Stuart has been filling up the photos database for months now with mouthwatering pictures of Hong Kong climbing. So for anyone who might be heading in that direction - or just wants to drool a bit - here's his take on the fun to be had.
Mention Hong Kong to most people and the image that springs into their minds is of a concrete jungle with skyscrapers towering up towards the heavens. What most people don't realize is that hidden behind the urban sprawl lies some spectacular hillsides, and, nestled among those hills are numerous buttresses of pristine granitic and volcanic rock. In the last decade the popularity of rock climbing in Hong Kong has soared and the number of climbs recorded has shot up and, for those keen enough, there's still a hell of a lot of untouched rock out there.
StuartM on the 1st Ascent of Tigger (F7a), Lion Rock, Hong Kong
Dominating the skyline beyond the Kowloon Peninsula, Lion Rock (so called because when viewed from certain angles the profile of the crag bears a striking resemblance to that of a lion) is probably the best crag to head to for those seeking routes with a bit of a mountain feel to them. Although not a huge crag, about 250ft, the granite cliff is perched high on a hillside well above the city and with few other parties generally climbing there it's easy to feel detached from the chaos of the crowds below.
Lion Rock was the scene of the first recorded attempts at rock climbing in Hong Kong, in fact, the first foray onto its walls in 1956 resulted in one fatality and a hasty retreat. The first climb was eventually established two years later by two British Army Officers and the resulting route, Wards Groove (F6a+), is now an established classic giving sustained wall and crack climbing up the west face of the crag. Following this ascent the crag remained largely dormant until the early 1990s when British expat Martin Lancaster began exploring its walls and equipping routes with bolts and abseil chains.
Nowadays the crags has upwards of 25 routes graded between F6a and F7c, nearly all of which are fully equipped (some a little excessively) and mostly on good solid rock. The crag has two distinct faces that get the sun at different time of the day making it ideal for either escaping the heat or topping up your tan, which ever takes your fancy. The west face is characterised by numerous cracks and grooves interspersed with steep walls whilst, in contrast, the east face gives a continuous sweep of vertical granite with few natural features.
Routes worth seeking out on the west wall include Gweilo (F5+), the Cantonese word used to refer to westerners, the literal translation of which means 'foreign devil'. This route picks and weaves an intricate line up slabs, cracks, corners and walls and all at a relatively amenable grade. For those seeking a more demanding ascent a combination of The Arete (F6a+), the brutally overhanging layback crack of Firecracker (F6c), and wall and arete of Scaredy Cat (F6c+) gives continuous and varied climbing.
In contrast to the approach required for success on routes on the west face, the routes on the east face tend to give more sustained technical climbing on steep walls. The easiest line up this face, and one of the best routes in Hong Kong, is Austrian Staircase (F6b). The first pitch of this route provides fine laybacking up a steep flake on generally large holds whilst the second pitch gives superb technical climbing up a series of cracks and grooves. Breaking out left from half way up pitch one and continuing directly up the steep wall above gives sustained crimpy wall climbing on Lion King (F6c) and the recently added Tigger (F7a) gives two fine technical pitches straight up the middle of the face. [Editor's note: since he put it up, he should know!]
Tung Lung Chau
Located just to the east of Hong Kong harbour, the small island of Tung Lung contains probably the highest concentration of quality sport climbs in Hong Kong. The most popular crag on the island, Technical Wall, is a 60ft high volcanic sea cliff with a huge platform conveniently located at its toe. The right handside of the wall composes of steep slabby routes with grades generally in the region of F5+. To the left of the slabs the wall becomes steeper with several overhangs high on the wall. Two routes in this area definitely worth seeking out are Small Roof (F6a+), which gives excellent enjoyable climbing up a crack and groove followed by some tricky moves through an overhang and Big Hand (F6a) which weaves a sneaky line through the roofs to the left of this. Further left again the crag really steepens up and gives generally sustained gently overhanging routes. The best of these routes are the ultra classic The Corner (F7a), a superb exercise in technical bridging and laybacking, Dimple Face (F7b+), a very sustained proposition up one of the steepest bits of the crag, and Tung Lung Bad Boy (F7c+). Be warned, this crag gets extremely busy on Sundays and public holidays and is probably best avoided in favour of seclusion elsewhere.
Getting to the crag (Tung Lung Chau), Hong Kong style
The Sea Gully, located about five minutes' walk from Technical Wall, gives a very different style of climbing. Here the routes tend to be up near vertical compact walls that often appear featureless and improbable until you actually get on them. Although only a single pitch, most routes start off a ledge on the right hand side of the gully about 40ft above its floor, which adds a certain sense of exposure to the overall atmosphere of climbing there. The End of the World (F6b+), located at the mouth of the gully is probably the best place to experience this with the floor dropping away from your feet the minute you step onto the route. For those not seeking too much exposure several routes exist at the entrance to the gully the best of which have to be Green Slab (F6a) a delightful technical slab climb, and Chime of Dog (F7a) which has just about every conceivable type of climbing on it.
Just around the corner from Sea Gully lies the appropriately named Big Wall, a 180ft face rising directly out of the sea. Local activist Daniel Ng (who is also responsible for most of the other routes on Tung Lung) only recently developed the wall and, as yet, most of the routes remain unnamed. However, 15 routes, between two and three pitches long and F6a and F7b provide some exciting sport climbs in a stunning situation. It's worth seeking local advice on how to access the wall and which routes go where as no guide is readily available.
Ron Yue at Beacon Hill, Hong Kong
Located on the hillside just to the east of Lion Rock, Beacon Hill (Pat Ka Shan) offers easily accessible routes on top quality granite. The types of climbs are extremely varied from relatively easy corner cracks, delicate friction slabs to steep sustained walls. Routes worth seeking out include King Cobra (F4), a relatively easy, but none the less fine, crack and corner climb, which is also the only route on the crag requiring natural gear, Pretty Girl (F6a) a superb exercise in delicate slab climbing, Angels Wing (F6b+), an awkward, but satisfying, wall climb, and Lizard (F7a+), an excellent line up a gently overhanging face.
BoulderingHong Kong's hillsides are literally scattered with thousands of boulders, but tend to be fairly densely vegetated. Numerous trips out with machetes in hand have been made by local climbers over the years in order to seek out and develop some of these. Probably the most significant of these discoveries were three groups of boulders located high on a hillside over looking Tsuen Wan in the New Territories. A dedicated effort is required for climbing here as the boulders are only accessible via a harsh 30 minute uphill slog. However, the effort is well worth it as you are rewarded with quality problems up slabs, aretes, grooves and walls on pristine pocketed volcanic boulders. The grades of the established problems vary between 4a and 6c (UK tech grade) in difficulty and most problems are marked, Fontainebleau style, with a number painted at their base.
The crags previously mentioned are the ones with the easiest access, all can be reached by public transport and walking, and the highest concentration of quality routes. Numerous other crags are dotted all over Hong Kong and, given time, are well worth seeking out. Particularly nice ones include Shek O, Kowloon Peak, Temple Crag and the sea cliffs at Clear Water Bay.
Although by no means a climbing holiday destination in its own right, Hong Kong does provide a useful 'stop over' point for trips to numerous other locations. So next time you head out this way, take a few extra days and go explore, you won't be disappointed.
LocationsDetails of nearly all the crags described can be found on the website www.hongkongclimbing.com. The current guidebook to the area Rock Climbing in Hong Kong by Cicerone Press is quite out of date but has reasonably good descriptions of how to find crags.
For general info on Hong Kong, where to stay, eat, sights to see etc. its best to consult a guidebook to the area. These will also give pointers on how to spend your time when not climbing.
Where is it?
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