Climbing in China
While China has long been a popular destination for mountaineering - with the Himalayas and multiple 7,000m+ peaks, it wasn't until climbing legend Todd Skinner arrived in Yangshuo in 1990 that sport climbing really kicked off. In the 20 years that have since passed, rock climbing has exploded in popularity in China. It's now safe to say that native Chinese climbers well outnumber the western climbers on their home turf- which can't be said about many other developing countries. While foreign climbers arguably played a more important role in laying the foundation for climbing in China, it is the domestic Chinese climbing community which will drive the development of the sport here going forward.
The only downside is that most topos and new route information is posted in Chinese (on obscure websites, unknown to foreign climbers), which Climb Dali aims to change. The guide below is a comprehensive listing of rock climbing crags in China. If we left anything out and/or you know of a new crag being developed, please send us an e-mail or post about on the forum. [Information on climbing in Dali and other parts of Yunnan is listed on Information for Climbers Page.] The list below is generally arranged from the best (most popular) places to least, and also by province. (You can enlarge the map below by clicking on it.)
GuangXi Province (广西省）
Yangshuo (阳朔): If you're reading this, chances are you've heard about the climbing in Yangshuo. It's now a world-class climbing destination, and probably the best concentration of climbs in Asia, on par with Tonsai in Thailand. It is also the host of an annual climbing festival/competition that attracts climbers from all over the world. There are over 500 climbs spread across 40 crags, most of which are only a short bus/bike ride from downtown. There are also a few routes in nearby XingPing (the site pictured on China's ¥20 note), and in the big city of Guilin. There are a handful of 5.14 routes, and a recently climbed 5.15a that Chris Sharma bolted when he visited in April of 2009.
Most of the routes are bolted single-pitch sport routes, but there are also a handful of traditional lines and multi-pitch routes, and even a few opportunities to boulder and deep water solo. Given the thousands of limestone karsts that dot the area (and the rest of southern China), it's safe to say that the potential for further route development is still enormous. While downtown Yansghuo is already extremely commercialized and it no longer fits the profile of the small fishing village that it once was, it's still possible to sleep/eat/get around on the cheap, which keeps many climbers stay here for months at a time. It's also a great place to partner up with other climbers. Peak season runs from September-December, and March-May; climbing is possible the rest of the year, but the weather is either too hot/humid or too cold. Unfortunately, there are serious access issues, which never seem to get resolved and make climbing at certain crags difficult.
For more information on climbing in Yangshuo, pick up a copy of "Yangshuo rock climbs" by Paul Collis, for sale at climbing clubs in Yangshuo. You can also find information at Planet Mountain and on the website of Red Wall Climbing Club. [Photos from Simon Carter / Onsight Photography].
Nanning (南宁): The capital of Guangxi Province, Nanning, is quickly turning into one of the hottest new places in China to climb, with close to 100 routes. It boasts the same limestone karst topography as Yangshuo (so does all of GuangXi province, as well as southern Yunnan, Laos, and Northern Vietnam for that matter) and hence the same potential, just without the same small-town feel. Most of the information is in Chinese, including a map, and topos for Red Wall （红岩） (10+ routes, 5.9-5.13), Big Crack/Bee Cave （大裂缝） (5.8-5.11d), Front Mountain （前山） (10 routes, 5.6-5.11c), and Rear Mountain (后山） (20 routes, 5.8-5.12c). Other topos available here.
Baise Leye (百色乐业): The Asia climbing championships have been held in this city in western Guangxi for many years.The area has also long been famous for its caving, with massive subterranean systems that remain largely unexplored. In 2012, Kailas organized a visit to Leye as part of a bolting expedition around China and set up an unknown number of routes. Topo reportedly coming soon.
FengShan (凤山): Following up on the success of an international climbing festival held here in 2008,a few Yangshuo "local" climbers headed back in 2009, and began the first phase of a government-sanctioned development program, putting up a couple dozen routes at a few different crags. With the growing congestion at Yangshuo, Fengshan could one day become an alternative/addition to any climbing trip to Chlina, although the fact that it's 10+ hours drive (300KM west) might deter some of the lazier climbers. You can find more information (including routes) here.
Luocheng (罗城）： In the fall of 2010, an international rock climbing competition, featuring some of the best climbers in China, was held in this small town about 5 hours from Yangshuo. Despite a bunch of quality routes, Luocheng is plagued by the same lack of awareness that affects FengShan, and it's unclear whether this area has any hope of really developing into a rock climbing destination.
While Beijing boasts a handful of indoor climbing gyms and bouldering bars, the outdoor climbing here is also pretty good. As a result of 10 years of development, there are now 130+ routes, including 30 trad lines, and even a few multi-pitches. The main climbing destination is Baihe (白河), about two hours north of Beijing. in an amazing canyon, which also includes the locally famous Bee Valley Crag. You can read more in this picture guide or this printable topo, and read about access issues on the White River Climbing Fund blog. The other main crag is known as Sidu (四渡), about 3 hours south of Beijing by train. There is a Chinese language guide covering the area's 17 routes (5.8-5.12c). There are also a handful of smaller crags closer to the city, including Loess Ridge (黄土梁岩场), with a decent number of multi-pitch routes and even a small guide. The only commercially available guidebook was written by accomplished local climber Jon Otto, but unfortunately only covers the climbing in Green Dragon Gorge and Balcony Mountain, both of which are believed to be closed to climbing at the moment. Contact the Beijing Climbing Club for more info.
ShanDong Province （山东省）
QingDao (青岛): It turns out that in addition to being home to China's most famous beer, Qingdao also boasts some decent climbing. The area around Qingdao is home to 40 km² of mountains and other rock faces, most of which is granite. Since its initial development in 1998, the area has expanded to include 150 bolted routes (5.8-5.12c), with a handful of multi-pitch traditional routes, as well as plenty of potential for further route development. There are also ample opportunities for bouldering on beach boulders and deep water-soloing. In fact, Climbing Magazine featured the bouldering in Qingdao in a sweet photo spread. While the climbing season runs from March to November, there is ice climbing in the winter. The main climbing areas are at FuShan （浮山）, LaoShan ( 崂山), and the beach boulders at TaiPing Bend (太平湾). The best information can be found from talking to two area guiding companies here (topo apparently coming soon) and here, with a bouldering guide available for download here.
FuJian Province （福建省）
FuZhou （福州): FuZhou's granite cliffs - which are full of unique features - are the result of the city's location on an active fault-line. The potential for climbing in FuJian was discovered in 2002 by a couple of local climbers, who then proceeded to selflessly develop the area with the highest safety and environmental standards in mind. There are now more than 40 routes in FuZhou, including 12 trad lines, and at least one-multipitch. The two main climbing areas are MoXi Park （磨溪攀岩公园） - also home to an impressive boulder field - and LuoYuan crag (罗源岩场). You can find an (English language!) topo here and additional info here and here.
GuangDong Province （广东省）
GuangZhou, BaiYun Mountain （广州白云山): The capital city of GuangDong Province and one of China's largest cities, GuangZhou is home to a large community of climbers. There is only one climbing area within the city limits (BaiYun Mountain), which means most climbers are forced to venture deeper into the province for the most abundant climbing. First bolted in 1998, BaiYun climbing area (known locally as Rubbish Granite Crag - 垃圾花冈岩壁) is located inside the BaiYun Shan park. (白云山公园). There are three separate granite rock faces with a total of 18 routes. You can find topos here and here; the second link also has information on artificial climbing walls in Guangzhou.
Kowloon / Qingyuan （九龙 / 清远县): Located about 2 hours north of GuangZhou city is a karst forest (峰林） known as Little Guilin (小桂林） because of the topographical resemblance to Guilin city (near Yangshuo). The crag is known among foreigners as Kowloon (九龙） because the Chinese name for the nearby village is the same as that of Kowloon in Hong Kong. (Otherwise, the two places bear no resemblance). The area already boasts nearly 100 trad and sport routes (single-pitch and multi-pitch, grades 5.7 - 5.13) spread across more than a dozen crags. The area is still largely undeveloped, and the potential for more routes is vast. The only obstacle is the location, accessible only via private/hired transportation. Still, for those in search of a remote and quiet place, this is it! The guide that can be downloaded here was put together by Paul Collis (author of the main Yangshuo climbing guidebook).
ChunWan (春湾): About 3 hours north of Guangzhou is the city of ChunWan, with similar topography/climbing to QingYuan. The fact that it's further away from Guangzhou and the shortage of routes, however, has discouraged most climbers from visiting. Altogether, there are about 10 routes, ranging from 5.8 - 5.13, including some multi-pitch trad lines that lead to topping-out on the karsts and nice views of the surrounding area. There are also a few unclaimed projects, for those of you looking for first ascents. GDClimber put together this topo.
ShanTou (汕头): The city of ShanTou is located about 400KM east of GuangZhou city. Local climbers recently discovered a couple giant boulder fields along the nearby coastline, and have already identified about 40 problems, from V0 to V8. You're unlikely to find a bouldering partner if you come here alone, so it's best to make plans in GuangZhou. There isn't yet a topo, but you can't find some information and pictures here.
ZhuHai (珠海): A few hours south of Guangzhou is Zhuhai, a major tourist destination because of its beaches. There have been some recent efforts aimed at developing the area for rock climbing, but it's unclear how much progress has been made. The only confirmed rock crag is at Diploe Mountain (板障山）, with about 15 routes, half of which are designated for abseiling only. There are also unconfirmed reports of other crags, and in the future, more information is expected to be available here.
SiChuan Province （四川省）
Chengdu（成都）: Most people come to Sichuan for the mountains. There are a handful of 5000m+ peak and the formidable 7,600m Minya Kanka (贡嘎山). But mountaineers have to stay in shape, and the provincial capital, Chengdu, is home to a growing community of sport climbers. The main crag is located about 1.5 hours away, in DaYi County (大邑县), and is known strangely as Scream of the Crane Mountain (鹤鸣山). It was developed in cooperation with the local government, and also serves as a rock climbing training base. There are already 23 bolted sport routes, with plans to bolt another 10, as well as some cracks which lend themselves to trad and aid climbing. Most of the climbing is concentrated at the high end of the difficulty range - 5.12 and above. You can find a topo here and some info about getting to the crag here. About two hours south of Chengdu, another area is being developed near LuZhou (泸州), which is reckoned to have great potential. There is also a small sport crag in nearby Chongqing (重庆御临河), thought technically it is not in SiChuan province.
LiuYong, a professional mountaineer who splits his time between SiChuan and Dali, also recently completed one of China's first big wall climbs at the Four sisters Mountain (四姑娘山). The route is 600m, and located above 5000m in elevation; you can read about it here.
Daocheng （稻城）: Located in western Sichuan, Daocheng is famous mainly for three 5000m+ Holy mountains in the nearby national park. American Mike Dobie (who is simultaneously developing Liming) has been organizing expeditions to Daocheng for the last couple years in an effort to develop the area's untapped potential for bouldering. He has already discovered several large boulder fields and has begun to map out the potentially thousands of problems. You can get more information and download a guide here.
GuiZhou Province （贵州省）
GeTuHe (格凸河）： GuiZhou is one of the poorest provinces in China, and hence one of the least traveled. At the same time, it's also one of the most rustic and beautiful. The south of Guizhou features some of the same karst topography as Yangshuo, while the northern half is situated on a plateau that stretches all the way across neighboring Yunnan. In 2011, Petzl organized a massive climbing festival in the remote Getuhe Valley, which lies about 3 hours away from Anshun City. The area features some of the most impressive limestone climbing in China, complete with massive caves and awe-inspiring stalactite formations. Petzl commissioned more than 250 pitches of climbing, with everything from a single-pitch 5-7 to a 7-pitch 5-14! It won't be long before this province finds its way onto the radar screens of climbers. More information, including a downloadable climbing guide can be found on the Petzl website.
GuiYang（贵阳）: There are three bolted crags, featuring a total of about 12 routes, near GuiYang, the provincial capital. Check out the guides for Rear Mountain cave (省政府后山四围洞岩壁), Four-sided River (四方河), and Guiding Cliff (贵定岩壁).
HeNan Province （河南省）
Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Songshan (洛阳, 郑州, 嵩山): Henan is a great example of the extent to which rock climbing has taken hold in China. Despite the province's lack of famous scenic areas, the local community came together and started developing a few crags, including Zhengzhou DaWanXian Mountain (郑州达万仙山） and LuoYang QingYao Mountain (洛阳青要山）, and GuoLiang National Park (郭亮公园）. The latter reputedly features some classic trad routes, and was home to Rockstock'09, a rock climbing festival. There is also some bouldering near SongShan (嵩山）, one of the China's five holy mountains, and the home of the famous ShaoLin temple. Despite the lack of routes (under 10, mostly beginner), the crags are nonetheless a testament to the potential of climbing in China.
ShaanXi Province (陕西省）
Xian / Hua Shan（西安/ 华山): While Hua Shan, which is one of the five holy mountains in China, isn't yet on the radar screens of most climbers, it will be soon. In July 2009, two visiting foreign climbers joined with Kunming local climber Wang Er became the first team to ascend the 600m+ west face of Lotus Peak, making this the first true big wall climb in China. It was apparently difficult for the team to score permits from the government, so it seems unlikely that the feat will be repeated anytime soon. Still, it seams possible that if the local government catches on to the climbing (i.e. $ tourism) potential of the area, then they could open it up to recreational climbers. Otherwise, there are a handful of sport climbs in the area around Xian (itself a popular tourist destination) and also some bouldering. In 2012, the Kailas bolting team added a handful of single-pitch and multi-pitch routes in the area.
ZheJiang Province （浙江省）
HangZhou （杭州）: Hangzhou is a major metropolitan area west of Shanghai. It is also one of China's most popular urban tourist centers because of the famous West Lake and various Buddhist sites. The most popular crag - South High Peak (南高峰) - is also the closest to town. Between this and the nearby 1000 Person Cave (千人洞）, there are 10 routes, from 5.8 - 5.12d. Serious climbers spend their time at the increasingly popular Funny Wall (可笑岩壁), which is about a half hour away, with routes mostly in the 5.12-5.13 range. You can find a guide for the 15 routes here. Finally, about a hour's drive east of HangShou is the Tai Lakehead (太湖源）, which has a chossy rockface and five routes. It is also a popular place to practice abseilling.
JiangSu Province （江苏省）
NanJing（南京): NanJing is most famous for its history, but the city and surrounding area are home to a handful of climbing gyms and even some climbing on natural rock. Near the top of Purple Gold Mountain (紫金山） is the Crazy Stone Buttress (疯狂的石头岩场), with 15 sport routes, ranging in difficulty from 5.8 to 5.12c. You can find a topo here.
LiaoNing Province （辽宁省）
Gourd Island City DWS (葫芦岛市深水): About 400 KM west of Beijing, the random city of HuLuDao happens to be home to some of the scant deep water soloing in China. About 800m from shore are a handful of large boulders jutting out of the water, discovered by some enterprising local climbers. While probably not worth making a special trip out there, it's something to keep in mind if you find yourself in the area, in which case you can camp on the beach or stay with local farmers.
Tibet Province （西藏省）
Lhasa Serra Cliff (拉萨色拉寺): At 4,000m, this could very well be the highest sport climbing crag in the world. Behind the Serra Monestary, there are a series of cascading granite cliffs, with a handful of bolted sport routes, ranging from 5.8 - 5.11. It doesn't look like there are any guides available online, but the pictures speak for themselves!
XinJiang Province (新疆省）
Keketuohai National Geological Park （可可托海地质公园）： According to the American Alpine Club, "Altai Range of China’s Xinjiang Province, close to the border with Mongolia and 600km north-northeast of Urumqi...there are 108 granite peaks here, and I estimate rock faces to reach a height of ca 300m...These walls are situated along the gorge of the Iyrtish River, and some reach the valley floor...Keketuohai compares closely to Yosemite." Technically, climbing is still off limits in this National Park, but in 2009 a team sponsored by Patagonia and led by Tommy Caldwel began putting up new routes. The team managed to put up 3 trad multi-pitch routes, on the 300m Divine Bell face. Due to access issues, "the future of climbing in Keketuohai remains a question mark." Another expedition in 2012 added a few dozen more routes, and if not for the fact that the crag is in the middle of nowhere, it would surely be at the top of of every climber's list of go-to crags.
Hong Kong （香港）
While Hong Kong is certainly an urban metropolis, it is also 80% protected parkland and a rock climbing mecca. There are nearly two dozen climbing areas, with more than 100 routes, including trad, sport, multi-pitch, and tons of boulder problems. There are granite walls overlooking the city, beachside boulders, and sea cliffs. It's pointless to elaborate further, since HongKongClimbing.com has a guide and the best beta.