Yuk Kwai Shan (Mount Johnston) on Ap Lei Chau will have you rappelling down from ropes and scrambling on your hands, knees and butt…
Distance: 3.6 km (round trip)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Hard! (Read: Don’t bring your kids / grannies here!)
UPDATE: I redid this hike in 2019 with a climber friend, scroll to the bottom to see the alternate route back on the west side
Just on Hong Kong Island’s backyard is this super “cute” and scenic short hike that surprised me with its rappelling and rope-climbing course. Don’t make the mistake of bringing your faint-hearted friends here, like I did (sorry Giuli!) or you might never make it to Ap Lei Pai, the “small island linking up with the short sandbank as if a child being led by a mother.”
This super conveniently-accessed hike gives you the best of many things: adventure, beach, island views, skyscraper shots, scrambling, rappelling, panoramic views… it really doesn’t get more complete than this! So if you have no time to make it to the thrilling Sharp Peak up in Sai Kung, head over to Ap Lei Chau for this quick thrill.
From MTR Lei Tung Station, take exit B and walk to the bus terminus near McDonald’s. Climb up to the start of the trail behind the wooden benches and jump the fence there. Take the stairs on the left.
At the crossroads, you can climb the mountain via the left trail, which has a rope. The right trail is the more challenging one without a rope.
On top of Yuk Kwai Shan (Mount Johnston) you’ll get amazing 360-degree views of Lamma Island, Aberdeen, and the smaller island of Ap Lei Pai, connected to Ap Lei Chau by a sandbank / beach.
Now for the fun / challenging part: an almost vertical descent down to the sandbank from Mount Johnston. You can “rappel” down with a rope backwards (as in, you go down facing the mountain) – or you can carefully pick your way / footing through the crumbling rocks.
At the end of the hike (on Ap Lei Pai), there is a lighthouse. We heard someone had fallen trying to climb it the other day and required stitches, so be careful over there.
Where to eat
2019 Update: Rock climbing around the edge of Ap Lei Pai
I came back to redo and finish this hike in April / May 2019 with Jo, who’s into wall climbing. When we got to the lighthouse, she says she remembers having been there with her instructor on a climbing group trip. I said I was happy to follow her lead if she knew the path going around the side of the island rather than going back over it on the same trail…
From the lighthouse, we followed the western edge of the island. The beginning had chalk marks giving us clues as to the route, but later on they disappeared. We literally saw nobody taking this crazy way ’round, but obviously other people have done it before as some parts of the crag had rope to hold on to, especially on the northwestern edge close to the sandbar.
It’s definitely dangerous to “boulder” with zero equipment here, and we were just relying on instincts to navigate for the most part, having to backtrack often when we’d hit a dead end. There was one part where the only way forward was down to the rocks by the sea, and thank god the waves weren’t that high that day, because we had to skip over some boulders by the water in between waves and jump to get the rope on the other side, where we hoisted ourselves up.
We rejoined the trail at the northern edge of Ap Lei Pai and decided to proceed with the normal route from the sandbar onwards.
Which route did or would you take? Let’s compare notes!