asia and beginner's guides and climbing destinations and climbing vacations09 Feb 2009 09:00 am

Yangshuo is a lush, scenic area in China that is vastly covered with karst limestone towers – a magical place for rock climbers!  It has established itself as a top sport climbing destination worldwide and received due attention during the first annual Climbing Festival in November 2008. Gabe and I rolled into town just in time for the climbing festival and enjoyed a month of superb sport climbing thereafter.  If you are planning a trip to Yangshuo, our beginner’s guide will help your become familiar with the climbing areas and local to-do’s.

Karst Limestone Towers in Yangshuo, China

Karst Limestone Towers in Yangshuo, China

WHAT: rock climbing!

For starters, Yangshuo is perhaps the best sport climbing destination in Asia for beginner climbers. There are nearly fifty 5.8 climbs, over fifty 5.9 climbs and plenty of 10a’s to keep you busy. There are even bolted climbs as easy as 5.4 and some great multipitch sport lines rated 5.9. Climbing on Yangshuo’s karst limestone towers involves anything from big jugs, small crimps, to unique tufas and stalagtites features.

WHEN: best times to go

There are generally two main times to go climbing in Yangshuo:

  • Autumn: late September (very warm) through early December (chilly)
  • Spring: Late February (might be rainy) through to May (very warm)

Check out this summary of Yangshuo annual weather patterns for more details and wunderground for current weather.

WHERE: getting there

For most, a climbing trip to Yangshuo, China starts by getting yourself to Guilin, China (plane, train, or automobile) and taking the public bus one hour south. Immediately you’ll find yourself immersed in a lush scenery full of the serendipitous towers, rivers, and farmers fields. Step onto Main Street in Yangshuo, China and you may find yourself lost in a sea of Chinese tourists bargaining for souvenirs.

Main Street in Yangshuo, China

Main Street in Yangshuo, China

Don’t get distracted because you are here to rock climb! The first obvious stop for your is to find the local climbing shops including China Climb’s Lizard Lounge (fun bouldering wall in the back), Spiderman (Paul’s), and Xclimber’s across the way. Pick up the book Yangshuo Rock Climbs by Paul Collis for 100 RMB. Some other great hangouts include Bar 98, Karst Cafe, and Rock & Grill.

One you get yourself situated in a hostel/hotel (such as Bamboo House Inn, Riverside, or Rock & Grill) or try an uber affordable local room rented out by the month (ask someone at the Lizard Lounge), then you’re ready to hit the crags!

Getting around either involves renting bikes (5 RMB/day) or taking the public mini-buses from the bus station (2.5 RMB/one way). If you have a few friends together you can get Lizard Lounge to call for the ’speedy’ chartered mini-bus that can fit up to ten people (30 RMB/one way).

WHERE: the climbing crags

There are three main areas where you can find plenty of excellent quality moderate climbs. You can easily keep yourself entertained for a couple weeks at pretty accessible crags that are less than 20 minutes bike ride or a speedy mini-bus ride away.  Here is a map of the climbing crags.

Top Beginner’s Crags

Wine Bottle

Grades: 5.6-5.11d (with many 5.10s)
This is the closest crag to town and is quite popular with quality climbing. You can see it right across from the tourist attraction, Butterfly Cave. The only downside to this beautiful crag is that it’s south facing and you don’t plan around that you may find yourself baking there on a sunny afternoon.

Wine Bottle Crag

Wine Bottle Crag

Great ticks:

  • Summit No. 1, 5.9 - It’s a great climb to start with, offering nice pockets on good rock.
  • Slack, 5.10b - This climb sticks out in our mind because its nestled in between two tufas. If you haven’t climbed tufas before, this is a nice route to get up close and personal with them.
Gabe belaying Maria at Wine Bottle

Gabe belaying Maria at Wine Bottle

There are a lot of climbs on this crag, so you could also plan for an epic day basically working from right (generally easier) to left (increasingly harder with a few easy ones at the end) and trying to tackle as many climbs possible.

The Egg

Grades: 5.8-5.12 (with many 5.9s, 5.10s, some 5.11s)
The beauty of this crag is that there good rock all around it so you can stay in the shade (or sun) all day long. There are four face sections that you can work your way around.

The Egg, Yangshuo

The Egg, Yangshuo

Great ticks:

  • East Face / Fried Egg Face: Chocolate Milk Crack, 5.9 - It proved to be the most enjoyable climb amongst the sharper routes on this rock face.
  • North East Face: The Deviant Direct, 5.9 multipitch - What looks to be the easiest multipitch climb in the area, try The Deviant Direct (3 pitches worth of 5.9, 5.8, 5.7). If you’re not into multipitch climbs just yet, the first pitch is enjoyable enough on its own.
  • North Face: Rooster Booster, 5.10a - For a longer and more technical route, try the Rooster Booster.
  • West Face: Eggstreme Eggsposure, 5.10b - The guidebook suggests this one mainly for the photo-op with its photogenic crux roof.

Baby Frog Buttress

Grades: mostly 5.9 and 5.10
This crag is a little further away from the bunch but often wins the hearts of the beginner climber. There are plenty of easy routes with pleasant views of the farmland and surrounding karst scenery.

View and Climber at Baby Frog Buttress

View and Climber at Baby Frog Buttress

Great ticks:

  • Toad in The Hole, 5.9 - This route is a fun, delicate one that slightly traverses right.
  • Frogs Traverse, 5.10c - If you are a beginner trying to gain a few grades, the Frogs Traverse is definitely a sweet one to start on. It’s a relatively soft but technical climb that is pretty short so you won’t pump yourself out.

Thumb Peak

Grades: 5.8-5.11 multipitch climbs
The multipitch climbs on Thumb Peak are pretty classic in Yangshuo including the 5.8-5.9ish combo climb from Paparazzi Pete to Happy New Year (how-to on page 27 of guidebook). A different variation we tried was Paparazzi to the harder Happy Jun Jun, which is a good challenge for the more intermediate climber.

View from a belay ledge on Thumb Peak

View from a belay ledge on Thumb Peak

Other great beginner-worthy crags:

Treasure Cave

After making your way up the steep approach, find yourself surrounded by bunch of great shaded climbs within the high cave.

  • Losing Face, 5.10b - Work out the small traverse and then your way up to the big anchor ledge.
Treasure Cave

Treasure Cave

Space Buttress

A bunch of good beginner to intermediate climbs at this crag and good for a shaded morning pump fest.

Space Buttress Crag

Space Buttress Crag

Dark Star, 5.10a & 5.10b multipitch
Pitch two the better of the two and if you are feeling bold, you can setup a simple TR on the for the harder 5.11a climb, Interstalagtic Cruiser.

Maria on the 2nd pitch of Dark Star

Maria on the 2nd pitch of Dark Star

Low Mountain

A nice crag close to Space Buttress. It offers many great climbs, although try to avoid the 5.9 there with polished foot holds. There’s known to be a good

  • Sherrif Fatman, 5.10a - This is a well bolted route that warrants someone’s first 5.10a lead.
  • The Monkey King, 5.8-5.10c multipitch sport & trad - A great option if you’re a comfortable multipitch climber who has tackled 5.10c climbs before. The last pitch is a trad pitch but if you have the gear go for it with a scramble to top out.
Gabe working on the onsight

Gabe working on the onsight

Chicken Cave

Although there aren’t a lot of easy climbs at this crag, everything stays dry in the rain.

Chicken Cave

Chicken Cave

  • Team Sweden, 5.10a/b - A reasonably moderate climb.

White Mountain

There are six 5.10 climbs here with the best climbing in the 5.11-5.13 range. 

Maria at White Mountain

Maria at White Mountain

REST DAYS

Here are our top things to do during a rest day in Yangshuo:

  • Get a Dr. Lily Massage - If you have a high threshold for pain, get all the kicks worked out from Dr. Lily. She’s a real doctor and knows all about acupressure, acupuncture, and strange concoctions. Try to get one after a long day of climbing because you’ll need the rest day to recover!
Dr. Lily Traditional Massage

Dr. Lily Traditional Massage

  • Float Down the River - Not far from town you can find many locals providing a lazy river ride service. You can try a simple bamboo raft or go all out for the big boat ride along the Li River to Guilin.
  • Go on a Tandem Bike Ride - If you’ve never been on a tandem bike, you don’t know what you’re missing! For starters, it’s all about cooperation.
Gabe and Maria at the Tandem Bike Race in Yangshuo

Gabe and Maria at the Tandem Bike Race in Yangshuo

After a few trials, we came to a few conclusions:

  1. the heavier person should be in the front (hopefully this person is also good a navigating)
  2. you should give warning when you decide to coast because the pedals are connected
  3. use the bike ringer in high traffic area to signify your incoming or you may go unnoticed
  4. only wear those silly flower crowns if you too want to look like a cheesy tourist
  5. don’t drink and tandem bike ride!
  • Rain Day Worthy: Watch a Movie or Play Cards - Two great rain day / rest day options. Many hostels/hotels have rooms with TV & DVD players with a bunch of movies free to borrow. The corner restaurant and KTV lounge [INSERT REAL NAME] offers a private room where you can pick out a movie and watch for free as long as you buy food/drinks there. Cards can be played pretty much anywhere and our favorite games include Jin/Rummy, Plump and Cribbage.

Last but certainly not least…FOOD!

Take the time to enjoy some ginger tea, dumplings, Guilin-style noodles, and a slew of other local treats while you’re visiting Yangshuo.  Here are our top picks:

  • Dumpling Dynasty - This is definitely a must-eat venue for lunch or dinner with its tasty water fried dumplings (12 RMB)! The other stuff on the menu is quite tasty too but you may want to ask for less oil if you are health conscious.
Water Fried Dumplings from Dumpling Dynasty

Water Fried Dumplings from Dumpling Dynasty

  • Bar 98 - Chill place for great drinks and snack food in a great atmosphere with good music. Includes a pool table and communal computer. This is one of the only places that gets heated with two wood burning fireplaces in Yangshuo, which is great on a colder day/night.
  • Golden Dragon Restaurant - Think lazy-susan round table dining with lots of reasonably priced, high quality dishes. This restaurant is a great place for a big celebratory group with a handy, picture-intensive menu. It’s located just inside the ‘City in City’ complex on the second floor.
  • Appetizer at Golden Dragon Restaurant

    Appetizer at Golden Dragon Restaurant

  • Fang Fang’s Local Yangshuo Restaurant - A great place for cheap and tasty eats including BBQ/Grilled foods. Beer duck and fish are delicious. For the heath conscious, remember to ask for less oil.
  • Drinking Bar - Don’t expect to get a pint here. Make your way over to this tiny booth with a yellow sign just off the end of Diecui Rd for the best and cheapest bubble tea drinks in town. The menu is only in Chinese but you can point to the first item, which is a (small or large) milk tea with tapioca pearls/bubbles. The lower menu items are the extra flavored varieties such as taro bubble tea (I think it’s the 8th item down – all tasty and non-alcoholic ;)
  • Lou’s Bakery - All locations (there are three) offer tasty breads and pastries you can bring to the crags. They make great cakes too!
  • ‘the dessert bakery’ - It’s a booth-like shop on the left side of the market offers fresh egg rolls and other dessert-like baked goods. Indulge in one of those sesame balls and round pastries as after-dinner dessert.
  • Unnamed “Fish Hot Pot” restaurant - Amazing and seemingly endless plates of thinly sliced fish makes for an incredibly fresh meal…ask a local climber like TonTon from Bar 98 to take you.
  • Unnamed “10 RMB stir-fry” restaurant - It’s located close by the market, across from the main roundabout on Pantao Lu. Pick out fresh veggies and meat and the nice cook will whip them into a delicious, single-serving stir-fry. It goes along with a kind of rice cooked in a hot pot.
  • Unnamed “6 RMB stir-fry” restaurant - It’s located a bit outside of town but if you find it, it’s a (dirt-cheap) gem…ask a local climber to take you!
alpine climbing20 Nov 2008 09:00 am

This past September, we trekked to K2 base camp and Trango Tower base camp. At Trango Tower base camp, we happened to meet a group of rock climbers and filmmakers on the Trango 08 expedition. They were attempting the first free ascent of ‘Eternal Flame’ (VI 5.12b A0) on Nameless Tower in the Trango Group. We learned a lot about climbing on the Trango Group from the climbers there, mainly Gaz Parry, and have since learned even more. Here’s a quick overview of what we learned about rock climbing on Trango Tower and in the Trango Group in general - one of the most spectacular climbing areas in the world.

The three major climbing peaks in the Trango Group, from left to right: Trango Monk, Nameless Tower, Great Trango

The three major climbing peaks in the Trango Group, from left to right: Trango Monk, Nameless Tower, Great Trango

Nameless Tower is also called Trango Tower, and it is between Trango Monk and Great Trango Tower.
Here’s a quick video with some beta about approaching routes on Nameless Tower from base camp.

http://www.vimeo.com/2200834

Eternal Flame
Eternal Flame is thirty-five pitches long and if climbed at 5.12b contains only 2 aid pitches (which the Trango 08 expedition was attempting to free). However, once you are at the top of the climb, you aren’t at the summit. You then need to follow the ridge to the top. The difficulty of the ridge can vary widely depending on weather, but in snowy conditions it can be quite a challenge and suck up precious time. On the first one day ascent of Eternal Flame in 2006, the Slovenian team of Andrej Grmovsek and Silvo Karo got to the ridge and then encountered three hours of mixed climbing up to M5 until the summit. In comparison, it took them only four hours to rappel the whole tower! Climbing Eternal Flame (and in the Trango Group in general) is best from July to mid-September. Many of the first ascents on Nameless have occurred in early September, but the weather in September can be a mixed bag and gets progressively worse through the month. This year, the Trango 08 expedition had to fight snowy conditions on the lower slab sections and when they reached the crack systems up high, they were full of ice. That was in early September and the weather just kept getting progressively worse.

The first all female ascent of Trango’s 6,239m Nameless Tower’s ‘Eternal Flame’ route was made by Tina Di Batista, Tanja Grmovsek, and Aleksandra Voglar. At 4:00am on September 8th, 2006 the group of three began their alpine-style ascent. They experienced bad weather but continued to climb, even with frostbite on their hands. Luckily the skies cleared and they made a strong push and summited at 9:00pm on September 9th. Check out the summit photo of the first all-female ascent courtesy of The Alpinist.

Great Trango Tower
While Nameless Tower is known for its amazing crack systems and free climbing, Great Trango is known for overhanging hard aid and super long routes. Earlier this year, a group of Norwegians made a historic ascent. They followed the unrepeated Norwegian line from 1984 during which the climbers summited but died on the descent. The epic lines up Great Trango Tower are long - think 90 pitches with difficulties up to 5.11d A2. That route was done alpine-style over five days in 2006 by two Czech climbers, Gabo Cmarik and Jozef Kopold.

The future of climbing in the Trango Group
There are many other lines up the steep granite walls of the Trango Group and climbers are pushing their limits for firsts in the area. I think that in the coming years we will see more first free ascent attempts on the established routes, as well as daring speed ascents done alpine style. Perhaps Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama will show up one day and set some amazing big wall speed records. These climbs are only for the elite, but this area in the Karakorams is one of the most beautiful mountainous places in the world. The treks to Trango Tower and K2 base camps are unforgettable and worth it even if you aren’t coming to climb.

climbing destinations and climbing vacations07 Nov 2008 09:00 am

I love traveling to rock climb, but sometimes it can be difficult to find information about faraway rock climbing areas. So, I thought it would be useful for climbers to have access to a map of climbing destinations that linked to the best guidebook or online resource for each area. So, I put together a map of worldwide climbing destinations/. Every destination tells a little about the place, including the styles of climbing (sport, trad, etc.) and then has links to the best guidebook(s) or website for the place. I’m not trying to list every climbing area in the world. Instead, I want to just list the areas that have a high quality resource available for people who want to visit from far away (or even not so far). It’s a work in progress, so let me know of any errors or omissions.

Go here for the map: Guides to Worldwide Climbing Destinations

climbing destinations and limestone and southeast asia and sport climbing02 Nov 2008 08:00 pm

On day 2, the final day of the Yangshuo Climbing Festival, we awoke to steady rain which continued through the evening. However, no one let it get them down. The schedule was re-arranged slightly and the overhanging White Mountain crag stayed dry the whole time.

In the morning, climbing clinics hosted by pro athletes were held in Yangshuo’s local stadium. At noon, the competition results were announced and the top three participants in the male and female categories received cheerful applause and some sweet gear from the festival’s sponsors. We’re not quite sure how everyone is going to bring back those heavy Entre-Prises training boards!

After lunch, we all headed to the White Mountain crag for the Hardest Route comp. Two routes were chosen, a 5.12b for the women and a 5.14a for the men. As the climbing wall is quite overhanging, these routes were dry and imposing. Close to ten athletes took up the challenge on the routes.

Although no one made it to the top anchors, it was still a spectacular event. The climbers busted out some tough moves and got significant vertical…and of course took some big whippers! Here are a few pictures and videos from the event:

American Rock Climber Kate Rutherford on a 5.12b

American Rock Climber Kate Rutherford on a 5.12b

http://www.vimeo.com/2142478
British Climber James Pearson on a 5.14a

British Climber James Pearson on a 5.14a

During the climbing competition, a few people interviewed the American Climber Cedar Wright and the other pros about their climbing experiences. Here’s a clip of Cedar talking about the dangers of climbing:

http://www.vimeo.com/2140437

There was a quick final ceremony before most people bolted off in the rain to catch the buses back to town. We all got back pretty muddy but were in good spirits.

Thank you to the organizing committee of passionate volunteers, all the local and pro climbers who came out, and the generous sponsors including The North Face and Black Diamond. Everyone has set a high bar for the 2009 Yangshuo Climbing Festival!

climbing destinations and rock climbing and southeast asia and sport climbing01 Nov 2008 11:32 am

Today was the first full day of the First Annual Yanshuo Climbing Festival, sponsored by The North Face and Black Diamond. There were hundreds of climbers, volunteers, and spectators out for the event, which was spread across three crags. We were at White Mountain, the main venue, for the whole day.

Yangshuo Climbing Festival at White Mountain

Yangshuo Climbing Festival at White Mountain

The redpoint climbing competition was today and saw some great redpoints (up to 5.13a) as well as some big whippers. Everyone had a great time and luckily it didn’t start to rain until late in the afternoon.

Chinese climber, A Bon, on a 5.12b at White Mountain

Chinese climber, A Bon, on a 5.12b at White Mountain

In addition to the climbing competition, the sponsored athletes gave some intro climbing clinics to help educate interested spectators about advanced climbing techniques. Cedar Wright gave a great intro to big wall climbing clinic, going over the basics of aid climbing, ascending ropes, and how to sleep on the side of a cliff. Black Diamond even brought a portaledge that he hung on the cliff and jumared up to. Afterwards, we were lucky enough to chat a bit more with Cedar about more advanced techniques, like the choice to use two aiders versus four and whether to clip in short to pieces using fifi hooks vs. Petzl Spirit quickdraws. Cedar says that 2 aiders is the way to go and that he experimented with Petzl Spirit quickdraws, but eventually moved to using a fifi.

Cedar Wright explaining the nuances of flip flop jumaring

Cedar Wright explaining the nuances of flip flop jumaring

Later in the day, James Pearson ran a clinic on sport climbing techniques, covering quick clipping, lead climbing safety, lead belaying techniques and much more. James got Cedar to help demonstrate a quick lead climb up the bottom of a 12b and the crowd loved it. Here’s a clip from the climb:

http://www.vimeo.com/2124495

The day finished with slideshows from the pro athletes and a huge dinner with 300 barbecued chickens. Everyone there got to have an entire one! Unfortunately, the power went out so the presentations got cut short, but hopefully they will get to finish sometime tomorrow. Overall, it was a great day and we feel very lucky to be in Yangshuo for the festival. Thanks to the guys from China Climb and the other local climbers who organized this amazing event. We’re hoping that the rain doesn’t interfere with the hardest climb competition tomorrow!

Updated: Here’s our coverage of day 2 of the climbing festival.

Page 1 of 41234»

Next Page »



Climbing is dangerous. Be safe!