Hunan Province, China - They call it Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch near the top of Tianmen Mountain, eight kilometres south of the city of Zhangjiajie.

It’s actually an immense cave, the back wall of which collapsed seventeen centuries ago to create a huge hole right through the peak, 1500 metres above the valley floor. The sheer scale of it is awe-inspiring: 57 metres wide, 60 metres long and 131 metres high, constantly wreathed in mist, so it’s difficult to tell where it begins and ends.

It’s one of China’s most popular tourist attractions - and just getting there is an adventure.

It starts with the world’s longest monorail skytram ride, 7.5 kilometres from the city centre, followed by a scary bus ride up the 11.3km Tianmen Mountain Road (known as the Dragon Road), with its 99 hairpin bends, compared to the paltry 46 of the better-known Stelvio Pass in Italy.

Finally, there’s the stairway, 999 steps of it (St Helena’s notorious Jacob’s Ladder has 'only' 699) much of it rising at 45 degrees.

Not surprisingly, when somebody at Land Rover suggested that they drive a Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid up to the arch, local authorities said bluntly that it couldn’t be done. Two words, they said: “Im. Possible.”

Don’t ever say that to a Land Rover guy. The engineers at Solihull built a short section of concrete steps replicating the steepest section of Heaven’s Gate and proved that, in all-wheel drive with electric motors driving the front wheels, the Rangie P400e PHEV could indeed get up the test stairway.

And they persuaded Jaguar factory endurance racer Ho-Pin Tung (who, despite his name, is actually Dutch) that it could go up the real thing - although, to judge by the expression on his face during the attempt, he wasn’t so sure.

See for yourself in the video below, with a bonus video of the earlier testing at the Land Rover proving ground.

IOL Motoring