The Great Wall of China {Jiankou}

When it comes to travel my general approach is to say, “Yes, absolutely,” to any offer we get from locals and then figure out the rest later. When New Day friends asked if we wanted to hike to unrestored Jiankou (“wild wall”) portion of the Great Wall of China with them instead of doing the restored, tourist portion…”Yes, absolutely,” was the instant and easy answer.

Prior to traveling to China I began making a list of the things I hoped we could do in the Beijing area – the “wild wall” hike was high on my list, so I was pretty excited to have friends willing to take us without me ever asking.

There were some concerns about the difficulty of the climb in regards to us taking our girls, but we knew the girls are pretty strong and we might as well go for it. I packed 2 backpacks of water bottles, CLIF Kid bars, and trail mix. I probably should have packed more! It was hands down the most difficult hike we have done with the girls. It turned out to be far more like rock climbing for nearly 4 hours than it was hiking. We climbed and climbed and climbed.

GreatWallofChina-02The view from about half way up…we kept climbing and climbing and climbing. Chris and I stayed with the girls. The boys climbed ahead with friends. (We only really knew one couple before we arrived in China. We’ve instantly connected with other families here and the older boys have a crew of teenage boys they hang out with.)

The view climbing was spectacular – so very beautiful.GreatWallofChina-03The girls did have a meltdown moment about 3/4 of the way up…after climbing for several hours. They pushed through and eventually we saw a little ladder, climbed up it and were standing on the Great Wall of China! GreatWallofChina-04GreatWallofChina-06GreatWallofChina-07This section of the wall is becoming overgrown with bushes, trees and various plants, but I was giddy to be there. We were basically the only ones around. The boys could run far down the wall exploring with friends, the girls could do the same.

My oldest daughter immediately began pretending she was a warrior defending her kingdom. I hope for years to come when others talk about the Great Wall of China she remembers the day she climbed a mountain to reach it and played on top. I hope all my kids remember.GreatWallofChina-08I’m getting a little weary of the constant request for dabbing by a certain 5 year old, but experience tells me one day I will look back at this phase with fondness.
GreatWallofChina-09After making the climb, it is mind boggling how the wall was built. MIND BOGGLING. It was hard just carrying a backpack up that high.GreatWallofChina-11GreatWallofChina-12GreatWallofChina-13The boys appeared for just long enough to step into a family picture with us and then they were off with friends again.GreatWallofChina-14Guess who got upset that she was not the ONLY one doing the dab?
GreatWallofChina-15She wouldn’t stop crying until we agreed she could dab in the family picture. I had great visions of a family picture without a dab in it – it was my one Mother’s Day request. You win some and you lose some…and sometimes you chose a dabbing kid over a screaming kid. (notice the wall in the distant background)GreatWallofChina-16The 14 year old gymnast in me couldn’t help herself. Also…look in the distance of this photo, you can see the wall over the ridges of several mountains…it just keeps going and going.GreatWallofChina-17GreatWallofChina-18GreatWallofChina-19Inside the tent at the top of the ladder a man took a tax for climbing the ladder and sold highly inflated bottles of water. After making the remote climb, I would have charged even more than he was for the water. I still wonder about him and how often he makes the climb up and down.
GreatWallofChina-20Because the climb was so steep, it took us almost as long to get down the mountain as it did to get up it. The rest of the crew made it down about an hour and half before we did, but they savored a meal at the bottom and didn’t seem to mind waiting for us. The girls were asleep as soon as we began the 2 hour drive back to our village.GreatWallofChina-22I am so very grateful to our friends for taking us to this portion. The girls, for good reason, shocked many that they actually made it to the top. They definitely surprised themselves, but are learning over and over again that they can do really hard things. I was so proud of them.

If you have an entire day to spend on a difficult hike/climb, I would highly recommend making the “wild wall” hike. There are other wild portions of the Great Wall I would love to do (some with beautiful lakes nearby), but I am more than content to have this experience. I was exhausted, dirty, sweaty and in my happy place.

Unfortunately, I can’t give great details regarding which hike we did. There are several hike routes to this portion of the wall. The friend we were with said we did the most difficult climbing one…if that helps anyone. The section we climbed to is called the Jiankou section.

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