to radio news and talking with their neighbors. It’s a nice environment!

Exiting the neighborhood

A picture from the other direction, now looking towards the campus (which is not visible in this shot). Simply pivoting on my feet to the right leads me to…

The entrance

Oh boy. It’s about to get serious.

The 1000 Steps

Actually, it’s about 700, according to the numbers carved onto the steps. I suppose if one wanders all around the mountaintop, the approximate equivalent is 1000 steps, but your primary exertion will occur during this initial ascent.

The beginning

It starts out rather slow, sort of like a warm-up.

The ascent

After the first 100 steps or so, the steps quickly narrow down to escalator size, exhibiting none of the American architectural luxury of switchbacks. Up we go!

300

No. This is SPARTA!

Side path

A lot of people ditch the stair route for a slightly more gradual dirt path, but as tempting as it looks, you’ll also find no shortage of mosquitoes and other blood-sucking parasites that way. Trust me, your sore feet are more than compensated by your smooth, unbruised legs when taking the steps!

700

By this point pretty much everyone is completely winded, and you’re absolutely dying for a rest. Fortunately, right up ahead there’s a lovely little pool of standing water with an orange bucket perfect for scooping up some lukewarm, gray-green thirst-quenching drink.

Water break

(The sign displays the following insightful comment: “This lid is broken; restoration is underway. We advise your safety.”)

Skyline #1

Once you climb up this high, the skyline is utterly beautiful. Almost every day I come up here, I notice a different angle or perspective of the city that leaves me utterly breathless. (Or that might just be my exhaustion after the stair-climbing. I don’t know.)

Skyline panorama

Wow.

Pavilion

Only a few more stairs to the top! As I mentioned, up here you’ll find people doing every manner of things, from listening to the news to eating snacks to just socializing. Some, like me, are crazy enough to push their bodies to even higher levels of physical exertion on what I affectionately dub the “Chinese Monkey Bars”:

Pull-up bars

They’re perfectly sturdy, I swear. You should see the size of some of the guys who do sets on these things. Pull-ups are a big deal in this area.

Push-up bench

Of course, no workout would be complete without some push-ups as well. I usually do them inclined on this bench, simply because it’s cleaner and my arms are too exhausted for anything else.

Going down

On the way down again!

Vertigo

Yeah, you’ve got to be careful going down these steps–no jogging allowed. Well, I mean, it is allowed, but only if you don’t value your front teeth (which you’ll surely lose in the fall).

And with that, the journey is done! All said, I am exceedingly grateful for the presence of this wonderful public trail, and I know that it will be one of those memories which sticks with me long after I return home.

One more picture, before signing off:

No riding

Hmm, maybe it isn’t a good idea to ride bikes here. Nobody, ever, in China

Neill Robson

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