The Bailong Elevator in Hunan, China

The Bailong Elevator in Hunan, China, has been the subject of a number of debates. However, its engineering prowess cannot be denied, and its 1,070-foot height makes it the world’s tallest outdoor lift.

The Bailong Elevator
By Nyx Ning, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia
The spectacular sandstone pillars that rise from the forest floor are what make the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China’s Hunan Province famous. The tallest of these pillars is more than 3,000 feet high. You can probably picture the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar floating in your mind.

Another impressive structure, this one made of steel and glass, rises from these pillars: the Bailong Elevator, also known as the Hundred Dragons Elevator, is the world’s tallest outdoor lift.

The Bailong Elevator opened to the public in 2002 after an investment of approximately $20 million in construction that began in 1999. The lift was incorporated into a painstakingly chosen quartz sandstone bluff face, into which passages and shafts were dug to oblige the three glass-confronted twofold deck lifts.

The Bailong Elevator
Photo credit: Kazuhito Kidachi – Flickr
The lift is 1,070 feet (326 meters) tall, with the lower 505 feet embedded within the mountain wall and the upper 565 feet made of exposed steel derrick. The three elevators run in opposite directions and provide breathtaking views of the sandstone pillars, the mountains, and the forest that surround them.

The cars now complete the ascent in just one minute and 32 seconds thanks to a speed increase in 2015. Also, it just so happens, it requires 68 minutes and 26 seconds to free-climb the upper uncovered part of the lift, however provided that you’re insane and French.

With 50 passengers in each car, each elevator has a carrying capacity of 4,900 kilograms. Because of all of this, the Bailong Elevator is not only the tallest outdoor elevator in the world, but it is also the tallest double-deck sightseeing elevator and the fastest passenger traffic elevator in the world with the largest carrying capacity.

The Bailong Elevator
Rock formations right in front ot Bailong elevator – Rocio Gil, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Despite its impressive appearance, the elevator has sparked a few debates. It was closed for ten months in 2002 and 2003 to address safety concerns, which were especially pressing in a region prone to earthquakes (the lift cars now all have earthquake detectors, allowing for quick evacuation in the event of a quake).

The plan to construct a massive steel elevator in a protected national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site was even more controversial. Aside from all the development concerns, preservationists additionally contended that it would attract much more travelers to an all around well known site, coming down on the recreation area and its foundation.

The Bailong Elevator
Rocio Gil, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The supporters of the elevator have offered their own fairly sound argument to refute this claim: Since tourists can now take the lift to avoid mountain trails entirely, the elevator has significantly reduced damage to them.

In addition, they argue, visitors can now visit the park for a single day due to the significantly shorter travel time. Beforehand, travelers needed to drive for over three hours along what was on occasion a hazardous mountain street to get to various pieces of the recreation area. They only need to stand in line for an elevator ride of one and a half minutes now. Numerous hotels and guesthouses have been demolished as a result of tourists no longer being required to stay over, further reducing the park’s environmental impact.

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