Life-saving handrails

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 September, 2000, 12:00am

I refer to Kevin Sinclair's 'Tolo Harbour' column (Sunday Morning Post, September 3), describing the beauty and danger of the perilous path leading to the Dragon Pearl Falls.

I would like to make some constructive comments about the spot which claimed two hikers' lives in little more than a year.

Being a hiker myself, I have visited the Wang Chung stream with the spectacular twin Dragon Pearl Falls on seven occasions.

The most hazardous parts of the stream are the 45-degree cliffs leading to the bottom of the falls. In the dry season, the cliffs are negotiable by most stream trackers.

It is only during the rainy season, when the cliffs are wet and covered with moss, that hikers encounter difficulties.

A few years ago, in order to avoid this section, some hikers created a narrow track on the wooded slopes to the right of the stream.

This track leads to a bare rock face two metres long tilting dangerously outwards.

Because of this, it is hazardous and made more dangerous by the fact that there is not much to cling on to, except two inconspicuous 15-centimetre-long roots.

It is a 20-metre drop from the sheer cliff directly below. The track two metres ahead may give hikers the mistaken impression that it is not dangerous to traverse the rock face.

There is no point having warning signs below the cliffs or near the lower reaches of the streams, because hikers who have got there have probably already negotiated dozens of equally challenging streams.

The Country Parks Authority may not realise that this stream is among the nine most famous and frequented streams in Hong Kong, and has been tracked by hundreds of hikers in the past 50 years, even before the concept of a country park had evolved.

The authority should have known that individual hikers and hiking association members walk to this stream and it is not the general rule for hikers to turn back when they encounter challenging situations.

Rather than discouraging future stream trackers from visiting the marvellous falls and abdicating responsibility, all the authority needs to do is to construct a few firm handrails on the rock surface, or, better still, create a safe path on the wooded slope above the perilous rock face. I am sure these initiatives would save lives.

Let me suggest another possibility. There is a footpath leading up the crest Yuk Nui Fung (the Jade Lady Peak), on the left side of the entrance to the stream, which offers a breathtaking view of the twin falls.

Some distance further on, from the ridge-top path, a rather hidden path forks down the slope leading eventually to either the bottom or the top of the falls. Hikers who use the paths can avoid all the treacherous spots and still enjoy the scenic beauty of the falls. However, at the moment it is difficult to follow these safe paths.

I hope that the Country Parks Authority will consider creating a new country park trail in this area. It would be appreciated by all hikers.


Sai Kung