Quickdraw Heist

A climber from Shenzhen took 14 draws off two routes that Colton and Tyson had just put up on the Space Buttress. They were planning on sending them after taking a few days off. They arrived one morning together with Spiderman in early December, but the draws were no longer there. I guess it is fair to say that they were pissed, at least one of them was out for blood! With so few climbers in town it took about one hour to track down the thief and after a threatening encounter with a few irate foreigners, he reluctantly produced the draws and left town on the next bus with, luckily for him, his nose still intact. Ah Ban called other Shenzhen climbers to tell them what happened and to make sure the guy doesn’t come back. Guess he’ll have to take up snooker or majhong or something because he won’t be climbing in Yangshuo or Shenzhen again.

This is the first time I’ve heard of gear, other than bolt hangers, going missing. I understand the guy probably doesn’t have a lot of money and the draws were irresistible, but give me a break! Doesn’t he have an imagination?? Turns out some friends of mine from Shanghai were climbing with him that afternoon and warned him not to take the draws explaining that they were on new projects. He waited till after dark, climbed up and took them and then called Speedy for a ride back to town. Speedy overheard him talk about the draws he’d nicked as well! More than that, his belayer was a young YS climber and he was staying with one of Spiderman’s guides! The noose was unavoidable: he got what he deserved.

One of the best things about Yangshuo is that there are so many local climbers getting into climbing and even resetting their life priorities with climbing near the top of the list. It’s great to see their excitement and ambition. There are few other areas of life in China where I have found common ground with the locals, other than drinking and gambling but that is a universal thing. They respect the sport and also other climbers. That is why it was so important to all of us that Colton and Tyson got their draws back.


Hard Routes

This is the only picture I have of Lei Pi Shan; that's Rocky on Singularity (5.12a/7a+). BD climbers were out this fall and said they thought this was the best piece of limestone in the area. The face shown here is overhanging for most of its 40+ meter height. I had been reluctant to climb there thinking the grades were too hard, but I surprised myself by getting up a few things and now understand why so many climbers love the place. I'll go back.

I’ve been back at climbing regularly for about 3 years now and I still can’t climb HARD routes, but I am getting stronger and getting up more stuff on lead. I’ve started to wonder why harder routes are such an attraction. Jeff Lowe said that the best climber is the one having the most fun. I’m usually having more fun when I’m pushing my limits.

Harder lines make me dig deeper, usually someone tells me that I’m way strong enough to get up a hard line, and that I’ve just got to figure out how to make the moves or keep my head in it when I feel like bailing. Being on the edge, stepping into the unknown, leaving the security of the last rest, that is where life happens. Kind of like that first kiss you’re not sure she will accept, but you feel compelled to put your heart out on the line. Remember how that felt? Harder lines are only as good as their ability to recreate that wonderful feeling of wanting something, but not knowing how it is going to turn out and going for it anyway.


Climbing in China

Just spoke with friends in Yangshuo and there are still quite a few climbers in town even though the sun hasn’t been shining as much in the past few days. Shanghai was minus 3 C this morning and overcast, I wish I were somewhere else climbing.

Spoke with Daliu who is in Dali with a few Americans putting up new lines on the limestone cliff on the lake there. The weather is fine, no cold fingers, and he plans to put up lots of new routes this season; could be the place to spend winters and it is smaller and easier to get around in than Kunming.

The climbing lifestyle is not easy to pursue from Shanghai. I usually get on a plane to Yangshuo, or if I can find partners to the mountains of Sichuan. Stephen and I have been to the crags outside of Hangzhou, about 2 hours by train and taxi, but the climbing there is still very limited and I haven’t seen anything that begs to be climbed.

Loads of stuff outside of Beijing, Huangshan (sister park to Yosemite), Qingyuan, Hong Kong, granite outside of Qingdao, sandstones in Henan, monoliths in Xinjiang, boulders outside of Xiamen and probably dozens of other awesome places waiting to be discovered. Just thinking about it makes life in Shanghai more bearable.


This fall climbing season was amazing! The weather followed its normal pattern and turned fair in late November and clear skies made for lower nighttime temperatures and low humidity - perfect conditions for sending routes at the otherwise hot and sweaty White Mountain. On my first day out I redpointed a personal best - on my first attempt! That, added to a few trad leads, including a first ascent on the Camel's Neck, made it a memorable season. Family obligations cut my trip short at 15 days instead of the hoped for 5 weeks but next year, with our youngest child off t college in the US, I should be able to take advantage of all the great conditions.

The weather is still great and will probably will remain so until into late December. Some of my best climbing days in Yangshuo have been in the 3rd week of December, and it is painful to sit in Shanghai just thinking about it. SW and I climbed indoors here yesterday and I really had to keep reminding myself that it was supposed to be fun!

A number of Shanghai climbers have been talking about spending up to one month in Yangshuo over Chinese New Year, which falls on January 26th, but the thought of the cold rain doesn't really do it for me yet. Family is talking about Thailand. Tough decision!

I've been going through my most recent photos including the ones I took from a boom I put together and set up at White Mountain. Just having the boom does not guarantee good photos and I will have to think more about composition and and the sun angles before I put it up again. I took a lot of photos, but did not come up with too many spectacular ones. You can check them out on Flicker.


Yangshuo Climbing Festival Planning

Planning for next year's annual Yangshuo Climbing Festival is about to get underway and there is much excitement surrounding it. One thing for sure is that it will be much different than this year's. So far, no one has taken the lead, although one of the sponsors is pushing to start the dialogue as soon as possible.

Mistakes were made at this year's event, but nothing more than was to be expected for the inaugural year. In all, I think it went down very well: the weather mostly co-operated, everyone had a good time and no one was injured. Some of the international sponsored climbers stay around in the area for up to a month after the festival and it was great to climb and hang out with them.

Some squabbles broke out among the volunteers, I include myself in this group, and there were some equipment and management issues that could have been handled better - all problems that will be taken care of next year.

I do, however, have a few views on how I would like to see the festival run next year:

First of all, I would like to see the climbing community play a bigger role, and the sponsors a conversely smaller role, next year. Although the guiding shops do take out a lot of clients, they contribute relatively little to the development of climbing in the area. ChinaClimb is, however, a notable exception as they do contribute to bolting of new routes and some of their guides put in a lot of time and effort ensuring that existing routes are safely bolted. They also buy bolting hardware and make their drill available to experienced bolters.

That being said, I would like to see the active, independent climbers play a more central role in next year's festival or at least get acknowledged for their role in making Yangshuo the great area is it today. PC and I have put in much time and money over the past years establishing new routes and in opening and improving entirely new crags for climbing. In the past year we have spent many days developing Space Buttress, the Camel's Neck, the Totem Pole and, of course, the Great Wall. These crags, I believe, add significantly to the quality of the climbing experience for anyone visiting Yangshuo.

Climbers at the top of the game spend more of their time at Lei Pi Shan and White Mountain because of the number of difficult lines there, and we have also put up new, moderate routes at these crags for those of us who do not climb at a high level. The thinking was that some of the partners of the more hard-core climbers would also appreciate having easier routes to climb there. This has worked out just as planned and we get many positive comments for our new 5.10 lines there.

The climbers who are actively developing the area must get recognized at next year's festival, maybe the only way to do that is to tone-down the emphasis on a climbing competition and find other ways to celebrate the climbing here. I would like to find ways to get more people out to more crags just to make them aware of the diversity of climbing possibilities here. A photo competition might also be included next year as this is also a big part of the sport for many of us. Or how about introducing a handicapping system so climbers can compete more fairly with each other. Recognition for winners instead of prizes might make the competition more fun and we could have more categories, perhaps include more crags, crazy costumes, team events - anything to make it more fun and different!

Any while we are at it, why not have a local farmer's and an old-timer's category next year?

The second point I'd like to make is that we should try to involve the local community in next year's event. There are many shops, hotels, restaurants, bus drivers and even massage parlors that are part of our climbing experience and they should be invited to participate by advertising or opening stalls or booths at the events. Why not let Karst Cafe sell breakfast burritos or Dr. Lily give back massages, or the juice stands provide smoothies, the bakeries sell muffins or cinnamon rolls near the event venues? Other than cash, I failed to see what some of the sponsors of this year's events have contributed to the area compared to these local businesses.

Finally, we need to search for a better theme for next year's event and to stick with it. Do we want to be a commercial success? Do we want to attract more top climbers? or do we just want to have a great party in the laid-back fall season in Yangshuo that we have all come to love? I for one schedule my work-year around taking time off in late spring and fall when conditions are at their best for climbing.

The climbing scene in Yangshuo is unlike anywhere else in the world; it's cheap and accessible, the setting is awesome and the town is very laid-back. Having lived in China and Taiwan for more than 2 decades, for me Yangshuo is the best China has to offer in the way of an outdoor lifestyle. The festival should celebrate all these things, along with the fantastic climbing!

New Routes on Space Buttress

Four exciting new lines went up this November on the spectacular sloping headwalls of the Space Buttress. Colton Lindeman and Tyson Wallace put up First Contact (5.13a) on the lower headwall that follows a magnificent, multi-colored stal formation 20m up to the protruding vertical headwall; the crux is pulling the 2m wide overhang.

Paul Collis put up Space Walk (5.11d) which traverses the vertical headwall on thin crimpers from right to left before finishing in a desperate fists crack.

Paul and Tyson also put up two more lines at 5.11d-5.12a in the same area. There is also a notable 5.10c in the same area as well as some access lines and route alternates which were used to establish new anchors. These lines do not appear in the most recent guidebook.

Yangshuo Rockclimbing Blog

This blog is dedicated to the development and promotion of rock climbing in Yangshuo, China. I've been climbing in Yangshuo for about three years now and interest in the area has increased greatly over the past two seasons.

More international climbers from around the world are coming to the area and staying around, not only to climb the great lines that are going up, but also to help put up new lines and develop new crags. It's is a great time to be involved!

The latest guide book came out in October and describes 375 established climbs on 33 different crags. That number has increased to 391 routes on 34 crags and the regular bolting crews are already talking about their spring projects.

Most routes are bolted for sport climbing although there are numerous traditionally protected lines including a number of challenging multi-pitch lines. Difficulty grades begin around 5.9, due to the nature of the rock, only sheltered rock is climbable and that usually means overhung. Most routes are in the 5.10-5.11 range but there are 90+routes at 5.12 and above including a few 5.14 test pieces.

The rock is karst limestone and rock quality at many of the better crags compares favorably with limestone anywhere in the world. There are thousands of karst towers with exposed faces that have yet to be developed and we anticipate more intereste in establishing lines in the area from both local and international climbers.