STEEP SLOPES: This was a strenuous hike indeed. Many steep ascends throughout the trail, right from the beginning. Not recommended for those with heart, breathing or joint problems. Recommending hiking sticks, esp for the descend to off load impact on your knees. We started hiking at around 4 pm and were a bit worried about the returning hike (whether it will be too dark), so we walked on a rather fast pace. Not too much direct sunlight at that hour but it was hot and there was a short shaded section. I might recommend an early start like 6am for a cooler hike. After going through a zig-zag way up (~40 degree slope), there's a flat lookout/resting area before the 0.5 mi section with the chains, so if you're not up for that last section, you can take a break there, there are a couple portable restrooms. We took ~2 hrs to get to this point.
GLOVES & SHOES: The chained sections were less scary than I had thought. I heeded advice from other TripAdvisors and brought gloves; I bought open-finger yoga gloves but would recommend closed-finger ones, as some of the chains are bolted very close to the hillside and I had to slide my fingers against the rocks to grab onto the chain and was scratching my nails and the open part of my fingers against the rocks; sometimes I had to put my whole palm onto the rough rocks but was scared to grab too tightly in case I hurt my fingers, but I did fine overall. I debated whether to get a pair of hiking boots or wear trail running shoes, I finally wore my trail running shoes with excellent grip and did fine. Good grip is the main point. I think hiking boots with a tougher bottom would have protected the bottom of my feet better against the loose and irregular rocks, but I was happy with my trail running shoes; the bottom of my feet were just very slightly sore from the hike (most likely from the descend).
CHAINS: I had worried about the chains, but as soon as I held onto the first one I was comforted by how sturdy and well situated they were. They were very reliably bolted into the hillside and were thicker than I thought, very trustworthy when I had to pull myself up onto some rocks. Prepare to have to sit down, squat, slide and climb to go through the chained sections where you have to ascend, descend and then ascend to reach the top.
VIEW, WEATHER: The view at the very top was absolutely stunning and magnificent! It's relatively flat and wide at the top. I was about to run to the tip of the flat area, but a sudden gust of wind blew towards me and my cap flew away and rolled a few times onto the rocks until it got caught by a little bush. Rain clouds, thunders and lightening were approaching so I had to quickly retrieve my cap, before another gust of weird wind full of sand blew in all directions. We had to squat down and close our eyes for what seemed like much longer than 2 minutes, then rain started falling down. We only had time to snap 2 pics and had to scramble down to avoid lightening strikes. The whole experience was thrilling, exciting and a bit scary but oh so much fun. We really hurried down and took only 1.5 hrs to get back to the starting point and we were completely soaked! Check weather and avoid monsoon and storms. Also check times of sunrise/sunset: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php
WATER & FUEL: I think I drank 2 big bottles of water, a few squares of ShotBloks and 1/4 Cliff Bar.
AFTERTHOUGHT: This was the most unique hike I've ever done so far, even if there was no storm. The chain section is what makes it unique. It's much less scary than what I perceived, I felt like 80% of the path provided more room for my feet than most of the descriptions I've read; the starting part might be the scariest as you're holding onto the chains and walking on the side of a steep cliff, the middle parts you're walking on flat paths but they're narrow and rough. Regardless, watching your footing is a must. I will definitely go back again and hope to go to the tip on the very top next time!
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