View from peak of Mt. Johnston near sunset hours

Looking for a relaxing hike on a day off? Despite the gorgeous view on Mt. Johnston, and it’s deceptively low height of just 196m, it’s probably not the best idea if you are looking for something easy.

Any avid hiker in Hong Kong has seen a fair share of elderly people on many of the more forgiving hiking trails, but on Mt. Johnston, very few of the elderly can be found, despite the rather high median age of the neighboring Lei Tung Estate of 46.6, according to the 2011 Population Census.

The only “staircases” that exist beyond the point of slope maintenance is formed by vines and rocks.

Why is that the case? There are several factors. For one, the trail is not an official trail, and the entrance is not exactly obvious, but more importantly, there has not been work from the government on making the trail more accessible.

The trail offers one single set of stairs, and the rest of the trail is created by erosion and activity of other hikers in the past.

Eventually, after a steep climb of approximately thirty minutes, the summit will be reached. The trail reaches angles of 50 degrees in some sections along with pebbles littered throughout which makes the trek a bit too risky for most’s liking.

Ah Hung (in blue) and Ah Ming (in green), two hikers from the neighborhood

“We are up here for a hike because it’s a rare day off work for us and it’s nice to enjoy some nature close to home. Though the hike is not very demanding in terms of stamina I do feel that it’s quite dangerous.” said Ah Hung, an experienced hiker.“I mean, the ropes people grab on to are just tied to metal sticks set into the ground a bit loosely, so usually I grab onto the slightly jagged rocks that look like they aren’t loose. I just want to enjoy the view without the risk.”

“I JUST WANT TO ENJOY THE VIEW WITHOUT THE RISK.”

“Getting up is the easy part, going down, that’s the real sketchy part, the pebbles all over the trail makes it very easy to slide right off, and people above you might accidentally send a pebble flying your way.”

Ah Hung wearing gloves
Some strings are starting to come apart, which could snap at any moment.

“The ropes aren’t safe to grab, that’s why I have these gloves with me, so I can grab the jagged rocks without harming my hands.” Ah Hung explained. “You either grab none of the ropes, or you grab all of them, you don’t know which one is going to snap on you, if you must gamble your life on some ragtag ropes, at least better your chances right?” He added. He also expressed his criticism towards the government for the lack of measures to make the trail safer. “It’s not like they don’t have the money, they spend billions each year on things we don’t need, like a water fountain, and many got a tax refund this year. Why not build a simple staircase or at least handrails for this trail? I bet many people would enjoy it, but couldn’t because the trail is just a bit too dangerous for many, especially for the elderly.”

An empty, yet fairly new signpost on the summit of Mt. Johnston.

Indeed, the government seem to be starting initiatives with regards to citizen welfare with a focus on nature. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department held a public consultation on 16 February, 2019, which was centered around upgrading camping facilities in countryside areas.

A stone engraved with the mountain’s name was recently placed on the summit of the mountain, though there has been no word from the government about this to this date.

A stone engraved with the mountain’s name was placed on the summit fairly recently, with it being absent just a month ago, along with signposts on the bottom and top of the trail. Perhaps this marks a turning point of a story of risk-taking hikers and a frustrated neighborhood hungering for nature.

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