Spanish climber Dani Andrada has red pointed an eight pitch route in the Chuanshang Cave at Getu in Southwest China on the last day of the Petzl RocTrip. The route maybe the hardest continual overhanging sport route in the world. Christened Corazón de Ensueño it climbs from deep in the cave for 210 metres topping out at the cave's lip; the pitch difficulties are 8a+, 8b, 7c+, 7a, 8b+, 8c, 7c+, 8a+.
Chuanshang Cave, also known as the Great Arch, is 50m high, 70m across and 137m long and is part of a vast double through cave system high above the Getu River. You have to ascend over 1600 steps to reach the cave, it is also known as the Sun Cave as in the morning the sun shines through the arch creating a beam of light.
Over the last 18 months climbers organised and supported by Petzl have established over 100 routes in the cave as part of the development of this new climbing area that now boasts over 300 routes at 14 cliffs. These route setters weren't the first in the area, a French guide Olivier Balma and his students from the CMDI (Chinese Mountain Development Institute) established the first routes in the Getu Valley. Prior to this the area has a long tradition of locals climbing in the caves to collect guano and we were treated to a show by a bare-footed local known as Spiderman who with his female apprentice, both soloed 60m up - and down - a tufa system in the lower Great Arch above the Getu river.
Andrada's route joins several high grade multi-pitch routes in the Great Arch. It took him eleven days to equip and three days to work the eight pitches.
On Saturday, the final day of the Petzl RocTrip, the Great Arch was home to many of the world's climbing elite and climbers from all around the world, watched by hundreds of local Chinese and Chinese officials.
Part of this show was Andrada's attempt at leading all the eight pitches of this project in one push without falling. The consequences of falling on any pitch were that he would have lower to the ground and start again, which would have been particularly frustrating had he fallen on pitch 7 (7c+) or 8 (8a+). Because of the difficulty of the climbing and its steepness, it is essentially two overhanging pitches then six pitches of ceiling, he needed a high caliber partner and he was joined by his good friend Chris Sharma who patiently belayed and took a few good swings as he followed. Sharma managed to free climb 5 of the 8 pitches, but not without a fight. Their ascent took about 5 hours.
The climbing is initially characterised by rounded dishes or huecos, that look like jugs but usually slope downward and have to be pinched or used as poor side-pulls. The first pitch looked reasonable, about 6c or 7a but was in fact 8a+ because of the poor holds. Then as the route gets steeper it features more positive drooping tufas from hand-sized to stalactites that you can hug! Most of the belays were hanging, fixed with bamboo belay seats, apart from from one belay where both climbers crawled into a big cave high in the ceiling.
Whilst Corazón de Ensueño is not the hardest multi-pitch route in the world, it is more than likely the steepest.
The hyper-active Andrada has several more projects bolted, but limited time to complete them, he has until the end of the week. But he will more than likely be back for more as the Great Arch has much potential for routes longer, harder and steeper than Corazón de Ensueño
The day finished with a wild party at the Petzl Base Camp in Getu village and the professional climbers showed that not only can they climb hard but party hard too as they all took to the stage in a frenzy of dancing with the local villagers. One particular impressive performance was by the young American climber Sasha Diguilian who took centre stage for a while for a spot of drumming and MC'ing.
We will have a full report with video about the Petzl RocTrip later in the year.
Mick Ryan was reporting from Getu, China.
See also this new report at the Petzl website
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