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Getting Away: Rock Climbing in Dali

By in Travel on

Enjoying views of Erhai on the Shuanglang Cliffs
Enjoying views of Erhai on the Shuanglang Cliffs

Editor's note: Adam Kritzer is a longtime Dali resident and founder of ClimbDali, a company offering guided outdoor trips. Check back in coming weeks for more posts from Adam introducing other outdoor activities in Dali, such as hiking cycling and kayaking.

Dali, with its diversity of high-quality climbing surfaces and top-notch scenery, is steadily gaining attention as one of Yunnan's premier spots for rock climbing.

Since 2008, climbers have bolted 40 routes in three different locations. There are routes for both serious and first-time climbers, with potential for hundreds more new routes in the future. The following is an overview of these three locations: the Shuanglang Cliffs, Guanyin Canyon and Shimenguan Gorge.

Shuanglang Cliffs 双廊岩壁

Shuanglang town is located on the eastern shore of Erhai Lake, about a one-hour drive from the Dali old town, and ten minutes from the Shangguan station (上关站) on the Dali – Lijiang train line.

The climbing takes place on a series of cascading limestone cliffs that overlook the lake and nearby settlements. So far, only one of the cliffs has been bolted – with 20 sport routes ranging in difficulty from 5.7 to 5.12a. The cliff is west-facing and takes sun most of the day, so bring sunscreen and plenty of water. The two other cliffs beckon, with plenty of opportunities to develop new routes.

To get there, catch a bus to Shuanglang / Nanzhao Folk Island (双廊 / 南诏风情岛) from Xiaguan's North Bus Station (大理客运北站) or from anywhere alongside the road that connects Dali with Lijiang (大丽路), and ask the driver to let you off at Dajianpang Village (大建旁村), just south of Shuanglang Town. The fare is 10 yuan.

To access the cliffs, follow a horse path the entrance of which is across the main road from Dajianpang Village. The path isn't signposted, and it can be hard to find. But the Sky And Sea Lodge guesthouse, located only 5 minutes away from the trailhead, can offer assistance. They can point you in the right direction and are also a good lodging option for multiday climbing outings.

Guanyin Canyon 观音箐

Less than an hour by bus from Xiaguan (Dali's modern city, located at the southern end of Erhai Lake), this crag was the earliest to be developed in Dali. The crag is located on the road to Jizu Shan (鸡足山, literally "Chicken Foot Mountain"), within a Buddhist temple complex – which is itself worth a visit!

Only one rock face has been bolted thus far, and there's potential for at least 30 routes here, as long as the resident monks are gracious enough to let us keep putting up new lines. Currently, there are 9 routes, from 5.8 to 5.12a, situated beneath an enormous ficus tree. Local visitors will usually pause here to gawk at climbers before continuing up the stone steps to the temple above. Most of the routes are shaded throughout the day.

To get to Guanyin Canyon, catch a bus headed to Binchuan (宾川) at the bus station located across from the Dali train station - at the terminus of the number 8 bus from Dali's old town. Ask the driver to let you off at Guanyin Qing (观音箐). The fare is 14 yuan. Unfortunately, there isn't any practical accommodation nearby, so it's best visited as a day trip.

Shimenguan Gorge in Yangbi 漾濞石门关

The Shimenguan Gorge is the best spot for rock climbing in Dali. It features two parallel gneiss (similar to granite in feel and hardness) cliff faces, each about 100 meters high and 500 to 1000 meters long, with a small stream running down through the bottom.

The rock is extremely solid, and the style of climbing can best be described as crimpy slab. There are currently 11 routes, ranging from 5.10a to 5.12d, with many more likely to be added as climbers develop the area more in the coming few years. There is also tremendous potential for traditional and multi-pitch routes, as well as for boulder problems.

In addition to climbers, the gorge also attracts a handful of tourists each week, and has a 3-hour walking trail, several pagodas and hanging bridges, and some beautiful waterfalls. Admission is 10 yuan.

To get there, board a bus headed for Yangbi (漾濞) and ask the driver to let you off at Shimenguan (石门关), about 45 minutes away. The fare is 10 yuan. You can see the gorge clearly from the road, and you can either approach it on foot (45 minutes) or hire a tuk-tuk for 15 yuan. There are several local guesthouses and restaurants situated outside the gorge, offering several different levels of room.

Indoor Climbing in Dali

ClimbDali (大理攀岩) at 393 Renmin Lu has a small bouldering wall for training or use on a rainy afternoon. The wall is free to use, but shoe rental is 10 yuan. ClimbDali also offers climbing trips and equipment rental. More information is available at climbdali.com.

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Very interesting, I am looking forward for more (give me a teaser, is it white water kajaking?).

We just hopped thr bus to Guanyinqing. Bus 8 terminates at a small depot just next to the train station in Xiaguan. The bus bound for Binchuan was parked on the street turning right in exiting the depot, just 30 meters or so down. Driver says be back at the dropoff point by 7:30pm to catch last bus back from Binchuan.

I heard Shimenguan climbing area is now closed by local park authorities? Can anyone confirm?

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