Hong Kong: Meet the man who’s climbed every peak and visited every island

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Hong Kong (CNN) — Surrounded by photographs, maps and different paperwork, 45-year-old photographer Simon Wan Chi-Chung is planning his subsequent nice Hong Kong journey.

That is no weekend getaway. He’ll climb every peak in Hong Kong — in a single journey.

It will not be his first strive, both. He is made the try a number of instances over the final 20 years.

There is not a single, definitive record stating the precise variety of peaks in Hong Kong. So Wan has drafted his personal route based mostly on numerous sources in addition to his personal analysis of official Hong Kong topography maps.

Unofficial sources declare there are between 121 and 161 peaks above 300 meters, stretched over a dozen teams of hill ranges. By Wan’s rely, there are 148 hills to summit.
He set out on his first try and visit them all in 2003. However on the ninth day, he was atop the 522-meter-tall Needle Hill preventing via a sprained ankle — an harm he sustained on the second day — and known as his pal, a medical physician, to return and deal with him.

However his situation did not enhance, the added days of mountain climbing and tenting solely exacerbating the ache in his ankle.

“I used to be younger and boastful, eager to show that I may do all the things and ended up hurting myself,” Wan tells CNN Journey.

Simon Wan Chi Chung hiked every hong kong mountain

Simon Wan Chi-Chung, artist and photographer, is now planning his subsequent nice Hong Kong journey.

Maggie Wong/CNN

However an encounter with a fellow hiker — an older man he met earlier that morning — gave him a brand new perspective. As the two acquaintances made it to the peak, they noticed the rolling hills in entrance of them.

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

“He gave me his slice of bread and stated, ‘younger man, you are going to want this greater than I do.’ He grabbed an orange from his bag and repeated, ‘You want this extra.’ It was such a easy gesture. However I finished feeling pity for myself. I let go of my conceitedness and felt humbled by the mountains.”

With a heavy coronary heart and a swollen ankle, he determined to press pause on the journey. Wan went dwelling to nurse his foot for 3 weeks, then completed climbing the remainder of the 148 peaks on his record a couple of weeks later.

It was one in every of his most memorable encounters and one in every of the causes he is dedicated to Hong Kong’s pure world.

“On the hills, individuals are extra more likely to discuss and join,” says Wan.

“You will not have that have in the metropolis. Nature makes individuals really feel comfy and safe.”

‘Hong Kong is a metropolis hidden inside wilderness’

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Wan prefers to work with movie. He used a panorama digital camera for his expedition in 2003.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

Along with its 148 hills, Hong Kong can be dwelling to greater than 100 island clusters made up of over 250 particular person islands. Wan claims to be one in every of the few individuals to have visited every one in every of them, saying he is at all times wished to change into an adventurer.

“I used to be researching easy methods to fulfill my childhood dream — to climb Mount Everest. However as I dug deeper, I spotted how commercialized Mount Everest had change into. It was another high-end journey attraction. It wasn’t the Mount Everest from my childhood dream,” says Wan throughout an interview at his studio, The Photocrafters.

Having spent years learning in the UK, Wan realized he did not know Hong Kong’s panorama very effectively.

An concept hit him: “Why not discover every single hill in my very own yard? And why not try this in a single go?”

Carrying a bivvy bag and a movie digital camera, Wan launched into a collection of “expeditions.” Ten years after his first trek via Hong Kong’s mountains in 2003, he repeated the journey in 2013.

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Reasonably than arrange a tent, Wan slept in a bivvy bag throughout his quests to go to all of Hong Kong’s peaks.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

However this time, he was underneath a tighter schedule so he opted to solely sort out the peaks that had been a minimum of 300 meters tall.

Trekking 26 to 30 kilometers, or 11 to 12 hours, per day, he reached 134 peaks in 19 days, tenting in several elements of Hong Kong alongside the method.

He titled the works from these journeys “Submit Urbanisation.”

Then, in 2015, he voyaged to 107 uninhabited island clusters, touring by canoe, in 11 days. “These had been ‘hills’ I hadn’t climbed as effectively,” he says.

“As of late, about the place earlier than getting on a aircraft — you have booked a lodge, seen photographs on-line, and even know what eating places to e-book earlier than leaving your house. In these journeys, I have been to locations I might by no means heard of and villages I might by no means seen. You would not discover a lot details about some locations on-line.

“It seems, I needn’t go to Mount Everest or a international nation to search out that pleasure and happiness of explorations and adventures.”

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

“On the hills, individuals are extra more likely to discuss and join,” says 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 journeys.

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

He visited the memorial plate for Quentin Roosevelt II, Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, on Basalt Island, the place Roosevelt was killed in a aircraft crash in 1948. It is part of the metropolis’s historical past not written in lots of textbooks.

“It could be an previous adage, however Hong Kong’s nature is exclusive for its comfort,” says Wan. “Regardless of the place you’re, there may be at all times a hill behind you. You do not have to plan something or ask for a time without work. You’ll be able to simply go at lunch.

“Individuals say there may be nice wilderness inside Hong Kong. I say it’s the different method round — Hong Kong is a metropolis hidden inside the wilderness.”

Wan has loads of recommendation for these wanting to begin exploring Hong Kong’s wild areas as effectively.

“Whether or not you are a waterfall climber or a leisure walker, there’s a route for you,” he says enthusiastically. “Most of the mountain climbing trails are well-paved with indicators and services alongside the method — so it truly is for everybody.”

A stone’s throw away from the well-liked Victoria Peak (or The Peak), it gives a fast style of Hong Kong’s pure magnificence however is correct subsequent to a vibrant enterprise heart.

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Mount Excessive West is just a stone’s throw from well-liked vacationer vacation spot The Peak.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

In the meantime, Lion Rock Hill, on Hong Kong’s Kowloon aspect, offers “an unbeatable view of Kowloon,” with trails appropriate for every sort of hiker.

Nature as an emotional platform

Capturing the great thing about Hong Kong’s pure aspect is greater than only a picture task for Wan. It is an outlet for him to specific his feelings as effectively.

Whereas going via a painful divorce in 2011, he says he hiked up a distinct mountain every day he could not see his then two-year-old son.

“I might take a photograph in direction of the route of the place he was,” says Wan. “Perhaps he’d occur to look my method at that second. Then, we would be taking a look at one another. I’ve one copy of the journey at the Heritage Museum and I’ve one copy right here for my son, so he’d know that I by no means gave up on him.”

On his 2013 hike round Hong Kong, in addition to his island-hopping journey in 2015, he used a Holga — a made-in-Hong Kong movie digital camera with restricted performance.

Simon Wan climbed every hill and island in Hong Kong

Wan used a Hong Kong-designed Holga digital camera on a few of his journeys.

Simon Wan Chi-Chung

“I knew earlier than my journeys that the Holga digital camera would not be capable of yield very best outcomes,” Wan explains.

“However I wished to make use of the digital camera as a metaphor for myself. I might persevere and I would not change as an artist. At the similar time, I acknowledge that the setting is one thing I could not management so I needed to let go.”

Wan’s subsequent Hong Kong hill expedition will occur this summer time.

“I hate Hong Kong’s summer time — it is humid and sizzling and festered with typhoons. However I need to make the journey as difficult and memorable as attainable so I will keep in mind deeply how distinctive Hong Kong’s summer time is,” says Wan.

“Some individuals get wasted when they should launch their feelings. I am going into the mountains throughout my ups and downs. I feel there is no such thing as a distinction. I like my dwelling — I like this land. That is why I’m so dedicated to this challenge. I feel I’ll spend my lifetime doing this if I can.”