Hangzhou Climbing

The May 1st holiday weekend is upon us which means it is almost time to head back down south for the best of spring climbing in Yangshuo. I usually wait till after the busy weekend before I head down. I'm looking for cheap tickets for after the 11th and hope to stay till the end of the month.

In the meantime, I've been going over to Hangzhou, the Ling Shan crag, with Marcos from the Shanghai gym. There are only a handful of, 7 or 8, climbs bolted at the moment and I find all of them pretty stiff for the grades. Maybe I'm not comfortable with the limestone there yet. The only 'warm-up' is a short but stiff 5.10b. Gets you on your arms from the get go and doesn't let up till you dyno for the very top, usually with a painful flash-pump. Next comes a scary 5.11a, a multi-pitch climb that is probably a bit harder than that, then a 5.12d before the harder 5.13 climbs! Not really my kind of place at this time, but I do enjoy working some of the difficult lines on top-rope.

I've worked a 12d on TR the past two sessions and managed to link the first 6 draws. The crux section comes next and I'll begin working the entire thing on lead. This is like almost 2 number grades beyond what I usually struggle up but it has been good for me. I'm breaking through some barriers as well as getting stronger. Raw finger tips, sore arms and frozen shoulders the next morning is the price I'm still willing to pay.

The crag stays wet for a few days after it rains and we plan on bolting some new lines once the rains stop. There is not much there at the moment, but it still beats climbing indoors any day! There are lots of other crags that have yet to be touched, and we saw one huge cave that looks intriguing. We are at the crag in just over 2 hours from the Shanghai station and usually back home after 10pm. Marcos has Thursdays off so this could turn into a regular thing whenever I'm not in Yangshuo or on a climbing trip.


Sharma in Yangshuo

Chris Sharma has been in Yangshuo since the beginning of April and will move on to Beijing on the 21st. Couple of guys from Shanghai went down and got to climb with him and were all duly impressed. The guy and his girlfriend on-sighted most of the 14s. Here's a video link of Chris at White Mt. http://tr.im/j5G5

So what got done? Two new lines at White Mt on the far left-hand side. A new 5.14c named "Spicy Noodle" and a bolted project next to it that will probably go at 5.15a/b. This will give Ah Bon and Ah Chen something to keep busy on for a while. Might even see some trophy-line hunters show up to get the first ascent on the 15.

Photo is of Xiao Cai from Beijing after sending Moon Walker (5.12d) at Moon Hill.


Setting Bolting Standards

There has been a bit of lively discussion lately about bolting standards in Yangshuo, not all of it civil. Paul Collis, in his guidebook, Yangshuo Rockclimbing, has suggested standards for bolts: 316 or A4 stainless steel expansion bolts with a minimum diameter of 10mm or 3.8 inch. Abseil anchors are another story and there is a new campaign, funded by revenues from last year's climbing festival and made available to the Yangshuo Climbing Association from Black Diamond, to replace the anchors at White Mountain and Lei Pi Shan.

Anchor hardware configurations can vary depending on the rock and the line of the route. I have put up anchors with chain connecting a rap-ring on an anchor hanger to a standard hanger placed directly above. I have also used two pieces of climbing rope threaded through separate bolt hangers and connected to two large rap rings. Both set-ups offer a single rap point to reduce rope friction and twisting while providing the safety of two bolts.

The less civil bolting arguments turn around bolt spacing and whether an existing line should be bolted or re-bolted.

First bolt spacing. Better climbers often prefer more spacing between bolts to give a better flow to the climb and find clipping too often detracts from the quality of the climbing experience (they can always just skip clips!?!). Less bold and weaker climbers often prefer more bolts to reduce the length of their potential falls. The problem area seems to be between climbs in the 5.10 range, which tend to be more closely bolted, and 5.12 climbs, which assume climbers just want the necessary safety and are less concerned about bigger falls. Most complaints of over-bolting have come from strong climbers who have climbed 5.11 climbs, many of them put up by Paul and myself. I've since gone back and climbed a few of these lines and I must agree that some do feel over-bolted. I will try to improve in the future and as I climb stronger I might place bolts farther apart on more difficult 5.11s.

On the other side are 5.10 climbers like myself who have ventured onto poorly bolted 5.11s and nearly shit themselves. Two come to mind: Simon Wilson's 5.11a on the Fried Egg Wall at the Egg and the 5.11c thin crack line at Lei Pi Shan put up by Alex Xi Tang. Both climbs have been re-bolted to remove very real ground/ledge fall potential. I find the climbs much improved because the cruxes are now about 'making the moves' instead of 'making a clip from a bad handhold'. I spoke to Simon on a number of occasions about not liking making the clip just above a ledge from a tiny crimper. He assured me that the clip was no problem - and it wasn't for him, he climbs 5.13.

At issue is: Who has the final say in what gets bolted and how it gets bolted? Is someone responsible for adding or changing bolt placements after a route has been opened by the first ascensionists, especially if there are safety concerns? Both of the above mentioned routes were rebolted by Dave Gliddon, a seasonally Yangshuo hardman with an Australian accent. Dave noticed the problems after hearing complaints and took it upon himself to make the changes. Everyone I've talked to says the changes have improved the climbs.

Some changes made to other routes have been more controversial and even criticized in the guidebook. Replacing the rusty bolts on a few classic lines at Moon Hill has been largely praised. Since there will always be different opinions on best bolting practices, we need a forum to discuss things such as bolting standards, safety issues for existing routes and communicating these standards to visiting climbers who want to leave new routes behind for the rest of us to climb. Sounds like just the job for the Yangshuo Climbing Association!

Photo is of Paul Collis on the first ascent of the Yosemite Flake on the Great Wall.


Full Spring Conditions

I'm stuck in Shanghai and have to settle for pulling down in the gyms here. This Easter weekend should see a few hundred climbers descend on Yangshuo from all over China as well as a big group from Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the weather forecasts call for rain! Spoke with Tyson this morning, he and Chris Sharma were heading to Riverside today. White Mountain, Lie Pi Shan and Chicken Cave have all seen a lot of traffic recently as those are some of the best wet weather crags with hard routes. I plan on climbing in Yanghsuo again late April and early May, just like last year, as the weather is usually more stable then.

I'll let you know when I get updates from any new bolting that Sharma puts up for us. Everything seems to be in place so maybe we'll see something next week. Happy Easter and keep pulling down.

Photo shows Ah Bon getting ready to pull the roof on First Contact at Space Buttress. Gives you an idea of just how big it is.