Thousands of steps loom above me. The Great Wall of China is an intimidating sight, especially when one has only thirty minutes to climb to the top and be back at the bottom. A deep breath swells my lungs as I begin my ascent. The steps start small and are easy to scale. The first tower entered is like a maze, housing many nooks and crannies along with ancient ladders leading to the rafters. After exiting the first tower, a gasp escapes my lips. Nearly vertical stairs dominate the scene. Knees lift high into the air as my body crawls up the massive blocks of stone. Now begins the real challenge.
Higher and higher I climb. Arms pump and legs push up the scores of steps. Shortness of breath overcomes me. The second tower has been reached! A break is much needed, but it does not last. Up I go again. This set is even more difficult than the previous one, for fatigue has started to creep through my body. However, nothing can hinder my determination. After what seems like an eternity, the final tower is close enough to be entered.
A few team members and I continue forward until a sign that reads “No Admittance Beyond This Point” blocks the pathway. This meager block of wood is not going to thwart our plans of reaching the highest point of the Great Wall in the area. Heads duck under bushes and feet trip over roots. Then all at once, the overgrown shrubbery ceases and opens to a breathtaking view. Dwarfed by the surrounding mountains, I slowly rotate, taking in the scene around me. Looking back proves that fellow team members Caleb, Ben, and James are doing the same.
Curtains of fog mask the true magnificence of the landscape. An unreachable length of the Great Wall stretches to the peak of one of many small hills. Vines, roots, grass, and trees have completely overtaken it, leaving the stone underneath barely visible. The sun hangs overhead, illuminating the scenery and creating a glare as it hits the mist. Silence screams our solitude. The edges of the crumbling walkway decline severely. Pebbles are knocked off the boundary and disappear far below. Pieces of the Great Wall snake across the mountains’ outline. Words can do no justice to the beauty before me.
Sadly, the admiring must come to an end. After snapping a few photos, we make our way back down the Wall. In some ways the descent is more difficult than the opposite because if a foot is misplaced, we could easily fall to our deaths. Scooting down the steepest steps seems to be the only way to successfully make to the bottom. We speed through the towers, more familiar with the pattern of intricate passageways.
Thousands of steps later we reach the ski lift that carried us to the wall. Thankfully, no one has been injured. There is only one way down the mountain- a toboggan that plummets along a metal chute at alarming speeds. Now begins the real fun. Hopping onto a cart, a Chinese man motions towards the instructions written in broken English. Excitement for the upcoming ride is so overwhelming I do not look at the sign but thrust the lever forward as far as it will go. Down the metal track my cart shoots, swerving the turns and gaining speed every minute. Squeals of joy emit from my mouth, for the ride is thrilling. All too soon the cart reaches the end of the track at the bottom of the mountain. I have never done anything more enjoyable! Four braved the trek; four were generously rewarded.