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another day at jiulong

We set off for Jiulong with the same driver and his white car with the dropped shocks around seven along with Eve and Curt from Beijing. This time we were prepared. We had a map, we knew where we were going, so did the driver, and we had alot of chocolate. The drive up was a breeze, the sky was blue, except near the cement factories, and we rolled out of the last tunnel and straight into massive, bare limestone mountains about 2 hours later. Through Jiulong, past where we were last week and into – for me – new territory.

The next town, a small narrow road with bus station, and old shops lining the street has for a backdrop a 100 meter wall of smooth limestone jutting out of the backyards of everyone along the east side of the road. Not five minutes further down the track and the massive Camel Mountain looms easily 150 meters straight out of ploughed fields.

I know I raved last week about how awesome Juilong is, but haha I was full of shit. We’ve only explored along one main road, and walked off a bit, maybe 200 meters around the backs of some peaks, and everywhere, even the single Camel wall has more than enough climbing on it to make it, in any western country another Grampians or Blue Mountains. Then, when you look at all the mountains, spires, towers, boulders, there is simply more superb climbing here than anyone could do in a lifetime.

We started the day on the jagged tusk of rock opposite Camel Mountain. The face from the road is a sheer crack climb of maybe three pitches, but while we were exploring around the base, we came across the backside, a massive 150 long wall with a corner at the far end then a shorter but no less imposing 50 long wall. All this water-smoothed limestone with some prominent cracklines in the corner, but mostly just hard small pockets and features across a gently undulating face.

We chose the crack at the near end, which started on large, smooth verging on blank terrain, went blocky and in need of a good vacuum as the corner became more vertical, then went slightly overhung as it became a finger crack for most of the last 20 meters till the hanging belay. The belay got bolted because the next 5 meters has fridge-sized blocks that really want to come down soon, and while the crack on the left is ok to jam, the whole lot could easily come loose. But above this again it returns to blank walls and a good sized hand and finger crack.

All four of us got up while being harrassed from below by a ticket tout trying to bluff his way into each of us shelling out 20 kuai for the privilege of doing what noone has intended in this supposed tourist attraction. Just like Yangshuo where the scammers became so fierce the local government went a bit mental in shutting them up. So we decided to go to Paul from Macau’s routes on the Pocket Wall. Gear stowed, harnesses off, into the car drive … 200 meters. Right beside the road next to a dirt bullock track and rice paddies.

This wall, bright yellow and heavily featured like some 1970s pro-rock sci-fi album cover art is pure, easy sport climbing. Currently two routes both 5.8 are on the left end but there’s another 9 or 10 within 20 meters both ways. Before we’d even got out gear laid out we had an audience. The local kids running around turned up first in twos and threes, then suddenly there were 40 or 50 of them. Kids of two or three years with their big sisters and brothers of 10 or 12, whole swarms running around, all a bit dirty, a bit shy, incredibly curious and by the time their parents showed up were helping up belay, climbing like monkeys over everything in site, helping us clean the broken glass near the base, and getting paid in fine chocolate and huge packets of biscuits.

Despite the unbelievable beauty of this place, a short drive from the biggest city in Southern China and the heart of the economic boom, all that has pretty much passed this place by. This is the majority of China; farmers, small towns, dirt streets, poverty and for most, no real way out. The Chinese tourists when they were here, were further east in Feilaixia and ditched that for Yangshou when that got hammered into the foreigner China package tour.

So after being the days entertainment, we headed into town for dinner next to the hotel everyone stays in and the hair-dresser/brothel which provides alot of the hotel’s business. We took our driver along, who seems to genuinely have fun, even when we make him drive down a muddy river/provincial highway maybe because we provide crazy-foreigner stories, but has so far refused strapping on a harness.