In 1984-85 we, wife and I, spent 7 months in Asia, about 2 months in China and Tibet. We went to Huang Shan around mid-January. For about 5 days we met no one able to speak English and had to resort to sign language only and pointing to the few characters in a guidebook, or imitating chicken or pig in a restaurant... There was only one hotel open in the town at the foot of the mountain and that was an army run facility with only highly decorated generals as customers, and us, two dirty and cheap looking backpackers. We did get a few long looks there (in some places we already had stayed in government guesthouses so we knew the deal, as no hotel had permission to take foreigners in closed towns, at that time only 40 towns were open to foreign tourists without permits).
We started up the stairs early in the morning, and they were quite spectacular. With a scenic side trip I counted/calculated about 15000 steps altogether. Clear weather turning to frost higher up. We had lunch at the halfway restaurant and continued up, arriving at the summit hotel around 18:00 when it was already getting dark. About a foot of snow on the ground. We did not see one single tourist the whole time. There were about half a dozen people running the empty place, running is possibly not the right word, as the building was not heated, no running water, no toilets (had to go outside around the corner). We asked for a room, but it was relatively costly (something like 16 RMB, over $10 if I remember correctly). So instead of that we asked for dormitory accommodation, which was compulsory for the hotels to offer, and got two adjacent double rooms, one designated ladies' and the other the men's dormitory, bed in each of these cost 2 RMB. In the evening I sneaked into the ladies' dorm and slept there with my wife, wrapped and rolled in 3 layers of blankets collected from the two rooms, with a fur hat pulled over the head. Night temperature was around -10C in the room by our reckoning.
In the morning we went to see the sunrise, which was OK but not all that spectacular, with some "sea of clouds" effect. Then we walked back down which was of course faster than coming up. The scenic spots really are Classic China by the way, depicted in countless paintings.
At that time there were no roads or cable cars to the summit. Many things are now different, but we are happy to have travelled China and Tibet when things still were the old way. Inconvenient and troublesome, but that was the whole idea. A small detail: in January 1985 the Chinese government gave the first permission to a private person to buy a car, so there were no passenger cars there to speak of at all! Quite unbelievable now, looking at the rush hour traffic at any major town in China. Imagine the same without cars, without visible shops or display windows, not street lighting, no neon signs, no tourist restaurants, no signage in English.
Life has been good.
Instrumentarium: Olympus OM-3 and OM-4 bodies, 21mm f/2.8, 50mm f/2.8 macro and 135mm f/3.5 Zuikos, Widelux F7 panoramic camera. Total of 270 rolls of KodaChrome 64 Pro...