It was an early start for those on the Challenge, with the check-in beginning at 6am.
It was still a little dark when the first hikers started showing up.
Almost ready to go
And the Challenge buses are off.
The check in for the Hike for Fun was a little later, at 7:30am.
There was a little more light by the time the Hike for Fun check in began.
We had a big crew of kids on the Hike for Fun this year.
Getting ready to go.
A few more to check in.
A presentation from Pocari before we got going.
The Challenge hike is a 24km trail in the mountains northwest of Beijing. The trail is made up of a mixture of service roads and hill trails, and one of the best sections is the High Tower crossing – up and over a 1,400m-plus peak and then down the other side.
As a contrast to Beijing in the morning we saw some blue skies on the way up to the High Tower, and then descended into the mist* that had filled the valleys on the north side of the hills.
At the 23km mark of the Challenge we offer an option to go for 30km, and this year seven people took us up on that – pretty tough, but worth it if you do love a challenge.
* Actual mist, not a euphemism!
Challenge team ready to go!
Our first photos of people on the Challenge come courtesy of our guides posted on a tricky section up by the High Tower.
Patrick is out in front.
Rough Great Wall in Yanqing County.
Wild flowers and the remains of a watchtower.
Here comes Pat.
Currently in second place.
Christian, the first place finisher in the 2016 Hike Fest.
Here come more of the Challenge leaders.
Looking good at approximately 11km into it.
Passing the tower.
The Great Wall disappears over the hill.
More hikers coming through.
And then down a steep stretch.
A tricky section of rough Great Wall.
Off the wall and down into the valley.
Here comes Dongshixin, one of our guides.
Disappearing down into the forest.
Taking a rest up at the High Tower, a little bit further back on the trail.
Looking back up at the High Tower.
A ruined watchtower.
We followed the wall for a short distance, passing through broken towers.
One of our sponsors going incognito
Fedor and Maxim.
Off the wall.
More hikers coming down the steep section.
The last of the Challenge hikers coming through with super guide Millicent.
Ready to head down into the forest.
If you think the trail looks overgrown you should have seen it before we spent six hours on it with machetes.
A spring-fed pool, home to a million mosquitoes.
Coming out of the forest, finally.
Leafy and green.
One of our favourite parts of the trail.
The ribbons lead the way out.
We followed this concrete road down to the 16km checkpoint.
Hike for Fun
The Hike for Fun started a couple of hours after the Challenge got going. The Hike for Fun trail is a 10km loop, starting and finishing at Shixia Village. We arrived to find the valleys around the village filled with a lot of mist.
Hike for Fun is ready to go.
Heading up into the misty mountains.
Katie chatting with one of our local crew.
Off the concrete path and up into the forest.
The trail went up into a forested valley.
Further up into the forest.
Taking a break under the trees.
At the top of the valley was the Great Wall.
The Hike for Fun followed a rough, unrepaired line of Great Wall.
And the hikers followed the red ribbons.
Further up on the wall.
A most joyful reunion!
Approaching the General’s Tower, the highest point on the Hike for Fun.
Walking down from the General’s Tower.
Green hills with a lot of mist.
The mist slowly cleared.
A detour around a broken part of the Great Wall.
Hiking on the wall.
Party and picnic
The two hiking trails both finished at the same spot, and we set up tables with snacks and refreshments. As the hikers all came in we passed out certificates and t-shirts and got ready for the lucky draw and prizes.
Snacks are all ready.
T-shirts are all ready.
Certificates are all ready.
Cambridge Mask Co. and Mantra Bar were two of the event sponsors. (We had to tie down the posters to stop them flying away in the wind.)
Relaxing in the village square.
Ready to pass out certificates.
Here’s your certificate.
Hike for Fun finishers.
Picnic in the village.
Lucky draw prize: a ‘powerful headlamp’.
More lucky draw prizes: tickets for the Beijinger magazine’s Pizza Fest, presented by Lareina of the Beijinger.
Lucky draw: hiking vouchers from Beijing Hikers.
More lucky draw.
Relax with a beer or a coffee.
A mix of 24km and 10km finishers.
Ready to try on the t-shirts.
Team of three in t-shirts.
One of the younger participants has arrived.
Lucky draw time. Who's going to win a family pack of air masks from Cambridge Mask Co.?
Calling for a lucky draw prize winner.
Winner of a ‘powerful headlamp’.
A big group of friends all did the Hike for Fun.
This year we did prizes for the 24km and 30km routes. First place finishers got a good amount of swag: a backpack, a six-pack of Mantra Bars, and one of the ‘powerful headlamps’. Never know when you might need a powerful headlamp.
First finisher in the Women’s 24km.
More prizes in the 24km.
Calling for a winner.
Third place in the Women’s 24km.
First place in the Men’s 24km.
Second place in the Men’s 24km, presented by hiking guide Tina.