Shiashan (Snow Mountain)-Its splendor and beauty


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Geological Landscape

 SheiShan (Snow Mountain) Mountain Range stretches across four counties from the northern Shandiao Cape in Taipei County to Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, Taichung County and Yilan County. It houses some of the most renowned mountains on the island. SheiShan Main Peak, the highest peak on this range and second highest peak on the island, rises to 3,884 meters high. Mountains on this range are in one straight line, each with its own unique topography. Naturally, the degree of difficulty in ascending these peaks varies. For instance, Dajian Mountain , one of the ten main peaks, is almost impossible to ascend for common climbers. The four most scenic peaks are Kalayeh Mountain, Tao Mountain , Chihyou Mountain and Pintien Mountain. Dapajian Mountain, one of the three most pointed peaks, is referred to as the century's rarest and most magnificent landscape. The area around SheiShan Main Peak is popular for its scenic beauty and splendid wide-open view of the mountain range. To add to its versatility, the scenic views differ under difference season, thus attracting hosts of visitor all year round.

 The entire SheiShan Mountain Range consists of six ridges or crest lines; all converge at the ridge between the SheiShan Main Peak and Pushiolan Mountain. They are parallel to the Central Mountain Range on the island's central region. It is also the upper river source for Tachia River, Ta-an River, Tamshui River and Lanyang River. The heavy water current has cut deep gorges, steep ridges and hanging cliffs. The most picturesque hanging cliffs are Shumita and Pintien Hanging Cliff; of which, Pintien Hanging Cliff is most dangerous for climbers due to its loose soil formation. The mountain range also houses four basins, namely the Tusei Pond, Pintien Lake, Piodian Lake and Shinta Lake. Tusei Pond is located at the inner valley northeast of SheiShan Main Peak and is the highest alpine lake on the island. The six main crest lines beginning from SheiShan Main Peak are 1. SheiShan East Peak Crest Line, 2. Jhihjiayanh Mountain Crest Line 3. Jian Mountain Crest Line 4. Dashei Crest Line, 5. Tapa Crest Line and 6. Sihsiou Crest Line. Each crest line has its individual entrance for climbers. As such, mountain climbing activities are being organized all year round to foster community bondage and climbing experience.

 The SheiShan Main Peak is accessible from all six entrances. The shortest trail is from the SheiShan East Peak entrance. It is located at Wuling Farm where transportation is very convenient. After entering the mountain area and passing the Chiak Cabin, the view is wider and spectacular, where climbers can see the Central Mountain Range running parallel to SheiShan Mountain Range, and from Nanhutashan (South Lake Big Mountain) to Hohuanshan's group of mountains. The undulating peaks at far are truly majestic. The terrain here is still fairly steep until East Peak. After that, climbers can ascend through precipitous path passing Sanlioujiou Cabin into the dense Formosan Fir woodland and continue the ascent to the Main Peak.

 The entire mountain passages are steep and thus can be physically demanding for first-time climbers. However, the areas' majestic views have been attracting hosts of climber all year round. The scenery along the way changes with the change in altitudes. At Chiak Cabin, the surrounding view consists mainly of the Tsuga formosana forest. The East Peak area is dotted with Yushania niitakayamensis. It is only upon reaching the Sanlioujiou Cabin, that climbers get to see a rare stretch of White Tree forest. This vegetation stems from depletion of the Abies kawakamii Woodland due to natural calamity.

 From White Tree Woodland moving upward, vegetation consists mainly of the tall greenish Abies kawakamii woodland and further up, the Abies kawakamii is now mixed with Juniperus squamata woodland. Exiting the woodland, climbers are met with one of the most magnificent topographic scene on the island. Liked a cracked hole on a giant rock, this circa landform is till being debated by Geologists over its formation. Some argued that it was the remain of a glacier. The entire landscape is truly spectacular. The vegetation on the entire slope is mixed with Juniperus squamata scrubs and Rhododendron pseudochrysanthum.

 Following the ridge, climbers will reach the summit. At the summit is the moment when all the strenuous push to the top is forgotten. For as far as the eyes can see, there are layers after layers of mountains and ridges covered in thin mist. The view is even more magnificent at dawn when the early sunlight shines on the entire Central Mountain Range. The most spectacular section is at the northern direction where Tapa Peak and the four Wuling's peaks are located. The SheiShan Mountain Range's crest lines are clear at sight. The view also trenches as far as the Yushan's Main Peak in Chiayi County. The twists and turns of the main crest line resemble that of a flying dragon from far. The eastern flank of the Central Mountain Range near by further enhances beauty.

 Northwest of SheiShan Main Peak, at the slope, is the island's highest lake - the Tusei Pond. Water flow to and for the lake is continuous all year round. The lake is surrounded by lush greenery consists mainly of dense Juniperus squamata Woodland. The view of the Juniperus woodland here is considered uniquely scenic on the island, although its area is not as big as Shiuku Mountain or the Mapolas Mountain areas. Its entire landscape and geological makeup is truly splendid especially when under breezy condition, the entire view is like Xanadu.

Shiazhian Crest Line

 From SheiShan Main Peak stretches southwest, the mountain crest line is referred to as Shiazhian Crest Line. Its ridge is huge and it houses the famous Tazhian and Shiozhian Mountains. Of which, the sublime hanging ridge east of Chiayang Mountain is considered the most imposing landmark. It can be seen from as far as Lishan. The Tazhianshan is one of the 10 most famous peaks on the island. Its elevation changes drastically and resulting in cascading water flow on the Upper Tachia River. Coupled with lack of water supply, toddle, its mountain path is a great challenge to most climbers. Despite the scenic view of its ridge dotted with Yushania niitakayamensis grassland, few climbers would take this route to reach SheiShan.

Four Seasonal Changes

 At the beginning of spring, the mountain area is always misty and cloudy, making it difficult for climbers to find directions. Around the Main Peak area, after the spring rain, patches of snow are left behind. As temperature rises and spring rain irrigated the vegetation, young shoots and buds begin to sprout. The first to appear is the Pieris taiwanensis Wood and Red Hair Rhododendron scrubs. Numerous small white-colored flowers in jar-shape hang from the Pieris taiwanensis tree branches in abundant. From far, the trees seem to be covered with white snow. On the other hand, the branches of the Rhododendron rubropilosum var. rubropilosum are laden with small fresh red flowers, blanketing the Yushania niitakayamensis grasslands on the eastern section of SheiShan East Peak. They are stunning indeed. Even with the dense vapor, the area exudes an air of peace and tranquillity At this time, most plants are starting the gestation process and those below 3,000 meters are beginning to blossom. These include the Salix fulvopubescens var. fulvopubescens, Deutzia pulchra, Helonias umbellata, Spiraea prunifolia var. pseudoprunifolia and Pinus taiwanensis.

 In spring, weather condition changes constantly. Much of the water vapor rises from the northern region of the Lanyang River and Tamsui River basins. When the vapor converges with the rising mist from the Tachia and Ta-an River valley, the entire mountain area becomes misty. Even with fine sunny weather, the mountains would be covered with clouds by early noontime until mid night. When the wind current enters the island, heavy rain can last for a whole week, making any climbing trip torturous. Late springtime is the flora blossom season for Yishan Rhododendron at SheiShan Main Peak, especially at the northeast slope where the Yishan Round Cypress woodland mixed with the Yishan Rhododendron. Coupled with the circa landform, the entire slope literally brightens up like a sea of flowers.

 Due to its unique topography, the high altitude areas between the Zhianshan Crest Line at SheiShan Range and TaSheiShan Ridge are covered with pieces of small clouds. This is because the landscape rises rapidly and the cumuli were broken into small pieces as they rise to higher altitude. However, replenished by the rising water vapor from the Upper Tachia River basin, the broken clouds would form again into dense cloud. When this formation coincides with the infusion of water vapor from the Lanyang River upstream and the rocky ridge between Srshiew Ridge and northern Central Mountain Range, afternoon thundershowers would occur. At this moment, if the water vapor were sparse, there would just be thick clouds blanketing the entire SheiShan Mountain Range. When the clouds are clearing, the mist thrushes up into the sky around the SheiShan area or from around the Srshiew Ridge, forming spectacular mashes of cascading clouds. The best view of this expansive vigor is from Pintien Mountain. Climbers can also ascend to Pushiulan Mountain for a magnificent view at dawn, when the rising sun shines against the gorgeous Muteshipu Mountain.

 In summer, numerous shrubbery and herbaceous plants start to blossom. Behind the 369 Mountain Resort, the ground of the dense Formosan Fir woodland is also covered with greenish moss and lichen. As snow level at SheiShan during winter is high, the moss and lichen species appeared among Fir woodland here are very rare species, such as the Yishan Kuitoyu and creeping oxalis.

 In mid summer, the slope of the Yishan Arrow Bamboo grasslands behind the 369 Mountain Resort is dotted with Formosan Lily and flowers from the Yishan creeping herbaceous plants. At the same time, densely blossomed small flowers from grandiflora, Yishan lotus and Yishan embroider thread chrysanthemum sprout from within the withered woodland and greatly decorated the entire mountain slopes. Among the Yishan Arrow Bamboo grasslands on the SheiShan East Peak, there are numerous species such as Formosan reed, Alpine White Pearl tree, chrysanthemum, Yishan beech tree, thick-lip white butterfly orchid, Yishan suspended flowers and other common alpine vegetation. However, on the bare rocky surface at the SheiShan's main ridge, there are many rare species of vegetation, said to be remains from previous glacier landform. Some of these rare species are the Alpine Willow and SheiShan Orchid.

 The Nanhu Broken-snow grass, Nanhu Tashan Chinese Milk Vetch and Alpine Ladder meadow grown at the Main Peak and Zhichiayang Mountain areas are mostly scattered at the eastern slope of the SheiShan Mountain Range, between Tachia River and Central Mountain Range. In general, most of these rare species of vegetation are found around Nanhu (South Lake) mountain area at the Central Mountain Range followed by the Chilai Mountain area. Whether these three species' ecological environment is related to the favorable weather condition at Upper Tachia River, is still under long-term observation. Deep in the river valley on the northwest flank of the SheiShan Main Peak, Green Lake has been regarded by climbers as the best summer retreat. The lake is surrounded by lush greenery consisting mainly of dense Yishan Round Cypress woodland. Moss, lichen, and others grow densely on the ground in the woodland, making the entire Green Lake area a nature sanctuary.

 As fall comes, the Northeast monsoon gradually moves south and the temperature gradually drops. The SheiShan area changes from a sea of flowers to patches of fruit land. Along both sides of the trails, the Alpine White Pearl trees are laden with white colored fruits. The Yishan Mini Cork Trees also bear fresh red colored fruits hanging from the tall branches. The giant Yishan Tangkui trees growing amongst the Yishan Round Cypress Woodland make an imposing view when contrasted with the light red-colored single-stem flowers of the Longneoer Seedling growing among the woodland. During this period, the weather condition is stable with blue sky and airy atmosphere. The water vapor level from the river valley has also lessened and calmed down. However, the air undercurrent still hovers over the sky. The fruits of the Alpine Willow on the SheiShan Main Peak area pop up when it is ripe and the silky floss-like seeds are carried away by the air current above the Tachia River basin. Some seeds eventually land on the rocky plain and wait for the germination to take place in the coming year. The sky is often decorated with attractive rolling clouds or altocumulus caused from piling up of the small pieces of cloud. This is the best time to ascend the peak for a view of the clouds. Although the clouds above the spacious Tachia River basin could not form into massive altocumulus, it is still rewarding to observe the constant changes in their colors and shapes. It is nature manifesting its utmost splendor.

 As the northeast monsoon gradually gaining strength, temperature differs drastically between night and day. Waves of cold air move across the island causing the dense moist air to form into snow fall at highland areas. In winter, the snowy period is the same for the SheiShan Mountains and the northern Central Mountain Range around Nanhu area. The level of snow here is perhaps the thickest on the island and this has attracted hosts of visitor annually to these areas. Generally, the snowy area is at the SheiShan East Peak. The snow could reach one meter thick at the Formosan Fir Woodland behind the 369 Mountain Resort. As the sunray does not reach within the woodland often, the snow does not melt easily. Consequently, the Yishan Arrow Bamboo grown among the woodland is not easily replaceable by moss and lichen. The effect of the climatic and topography combination is this very rare but scenic fir woodland view on the island. Such occurrence also happens at the Yishan Round Cypress Woodland around Green Lake area.

 At the entire SheiShan Mountain Range, the Main Peak has the heaviest snowfalls. This is due to the rapid moving in of dense moist air from the Tachia River and Ta-an River basin into the mountain area. This flow then coincides with the rising water vapor from Tamsui River and Lanyang River right at SheiShan Main Peak and Nanhu Mountain area. AS such, from the SheiShan Main Peak or the Nanhu Main Peak looking towards Hohuanshan's direction, there are dense clouds rising rapidly and moving northward. Coupled with the rising water vapor from the intersection between the Nanhu Mountain area and the edge of the SheiShan Mountain Range, the weather would turn bad in the next few hours. For the next few days, snowfall or ice storm would blanket the entire mountain area.

 On a clear day in winter, it is truly refreshing to watch from the SheiShan Main Peak at the rising clouds from the Tachia River Valley, floating graciously between the Central Mountain Range and the SheiShan Mountain Range. Even the surrounding mountains take on different appearances. While on the surface there is no sign of vitality, but the plants are waiting for the coming of spring to blossom and brighten up the areas. Earth movements constantly reshape the landscape, while the changes in the water vapor and air current create magnificent cloud formations in the sky and growth of numerous species of vegetation on the ground. All these changes have attracted hosts of visitor to these areas to witness the changing beauty of nature. Currently, SheiShan is enlisted as part of Shiapa National Park. We hope that with proper management, more and more people can enjoy this majestic scene of nature.