White Mountain Open and Rebolted

Went our with Drew Hedesh and Tan Xi on Monday and finished the job on Wednesday with Ah Chen and Maria Frau, all but 3 less popular routes have been rebolted and relationships with the villagers are on good footing again. I anticipate seeing a lot of climbers out there this weekend as Hong Kong has a 3-day weekend coming up.

Photo are of us getting a ladder from a local villager and of Ah Cheng re-bolting the bottom of Abinormal, the site of a recent ground fall that resulted in injuries.

Temps are also down and we've climbed at White Mountain and the Space Buttress for the past two days and enjoyed cool overcast skies. I'm excited to see what I can send this season: the hold all feel a bit bigger this year - a good sign!


White Mountain Access - Rebolting

Met with villagers again today and we agreed that we should replace the bolts that had been chopped on the bottom of all routes. We plan to finish the work by the end of the week.I still need the help of some more strong climbers to rebolt the difficult routes.

We are working out arrangements for continued access and will need to discuss a few open points before we can conclude anything. The village has assured that they want to work with us and that access can continue as is till the end of the year at which time we will begin to finalize long-term agreements. I have started the Yangshuo Access Initiative YAI and the website is up at http://yangshuoaccess.org. Please look there for further updates.


October Update

Climbing is in full swing although it has been a bit warm the past two days with temps reaching 30 degrees. Climbers have been at all the popular crags including White Mountain where we have just begun replacing the bottom bolts that were removed by the local villagers.

Ah Cheng and Ah Bang finally sent the project at the Chicken Cave. Paul and I bolted it over one year ago climbing aid on lead. The consensus grade is 13b/c. Ah Cheng said it was one of the best climbs he has ever been on: very technical with a few unlikely knee-bars. They are still trying to come up with a suitable name.

A new 'beginner' crag has been bolted - the Swiss Cheese - located just outside of town on the way to Wine Bottle. There are 8 routes from 5.6 to 5.10. I'll post the route topo here and we will include it in the upcoming supplement to Paul Collis' Yangshuo Rockclimbs.

Climbers are out today attempting to establish a route up the picturesque overhanging line on the crag across from the village we pass through on the way to the Egg. They will need a few days as the lower section is sharp black rock and must be climbed before the music starts on the exposed orange rock above. Many climbers have talked about getting on this line and Andrew deserves to bag it with all the work he has put in on the Swiss Cheese. He is also working with the YAI to document the bolting situation and come up with recommended bolting standards for the area.


White Mountain Accident

A climber fell to the ground from low on a climb at White Mountain and sustained a serious arm fracture earlier this week. The fall took place after a foothold broke off while the climber was clipping the third bolt, the lower two were missing, just above the tufa on 'Abinormal'.

The bottom hangers had been removed from all White Mountain routes by villagers who are attempting to get money from climbers there. Had the hangers been there, no ground-fall would have happened. This is the first serious accident resulting from the villagers removing hardware.

This ongoing access issue is complicated by unclear land-use-rights for crags because, previously, there was no economic value associated with the cliffs. Disagreements between nearby villages compound the complexity of the problem and negotiations lead us into a morass of long-standing feuds that have nothing to do with climbing.

I have founded the Yangshuo Access Initiative YAI to try and address these issues from the point of view of independent climbers. We are still not formally established as an organization in China but a website is under development where I will be continuing this blog: http://yangshuoaccess.org. You will be able to join soon and we needs your fee contributions to help resolve some of these issues. At the very least, I hope to have a cool T-shirt for members to entice them to join.


Trip Preparation

Still in Shanghai but ready to travel to Yangshuo for an extended fall trip starting next week. I've been in touch with climbers and there is nothing new to report on the access front other than to confirm that most of the hangers have been removed from the bottom of all White Mountain routes. Probably best to show up at the crag ready to stick-clip the higher bolts just to be safe. I'll go to the hardware store this morning to pick up some small hand clamps and maybe even a telescoping metal stick if I can find one.

I've arranged to meet with at least one village head to discuss continued access to White Mt. but I understand that we will have to meet with a second village to get them on board as well. This is important in preparation of the upcoming climbing festival mid-November. We want to avoid any hassles between locals and climbers during the festival as word will get out about how 'friendly' the area is and this might influence other climbers' decisions about coming here. I'm still not sure why Rock 'n' Ice published the Sharma article which dealt more with the body climbers found in in Odin's Den and less with the actual climbing or what it was like to hand out in the laid-back ambiance that is Yangshuo.

As for me, I think I am about as prepared as I can be for the fall climbing window. I'm fit, except for a bit of elbow tendonitis that I always seem to aggravate with too much gym climbing, and I have a long list of climbs I want to get on to build my pyramid geared toward sending some 7's this season. I've actually started focusing on my sport grade numbers and working routes so we'll see if this pays off in performance. I'm still most psyched about hopping on a few new crack lines on Birdman; I'll try to get the first ascent on trad gear. I feel the anxiety along with the excitement just thinking about it.


YAI and the Guiding Companies

I have been working on Yangshuo Access Initiative, YAI, documents for the past few days and have English and Chinese drafts ready to discuss next week in Yangshuo. I’ve put together what I believe to be a viable approach to economic development together with the expansion of climbing in Yangshuo and I hope most of the important players will support us and get on-board. I’ve talked on the phone with many climbers from all over China and there is much interest and support. I still have to build a website and am open to assistance if any web designers have some free time. I’ve got artwork and a basic structure, just need to realize it.

There has been some movement in the position of the local climbing association with regard to the question of open access. Most guiding companies now agree it’s best to save their money and let the YAI buy land leases for the crags. Guiding companies still need to develop new guiding and training crags they can manage themselves but these discussions have been going on for many years and we hope to see breakthroughs soon!

Only a small portion of Yangshuo climbers ever use guiding companies and the companies cater mainly to beginners and travelers without partners. Very few experienced climbers ever use them. More directly, it needs to be asked, what have climbing companies done for you and me? Why should we be concerned that they stay around, other than that they are our friends and we sometimes tie in together? I’ve probably bolted more routes than all of the guiding companies put together, except for ChinaClimb who are no longer in the day guiding business, and Spiderman Paul. I’ve help to develop entirely new crags and put early routes on a number of important crags such as Space Buttress, Chicken Cave, the Egg and the Great Wall. I’ve contributed hardware and time, I’ve translated the guidebook, I write this blog and generally do what I can for the community. The guiding companies are free to utilize all of this. So, why should I support them to make money from my work?

Guiding companies need to stop their bellyaching and put together a basket of services, both to their customers and to the community at large, that we can all use and appreciate! Even if it just means putting up new lines for us to get excited about. Furthermore, only when companies concentrate on improving their skill level and their services will they be able to survive economically from climbing - something that is hard to do anywhere in the world.

Crags like White Mountain and Wine Bottle were developed by independent climbers to share with other climbers: they have a 'public park’ status and have been in the public domain for a long time. If guiding companies had their own crags they could set up regular training programs to systematically train new climbers and to help experienced climbers get to the next level. I’d pay if I thought I could learn something useful from a qualified trainer but, presently, I don’t think the guiding companies have this ability or the place to teach.

Yangshuo needs strong, well qualified guides and the guiding companies need to become serious teachers if they are to expand their customer base beyond beginners. Yangshuo is a sport climbing area and it would make sense to teach the technical and strength training side of the sport. It also makes sense to start training a climbing team that could attend national contests because this would be a big draw for Chinese climbers. Perhaps the new bouldering facility will make this easier. Trainers need to focus on developing their students. Their effectiveness will be seen in their student's success and make marketing easier. This might be a possible road to financial success for at least a few of them.