Jonathan Siegrist - China Travel
I’m often met with surprise when I tell people that China is one of my favorite places to travel in the world...
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Experiencing China is deeply sensational, stimulating and interesting. It seems that every simple activity, be it finding a bank, ordering food, navigating crowds or booking travel, is it’s own little adventure. It’s a constant buzz that sticks with me throughout my entire trip. And then, of course, there is the climbing…
It feels to me as though China is the 'new frontier’ when it comes to sport climbing. The very high overall quality of the rock, the countless untapped areas and the sheer size and geologic diversity of this massive country are staggering. I can guarantee that the world will see a handful of world-class, Chinese mega areas come to light in the next decade - a prediction I can not say that I have for any other nation on the globe. Furthermore, you don’t have to be an intrepid first ascensionist to love Chinese climbing - there are several very well established areas that are all unique and incredible, with literally dozens more, unnamed, being developed as I write.
Yangshuo is no doubt the epicenter of climbing in China, and in my opinion, it is the best sport climbing zone in Asia. Here there are many hundreds of routes on great rock - everything from multi-pitch 5.10 to overhung 5.14 (and everything in between), all strewn about the picturesque Karst landscape that defines southeast China. This is by far the most user-friendly area with many great options for accommodation, food, and transport. Yangshuo has a booming tourist industry for Chinese tourists of which 99.9% are non-climbers, which makes for both a very accessible area and a pretty interesting experience in and of itself.
Liming has become more and more popular in recent years due to tons of development and improved infrastructure. This sandstone paradise is often referred to as the ‘Indian Creek of China’ and you’ve likely seen an Instagram post or two on the splitters and multi-pitch routes in this area. While trad climbing is the favorite here there are enough sport routes (including completely new areas) to make it a worthy bolt clipping destination too. Liming is located in the Kunming region and tends to have much dryer and more stable weather than the South East. I’ve not yet been but reports say that it’s super high quality and an awesome hang.
Getu is likely the least user-friendly area on this list but is also unquestionably the most dramatic. The Great Arch of Getu is utterly spectacular and the climbing in this arch is phenomenal. The first images from this place are from the massive Petzl Rock Trip in 2011. Aside from the arch, there are many great single pitch areas as well with awesome, super clean rock, all within walking distance of the village. Here you will struggle a little if you don’t speak Mandarin but many have made it work just fine! If you are up for an adventure, even just hiking to the arch will be well worth the effort to get out here.
Mashan is a relatively new area but already has over 500 routes. Everything from enormous cave climbing, read: 10 pitch cave routes, to low 5th class single pitch climbs, can be found here. The rock quality is very good throughout and lifestyle is brilliant with nearly all of the best zones within walking distance of the village. With a very similar landscape and even closer proximity to a big number of diverse areas, I imagine Mashan to be the next Yangshuo. The most prolific route developer in China, Acheng, lives here so it’s sure to be growing and growing.
If you’ve had any previous interest in traveling to China for climbing I would say that now is the time! In so many ways, climbing is primed to completely explode in China: with climbing in the Olympics, the emergence of the enormous Chinese middle class, and a huge growing interest in outdoor activity overall. I think these could be the golden years in China where you can be one of the only groups at a truly world-class crag, travel freely around the country and share with the pioneers of Chinese climbing. I know for certain that I will be back with every chance I can get!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JONATHAN SIEGRIST is a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team.
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