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Hike photos – Boxing Day Great Wall and Hot Springs, 2012/12/26

In Brief: On Boxing Day in 2012 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.

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, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

An elderly inhabitant of the walled village rests on a log just outside of the village walls.

Local villagers, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

We arrived at the walled village at the same time as a travelling tofu merchant came along.

The tofu vendor, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Big blocks of fresh tofu.

An elderly local, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Taking the tofu home.

chestnut tree orchards, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

We started the hike by following a flat path through chestnut tree orchards.

prevent soil erosion, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

The snow-covered trail through the orchards.

A hiker, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

The Great Wall came into sight.

sunshine, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Some of the hikers enjoy a break in the sunshine. Standing in the sun with no breeze, it actually didn’t feel very cold!

a challenge, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

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.

the first tower, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Two hikers pause for a photo on the stairs of the Great Wall before arriving at the first tower.

, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Our hard work getting up the steep, slippery slope was rewarded with beautiful views of a snowy landscape.

steep ascent, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

We stopped on the way up to enjoy the views.

, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

We took plenty of time to get up to the top.

, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

A hiker takes a photo of the village of Zhuangdaokou, on the other side of the wall to the walled village.

the Great Wall, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

We kept on climbing to the top.

Winter, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

A good spot for a good photo.

The windows in the towers, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

More photography, from inside a tower near the top.

a frozen reservoir, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

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, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

A tree is beautifully silhouetted against the blue sky and the pale winter sun.

Sliding down slope, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

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…!

Go! Action!!, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Go! Action!!

In a few places, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

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!!

, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

A hiker demonstrates a novel sideways sliding technique.

the founder of Beijing Hikers, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

Huilin, one of the founders of Beijing Hikers, takes a turn sliding down the Great Wall.

multi-course dinner, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

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!

the hot springs, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

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.

twilight, Beijing Hikers Zhuangdaokou Great Wall and Hot spring, Dec26, 2012

A bunch of happy hikers at twilight!

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