On Boxing Day we did a special hike: a climb on the snowy Great Wall, followed by a soak in the pool at a secluded hot springs hotel.
Beijing saw a lot of snow in December, which made the hills very pretty – great for a hike, but a little slippery!
We started our hike at an ancient walled village, which used to house the soldiers who guarded that section of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The countryside is very quiet and slow during the winter. With not much fieldwork to do, most people prefer to stay indoors where it's warm.
From the walled village, we followed a small path through the orchards to a section of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall. The pass at this section of the wall is called Zhuangdaokou, and there's a big archway in the wall. In the old days, it would have been closed up with a big gate; these days, the gate is gone, so we can walk right on through.
This section of the Great Wall was partially restored in 2005, but it's still steep and a little tricky to walk on – especially with snow on it! One of our hike leaders went up by herself to check the safety of the conditions on the Wall before the rest of the group went up, as we were concerned about the slippery trail.
We were able to stick to our plan and follow the wall up and over the ridge, but not without a little sliding down the other side!
An elderly inhabitant of the walled village rests on a log just outside of the village walls.
We arrived at the walled village at the same time as a travelling tofu merchant came along.
Big blocks of fresh tofu.
Taking the tofu home.
We started the hike by following a flat path through chestnut tree orchards.
The snow-covered trail through the orchards.
The Great Wall came into sight.
Some of the hikers enjoy a break in the sunshine. Standing in the sun with no breeze, it actually didn’t feel very cold!
We begin the walk up the first section of the Great Wall. Getting up these steep, smooth, snow-covered slabs of rock was quite a challenge.
Two hikers pause for a photo on the stairs of the Great Wall before arriving at the first tower.
Our hard work getting up the steep, slippery slope was rewarded with beautiful views of a snowy landscape.
We stopped on the way up to enjoy the views.
We took plenty of time to get up to the top.
A hiker takes a photo of the village of Zhuangdaokou, on the other side of the wall to the walled village.
We kept on climbing to the top.
A good spot for a good photo.
More photography, from inside a tower near the top.
The view of the surrounding countryside from the highest point on this section of the Great Wall is fantastic, showing a frozen reservoir below as well as other sections of the Great Wall that extend far into the distance.
A tree is beautifully silhouetted against the blue sky and the pale winter sun.
Sliding down slopes on the Great Wall in the snow is the safest, easiest, and most fun way to get down a potentially difficult section. Ready, set…!
In a few places, the snow on the surface of the wall was so hard and crusty that it was difficult to get up any speed during the slide. So we wore a nice smooth path down a section of it. Whee!!
A hiker demonstrates a novel sideways sliding technique.
Huilin, one of the founders of Beijing Hikers, takes a turn sliding down the Great Wall.
After the hike, we were treated to an early, multi-course dinner at our favorite hot springs restaurant. After dinner: a well-deserved bath in the springs!
After dinner and a bath in the hot springs, we saw the reflection of the setting sun on the surface of a frozen pond as the sky glowed with the soft, orange light of the late afternoon.
A bunch of happy hikers at twilight!