The trail is said to be the most dangerous in the world. After you see it, you can understand why – tiny ledges, or a bare few planks bolted to the cliff face, in both cases hardly wide enough for a person to shuffle along crabwise. There is no guard-rail – only a chain strung along the cliff for travellers to hold. In places, you must climb up a ‘ladder’ to a higher level.


I use the word ladder loosely. It is comprised of spikes of steel driven into crevices in the rock.


The trail’s most dangerous sections feature such names as Thousand-Foot Precipice, Hundred-Foot Crevice and Black Dragon Ridge – names to inspire confidence for sure. No statistics are kept, but as many as 100 people may die on the trail each year. The trail leads to only one place.


A teahouse.


Yes, you read that correctly. Tourists brave the most dangerous trail in the world, literally risking their lives, for tea.


Or more probably, just so they can say they did it.


I have no intention of doing it myself, but the first thing I thought when I saw it was ‘How can I use that in a story?’


I didn’t have an immediate use for it. My current project, In the Company of the Dead, is set almost entirely within the confines of a castle. No cliff climbing likely, and I had to concede that any attempt to include one would be artificial – damn.


I suddenly recalled the trail while talking to my husband one day. I told him about it, particularly about the teahouse, and after the conversation lapsed I remembered I wanted to use it.


I had just started a short story, The Dilemma of Twins, which is set in the same world as my short story A Magical Melody. There wasn’t much to it yet, but I had a notion that it involved a ‘high place’ which I was loosely calling the Sky Pillars. And then I realised, if there is a high place, they need to get there.


Yes, I made my main character climb a dangerous trail and cling to a cliff face over dizzying drops.


Hey, it could have been worse.

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