The Great Crumbling Staircase, Commonly Called the Great Wall

We’re not in China anymore! We decided to surprise everyone, including ourselves, and come back to the U.S. for the summer. Currently, we’re relaxing, enjoying all the amazing smells and clean air you get when you’re no longer in a big city, and loving our summer fruit like blueberries and raspberries. And blue skies almost every day? Bring ’em on!

But before we left China, we had to hike the Great Wall of China. . . or at least a small part of it. Let’s just say that small part was plenty for me and I’ve no desire to go back for more at the moment. I may or may not have had nightmares that night about falling down a steep staircase and being unable to stop. And if you were wondering if you should hike the Great Wall when five months pregnant–don’t. Unless you’ve been hiking every day for the past five months. Then you’ll probably be fine.

Why this general pessimism about the Great Wall? Well, take a look. I recommend clicking on the pictures to get the best look at a wall.

Great Wall
A picturesque view of the Great Wall

Apparently, most of the touristy parts of the Great Wall are kept up–the bricks are replaced if they crumble, they make sure the walls won’t fall down on top of you, the stairs are mostly intact, all general things that most U.S. citizens expect from their tourist destinations.

The section of the Great Wall that we visited, however, was not one of the touristy locations. We started our hike in a little village in the middle of nowhere, where two mentally disturbed ladies got into a fight in front of the us (including punching, scratching, rock throwing, cursing in Chinese, etc…our guide managed to break them apart), and hiked one of the oldest sections of the wall. It also happened to be made of local rock (I think limestone or sandstone) that was turning into sand.

Great Wall
The village we started from.

So yes, we started from a little Chinese village where people mostly tended their crops and sometimes ventured into the hills to hunt wild pigs and rabbits (our guide told us). The tour website had this hike listed as an “easy” hike, and I’ve done my share of hiking before up some pretty steep slopes and all, so I wasn’t too worried.

Great Wall
See what I mean by ruined?

The beginning of our hike was this neat little path next to all kinds of apricot trees and flowers–it was a nice gradual slope with a little ascent, but nothing bad. We were just enjoying the sunshine and the fact that we weren’t surrounded by giant buildings and cars and people anymore (though the smog was still there).

Great Wall
Close to the beginning.

We stopped to look at some lovely views, admiring the hills and the village down below with its colorful rooftops.

Great Wall
Starting to see the wall.

And then we got to the actual wall. Giant steep staircases loomed ahead of us, daring us to try to climb them. Rocks were missing in some places, crumbled to sand with erosion and age. In pictures, the wall doesn’t look that steep, but let me assure you–it was!

Great Wall
Just one of the many hills we climbed that day.

Let’s just say I was quite relieved when we got to our first resting place after climbing in the sun for what felt like forever. Some not-so-helpful hikers coming the other direction apparently assured us that the hill we had just climbed was the worst one, and everything else was easier. I’m not sure where they were coming from–but they were wrong!

Great Wall
Relaxing in the breeze.

This little guard tower was amazing. It was at just the right angle to catch all the breezes, and was about 20 degrees cooler than it was out on the hills. I could have stayed there all day if we didn’t have to get off the mountain.

But get off the mountain we did, and a helicopter lift wasn’t an option. Though I almost considered it when I looked out the other side of the tower and saw this giant staircase I had to go down:

Great Wall
Yes, we went all the way down that, and then went up again.

Finally, after what seemed like it took all day, though I think it was only around four hours or so, we started climbing down again to the village. And we climbed, and scuttled down steep hills and tried not to fall over, and slid on some patches of sand, cried a few times about how hard it was, and occasionally even walked on a flat piece of ground for a minute or two (those occasions felt blissfully easy!). We finally made it–7 bottles of water, 1 bruised foot (from slipping), and many shaking legs later.

Great Wall
You feel like a conqueror after mastering all this.

If you want to visit China, I dare you to outdo us! Maybe try to hike the Great Wall when you’re six months pregnant instead of just five.


15 thoughts on “The Great Crumbling Staircase, Commonly Called the Great Wall

  1. Rowen

    I love reading everything you write, Annika! Your mother always lets us know on Facebook 🙂 Congratulations on your ‘blessing on the way’, and have a wonderful Colorado break this summer!
    Janet Albertson

  2. Ann

    Amazing hike and pictures. I walked the Great Wall a year ago, but not in such a rough spot. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

  3. Carol Johnson (Denver)

    There are a few hikes we’ve taken in the Rocky Mts. that I will never forget, even years and years later, because they were so strenuous. The views were unforgettable as well. I’m sure this hike will be embedded in your memory forever. What an incredible experience for you. You are so fortunate to have this experience. Thank you for passing along your most colorful impressions to us.

  4. Becky Joy


    I truly loved the post as I have had a fascination of the Great Wall of China. I love you and am really excited to see you.

  5. Becky (Manthei) Joy

    I loved this post! History with pictures of people and places. I love seeing pictures of both people and places.
    I am so excited to see you! Your birthday is coming up in August and I hope we can celebrate with you all.
    Aunt Becky

  6. Rachelle

    Haha! I walked every week four days a week but there is no way I would have tried that at 5 months pregnant… Although you are taller and may have more lung capacity than I did.

  7. RC

    Wow, Annta! That looks like quite the climb. You look so tired in that picture! I’m really impressed you did that – can I tell you one thing I won’t be doing, pregnant or not? Some of those pictures are really cool though, and it’s funny how you can see the path everyone takes – even on the stone stairs. 🙂 I’m so glad you decided to come back, and I can’t wait to see you. 🙂

    1. It was pretty cool, and for the most part it felt like a challenge that I could do, even though it was hard. It was just the last little bit that seemed SOOO long that I wasn’t sure I wanted to make it. A helicopter was looking like a good option at that point. 🙂

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