Journey of a Lifetime: The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

Written by Andy Marquez

Each picture has a story. It could be one that was planned or you may have had something just catch your eye. In the case of Journey of a Lifetime, this was a personally planned photo that not only impacted me from a physical standpoint but also stirred my soul and gave me a memory that I will always cherish.


In late September of 2004, I survived a hit-and-run accident after a motorcyclist ran into me and nearly tore off my leg while I was jogging on Village Circle East. I spent two weeks in Swedish Hospital and then 45 days in Craig Hospital. While undergoing rehabilitation, my physical therapist challenged me to pick somewhere I always wanted to photograph and to go do it!  A year (near to the date) after the accident, I had finally made my decision and there was no doubt in my mind: The Great Wall of China!

This revelation took me out of the dark and into the light.

The Challenge:

Climbing steps was no easy feat with having undergone recovery from a major traumatic accident; after all, I had to learn to walk again. I trained daily taking steps: 25, 100, and eventually 500!

The Backward Slide:

My friend, John and I made plans to fly to Beijing, rest a day, then leave for the Wall at Mutianyu, which has less traffic and is less commercial than Badaling. It was raining when we left our hotel at 3:30 a.m., arriving at 4:45 a.m. We found the steps, without a clue, how many there were.

The Climb:

Up we went and for now it was barely a drizzle. Once reaching 500, I sat down for a moment. John turned to me and said, “C’mon Andy, we’ve come all this way.” Of course turning around and going down now was not an option. After 30 minutes more of continuous climbing, we reached the 792nd step and The Wall.

We were met with extreme fog and clouds. However, within 20 minutes, it all began to lift, leaving us in a state of awe. I ran off five rolls of film, blessed with this favorite of mine.

Preview more of Andy’s original work at


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