Pinyin: Lǘ ān lǐng
English: Donkey saddle ridge
Coordinates: 40°27'18"N 116°25'51"E
Continuing west from Lianyunling, the next section of the Great Wall we reach is called Luanling, although it is also known as Dazhenyu, after the village of Dazhenyu just to the south of the wall. Like at Lianyunling, the mountains become even more steep and more difficult. But due to difficult access, the wall starts to exhibit improving condition in many areas.
Heading down into Dazhenyu valley from Lianyunling to the east, the first slope of the wall is not particularly difficult. As you descend this slope your eyes will be attracted to the extremely long and high slope that the wall follows across the valley.
Western side of Luanling
There are two medium-sized towers on the way down. Just before the second one, there is a trail off to the left (south) that you can use to bypass the final slope of the wall. However, it's also possible to continue along the wall all the way to the bottom. At the bottom is a pass tower which is quite large and still in reasonably good condition.
Beyond this tower and heading to the west, the next span of the wall will take your breath away. To reach that mighty incline that you have been admiring on your way down from Lianyunling, there is a short span of wall that is so steep that it looks vertical. The center of this span has fallen away and only the outer parapets remain. It looks impossible and dangerous and you know right away that you won't be walking up this part. Fortunately, it's a short span and there is an easy bypass. Take the road through the valley to the south (left) and look for a trail to the west (right) after about 48 meters (53 yards). Climb up this trail until you meet the wall just above the extremely step section. There is one deteriorated tower on the way to the ridge, and then the wall turns right and heads in a roughly northward direction along the ridge.
Dangerous base of western side
There are a few towers along this section, which goes up, down, and back up again to the final summit. Between the third and fourth towers you will see an old spur wall to your right that leads to the east for a short distance. Beyond this location, there are about three places where the wall has collapsed and must be walked around. There are paths to be found along the south side of the wall at these damaged locations. One of the bypass paths is on the north side of the wall.
This span of the wall is some of the highest in the area. The high vantage point and the relatively small number of buildings in the area make this a great place for viewing in all directions. The scenery with the wall, the mountains, and the trees is impressive indeed, and if the weather is good you can see the Great Wall to the east all the way to Jiuyanlou in the Jiankou area.
Luanling's eastern side
Beyond the summit, the wall turns sharply to the left and heads southwest towards Sancha. After a while you will reach a place where the wall dead-ends into a small mountain which is used for a natural barrier. It would be almost impossible to go over this mountain, and so you will need to go around it on its south (left) side, following a trail that begins just beyond the last tower and rejoins the wall at Sancha, on the south side of the natural barrier.
Location summary: Luanling is about 61 kilometers (38 miles) north of downtown Beijing. It is about 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) west of Lianyunling and about 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) east of Sancha. The path of the Great Wall from Luanling to Sancha is about 4.4 kilometers (2.8 miles).
Driving directions: From the Huairou urban area, take X009 northwest for 24 kilometers (14.9 miles) to Nanye village. Turn right on X008 County Road and drive north for 1.6 kilometers (1 mile). Turn right again and drive for about 2.8 kilometers (1.74 miles) to Dazhenyu. Drive as far north as possible.