英西峰林走廊攀岩 rock climbing in qingyuan county

Under many different names but mostly known to us as Kowloon as in what Mongkok is a part of in Hong Kong, the Kowloon here is some two hours north of Guangzhou up the 107 highway, a word I use with most fleeting of accuracy, unless a representation of an elevated highway in mortal collapse is called to mind, although if you happen to take the wrong turn at Qingyaun and find yourself breathless in the quite spectacular Feilaixia Gorge before pulling into Yingde, a highway in this case would be best represented by a quagmire or river bed in spate.

Kowloon is a decidedly non-tourist village with a special hairdresser abutting the preferred lodging of climbers, for besides the infrequent on-the-bus-sleep-off-the-bus-photograph-temples tour group cavalcade passing through en route to the nearby hot springs, this is not a town on any manner of tourist trail. But for imbeciles whose idea of a good time is dropping fridge-sized blocks of limestone into cowering bamboo groves, and who don’t want to go to Yangshou to do it, Kowloon is a rock climbers’ undeveloped paradise.

Highlights of my first trip (via the Yingde river bed) early last year include drenching a family on a motorbike in thick slurry when overtaking too fast then our driver stopping to ask for directions, a reminiscence that will bring a smile to those of us in the car that day. Shortly after. we bottomed out in a pothole, losing the rear bumper, a trifle A Biao solved with a couple of swift kicks. Surprisingly enough, we actually fitted in some climbing.

Paul Collis, who put together the Yangshou guide book has done the same for Kowloon, almost fifty routes trad and sport, single and multi-pitch from 5.7 to 5.13 on limestone. This is still a quite undeveloped place, and many of the routes have had few ascents so are still settling down. The potential is vast, with hundreds of routes yet to be climbed. If your idea of a good climbing trip is going somewhere new and finding your own routes, Kowloon is certainly worth a visit on the China/South-East Asia circuit. Download the guide in pdf here.

The following notes, maps and topos form a rough guide to most of the established climbing in the Kowloon (Nine Dragons) area of Qing Yuan County, Guangdong. This guide was updated in June 2006. The climbing was mostly developed from 2005 to 2006 so grades given may not be accurate and there is still some loose rock around. The rock is typical tropical limestone – dark and quite sharp where exposed to rainfall, lighter, smoother and providing great climbing where sheltered from the elements. The area has beautiful countryside giving a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere for climbing.

See attached maps for how to get to Kowloon and the locations of the cliffs with climbing established on them. It is possible to get to the area using public transport. However this is not recommended as it is infrequent and very time consuming. Without private transport it is also difficult to get to the climbing sites.

Most climbers stay in the town of Kowloon. There are two or three small hotels, some restaurants, a supermarket, a wet market and small shops in Kowloon. It is a basic rural town with little tourism infrastructure. However, some mainland group tours come to the area to visit hot springs and take in the scenery. Take care not to confuse Kowloon in Qing Yuan county with Kowloon in Hong Kong. Although they have the same name, they are vastly different places.

Warning! If you are not a competent climber experienced in pioneering and new routing don’t use this guide to go climbing.

— Rock Climbing in Kowloon, Qing Yuan County, Guangdong, PRC

climb, you pathetic little human

I’m off tomorrow morning for a couple of days up at Jiulong again. It’s the big trip. Nine days of bolting and climbing with a mob from Guangzhou, Macau, Shenzhen, Beijing, Hong Kong and even Okinawa. I’m only managing two days, but it’s gonna be packed up there. It’s kinda funny to be part of a mini-tourist boom. This place has pretty much never seen foreigners, and now suddenly every week there’s a gang waving power drills, expansion bolts, and wearing funny coloured tights. This weekend there’ll be maybe ten of us up there, next weekend maybe fifteen or more. It’s also the start of preparing the first guidebook of the area. Pictures when I get back.


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.

qing yuan, guangdong’s yangshuo

When I first knew I was going to China, my first thought was, “Damn I need to find where to climb”. Naturally, I got laughed out of every outdoor shop in Melbourne. Getting to China wasn’t much better, but I found alot of places to go like Yangshuo, a mere 13 hour adventure bus ride from Guangzhou Train Station.

But this is much better. I’d heard there was climbing near the city, but when I saw these photos… Almost unclimbed, and every climb a first ascent. How beautiful is that?