Also, I didn't yet mention, there are two climbing paths up the mountain - the eastern and western steps. The eastern steps are 7.5 kilometers of mostly easier, flatter, more doable steps and terrain. It's still obviously a lot, but it's better for the average person. The western steps are harder, to say the least, and our guide book firmly dissuades the reader from attempting to go up them. It was 15 kilometers of killer steep uphill mountain stairs. 15 kilometers. That is like 10 miles. Uphill. I tried a stairmaster once and lasted like a minute. We were not doing the western steps.
John had other ideas, though. We said, John my boy! drive us to the entrance for the eastern steps! And he said - NO! You don't want to do that, the scenery is nothing it's a waste it's terrible! The western steps are what's actually worth seeing! And despite being TOLD (by the book) that it was super insane to do, we were like, Okay John! Take us to the 15 kilometers of steep mountain stairs! We will be fine!
We were not fine - and it didn't even have to do with how hard it was.
So to start this hike of insanity when no one who worked there could point to a freaking path beginning, we followed buses that were going a little bit farther up the road, which was super freaking scary and dangerous - this was a mountain path road, meaning it was winding and narrow and buses careen around the bends without expecting to see people walking. It was scary and dumb but it was literally the only way to start the climb, apparently. What the hell! I can't get over this, considering how big an attraction this climb is. Where were the starting signs, Huangshan! Get your shit together!
The worst part, though, wasn't how miserable the weather was making us. It was how miserable the weather was making the view. Or, rather, there was no view anymore. We had come to Huangshan, I NEEDED to see Huangshan, because the view from and of the mountain is considered one of the most magical sights in all of China, a must-see, just beyond comprehension how gorgeous it is. And we could barely see three feet in front of us, let alone anything in the thousands of feet below us. It was like we were just standing in the clouds, and there was no seeing anything outside of the clouds. It's a real shame that we couldn't enjoy the whole point of this experience and destination, merely because of bad luck and timing.
We continued. One more hour, we said. We can do this. One more hour and we can relax in our overpriced but should-be-decent hotel (all the hotels up at the mountain were overpriced for what they were because they can be, but still, hotels), we can take a warm shower and put on dry clothes. And maybe tomorrow would be better, and we could wake up for sunrise over the vista. So we trudged. One foot in front of the other. We were literally willing our feet to take each step.