Tiger Leaping Gorge – no shame in turning back

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Hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge China prayer flags

There is no shame in turning back

Eight days after arriving in China we found ourselves on a steep mountainside in Yunnan province hoping not to fall to our deaths. We were hiking the Tiger Leaping gorge, a beautiful 2-3 days hike in pictoresqe landscape.

We were a couple of hours in, and the trail had gone from clearly marked to a narrow dirt path. The hillside became steeper. The conversation had stopped, cameras stuffed away and we both concentrated on the next step forward.

Yes, forward.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

The path changed to an imaginary line and we had to hang on with both hands on grass and angry bushes. With no trees to catch us if we slipped, or block the view of the long way down, it was all starting to get a bit scary.

Should we turn back?

We must have made a wrong turn somewhere?

“Fuck, this is getting steep! Should we turn back? Let’s ask Ingeborg! No, wait. I don’t want to worry her. This is just my fear of heights messing with me”

~ the voice in the back of my head

Tiger Leaping Gorge panorama

It was getting darker and we were still a couple of hours from our guesthouse. We did not want to be stuck up here in the dark.

We checked the map. It gave us none of the help we hoped for.

Map of Tiger Leaping Gorge Tea Horse guesthouse

… the problem with turning back

  1. The longer you wait, the harder it is to turn back. The goal could be just around the corner. You have come this far! Just a bit longer.
  2. “Yes, we made a wrong turn somewhere.” You fucked up! Get over it. Much easier said than done.


We eventually realized that we had to turn back. We had both been worried and neither wanted to worry the other. Yes, we should have turned back earlier, but we did not want to accept that we had made a wrong turn. Once back on the trail, we made it to the guesthouse just before it got (really) dark.

Lessons learned

While the shame in turning back is manageable, the real challenge is to know when to turn back. And to communicate.

The rest of Tiger Leaping gorge

It is an amazing  hike, and I would highly recommend it!


Tiger Leaping Gorge China sunrise



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