In the past one-and-a-half days, we explored the Great Wall of China – from the perfectly renovated section near Mutianyu to the nearly broken-down part at Jiankou.
Update from October 31, 2016Additional pictures are available.
At Mutianyu, there are even two chairlifts leading up to the wall which runs along the mountain ridges. We hiked up to the wall, though. From the top, you can see the seemingly endless wall losing itself in the distance. Unfortunately, it was quite hazy (probably because of the smog), and so the wall disappeared in the haze. Still, the views were great and very scenic.
The "tourist route" in Mutianyu goes from Tower 1 to Tower 20. At the very end, there is a very steep climb over many steps. In general, the wall is not flat, but there are lots of steps to climb, as it follows the natural lay off the land. After Tower 20, there is a partly renovated bit (where the wall is e.g. not paved with perfect, equally sized bricks, but with naturally shaped stone plates) up to Tower 23. After that, the path is officially closed to tourists. Still, we continued to Tower 34. This part is in much worse shape: In parts, you hardly notice that you are still on the Great Wall, as the path is overgrown with bushes. Only the sheer drop to your left or right gives the edge of the wall away. Some parts are even so steep (without any steps being preserved) that you have to almost drag yourself up with the help of your hands. This, however, (along with the fact that we were basically alone there) made it a very special experience.
In the evening, we had dinner at a local farm house. The landlady also showed us how to make dumplings. We were much slower than she was, and obviously not all our dumplings got her approval, but the others in our group were quite satisfied with the result (I myself had none of them, as they were filled with pork).
Today, we explored the Great Wall at Jiankou in a short, three-hours-long hike. This section is in a similar state of disrepair as the last part we hiked the day before. The highlight of this hike today was the "Heavenly Ladder". One could think that it got is name because a false step can send you to heaven right away. It is exceptionally steep, and some of the steps are very narrow and worn – a truly scary, but still fantastic experience!