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TR: Crack climbing in Li Ming, China
9:03:52 AM
Trip report below of a short visit to China's new(ish) trad crag.....

Li Ming, a small village in the southwest Yunnan province of China, is little known to western tourists but shot into the climbing public’s consciousness last year when a bunch of climbing heavyweights showed up for a climbing festival. The short video they made, a well written climbing guidebook, and the promise of perfect sandstone hand cracks in a dreamy landscape were enough to convince me that a short side trip from our Yosemite visit this year was necessary.

We flew into Beijing and spent a few days sleeping off jetlag and immersing ourselves in the incredible history and culture of China (Great Wall, Forbidden City, quirky laneway Hutong bars) before another flight to Shuhe, an ancient town at the foot of Dragon Jade Snow Mountain. We then took a four hour bus along the Yangtze river and up into the mountains. Rolling hills gave way to soaring walls of stripy red stone and the incredibly picturesque valley of Li Ming.

Great Wall

Nobody speaks English in town, so we put our sign language skills into finding and securing a room at the Faraway Hostel, with the only two other guests, the dogs Jerry and DeDong. Food was a little trickier, as Julie’s vegetarian and the few restaurants in town don’t even have menus, let alone pictures or English translations. We pointed at stuff in the fridge and managed to say “rice” or “noodles” and get something to eat. It was boring food but sustenance enough to keep us going.
Most of the developed climbing is a solid uphill slog from town, made gruelling by the immense amount of equipment required to climb here (Quadruples of most cam sizes!). Jerry came along to make sure we wouldn’t get lost and to snap at butterflies and hornets. We loaded the packed and trekked up to our first crag, ‘The Honeymoons’ to scope out the rock and get a feel for the place. Our first route was a humbling 5.10 which was enough to convince me that all my time at Frog Buttress and Black Ian’s rocks didn’t really prepare me enough for these solid endurance cracks, which offer no alternative hand or foot-holds to rest feet sore from being stuffed into small spaces. A few laps and I was already shattered.

Approaching the crag with Jerry

In the evening we went across to Dinner Wall to scope out the following day’s route, the classic route of the crag, Souls Awakening (5.9, A0, 5.9, 5.10). With that perfect red corner crack imprinted well enough in my mind to give me nightmares, we called it a day.

Souls Awakening goes up the central butress

The first pitch of Souls Awakening the next day, allegedly 5.9, trashed my arms and feet like no other jamming pitch I’ve ever done; Steep, sections of layback, no rests and slightly too narrow for my fat taped mitts to really get solid purchase. One section was even loose to the point of coming away and will add a few grades for future climbers to grapple with. We quickly knocked over a short middle aid pitch, a bolt ladder (allegedly on expansion bolts not suited to the soft sandstone) and settled in to enjoy the easier low angled third 5.9 pitch.

Top of first pitch

The fourth pitch is 40 meters of aesthetic red corner crack which makes the whole trip out to Li Ming worthwhile on its own. Starting at small hands size and slowly widening to off-width, I must have placed triple’s of all mid range cams as well as five’s and sixes. But it was glorious to be in jamming rhythm, and I was rewarded with a few rests by wedging my body into the upper off width. We rapped off, very content.

Fourth pitch

The next day we went up the opposite side of the valley and raced up another 5.9 classic hand crack ‘The Great Owl’ just before rain settled in, cutting our already brief climbing window back to three days. The weather was a mixed blessing though, as it did give us an excuse to pack up the racks and go and see Tiger Leaping Gorge, which was breathtaking in its scale and made me want to just keep on walking past Shangri-La and all the way to Tibet. Sadly no time for that though, the big walls of Yosemite beckon......

9:19:21 AM
Friggen awesome. Thanks for posting.

9:45:56 AM

The pockets on this pitch look awesome!
10:42:35 AM
They were (sweet relief for toes sore from jamming!), although they didn't start until halfway up the pitch and we didn't see much more of that kind of thing around the few crags we had time to visit. Having said that there are thousands of unexplored crags that might yeild more pockets
1:27:08 PM
On 1/10/2013 nmonteith wrote:
>The pockets on this pitch look awesome!

Someone confiscate his drill at customs ;p
1:30:42 PM
just give Neil a Chinese Millers Falls machine. No bolts will be placed.

Eduardo Slabofvic
1:45:00 PM
Please don't go there and place bolts. It took a long time to negotiate acess to this area, and the agrement is that only bolt anchors will be placed, and nothing else.

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