Hunting happiness through adventure in Taiwan

BASE teams up with adventurer Sofia Jin to explore the best of Taiwan’s underrated adventure scene.

Feature type Photo Essay

Read time 4 min read

Published Mar 18, 2024

Base editorial team
BASE editorial team BASE writers and editors who live and breathe adventure every day. We love adventure storytelling as much as we love adventure itself.

In February 2024, BASE teamed up with climber and BASE Collective member Sofia Jin to explore the adventure scene in Taiwan for the first time. The aim was to shoot the first in a forthcoming series of videos exploring how adventure can be the perfect catalyst to finding true happiness, or sometimes, even salvation.

Here we share some stunning first-look BTS images taken by DoP Kev Merrey and camera op Jamie Barnes as well as a short taster reel capturing the team’s experiences and emotions of this emerging Asian destination for those with an adventurous heart.

What makes you happy? Friendship? Love? A real sense of community? Work-life balance success? Personal achievements?  It’s a simple yet profound question and one that can prompt a thousand different answers.

The world of adventure can offer a different spin. Tales of those who have found true meaning, purpose and fulfilment are (unusually?) common here. We cover many of them as often as possible in the BASE universe because their tales are always inspiring. One tale often begets another – and this is, really, our reason for being.

As part of a bigger project developing a BASE format investigating this idea in more depth, we recently took a crack team including the BASE Collective’s Sofia Jin to film in Taiwan. It’s a country that finds itself all too often embroiled in geopolitical agendas in international media coverage and yet for adventurers, this island nation represents bounteous possibility.

Our filming team and Sofia hooked up with passionate local adventurers of different disciplines – climbing, canyoning, cycling – to hear their own stories first hand and get the inside track on the best of what Taiwan has to offer for the adventurer with an eye to the East. Those personal stories will emerge as the fuller video series does but for now here is a taste of what the team experienced.

Three key locations and those three principal activities formed the backbone of this trip.

A spine-tingling descent surrounded by lush jungle at Dajianshan Falls

Dajianshan Waterfall

The tucked away but magnificent Dajianshan waterfall is roughly 200 meters high (650 feet) and comprised of six separate sections of waterfalls, each stunning in its own right.

Here the jungle is lush and pristine but the torrent unforgiving in parts.

Aided by the Suunto Vertical functionality, the team wanted to see how Sofia’s biometrics would fare or even flare given the adrenaline rushes provided by the gnarly descent.

Pulses quickened dramatically as the launch place over the falls revealed itself but zoning out the jungle murmur and the water splatter, the team and Sofia knuckled down to the task at hand. Elation and exhilaration duly followed.


Canyoning and ropes expert Jason Chen Po Yen and his assistants know every cubic mm drop of this waterfall.

The effectiveness of cold water immersion in relieving stress is well known in the adventure community and, increasingly, beyond that too. Canyoning, though, adds high-octane thrills and spills to the equation. Does this make it an even more holistic method of reducing stress and anxiety? How does that balance out with the feelings you get when staring over the cascade’s precipice for the first time?  That will form the crux of the findings taken from the action here.

Sofia checks her metrics on the Suunto Vertical.

Long Dong sea cliffs

Next the team headed to the sea cliffs and Dragon Caves of the Long Dong cape and promontory (Long Dong actually means Dragon’s Caves in Mandarin) to explore a series of epic climbs overlooking the glittering waters where the East China Sea rubs into the Pacific. Here stand the oldest exposed rock layers of the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area.

Although Sofia is a highly experienced climber, the season and exposure meant she would be in for a challenging time. With the addition of the filming crew peppered all around her and zeroing in on her every move, would she be able to find the focus, poise and internal peace that had been the source of such successful climbs in the past?

Led by brilliant local climber (aptly named when dealing with fiddly film crews) Patience, the team again traced Sofia’s biometric changes during all stages of prep, climb and completion.

Sofia finds focus as she pushes up the sea cliffs at Longdong Promontory.

Jamie and Sofia work out how to choreograph the ascent’s final third.

Here in Long Dong you’re only about an hour’s drive from Taipei; it’s home to some of the best trad climbing not just in Taiwan but in Southeast Asia as a whole. Rock faces striped by fissures, gnarled channels and the crash-smash of the sea wall below will keep the heart pumping.

Fully exposed to the cycles of each season and the bleaching glare of the sun, it’s only once you have reached the overlook that you get the full idea of what nature has provided here. The cliffs of Long Dong are split pretty much into nine distinct sectors which offer a rich variety of climbs for different levels including, but certainly not limited to, beginners with plenty of trad and sport routes in the mix to keep everyone content.

Yangmingshan National Park

One of Taiwan’s nine national parks, Yangmingshan National Park at a smidge over 800m of elevation is more known for its volcanic terrain and beatific lakes but it also boasts miles of smooth road and often minimal traffic. It’s also refreshingly lag-free to access to from Taipei. Some tantalisingly great mid-length climbs double up with a coastal road connecting the eastern section to the west of the park as the main draws and then a sweet range of smaller climbs hovering around 20% fill in any gaps.

Despite the seductive riding terrain (even considering a heavy tropical mist descending from time to time), this was a much sterner test for Sofia, taking her well out of her comfort zone and into the saddle of a road bike she had little to no familiarity with at all.

How would this affect the base metrics and any consistently reached or lingering emotional high?

The aim here was to provide a high contrast counterpoint to the jungle and sea cliff tasks with a different biorhythm and dynamic to the activity.

Sofia and Ace enjoy clear roads but rain lashes as they up the tempo.

Sofia and local guide Ace share their experiences of the endorphin rush.

With the shoot wrapped, the team were able to soak up the sights and sounds of an inner city Taipei shrouded in mist and reflect on the week’s adventures before heading back to the UK and into the cutting room over the following few weeks.

This was, in fact, a debut Taiwan visit for all of the team. It’s safe to say that, in the end, the shoot acted more as an appetite-whetter to explore the rest of this underrated adventure gem. And pursue the true meaning of happiness once again.

With huge thanks to Taiwan Tourism, Arc’teryx, and Suunto for their amazing support on this shoot.

And special thanks also to Robin Zhou, Michael McCreesh, Patience Ku, Ciou Siou Sian and Jason Chen Po Yen.

Watch this space for more on Hunting Happiness.

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