Over my birthday weekend I made a short trip to Guoliang in Henan province to rock climb its sandstone cliffs. Since there is not much information on this area, I will write out a more detailed report in the hopes that more climbers will go.
Located in WanXian Mountain Scenic Area, this scenic comprises of several villages all surrounded by sheer sandstone cliff about 150m tall. The most famous of which is Guoliang village because back in the 1970s, the Guoliang villagers, sick of living in isolation, decided to go and dig a tunnel to the outside world. After 5 years of labor, a tunnel 6m*4m 1.2km long tunnel was cut out. As such, this place became a tourist attraction and one should expect hoards of tourists on public holidays and weekends. (It is much quieter on weekdays).
This Scenic Area is also the first area in China to accept climbers openly which is very welcoming; if one has ever climbed elsewhere in China, chances are you would have encountered a few disgruntled villagers who are unhappy because they are either not benefiting from the climbing, getting their crops trampled on, disturbances of sacred mountains, etc. In 2010 , the park paid climbers to bolt lots of routes and open new traditional lines, as a result there are currently 300-400 trad and sports route with potential for thousands more due to the sheer amount of rock available.
We went to 2 crags , one in Nanping Village called Tong Tian He 通天河 which all the villagers know about, and one in Guoliang Village called Red Rock Canyon 紅岩峽谷 which are both located inside the Scenic Area. Both crags were very easily accessible with minimal approach.
The climbing area tends towards very vertical with roofs, cracks, slopers, and crimps. Many of the sports lines could also be climbed traditionally but as it is Asia; sports climbing and bolted routes are the norm.
The climbing (con’t)
The amount of rock here is more or at least the same amount as Smith Rock in USA. But, during our stay over a weekend, we were the only climbers. There are a lot of sports and trad routes already set up and most of the lines are good climbs. However, there is few in the 5.12 range probably due to the lack of hard climbers around. Almost all the routes range from 5.8-5.11.
The bolting is done well though some of the nuts on hangers need to be tightened. Many of the single pitch trad climbs we saw had anchors at the top.
A lot of the climbs bolted are listed as open projects but are only in the 5.10+ range or higher so you could make FA!
1. Loose rocks , partly due to the nature of sandstone but mostly because it seems like no one has climbed the routes since it was first bolted. More traffic, a crowbar in some places for the hollow flakes wound be good for the routes.
2. Be prepared to be a tourist attraction when climbing in the crags by the tourists.
3. Chinese tourists are litterbugs. Many of the climbs right below the Guoliang tunnel are littered with trash.
4. Because there are so few climbers, the approach to the routes are often overgrown. A pair of plant scissors or machete would have been very helpful.
A helmet, 70m rope, 16qd for sports. For trad, doubles to 3; single 4,5,6 cam is useful.
1. Fly to Zhengzhou airport 鄭州 in Henan 河南
2. Taxi to Zhengzhou east HSR station 鄭州東站 (150rmb)
3. 20min HSR to XinXiang east station 新鄉東站 (30rmb)
4. Arrange transport via Guesthouse (300rmb) or take a bus to Huixian and change to Scenic Area 2-3hours drive.
Travelling inside WanXian Shan Scenic Area:
So the park is enclosed and one needs to take the park shuttle busses to go anywhere; the busses go in a loop in one direction only so it takes about 30mins to circle the park. The busses run roughly from 630am to 6pm. There are 2 main villages , Guoliang Village and Nanping Village. Both are suitable for climbers although Nanping might be less touristy. We stayed at Nanping because it was recommended by a Chinese forum site. To access the park and it’s busses you need to pay the entrance fee of 80rmb and we registered as climbers so we had to pay an additional 10rmb in insurance.
The weather is about 10c colder than Zhengzhou on average. We were there end of October and day time temps ranged from 10-18c. The locals say that in the summer it never reaches above 30c.
Accommodation and food:
The towns live off tourists so finding accommodation is not hard at all. We paid 60rmb a night for accommodation which had wifi and hot water.
Simple village food to be expected but more expensive than norm. The highlight of any China climbing trip for me is the delicious vegetables they cook. In Henan, people don’t really eat rice…Or noodles.. just lots of mantou. (But they cooked rice and soup noodles for us when we asked nicely). Bring coffee.
For breakfast – Mantou, boiled eggs, salty vegetables and corn porridge.
The English signage in the park is quite good and the major climbing crags are shown in the park map, just don’t expect anyone to speak any English though.
Guidebook and additional resources:
There is a beautiful Chinese guidebook out which is the most up to date (PM me if needed).
Another guidebook with topo, though not as exhaustive is “Climb China”.
Other trip reports I found is:
In Chinese but with useful information such as phone numbers:
Guoliang is really not too far to get to in terms of China travel and I wish there were more climbers enjoying this area. There is so much sheer rock and cracks to be climbed. Truly a sandstone paradise.