Rock climbing in Hangzhou, China

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This post, Rock climbing in Hangzhou, was originally written when I was living in China between 2014–2015. While I was there I discovered this amazing crag outside the city of Hangzhou. The crag is known as Lion’s Head Rock 狮头岩.

Finally, the real outdoor adventures begin!

After living in Hangzhou for nearly three months now we recently had the chance to get outdoors for the first time, allowing us to soak in some amazing Chinese culture and countryside and of course, climb on some real rock!

For all those wishing to travel and climb in Zhejiang Province (a great weekend escape from Shanghai or Hangzhou) here is our little DIY overview of the rock climbing at Lion’s Head Rock.

Quick Tips:

After some serious online trawling and Google translating I managed to find out about a tiny little crag hidden deep in the mountains of Zhejiang province about a two hour bus ride west of Hangzhou. It’s a beautiful area, completely secluded with plenty of hidden valleys, waterfalls, tiny little villages and covered in lush bamboo forests as far as the eye can see. If I were to imagine a typical Chinese countryside picture in my head this place would certainly fit the bill.

A view of Lion's Head Rock from the base.

While it certainly was a bit of a challenge getting out to Lin’An and the little village of Gao Hong, we certainly would never of had made this trip possible without our amazing Chinese co-workers and friends. They were so kind and helped us with everything from booking bus tickets to calling our host at the guesthouse! Honestly, without them we would be so lost in this world. Although, that’s not to say that you couldn’t do it alone — hence why I’ve written this post 🙂

*Note: for all of the foreign climbers out there coming to China, please try to have someone you can call for help in any given situation, it will make life so much easier! The Chinese love to just spray their language all over you, even if you persistently explain “I DON’T UNDERSTAND!” It’s always a funny situation.

Where to Stay

With the help of our co-workers, we found out that the mountain is located in a small village, called Gao Hong Zhen Long (高虹镇龙上村). The village is really cute, tucked away in this beautiful little valley with a tiny waterfall stream running straight through the middle of it all. There are a few family guesthouse and a couple of shops for basic food and drinks, but by any means please do not rely on this. Make sure you come prepared with your own essentials.

We stayed a super cute, very sleek guesthouse (the exact name I am not sure, but see below for the details). The rooms were extremely modern, the bathrooms and showers were perfect, they even have WIFI as well. Best of all, we had an amazing host who cooked for us each morning, packed us a nice lunch of steamed vegetables, buns and eggs and tendered to us with an amazing spread of dishes as soon as we returned early in the evening. She was incredible! I’ve never felt so comfortable and so well taken care of. The obvious language barrier did not stop her from chatting away to us, always giggling and smiling. It was fantastic!

All in all, the price per night is around 80 RMB with three meals included, however our bill came out to be a bit more as we indulged in a few beers, borrowed towels and also requested an additional meal before our journey home the next day. You can expect to pay no more than 100 RMB for a night, and that will include everything you will possibly need.

Call +86 159 6886 7008 to book a room

Crag Development

For the past couple of years, Lion’s Head has received a lot of attention from a small group of dedicated climbers who have gone all in to put this crag on the map. Their efforts have been well documented (however it’s all in Chinese) and I’m really inspired by their commitment to the sport and to the area. Also, with the help of the amazing CLIMB CHINA guidebook, surely the area can now be seen in a new light and be made accessible for tourists from all over the world. But of course….. This needs to be managed carefully and responsibly!!!

It’s a fine line to tread, and potentially a dangerous one too. Many of the climbing areas are managed by private land owners and it may not always be in their best interest to simply let a new breed of hungry climbers out into property to exploit their natural resources.

Getting There

So we made it to Gao Hong (高虹) ready to climb. The bus ride from Hangzhou took about 2 hours and was a pretty rickety ride, but totally OK. You can catch a bus from the Hangzhou West Bus Station (汽车西站) located at 355 Tianmushan Road (天目山路355号). It’s fairly easy to get a ticket, you may need your passport but it’s unlikely.

You can ask the attendant: “wo yào măi liăng zhāng piào dào Gāo hóng”. Or just show them this: 我要买张票,到高虹. Note: liang in bold (also bold in Chinese) is for TWO tickets. For one ticket say “yi”. Hand gestures are your friend here.

We were met at the bus station by a Chinese lady gesturing for us to go over to her. Of course, we had no idea what she was saying but we accepted and went to see her. We phoned our friend and soon found out she was “the climbing bus lady” — she knew what we wanted and where we wanted to go. We were happy that it was so easy and so our next move into the woods was not as daunting as we initially thought.

**Mind you, we did arrange this beforehand and we did have the luxury of calling our Chinese friends if anything played up. If you would like some extra help with the logistics and the EXACT directions from start to finish, feel free to message me here on Medium.

  • You can call the climbing bus lady on this number: +86 138 68 00 81 49. She is very nice, and super efficient!

The start of the approach from the road.

The walk-in to Lion’s Head Rock (prepare yourself for a decent 30 minute hike straight UP).

We rolled on into the jungle, deep in the mountains and away from it all. It was a really beautiful drive and for once we felt like we were on a real adventure. After about half an hour we finally arrived at the foot of the mountain. Literally it was just the side of the road — she booted us out and repeatedly kept on repeating “xiao xin, xiao xin!” (be careful, be careful!!) and then off she went, leaving us in the middle of nowhere, ready to start a hike up a tiny little bush track which hopefully took us to where we wanted to go.

I love that about climbing. There are only a select few who would be stupid enough to walk up some random track into the middle of nowhere. But it’s so normal for me now, to the point that I would never think twice. If someone said ‘hey, there’s rock over there’, then of course I would just hike up a jungle track, over mossy logs and through gushing rivers, over sketchy ravines and up a tree with no safety equipment, just to take a look. I don’t know why I do it, but hey — it’s all been worth it thus far. And it definitely brings out the real adventurer/explorer spirit in you!

A photo of the beautiful bamboo forests on the way to Lion's Head Rock.

As you hike up you will make your way through the beautiful bamboo forests.

Climbing Area’s

Lower 40’s

Low and behold, after a steep ascent and a bit of bush bashing, we made it up to the first level of rock. We stumbled across an area known as the “Lower 40’s”, which isn’t the best of quality, but a relief nonetheless to finally have MADE it and found some real rock! The area was quite damp from the previous days rain and foggy conditions, however there was one climb we tried called “Fish Lips 6b” which wasn’t too bad. Although, not great either…

Most the climbs here are about 10–14 metres high and not OVERLY adventurous if you ask me. The rock here is pretty harsh in places and quite gritty too. This particular route consisted of small crimps and edges which were a little sharp, so prepare your tips accordingly! After this climb we decided to move on ahead and up to the next section, about 60 metres further up the mountain, called “Mika’s Ledge”.

A photo of The Lower 40's crag.

The Lower 40’s crag, not amazing, but also not terrible either.

I must say — the long hike in from the base of the mountain was totally worth it! Gazing up at the beautifully, rugged cliff face only to see this massive Lion’s Head stare down back at you is kind of intimidating at first. The routes here sure look tough and exposed and they’ll definitely get your heart racing, but of course, this is what it’s all about!

We scanned the area and settled by a nice little spot up high, allowing us to soak in the beautiful views of the mountains and villages below. From there we discovered some incredibly sleek looking lines that moved well up into the overhanging ‘nose’ of the Lion’s Head.

A small snapshot of Mika’s Ledge, kinda reminds me of the Cat Wall in Tonsai.

A small snapshot of Mika’s Ledge, kinda reminds me of the Cat Wall in Tonsai.

The good thing is that Mika’s Ledge stay dry during light to moderate rain, which is what we had when we had to deal on day one. Therefore, even though conditions were foggy and sloppy, I was able to get on a dry route to the left of the ledge called ‘’Big Trouble Little China 7a+’’.

Funnily enough, I mistook this route for a 6a warm-up route (I obviously didn’t read the guidebook correctly), so I got on it and immediately started to wonder why I was feeling so incredibly pumped so damn quickly! Actually, the route was excellent; the movements were nice and the holds were not too intense. It packed a punch right from the start, but eased off through the middle, allowing for a decent rest.

Annnnnd then, right at the very end came the heartbreaker — an incredibly dynamic reach to a slopey slab of rock. There the chains sat, staring down at me, looking all beautiful and shiny. Here I was, sweating away, grunting and groaning like a gorilla, lunging up and reaching out with a thunderous slap of my palm on the bare rock, only to smack the wall a few inches short and slide back down like a sad sack of potatoes. This ONE move got the better of me a fair few times until I figured it out, and oh it was just so satisfying to reach the chains and make the clip!

What a ride, I would highly recommend this route. There is no doubt I will be back again soon to make the full send! The rest of the routes of Mika’s Ledge look fantastic, although they range between the 7a — 8b grade so it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. However, there is definitely something for everyone, I did see a few easier routes off to the side.

After this, we decided to check out some more of the area, seeing as there was still a lot to be discovered. We shimmied our way up the mountain another 50–100 metres and came to the next crag called ‘’The Prow’’.

A stunning view from the top of Lion's Head Rock.

What a beautiful day! Fresh air, beautiful bamboo covered mountains and SUNSHINE.

The Prow

The Prow is a huge chunk of rock that kind of protects the back section of the Lion’s Head. It seems as though if you were to climb up the Prow and squeeze your way through some of the cracks in the rock you would then find yourself able to climb up the impressive, overhanging face that would eventually take you up and over the ‘’Head’’ and up to the summit. This area seems to have a bit of everything, from grade 6a to 7c+, and is nicely shaded by bamboo trees.

I climbed one route there, called ‘’Lion’s Prow, 7a’’ which was fantastic. It followed an obvious crack up the wall (I wonder if it should be a traditional line, without the fixed protection in place). The route was full of tricky moves, which saw me shifting from left to right, switching feet and stretching out wide almost on every move. It was cool; the holds were nice and not too harsh, plus I really enjoyed the climbing style! However, I wonder about the grade, 7a seems a bit too much, but I don’t know, I’m not an expert (maybe 6b+ or 6c). Next time we come back I would love to try out some more routes in this area and then I suppose I can make a better decision.

Just to the left of The Prow is an area called ‘’Crazy Corners’’ which is where we ended up spending the bulk of the day, simply because it had the best views, a great variety of easy climbs and an awesome shaded area to sit down and relax.

A photo of the Crazy Corner crag.

My favourite crag: Crazy Corners.

Crazy Corners

Crazy Corners is the perfect spot for all ages and all abilities. We had a great time just chilling up there and we got some seriously breathtaking views from the top of the routes For all the leisure climbers out there, I would recommend heading straight up to this crag, you can easily fill a day up here — plus there are even a couple of harder routes between 7a — 7c for the more adventurous climbers. Luckily, we had an absolutely stellar day, the sky was blue, the air was cool and crisp and the sun was shining through nice and bright (I finally managed to get some tan back!!!). You couldn’t have even dreamed for better conditions!

We met a nice family of climbers from France and had a great time just chatting and relaxing. There is an excellent route to the very left of the wall named “Banana 6a+” which I would recommend to all. It’s slightly overhung with perfect block like jugs to dig into. There is another route ”Little Sheep 6b+” which is definitely worth a try too. Both are well bolted (all of the climbs are well bolted here) and very straightforward but be careful of the bamboo trees that brush up behind you. Actually, most the routes to the left of the crag get up nice and cosy with the trees. But in all honesty, they don’t really pose a threat, it just makes for a more dramatic fall!

Checking out the potential at Crazy Corners

After two day of climbing, both Zoe and I are pumped to have discovered this awesome crag. Of course, we didn’t get to try everything, and there are still two more areas left to check out so at least we have plenty of climbing left when we return. All in all it was a really successful trip, the weather was absolutely amazing and the whole experience finding the crag, staying at the guesthouse and travelling with all the bus connections worked out just fine. I would definitely recommend first time climbers to either buy the Climb China guidebook or contact me on Medium for any questions you may have.

Actually, there are a few more hidden gems scattered all over this province, all within a few hours drive of Hangzhou and Shanghai. They are all just waiting to be explored so I am really excited about that. I have linked up Lion’s Head Rock on too, so please go check it out there for more information.

If it’s one thing I find SUPER difficult to find, it’s quality information (in English). Therefore I want to help solve that problem by providing you with some decent information to get out and into the wild! Hope this helps. If you’ve enjoyed this article and know anyone else who would too, please share it with your friends!

If you think you would be a great fit for the Digital Dirtbag series or know someone who might be interested in sharing their story then feel free to shoot through a message on Instagram @adventureinmyveins.