Ascending the eastern or greater range (Taishi Shan) of Song Shan is more challenging as there are no cable cars to bail out the weary. The trail typically starts behind the Songyang Academy (Songyang Shuyuan). Stone steps lead all the way up to the 1,470m-high (4,900-ft.) Junji Feng where, unlike at China's other sacred mountains, there is no temple or building at the summit, just patches of grass and all of Song Shan below you. Allow 4 hours to reach the top. A ¥100 entrance fee get you into the Taishi Shan Scenic Area and is required to go up the road to the Songyue Temple Pagoda. You can use the same ticket to get into Shaolin Monastery.
Climbing the western or lesser range (Shaoshi Shan) is made easier by three cable cars. Just west of Tai Lin (Forest of Stupas) is the Shaolin Suodao (¥30), which runs up the northern side of the mountain and has back views of the monastery and the forest. A better option, the Songyang Suodao, is up the road another 150m (492 ft.). This pleasant ¥30, 20-minute ride on a chairlift runs less than halfway up the mountain. The ride (or hike) back down affords some marvelous views of the Shaolin Monastery and the Forest of Stupas nestled in the foothills. The Song Shan Shaolin Suodao is another 300m (984 ft.) from the lower terminus of the first gondola, and is a ¥50 one-way (¥60 round-trip), 40-minute cable-car ride that goes past Ladder (Tizi) Gully to just below the summit. From here, trails lead to the Song Shan Diaoqiao, a suspension bridge stretched over a deep ravine of tall bald rocks. You can climb back down either the northern side of Shaoshi Shan underneath the cable cars, or the sheer southern face lined with steep narrow trails. At the parking lot below Sanhuang Xinggong (Sanhuang Palace), you can hire a taxi back to Dengfeng. For the relatively fit, climbing Shaoshi Shan takes 5 to 6 hours round-trip.
Martial Arts Training
The Shaolin Wushu Guan (Martial Arts Training Center; tel. 0371/6274-9016), inside the main entrance near the Shaolin Monastery offers classes only.
The Shaolin Si Tagou Wushu Xuexiao (Shaolin Monastery Wushu Institute at Tagou; tel. 0371/6274-9627; www.shaolintagou.com), just outside the monastery's main entrance, is one of the largest and oldest schools, with 20,000 students. The fee for foreigners is ¥210 per day, including lodgings.
It is also possible to study at one of the many private schools in the area. A very unfriendly CITS (Beihuan Lu Xiduan, Guolu Dalou; tel. 0371/6288-3442 or 0371/62872137; fax 0371/6287-3137) can arrange such study trips with students staying from a week to 6 months and longer. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.