China . . . it is fast becoming the cream in my Oreo [Like an American Bourbon Biscuit for those not in the know!]. One pack, lots of places, extra filling and a dunking that gives it extra flavour . . . Chinese flavah! There’s Yangshuo, then Huguan Province and now Getu Valley and the list goes on as I continue conversing with one Chinese climber during my recent trip to Getu. Arches…they seem to be the most abundant limestone formation at China’s most prominent climbing areas. Getu Valley in itself has a number of areas with massive, stadium sized, limestone cliffs. A crag that comes jutting out of the ground in a single solid block running kilometers long warrants awe and marvel, as at Ceuse - but the presence of a huge gaping hole in the middle of such a cliff, as in Getu’s Big Arch is even more mind-boggling. It’s a natural marvel of “National Geographic” proportions. The Big Arch in Getu Valley dwarves Moonhill in Yangshuo at least five to six times. “Red Dragon”, one of the routes on Moonhill looks like a lesser wyrm compared to the multi-pitch route ”Corazon de Ensueno” traversing the entire roof of the gigantic Big Arch in Getu. Thanks to the multi-talented bolting teams from the Petzl crew, Getu climbing is rightfully on the map of an ever expanding eastern climbing upheaval. It’s growing seriously, and I’m certain there are more areas within China’s vast landscape that have yet to be discovered.
When to go
The Petzl RocTrip to this part of the world took place in October 2011. We started travelling early in the morning on October 24th to get to the mountain pass along Getu River on October 26th, just after midnight. The prolonged layovers and a few “lost in translation” moments provided just the right amount of opening salvo adventure.
The 7-10 degree mornings from October to November were perfect for my climbing. The weather isn’t dry though and borders on humid. During this time slight rain on some days shouldn’t stop you from climbing. This combination may not cater to all tastes, but coming from a tropical climate country, it’s a definite treat. Cold climbing weather does wonders: I felt speedier recovery rates between climbs, slower onset of fatigue and constant development of finger tip skin. Whilst early October to late November provides a cooler climate, it also delivers days of gloomy, overcast skies. The sun hid for the most part of the RocTrip. Slight drizzle in the mornings during the 45 minute walks to the crags can be refreshing if they don’t turn into full blown rainy days. Nevertheless, do not hesitate to take the hike to the crag. The overhanging caves stay dry most of the time. September marks the start of the cooler temps with January being the coldest month. Temps incrementally increase towards April and May. If you do not fancy getting slightly wet and cold, you can still visit Getu during its warmest period: June to July offers the highest temperatures with lots of sunshine - good for photographic opportunities. Some areas may become to hot to climb at during the middle of the day at this time though.
How to go
We travelled from the Philippines and entered China from Guangzhou. From there, fly-in to Guiyang. It will be the last big city before heading out to Getu Village. We spent one night in Guiyang before heading out again as we arrived in Guiyang at 1am. From there it will take 6-7 ½ hours in total to get to Getu Village. From Guiyang you can take direct buses from Jinyang Bus Station to Ziyun Bus Station, or take the option of Jinyang Bus Station to Ziyun via Anshun. From Ziyun, you will need to get a mini-van to take you to Getu Valley. Guiyang (金阳客运站) to Ziyun (紫云) Direct Buses depart between 08:30 and 14:30. They arrive at Ziyun after 4-5 hours and cost 40-55 RMB.
Buses from Jinyang to Anshun (安顺) depart from 07:00 to 19:00. It takes 1 ½ hours to get to Anshun and is 35 RMB. Anshun to Ziyun buses depart from 06:30 to 19:00 and arrive in Ziyun after 2 hours costing 20 RMB.Ticket from Anshun to Guiyang A mini-van from Ziyun to Getu Valley is an hour’s journey and costs 10 RMB. You can also opt for a taxi, about 80RMB. Whichever you take, always carry with you penned or written directions so you don’t suffer translation epics. At the time of writing, English isn’t understood in these parts of China. For the more seasoned traveller, you can also travel to Guiyang via Yangshuo. There are overnight buses from Guilin going to Guiyang (180RMB). We didn’t take this route but I’m sure this option will provide you with a travel adventure worthy of a good blogging.
Where to stay
Guiyang is a big city and amenities of all sorts are easily accessible, albeit with the translation dilemma. Our arrival in the city at 01:00 in the morning required us to check-in a hotel for a last bit of comfort before immersing ourselves in further travel epics. Conversing at the reception counter only requires your booking reservation transcribed in Chinese. China Hotels Reservation provides a good jumping board for this. Here’s a quick link: http://www.chinahotelsreservation.com/
The printed reservation form will be the key to getting you from the airport to the hotel. It is fairly convenient. Just present the form to the taxi driver and he’ll know where to take you. Make sure there is a Chinese transcription of the hoteScenes from a lazy rainy morning in Getul name and address. Speaking English won’t get you anywhere, but, WIFI or any computer terminal that can access Google Translate can be a life saver when conversing. You can try looking for cheaper places to stay but you only need to spend two nights in this city. One when you arrive and another before your return flight carries you out of China. Getting too immersed in looking for a cheaper place might not be too worth it, you’re just passing through anyway. In Getu Village there is The Getu Hotel. There are hot showers, sometimes; no daily free breakfasts at the time of writing and a TV that mostly serves as your nightlight; but it’s decent and you can rest your weary body after climbing all day. Several other places can be found along the main road. Again conveying ideas is a bit difficult. Conveying numbers for prices seems easier. Calculators, pen and paper can be handy tools. Unlike Yangshuo, Getu Valley rests in one of the poorest provinces in China. Do not expect having someone to translate for you. Your talent in playing charades will be put to the test. If by some luck English speaking climbers from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong or Singapore come by, you’re in luck. Chances, I predict will become higher, especially after the Petzl RocTrip put Getu on the map. A night in the Getu Hotel tops out at 50RMB, other places along the road charge somewhere in the 30RMB range. More and more of these smaller places are sprouting up. Even in a good season I don’t suspect the places get filled with climbers, nor with tourists.
What to eat, and Where to eat
Noodle houses and small restaurants line up the entire street in Getu Village. Sometimes though you must enter the shop to make sure - there aren’t any signs or visual clues that mark the places to eat. Coffee can be a scarce commodity. Not one place during our entire stay in Getu served coffee. There was one shop that sold instant coffee by the sachet and supply ran out pretty quick. Some may like to take along a few familiar foods to break up the monotony of rice and noodles. Ordering food…a few key words here and there and then you can walk directly into the kitchen to point out what you like.
Crags and Routes
There are three distinct zones in Getu. Zone A will be the first area you’ll see upon entering the valley. Zone B is closest to the places to stay, and finally Zone C is located at the other end of the valley and is deeper into the mountains. Each zone has 5 to 6 crags. Among these crags however the Big Arch in Zone C is probably the most special. It is the first crag you should visit. Hiking to the Big Arch takes 30 to 45 minutes. Below: The Big Arch, Getu ©Sam Bié - Petzl
The entrance to Zone C is marked by a guarded gate. Beyond it is a National Park and access I hear is charged at 20RMB. This however had been waived for the duration of the RocTrip. I leave the validation of this claim though to the next unwary traveller to come by these parts. The long hike up the steps will definitely warm you up before engaging full throttle on the slopey scoops, underclings and pinches on the climbs. The lower parts of the more enticing routes look like giant honeycombs. Deep, shadowy scoops in the limestone give the area an uncommon feel and unfamiliarity. Climbing up these lines looks like trying to scale up giant bees’ nests in search of golden nectar. The Getu Arch is for sure where unwritten myths and lore meet modern day rock warriors armed with sticky shoes and forearms made of steel. Battles are waged in delicate and quiet movement to avoid rousing the sleeping giant stingers where one strike will send one off spiralling down. Dave Graham on a project line under Getu ArchLook for these nice warm-ups: “Chinese Men”-7a and “Spicy Breakfast”-6c. Both routes run on a heavily “scoop” featured wall. Deep shadows form in the scoops giving an illusion that everything is juggy and can easily be gripped. They’re not your typical pull down and go routes. Humidity may be a limiting factor as the slopers tend to get slippery, but to climb here is to accept the total package Getu is offering.
Upping the grade a little, move to two classics in the area: “Chinese Girl” and “Drill Team”, both 7c+’s featuring more of the balancey, delicate movement demanded by the down-turned, side-pulled shallow scoops. However, not all scoops are created equal. Unlike the warm-ups I’ve suggested, the better features begin to be spaced further apart. Grace on these routes proves to be better solution than raw power. If all of the above feel too laid-back, move up the ladder and look for “Lost in China” and “Powder Finger”. Both are in the 8b+ range. Still, these two routes course through the same unique feature found in this arch. If you don’t climb on these scoops on your trip to Getu, it is sad to say you haven’t done Getu. The scoops on these walls are not to be missed. Still feeling strong? Several multi-pitch climbs are ripe for all levels of climbing. Several 6’s in a single line to 7’s and for the very handy, try the all out 8’s that traverse the entire roof of the arch. Inspirational climbing and views that will for sure awe and remind you why you travelled so far to this section of the globe. While the Big Arch in Getu gives a foreign dipping of style, Banyang Cave off in Zone B gives a more familiar style of climbing. Pull-down and go routes are on this crag. The routes are long but the style is fairly simple. “Gas up and go for it” style is the draw of this crag, which I found very alluring. Several routes in the 6’s to warm-up on allow for a good blood flow and then try the very 3D climbing on the 7c selection: Flying Tufa, King Cobra, Queen Cobra, Free Max, Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll, Six Months Work and Loco de Noodles. Melissa at Oliver's CragEvery one of these are lengthy 30-35m enduro fests weaving through tufas and heavily featured walls. Finally, looking for some cleaner sheets of rock on a gently overhung single incline the 8’s are simply spectacular. Two 8b lines are on the must try list. “Bip Bip et Coyote” and “Treblinka pour Diego”. While both may seem high on the grading scale do not be turned off. The area is soft for the grade, but who knows really, just keep chucking at ‘em. The moves are good, the view of a secluded valley gives off a feeling you’re in ancient China; clouds roll over the opposite mountain side across the valley . . . there is simply nothing more to ask for.
Finally, a sample of a crag at the far end of the road. Oliver’s Crag in Zone A is the first crag passed whilst coming into the valley. The area is in a wide open expanse that lets you see across to other crags in the same zone. Whilst Zone B and C will give you a secluded feel, Zone A feels exposed. At the time of the Petzl RocTrip, locals, farmers and workers flocked to Oliver’s Crag to watch climbers scale up the cliff. Most of the routes on Oliver’s Crag are straightforward. A mix of 6’s and 7’s make Zone A the best place to spend a carefree climbing day. Rastaman Crag and Wawan’s Cave are also very near and just a few minutes away. It will be quite hot climbing at these areas in the summer.
Rest days can be extra fun while exploring the old villages found upstream of the river running below and through Getu’s arches. Hire a small boat to take you to one of the villages thriving in yet another arch. Colorful faces and a strong sense of old China will transport you to an entirely different timeline. Ziyun is just an hour or so away from Getu Village. It will be easy to explore. Hop on the mini-van that goes to Ziyun. Once there just walk around and explore. Over all, a climbing trip to Getu is surely a spectacle. Travelling across China for climbing will undoubtedly be a total package of immersing yourself in a new culture and occasionally, a new style of climbing.