“Gateway to Heaven?” An All-Glass Observation Deck in the Clouds
December 5, 2011
Tianmenshan in northwestern Hunan offers some of the most stunning scenery in all of China–see the “Gate to Heaven,” a natural sandstone arch from which the mountain peak gets its name-and the region knows how to market them. Since the founding of the Tianmenshan (or Tianmen Mountain) National Park in 1992 and its subsequent distinction as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, several flashy and somewhat bizarre attractions have been introduced to augment the breathtaking visuals in the hopes of boosting tourism, including a four-mile long, 4,000 ft-high cable car, a 165-foot tall man-made waterfall, a large-scale magic show sponsored by David Copperfield, and, perhaps the most spectacular, a 200-foot long observation platform suspended 4,700 feet in the air. The “Skywalk,” which opened last month, is fitted with two-and-a-half inch thick glass floors and barriers, similar to the Grand Canyon Skywalk and the Ledge at Chicago’s Willis Tower. Whereas those projects jut out into the void, the Skywalk’s narrow pathway cautiously hugs the rocky precipice as if unwilling to push its luck. Visitors must wear slip covers over their shoes to prevent smudging or dirtying the glass, so without any friction to keep you grounded hugging the rock wall might be your safest bet. Click for more images!