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Sleeping with a Million Ghosts (part 2).

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Hiking & Camping on The Wild Wall (a remote and unmaintained section of China's Great Wall). This section covers : Xizhazi - Jiankou - Mutianyu.

The photograph below was taken at Jinshanling. Details can be found in Part 3 of this series.

The Great Wall at Jinshanling. Sony A9 and Sony 100-400G
The Great Wall at Jinshanling (see Part 3 of the series). Sony A9 and Sony 100-400G

Xizhazi and a Hot Meal

I had gone the long way, 2.5 hours or so since I unsurprisingly (if you know me!) got lost, to Jiu Yan Lou (Nine Eye Tower) from Xizhazi at the beginning of the hike but having circles around on the Wall it was now the closest village so back down I went and spent 30 mins looking for a place to stay. There were a few B&Bs but I picked one at random that seemed to be more active and where I could get a hot meal immediately. It had only been two full days hiking so far but the meal and cold drinks were delicious and the thought of the impending hot shower enticing !

What more could you want from a room in a tiny village close to the Wild Wall and a long way from Beijing ?

iPhone photograph.

Stir Fried Aubergine with Green Peppers, Tomato & Rice. Delicious !

iPhone photograph.

Stir Fried Chicken, Carrots, Cashew nuts and Green Peppers - just as good as the Aubergine dish !

iPhone photograph.

Hunger appeased and thirst slaked I was more than ready for that hot shower I had been envisioning and then early bed in anticipation of an early rise for breakfast and hike the detour back to the Wild Wall. However ... no water !

After a few mins and phone calls I was informed that the water mains to the village had been damaged and there would be no water that day ... anywhere in the village! The owner however very kindly boiled buckets of hot water for me to bathe and soak my tired, dirty and slightly mangled feet from all the rock climbing and tough wall trekking which takes a toll on your feet. Excuse the following rather disgusting sight below ... it did feel great though !

The supply of hot water kept coming and bucket by bucket I peeled the layers of dirt away until finally hitting the sack clean and with my warmed muscles feeling fully relaxed.

Disgusting, dirty, battered and bruised but the hot water felt oh so good ! Note the scrubbing pad - haha !

iPhone photograph. Return to the Wild Wall Next morning I was up at the break of dawn, replenished my water supply and had another very good meal to send me on my way, with many thanks to the landlady for making the water mains issue a non-issue.

It wasn't that difficult to find a way back to the Wall after receiving directions and of course it was vitally important to read and comply with all the signs giving instructions and warnings along the way.

iPhone photograph.

The whole day from here on is a bit of a blur actually so please forgive me if I have the photos in the wrong order !

iPhone photograph.

There were a few sections that again required some scrambling to get over them but nothing that necessitated getting out the rope :

iPhone photograph.

Luckily the collapsed steps must have been that way for many decades and were set solid. Notice how invaluable the cycling gloves were again (the cycling gloves have a padded palm and fingers but are open at the wrist to keep your hands cool so were actually great for all the scrambling / climbing and actually great when using hiking poles to prevent blisters). Yes, it was a bit steep !

iPhone photograph.

Taking a breather at the halfway point.

iPhone photograph.

When you look out from one of the watchtowers it seems a long way and the climbs / descents never ending (which is almost true with over 6,000 kms total length of the Great Wall, and nearly 9,000 kms if trenches and natural barriers are included, not that anyone has ever walked it in its entirety, and in fact may never do so now so many sections have collapsed and are impassable).

iPhone photograph.

Every staircase looks to have collapsed from these photos - however I can assure you there were many in fine condition even after at the very least hundreds of years. Not this one though ;)

iPhone photographs.

Below : The top of one particularly difficult section looking down - looks worse than it was (err maybe not) :)

iPhone photograph.

Lots of intermittent rests periods were required. I probably spent more time resting than hiking !

iPhone photograph.

These less strenuous sections were very very much appreciated !

iPhone photograph.

Blue Skies

By the afternoon the grey skies had given way to a delightful blue with wispy clouds and this was surely one of the best ways ever to spend a few days hiking. It just made the whole Wall seem all the more awesome. A totally unique hiking experience.

iPhone photograph.

iPhone photograph.

Sony A7rii & Zeiss Loxia 21mm.

One spectacular section just led straight into another, up and down, up and down, ticking off the watchtowers one by one ... and all lined by the pretty pink and white blooms.

Next two photos taken with a Sony A7rii & Zeiss Loxia 21mm. The second one is available as a print in the store.

iPhone photograph.

Very luckily there was a path right next to the wall detouring up and around this section below (just by the tree half way up) ... thank goodness because as the next photo shows it would have not have been an easy decision to continue!

iPhone photograph.

Oh not too bad in the end. Manageable for sure - still the path around was easier ;)

iPhone photograph.

Arrival at Mutianyu

This continued on for a few hours until finally I arrived at Mutianyu, which just required a nimble and athletic leg-sling (*cough, more like a vicar in a frock trying to mount a horse), to skirt the barbed wire and low wall separating the unmaintained and dilapidated Wild Wall from the beautifully restored but usually very crowded and touristy section at the extreme Western end of Mutianyu.

And finally here I am at the top of Mutianyu contemplating the wild 3 days hiking up to this point. However also tinged with sadness as I knew that the incredible wildness of the sensational Jiankou was behind and I had arrived back in civilisation. Although there were more wild sections ahead they weren't to be as adrenaline pumping and sheer fear-inducing as those behind me. However please read the next installment covering the restored section of the Great Wall at Mutianyu, the semi-restored and very beautiful Jinshanling, the wild but relatively flat Gubeikou and finishing the hike short of my destination of the Wild Wall at Simatai.

iPhone photograph.

Please visit :


The very detailed map used in planning my route was purchased from the Great Wall Forum website here :

Part 1 of 'Sleeping with a Million Ghosts' covers the planned hike of the sections from Shanghai - Beijing - Xizhazi - Jiankou. Contains lots of photos of the 'Wild Wall' at Jiankou.

Part 3 of 'Sleeping with a Million Ghosts' covers the planned hike of the sections from Mutianyu - to Jinshanling and contains lots of photos of the restored section at Mutianyu & half wild - half restored section at Jinshanling.

Part 4 of 'Sleeping with a Million Ghosts' covers the planned hike of the sections from Jinshanling - Gubeikou - Simatai and my 'logistical errors' ! Contains lots of photos of the hike and sleeping at the Wild Wall at Gubeikou.

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