One of my objectives in visiting Yangshuo in China was to do some rock climbing. Since US climber Todd Skinner established the first routes in 1992 Yangshuo has become a rock climbers Mecca and I have drooled over photos of rock climbing in Yangshuo for years.
However, I also remember reading a post by the wonderful Planet D Adventure Couple Dave and Deb where they described how they were disappointed by their experience with guided rock climbing in Yangshuo – they felt babied as experienced climbers and hardly got any climbing done.
We visited Yangshuo in mid winter – January – not exactly high season for travelling or rock climbing in Yangshuo. The town was quiet, I saw only a handful of other western tourists, and it was nice to enjoy the just pleasant local bustle of this town of 40,000 people. The climbing companies on West Street are still operating and it was reasonably easy to find a guide who would take us out for a bit of a play on the karst cliffs.
Thankfully, Mr Wandering Kiwi and I had a more positive experience than Dave and Deb. Our Chinese guide from Spiderman Climbing knew what he was doing, checked that we knew what we were doing, and then we got on with the climbing. Our guide A’Shui (a wonderful onomatopoeic name that means water) had been out bolting new routes the day before we climbed with him. He had sufficient English and knew the climbing communication we are familiar with.He had identified a number of routes in the grades we had mentioned and we got seven or eight routes done at two different locations in an afternoon. All for around $50 for the both of us.
The rock climbing in Yangshuo is very accessible and well set up. In fact there is now a Mountain Rescue Training crag right by the roadside out of town (opposite the Butterfly Cave) that is set up so you can just rock up and have a climb without hiring a guide. The guys running it were shouting out to passersby to come and have a go. And the passersby were stopping to gawk and shout encouragement. We did our checks and some warm up routes here. Some of the hire gear looks a bit old but as we weren’t doing any lead climbing or difficult grades that didn’t bother me too much.
Surrounded by the mysterious, mist-shrouded karst peaks the landscape and the atmosphere made for a great afternoon. The limestone is sharp – there’s no such thing as a polished climb here – and my hands were quite sore by the end of the afternoon.
I’d love to come back with my own gear and spend a few weeks really exploring the amazing rock climbing Yangshuo has to offer. In the meantime I’ll just have to be satisfied with this lovely taster.
We stayed at the wonderful Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, just a short bicycle ride from a number of rock climbing crags. After an afternoon of satisfying exertion in the fresh air it was wonderful to come back to the open fire and the Hot & Sour Noodle Soup that quickly became an addiction.
By Natasha von Geldern
Thanks to the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat for their kind hospitality. As always my opinions and shredded hands remain my own.