By Tom Newberry
March 2008. Mist obscures the landscape in mystery. Walking through the rice fields, shadowed under a seemingly endless maze of karst giants, keeps me feeling there is a secret to be found in this realm of the orient. The cliffs are covered in fog almost the entire time and it is a rare opportunity to see very far into the horizon. The unrevealing nature of Yangshuo keeps you looking and searching. The entire mountainscape is vast and the possibility of finding unclimbed cliffs is not a question, at least for now.
Best Time to Go & Conditions
There are two seasons best suited for climbing in Yangshuo. The first is the height of Autumn - September to early November - good climbing conditions are at their optimum with the climate getting cooler towards winter. There is little rain but it can get hot on the south facing walls. Spring - March through to May - presents another option with cooler temperatures in early March. However weather quickly changes in Yangshuo, no matter what the season. One day you’ll be climbing in shorts, another day you’ll be wrapped up to your neck in a number of layers, and still some days you can find yourself walking with an umbrella. It is best to pack with this changeable weather in mind. Top right: Team China Climbers at Moonhill Crag. Photo by Dennis Diaz Winter will be too cold to get any good climbing in, and summer gets too hot and humid for a pleasurable experience, therefore both these seasons are best avoided.
Rainfall is particularly unpredictable in Yangshuo. Rains can go on for 2-3 days, stop for a week and then continue for another 2-3 days. Even in the height of summer, it rains.
The best way to get to Yangshuo is through Hong Kong as it is the central hub and ideal for travel through Asia. This travel route is best suited to those coming to Asia for the first time. Once in Hong Kong, take the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) straight from the airport to Lo Wu Station. You will have to walk through immigration at Lo Wu/Shenzen as this serves as the border to China and Hong Kong. Buses to Guilin leave at 7:30 pm and 8:30pm from Shenzen terminal. This is just across the border. There will be lots of bus operators that will haggle with you. The overnight bus to Yangshuo will cost you 250RMB. Hot Air Balloon over Yangshuo Mountainscape.
Taxis or hire vans are the main form of transport to the crags. You can take the public taxis/vans going to White Mountain and Wine Bottle. A one way ride costs about 2.5RMB. Going to other crags requires hiring a private service. You can arrange to use the latter at China Climb, the local climbing outfit in the area. They have a list of trust worthy operators which you can text using your mobile phone to request a pick-up once you’re done for the day. If you are in a group of 8 people, 3-4RMB will get you a one way ride to almost any crag. You can also opt to rent bikes or a moped but it’s not the norm.
Accommodation & Provisions
Yangshuo town is riddled with tons of cheap accommodation. You only need to walk down West Street (the main street) to find numerous hostels and inns running along the narrow alleys in between the shops. The farther from West Street you travel, the cheaper it gets. Look out for Rock and Grill. It sits a fair way from West Street and is quieter at night. You can always strike a good deal with the owners for longer stays. Cheap stays are at 25RMB a night but can rise to around 30-40RMB depending on the season. Yangshuo is a tourist destination and as such will be more expensive in the high season (October and April).
Title: Yangshuo Rock Climbs. I would recommend you buy the book at Karst Kafe. They keep all the new updates and revisions in a log book you can also borrow, which is useful as the book has seen various amendments.
Grade Spread & Recommended Routes
There has been a rapid increase in the number of routes in Yangshuo. Chris Sharma’s visit last spring contributed to the grade spread shooting from 5.8 to 5.13 to 5.14d (a possible 9a). There are still a lot of open projects and there are now a good number of high end routes to sink one’s teeth into. A route can be found for all climbers at varying levels which makes Yangshuo a prime destination in Asia. Those seeking to explore the secret mystery of Yangshuo can try Lighting (8b+) at Lei Pi Shan and Red Dragon (8b) at Moon Hill. White Mountian hosts copious amounts of quality climbs, mostly in the 7b-7c range. The Tic Tac Smuggler (7c) and Yangshuo Hotel (7b) are among the finest. For easier climbing, Wine Bottle and The Egg will be the best places to go. Climbs here range in from 4-6c+. Try Miracle of Lankou (5.9) and Empty Jug (6c+) at Wine Bottle to get you warmed up for Yangshuo rock. At The Egg crag try Mr. Greenwood (7b) and The Never Ending Story (6a+), a 130ft two pitch route you could do in one push.
Those after something meatier can sink their teeth into one of Chris Sharma’s routes. You can check them out at Karst Kafe. Videos of his last trip to Yangshuo can be seen on the Momentum Video website: http://momentumvm.com
It’s quite comfortable in Yangshuo. One thing to keep in mind though is the farther from town you go; the less likely you will be to find English speakers. There have also been cases of theft so be sure not to leave valuables unattended. The small town of Yangshuo is jammed with tourists in the high season. Some of the prices on West Street should not be taken at face value - haggling for a better price at shops is common and should be indulged in. Try to learn some valuable Chinese phrases; some places don’t have people who understand English at all. Great food can be found in the narrowest of spaces and alleys. Walk around the alleys away from West Street and you’ll find great food to fill your bottomless pit of a stomach for 6RMB per meal! Some dumpling stores are open until 2:00am.