Having expectations change a lot of things for me. Usually for the worst. Holidays. Family. Relationships. Hikes. Having no expectations is good. Maybe I should make that the goal of my life.
I’ve had too many people tell me that Pat Sin Leng is dangerous. It’s a difficult and dangerous hike. You’re not a professional. You’re not an experienced hiker.
Is there such a thing as a professional hiker? I’d like to be one.
Pat Sin Leng is the name given to a mountain range in the northeastern New Territories in HK. So called because of the eight peaks in the range, each named after an immortal fairy-god-thing. Pat = eight; Sin = fairy; Leng = range.
I was never convinced of it’s dangerousness mostly because none of those who’s told me not to go have ever gone before. Plus, I very rationally believe because I’ve been up Snowdon via Crib Coch, I must be invincible. You’d never know, I might even make it up Everest based on that credential alone.
So finally, a few Sundays ago, a bunch of us decided to give it a go. I can tell you that it was not dangerous, nor was it technically difficult. It was just very physically demanding. Either that, or I was extremely unfit.
It started with a long slog uphill, climbing from 0m to 500m+ in one go to the first peak.
On the way up, I found out the reason for its reputation for being dangerous. We came across a rest-stop built in commemoration of the teachers and students killed in a hill fire while hiking the same trail in 1996. I vaguely remember the news about it. It was a big thing. I suppose, ever since, Pat Sin Leng has gotten itself a bad name.
From then on, it is a single trail of steep downhills and uphills throughout the rest of the peaks. If there was a hill fire then, we would’ve been screwed too.
But it was all good. The views were brilliant and it’s the challenge that makes it fun. You look down into a harbour in Hong Kong on one side, and on the other, you can see across the rolling green hills to as far as Shenzhen, the nearest city across the Chinese border.
As our legs burned with lactic acid, we celebrated our arrival at the top each time and counted down the number of climbs to go. 8…7…6…5…4…3…2……..1! Yay! We’re done! In so much shorter a time than expected too!
We looked around us. Left and right. Up and down. Right, how do we get down then?
It took a bit of huddling around the map to realise that there’s no way down. Yes, we’ve done the Pat Sin Leng, but it turns out Pat Sin Leng is just eight peaks in one range in a series of three mountain ranges. We misread the map and thought that Pat Sin Leng is the whole of all three ranges. It isn’t. We have completed Pat Sin Leng, but just one-third of the route along all three mountains. We were stuck at one of the highest points all around and the only way out is to keep walking for another four hours.
Expectation kills. I was suddenly thirsty, tired, and hungry. My pack was suddenly heavier and the rest of the day became one hard long slog of never-ending climbs and troughs.
Despite of my weariness, it was magnificent nonetheless. We had long sweeping views of rolling hills. We looked far out into sea. Hill fires is certainly still an occasional occurrence and we watched as the landscape changed from lush green to blackened soot and followed the trail through burned out ground where green saplings were growing once more.
By the time we finished, 6 hours from the start and 4 hours from when we’d initially thought we’d done the whole thing, I loudly proclaimed that I would not hike for another year again.
Now, just a few weeks later, sitting in my room looking at the bright sunshine outside, I’m already thinking about my next route. I do hope to go up Pat Sin Leng and the rest of it again, but this time with food and the knowledge that I’ll be up for a good part of the day. Expectations – I’ll make good of it next time.