An unapologetically rugged reserve of pristine mountain peaks and raging rivers, SHEI-PA NATIONAL PARK (雪霸國家公園; xuěbà guójiā gōngyuán) is one of Asia’s most untouched expanses of wilderness. Stretching across almost 770 square kilometres of the magnificent Xueshan range, Taiwan’s third-largest national park is studded with stunning peaks, 51 of them higher than 3000m – putting them on a par with most of the European Alps. The park’s highest peak is the range’s namesake: Xueshan (Snow Mountain), which at 3886m is the second-tallest mountain in northeast Asia. Despite its lofty height, it’s one of the island’s most accessible and rewarding climbs, with an extremely well-maintained trail that is typically open for most of the year. This path is also a grandiose gateway to the park’s other mountain highlights, such as the precipitous Holy Ridge that extends north from Xueshan to the 3492m Dabajianshan, whose distinctive pyramid shape has made it one of the country’s most celebrated peaks.
Seasonal conditions vary, but in general the best time for climbing in Shei-Pa is October to December and late February to April. The May rains and the frequent typhoons that hit the island from June to September can cause severe damage to the trails, making landslips a concern. Though winters are cold and the main peaks are usually covered with snow from late December to mid-February, for experienced climbers with proper gear and crampons this can be the most rewarding time to visit.