Hong Kong: Meet the gentleman who’s climbed every peak and frequented just about every island

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Hong Kong (CNN) — Surrounded by pictures, maps and other paperwork, 45-year-aged photographer Simon Wan Chi-Chung is setting up his future terrific Hong Kong journey.

This is no weekend getaway. He is going to climb every peak in Hong Kong — in one vacation.

It will never be his first try, either. He is made the attempt many moments about the previous two a long time.

There isn’t really a one, definitive checklist stating the actual selection of peaks in Hong Kong. So Wan has drafted his possess route dependent on many resources as perfectly as his possess analysis of official Hong Kong topography maps.

Unofficial resources claim there are between 121 and 161 peaks above 300 meters, stretched over a dozen groups of hill ranges. By Wan’s rely, there are 148 hills to summit.
He established out on his first try to go to them all in 2003. But on the ninth working day, he was atop the 522-meter-tall Needle Hill preventing as a result of a sprained ankle — an injury he sustained on the 2nd working day — and identified as his buddy, a health care health care provider, to come and deal with him.

But his problem didn’t make improvements to, the extra times of mountaineering and tenting only exacerbating the discomfort in his ankle.

“I was younger and arrogant, seeking to demonstrate that I could do almost everything and ended up hurting myself,” Wan tells CNN Travel.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung, artist and photographer, is now arranging his next wonderful Hong Kong journey.

Maggie Wong/CNN

But an face with a fellow hiker — an older man he achieved earlier that morning — gave him a new perspective. As the two acquaintances produced it to the peak, they saw the rolling hills in front of them.

“This ‘Day 9 uncle’ gasped when he heard about my mission to climb all of Hong Kong’s peaks,” recalls Wan.

“He gave me his slice of bread and explained, ‘young gentleman, you’re likely to require this more than I do.’ He grabbed an orange from his bag and recurring, ‘You need to have this a lot more.’ It was these a straightforward gesture. But I stopped sensation pity for myself. I enable go of my conceitedness and felt humbled by the mountains.”

With a significant heart and a swollen ankle, he made the decision to press pause on the journey. Wan went residence to nurse his foot for a few months, then concluded climbing the rest of the 148 peaks on his record a couple of months later on.

It was just one of his most unforgettable encounters and just one of the causes he is devoted to Hong Kong’s natural earth.

“On the hills, folks are a lot more very likely to discuss and join,” states Wan.

“You is not going to have that knowledge in the city. Nature would make individuals really feel comfortable and safe.”

‘Hong Kong is a metropolis hidden inside wilderness’

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Wan prefers to get the job done with movie. He made use of a panorama digital camera for his expedition in 2003.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

In addition to its 148 hills, Hong Kong is also house to more than 100 island clusters created up of more than 250 unique islands. Wan claims to be 1 of the number of people today to have frequented each individual just one of them, declaring he is usually required to turn into an adventurer.

“I was studying how to satisfy my childhood aspiration — to climb Mount Everest. But as I dug further, I recognized how commercialized Mount Everest had grow to be. It was an different large-stop journey attraction. It was not the Mount Everest from my childhood desire,” states Wan through an interview at his studio, The Photocrafters.

Possessing expended several years learning in the United kingdom, Wan understood he did not know Hong Kong’s landscape really well.

An thought hit him: “Why not explore each single hill in my own backyard? And why not do that in a single go?”

Carrying a bivvy bag and a movie camera, Wan embarked on a series of “expeditions.” 10 many years following his very first trek by Hong Kong’s mountains in 2003, he repeated the journey in 2013.

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Somewhat than set up a tent, Wan slept in a bivvy bag in the course of his quests to pay a visit to all of Hong Kong’s peaks.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

But this time, he was underneath a tighter routine so he opted to only deal with the peaks that have been at the very least 300 meters tall.

Trekking 26 to 30 kilometers, or 11 to 12 hrs, for every working day, he arrived at 134 peaks in 19 days, camping in different pieces of Hong Kong alongside the way.

He titled the functions from these excursions “Write-up Urbanisation.”

Then, in 2015, he voyaged to 107 uninhabited island clusters, traveling by canoe, in 11 days. “These were being ‘hills’ I hadn’t climbed as nicely,” he claims.

“These days, you know about the spot just before finding on a plane — you have booked a lodge, noticed pictures on the internet, or even know what eating places to ebook ahead of leaving your dwelling. In these journeys, I have been to locations I would never ever read of and villages I’d never seen. You would not discover significantly facts about some sites online.

“It turns out, I will not have to have to go to Mount Everest or a international nation to obtain that enjoyment and pleasure of explorations and adventures.”

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

“On the hills, persons are additional most likely to discuss and connect,” suggests Wan.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

Mountain and island names unfamiliar to most Hong Kongers roll off Wan’s tongue as he retells anecdotes from his trips.

He says he discovered the historical past of Ap Chau, a rugged island in the northeastern element of Hong Kong, throughout an impromptu tour from a persistent retired villager who found Wan sleeping at the pier a single early morning.

He frequented the memorial plate for Quentin Roosevelt II, Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, on Basalt Island, exactly where Roosevelt was killed in a airplane crash in 1948. It truly is a component of the city’s historical past not penned in numerous textbooks.

“It might be an old adage, but Hong Kong’s character is exclusive for its ease,” states Wan. “No matter wherever you are, there is generally a hill driving you. You will not have to program anything at all or check with for a working day off. You can just go at lunch.

“Individuals say there is excellent wilderness in just Hong Kong. I say it is the other way all-around — Hong Kong is a town concealed inside of the wilderness.”

Wan has plenty of guidance for these seeking to start out checking out Hong Kong’s wild spaces as well.

“Regardless of whether you happen to be a waterfall climber or a leisure walker, there is a route for you,” he says enthusiastically. “Most of the climbing trails are very well-paved with signs and facilities along the way — so it seriously is for every person.”

A stone’s throw away from the well-liked Victoria Peak (or The Peak), it presents a fast taste of Hong Kong’s organic beauty but is right next to a lively business heart.

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Mount Superior West is only a stone’s throw from well-known vacationer desired destination The Peak.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

Meanwhile, Lion Rock Hill, on Hong Kong’s Kowloon facet, provides “an unbeatable see of Kowloon,” with trails suited for each individual form of hiker.

Mother nature as an psychological platform

Capturing the natural beauty of Hong Kong’s purely natural facet is far more than just a photograph assignment for Wan. It’s an outlet for him to categorical his emotions as perfectly.

Whilst heading as a result of a distressing divorce in 2011, he states he hiked up a distinctive mountain every single day he couldn’t see his then two-yr-outdated son.

“I’d choose a photo to the direction of in which he was,” claims Wan. “Probably he’d materialize to search my way at that instant. Then, we might be seeking at each other. I have just one copy of the journey at the Heritage Museum and I have just one copy below for my son, so he’d know that I hardly ever gave up on him.”

On his 2013 hike around Hong Kong, as perfectly as his island-hopping journey in 2015, he utilised a Holga — a produced-in-Hong Kong movie digital camera with minimal operation.

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Wan utilized a Hong Kong-developed Holga digicam on some of his outings.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

“I realized prior to my visits that the Holga camera would not be in a position to produce best outcomes,” Wan points out.

“But I required to use the digicam as a metaphor for myself. I would persevere and I would not modify as an artist. At the similar time, I accept that the ecosystem is one thing I could not manage so I had to enable go.”

Wan’s upcoming Hong Kong hill expedition will occur this summer season.

“I dislike Hong Kong’s summer time — it is really humid and scorching and festered with typhoons. But I want to make the journey as challenging and unforgettable as attainable so I will bear in mind deeply how distinctive Hong Kong’s summertime is,” says Wan.

“Some men and women get squandered when they have to have to release their emotions. I go into the mountains during my ups and downs. I assume there is no big difference. I love my household — I appreciate this land. That is why I am so devoted to this task. I consider I will invest my life span performing this if I can.”