Yangshuo County, home of the beautiful Li River and countless limestone towers, has quickly become one of the world’s top hot spots for rock climbing. First discovered by rock climbers in the early 1990's when China was opening up to the world, over the past five years it has reached levels of unprecedented international fame, with Yangshuo's downtown alone featuring at least seven climbing outfits. The reason for this is simple and you will notice it as soon as you get off the bus: hundreds of peaks dot Yangshuo County, all of them close together and with cliffs of every size. Take a bike ride down the road, and you will probably pass at least a few of the local favorites. Many more are hidden away, off the main roads.
Yangshuo's limestone karst landscape, which actually stretches northwest into Guizhou province and down into Southeast Asia, is perfect for climbing. Its soft rock erodes more easily than others, leaving countless cliffs and pockmarked rock with an abundance of hand holds and foot holds (known in the climbing world as ‘purchase’). In fact there are so many cliffs in the county, and surely new ones to be found, that climbers can hop on their bikes for fifteen minutes and easily get to their favorite rock. Then they can hop on their bikes for another fifteen minutes, and arrive at yet another one. Even the most out of the way cliffs may be only twenty to thirty minutes off the main road.
If you want to find out for yourself what Yangshuo has to offer, and you are already a climber, then you can show up with shoes, belay device and harness, and simply rent a rope in Yangshuo. Local equipment will be as good as at home, since Yangshuo stocks imported goods from the same companies that Western climbers already use. Unfortunately, Chinese companies are not quite there yet. Merely to rent the equipment could be 80-100 RMB for all equipment for a full day, or 50 RMB just for the rope. For beginners, most people will recommend the half-day trip, which usually runs between 200-300 RMB, with a few costing more. Beginner routes are generally in the 40-foot range and are top-roped, which is as close to 100% safe as you can get. A short van ride, and a short walk, will get you where you are going.
According to YDS [Yosemite Decimal System] grading, most Yangshuo routes range between 5.8 (challenging but do-able for a beginner) up to iconic Moon Hill's upside-down 5.13. There are several 5.14b's which have been climbed and possibly a 5.15a. To give you an idea of what that means, the most difficult graded climbs in the world are 5.15b. The routes are graded on a variety of factors, including the angle of ascent, the amount of purchase, the spacing of the purchase and the length of the climb. Grades themselves can be somewhat subjective. Several Yangshuo cliffs are so broad that they contain pitches (sections of routes) easy enough for the true beginner, alongside ones that edge into the expert range. You will likely find plenty that are right for you.
For most travelers walking through the door of the climbing company, scaling limestone cliffs is only one part of their plans. After all, the county also offers hiking, ballooning, rafting, cycling and an abundance of natural beauty as far as the eye can reach. So, as Yangshuo picks up as an international tourist destination, so too does its reputation as a world-class rock climbing center. It even received a boost recently when world-famous climber Chris Sharma came here in the spring of this year and climbed some of the toughest routes, even bolting some new ones. His videos from Yangshuo are currently floating about all over the climbing community, thus helping to bring its images to the rest of the world.
If Yangshuo cliffs are simply not enough for you, and that is quite unlikely, this entire region of Guangxi province is speckled with steep hills and cliffs of the wildest and most formidable variety. What is auspicious about Yangshuo is that it has developed its center into a traveler's town, so you are not alone in your exploration or limited to only one activity. You have a multitude of other activities to do, and will easily find climbing instructors, equipment, companions, and even a few of the comforts of home.
Six Yangshuo Climbing Companies
Chinaclimb: 45 Xianqian Jie; 773-881-1033
Karst Cafe: 42 Xianqian Jie
Blackrock: 19 Guihua Lu
Xclimber: 29 Guihua Lu; 773-881-4499 or 13607-830-539
Red Wall Climbing Bar: 2-1 Deye Tower, West Street; 773-881-7010
Spiderman: 36 Xianqian Street; 773-881-2339 or 13977-330-965
Best of China in Ten Days: Yangshuo and Hangzhou!
Guilin City Guide
Rock Climbing in Beijing
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