Chou’s practical knowledge and unmatched awareness of the mountain terrain soon made him a sought-after guide. The Taiwanese government even began to take notice of the sport’s increased popularity, thanks in no small part to Chou’s efforts. In 2005, then-president Chen Shui-bian summoned Chou for a meeting, and Chou handed the leader a proposal to improve the state of hiking in Taiwan. Soon after, Taipei City started promoting hiking trails within its city limits, budgeting approximately US$2m per year to maintaining trails and linking existing trails into loops – one of which would come to be known as the Taipei Grand Trail, a 92km route stretching from Yangmingshan in the north of the city to the district of Muzha in the south.
In 2011, Chou’s climbing reached its crescendo when he attempted to break the record for ascending all 100 of Taiwan’s 3,000m-plus peaks in the shortest amount of time. It took the previous record-holder six months to ascend all 100 peaks, and he did so with a guide and crew who helped carry supplies up and down, day after day, in 24 separate trips. Chou thought he could do it in just eight trips, and if everything went according to plan, he could finish all 100 ascents and descents in less than three months.
“We only had four people [and] 20-30kg packs,” Chou recalled. “No matter if there was rain, typhoon or earthquake, we had to go.” In the end, Chou and three others who made the attempt were able to ascend the 100 peaks in just 87 days, obliterating the previous record. The accomplishment itself isn’t what Chou recalls most fondly, but what they were able to do for others along the way.
“The most meaningful thing is that we tied lots of markers on the trail to help people find their way. In the mountains, once you get lost, you’re in trouble,” he said.
In addition to working diligently to change hiking culture in Taiwan, Chou has also been working to make the sport safer. Taiwan’s landscape is altered every year by typhoons, and Chou has often mapped out new routes to bypass those washed out by landslides while teaching hikers traditional navigation skills so that they don’t rely too heavily on smartphones and other technology, which could always fail.