Liu Yutian – the First Person Hiked the Great Wall Alone

Liu Yutian, an adventurer of China, is known as the first person hiked the Great Wall alone. From 1984 to 1986, he spent two years walking the main line of Great Wall, which spanned from Jiayuguan to Shanhaiguan, stretching over 5,000 km (3,100 mi). Along the way, he experienced all kinds of hardships and perils and almost lost his life, but fortunately, he survived and stuck to the adventure and realized his dream.

Liu Yutian’s dream of being an adventurer in his teenage

Liu Yutian was born in Changge County of Henan Province in 1942. At the age of 15, he had developed a keen interest in literature and adventure. At that time, he had two dreams, one was to become a great literati, the other, of course, was to be an adventurer. After graduated from high school in 1964, Liu Yutian worked successively as a benchman, electrician, and carpenter. Despite the tiring and busy work, he always stayed up late reading world-famous masterpieces. However, he seemed not talented in writing. After a few vain attempts in writing, he sadly decided to give up the dream of being a writer. From then on, he became more concentrated on how to become an adventurer. In his spare time, he read stories of brilliant adventurers and learned a lot from them. The most important of all, he understood the meaning of persistence, which gave him endless impetus in the later Great Wall hike.

Liu Yutian began the Great Wall journey on May 13, 1984

The idea of walking the entire Great Wall came into Liu Yutian’s mind in 1984, after he read from newspaper that a French traveler was planning to hike the Great Wall of China. When he heard that a US traveler wanted to conquer the Great Wall as well, he couldn’t help considering taking the entire Great Wall trek as soon as possible. “The Great Wall is in China, it’s the responsibility of a Chinese to study and investigate the Great Wall. How can we get left behind?” No sooner said than done. Liu Yutian quitted his job, said goodbye to his wife and two children and started the journey on May 13, 1984.

On the way, Liu Yutian overcame various hardships and almost lost his life. Up till now, some difficulties still remain fresh in his memory.

Liu Yutian survived in a heavy sandstorm in the desert

At the beginning of the journey, Liu Yutian walked twenty or thirty kilometers a day. He just ate some dry bread when hungry and drank dew gathered from roadside grasses. Sometimes, if he was lucky enough, he could find a stream to replenish water supply. After he entered the Badain Jaran Desert, the surrounding environment got harsher. The ancient walls have collapsed, leaving only some faintly identifiable ruins. Things became dangerous.

It was almost dusk. The yellow sand storm suddenly occurred, roaring towards Liu Yutian and getting closer and closer very fast. Liu Yutian poked his walking stick deep into the sand, then leaned his back against the stick, and wrestled with the sandstorm for more than 20 hours. Fortunately, he was not buried alive.

Liu Yutian narrowly escaped death when besieged by a pack of wolves  

One day late at night, Liou Yutian was about to rest in a leeward place. Suddenly, he felt someone with green eyes staring at him coldly. At first he thought it was a "ghost fire". As the green eyes got closer, he realized that he was besieged by a pack of wolves. He quickly grasped an electric flashlight in one hand, and the walking stick in another. Then he suddenly attacked the she-wolf, trying to scare the wolf pack away. After a one-hour standoff, Liu Yutian unexpectedly jumped over the wolves and ran desperately to the field. Finally, he got rid of the wolf pack and saved himself.

Liu Yutian stumbled in an isolated village

In addition to these dangerous encounters, there were interesting affairs. The one most impressed Liu Yutian must be the experience in an isolated village in Taihang Mountains. One day, Liu Yutian walked into a village incidentally. Seeing this man with dubious background and strange outfit, the children in the village were too scared to speak. After a while, some brave young men holding sticks captured Liu Yutian and locked him up. Not until three days later was he freed following a detailed interrogation.

Liu Yutian completed the entire walk on April 5, 1986

On April 5, 1986, Liu Yutian arrived at Laolongtou Great Wall near Shanhaiguan, where the Great Wall ends in the sea, and became the first person ever walked the Great Wall alone. He raised up the Chinese national flag and shouted excitedly: “I finally realized my Great Wall dream!”

Some were born to take adventures

In Liu Yutian’s opinion, he was born to take adventures. After the Great Wall walk, he hiked the Loess Plateau, the Silk Road, Mount Everest, and Lop Nur, the so-called death zone. Besides, he explored some wild Great Walls scattered in remote mountains. In his adventure career of more than 10 years, he took nearly 10 thousand photos, and kept a diary of 2.3 million words, significantly helpful to geographical and archaeological studies. The Yinshan Rock Paintings discovered when Liu Yutian passed the Helan Mountain during the Great Wall hike was a new finding recognized by archaeologists.

 Read stories of others who have walked the entire Great Wall of China:
 William Edgar Geil - The First One Hiked the Entire Great Wall of China: He took 3 months and finished in 1908.
 Dong Yaohui Hiked the Entire Great Wall: He took 508 days and completed on September 24, 1985
 William Lindsay - Working on Great Wall Protection after Trekking: He took 8 months to hike in 1987.
 Sally - the Only Woman Walked the Entire Great Wall of China Alone: She took half a year to hike in 1990.
 Ren Erlin & Ren Zigeng – Chinese Father and Son Trekked the Great Wall: They took 89 days and finished the hiking in 2003.
 Jamie Bradish & Rob England - a US Pair Took 10 Months to Walk the Great Wall: They finished in 2007.
 Stephen Robert Loken – the First Person Walked to the East End of Hushan Great Wall: He took 601 days and completed in 2011.

  Further Reading:
How to Hike the Full Length of the Great Wall of China? 8,851.8 km!
How Long to Walk the Great Wall of China?
Has anyone walked the Great Wall of China?
- Last updated on Jun. 10, 2020 -
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