Hiking Jin Shan Ling
Booked a tour with Beijing Downtown backpackers, easy to arrange on their web-site, no need to pay until we turn up at 08:30.
Had to phone to reconfirm our place before 18:00 the day before.
Turned up at 08:15 and paid the man in the hostel 280 RMB pp. This cost included the entrance cost to the Wall but not the cable car if you chose this option. No food is given so take some lunch yourself.
Small mini bus left on time-but then stopped after 10 minutes to pick up others. We were on the road again before 09:00.
We did stop for petrol and a "bathroom" stop after only 15 minutes but otherwise a relatively easy trip.
The guide gave us a brief intro to the history of the wall and details of how the day would go later into the trip.
Basically they would drop us off at the start but wait for an hour there in case anyone found the going too tough and decided to cut short their trip by using the path at Tower 5 or getting the cable car back from tower 10.
The bus would then go off to the pickup point and wait until about 4 hours after the start (15:00) before leaving. Everyone should be Ok to get back to the bus by then.
We were told to help ourselves to water in the bus. After a short 10 minute wait we were off. It was 11:00AM
The walk up to the start of the first tower is a tarmac road and is quite steep. There are some hawkers at the side of the road but they were not too bothersome.
There is a path at this point that leads up to\down from tower 5 if you feel you can't manage the first part of the walk. There is also a cable car option here as well which cost 60 RMB (IIRC) that goes up to\down from tower 10 if you feel you can't make the complete 22 tower hike (6Km).
There is also a short cut from tower 15 to tower 19 if you can't make this really tough section.
Once on the first Tower our guide had re-iterated turn LEFT!
The group broke up into various paces as we went along, the hike is very strenuous and precarious in places. It is not a hike for the unfit.
There were some hawkers at various points along the wall but again not too many nor too pushy and a firm but polite "No" kept them quiet.
The Wall, well, is amazing, the views are incredible and the silence when walking is great as there are few other tourists.
The bus was at the pickup point and we all were away by 3PM.
On the return journey the guide let me get off at a convenient metro stop instead of going back to the backpackers.
Overall a well organised trip to a section of the wall that is still genuine and worth the physical effort.