From the Itinerary:

After breakfast we transfer to start the trekking on Gubeikou. Gubeikou has long been a town of military significance and an important passage to the capital city. The Yanshan Range winds from east to west and is cut off at Gubeikou forming a natural narrow pass here.

From ancient times, Gubeikou has served as a route of strategic importance, linking the southern and northern areas of the Yanshan Range.

Today’s trek passes through remote rural farmland, and many crumbling watch towers. We transfer back to our rustic Lodge for dinner.

large landscape photo of the great wall of china

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The image of the Great Wall of China snaking its way over jagged mountain peaks, softened only by autumnal trees, is iconic. This was to be world into which the fundraisers would venture for two days. A world mostly free of tourists simply for the fact that the trekking would be on unrestored, “wild” wall.

The coach dropped us just outside a remote village where we felt the cooler air on our arms and legs while we were led through a tai chi warm up by Michael. Then, after loading up with water, we hiked a short distance through the village before taking a steep path up through the brush. Within a few minutes we’d already climbed to a respectable height that offered everyone fantastic views down into the valley below, littered with red and blue roofs which gave way to steep, broken mountain tops on the far horizon.

Ahead of us we could see the task that lay ahead. Long stretches of undulating Wall, broken up by broken-down watchtowers. This was going to be a challenge, not for any particularly steep sections, but because of the distance we’d be covering and the fact that the wall was unrestored.

The restored section of the Great Wall of tourist honey pots. The bricks are new and even. The sides of the wall have been rebuilt. It feels safe. It perhaps even feels boring.

The “wild” Wall is completely different, the exact opposite in fact.

Many sections of today’s trek had us shuffling our way, single file, along rough track with sheer drops down either side of us. Physically, not too challenging. But for some, the battle was with vertigo!

However, as always, our efforts were rewarded with stunning scenery as we took in the incredible 360º vistas from our watchtower rest stops. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that there wasn’t a direction you’d could look where your breath wasn’t taken away.

After around 3 hours trekking we had to head down off the Wall. The next section cut through a military area and was an absolute no-go. Our task was to shuffle down some steep, scree-ridden paths before hiking through an area of remote, rustic farmland. A farming couple hacked at corn stalks as we strode past in our red #standrewstrek t-shirts, a snapshot of two cultures shaking hands.

From there we worked our way slowly back up the side of the hill, the hot sun at our backs, the Great Wall to our right. After traversing a short valley, we paused to drink some fluids, adjust our packs and for some, make sure the best iPod playlist was in our ears before what would be an interesting and challenging alternative to the trekking we’d be doing up until now.

The Great Wall now loomed large and heavy on our right. To our left was a steep drop down into the tree-filled valley below.

Our job was to negotiate a very narrow path, littered with rocks and tree roots, our right shoulders brushing against the ancient brick of the wall as we went.

Going was slow and technical and after several minutes we were able to scramble back up onto the wall. Looking south we could see all the way back to where we’d started in the morning, several hot hours before. The sense of achievement was tangible for all.

We were around 90 minutes away from the end of the day’s trek. Knees were aching. Throats were dry. The thought of cold beers on the bus drove us onwards.

So, after a mid-afternoon rest stop in a large watchtower, we continued on our journey, the wall undulating in front of us, all the way back to the tourist spot of Gubeikou, where day 4 would end and day 5 would begin.