Taiwan Climbing Q&A

Dragon CaveTaipeiTaichungChiayiKaohsiungKentingGreen IslandIndoor
(Taiwan climbing areas locator map)

There is good rock climbing in Taiwan, but not as much as one might expect from a very mountainous island. The problem is that the rock type in the mountains is typically loose shale, sandstones and volcanic rock, and does not hold together very well. As well, the island is subtropical and lots of vegetation grows even on the overhanging cliffs. The mountains are great for hiking and peak bagging and winter alpine ascents when it does snow. There are over one hundred peaks with an elevation over 3000 meters. Jade Mountain (玉山 Yu Shan) is the highest mountain with an elevation of 3952 meters. [pics] If you do want to bag any of the peaks over 3000 meters, you will need to have a permit which requires a certified guide. Since I have yet to use a guide, I'm not much help with information on how it is done, but here is a link to a web site the explains what it takes: http://www.ysnp.gov.tw/English/parkentry.html. If you want to try to "sneak" up on your own, you need to know there is increasing enforcement of the regulations, and the fine, should they choose to enforce it, can be quite expensive. You may also be banned from climbing in Taiwan for an indefinite period of time. From late spring to fall the traffic on the popular routes like Jade Mountain and Snow Mountain is very heavy, especially on the weekends when you may be joined by over a hundred other people on the summit.

If you are looking for cragging, alpine rock climbing and snow climbing, contact Raymond Chen. Raymond lives in Taipei and is a Taiwan certified mountain guide, but he's not really into "guiding" per se (he's got a "real" job); he just wants to have fun and make some new friends and climbing/hiking partners. And the bonus for all you non-Chinese speakers is that his English is great. Here's how you can reach Raymond:

There is probably an unlimited supply of scrappy little crags all over the island. The rock types range from shale to limestone to sandstone to volcanic rock. Some are good, some aren't. Anyone with an adventurous spirit and some time could be occupied for years developing small areas. But because the island is tropical, if your area isn't climbed on for a couple of years, it may be completely overgrown when you head back.

Unquestionably the best rock climbing location in Taiwan is Dragon Cave (Lung Tung 龍洞)[pics][location] on the northeast coast. And it is a great crag! (Actually, I think there is another potentially great location, but it hasn't been developed yet to my knowledge.) The rock is a metamorphic sandstone and is of a very course texture. There is traditional crack climbing as well as bolted sport routes, ranging from 5.0 to 5.13c/d. If you are coming to Taiwan and want to know what gear to bring for Dragon Cave, I'd recommend a minimum of a single 50-60 meter rope, a set of 10-12 quickdraws if you only want to climb the bolted routes, and a standard rack of nuts and flexible stem SLCD's for the trad routes. A recent note from Raymond mentions some concern over the bolt conditions at LungTung. One suggestion is for newcomers to stick with the School Door and Music Hall areas which are in constant use and are more likely to have good bolts. You may want to throw in a few stainless steel quicklinks in case you get to the anchors and don't want to trust the old rusted stuff that is there. Please only leave good quality stainless steel quicklinks, nothing aluminum or non-stainless. It's on an ocean for crying out loud, and I'm tired of chopping the rusty, corroded junk that some knuckleheads leave behind to clog up the bolt hangers. So far, all rap stations I've used have been 25 meters or less from the ground unless the route was an obvious multi-pitch climb. Less than an hour drive from Taipei (in ideal traffic conditions), Dragon Cave sees a considerable number of weekend climbers.

Late in 1998 a new guidebook was published. The Lungtung Rock Climbing Guide is comprehensive in nature and covers the entire cliff band. Each of the cliffs is shown in a photograph, making route finding much easier. A big bonus for all the foreigners is that it is in both Chinese and English. (I have left the old topo papers page up for those who want to take a look for historical purposes.) Also included in the new book is a guide to Big Cannon Cliff (大砲岩) [pics][location] , a small bouldering and toprope crag in the hills north of Taipei (Peitou area). I put together a Big Cannon Cliff Climbing & Bouldering Guide in English for you to view or download. (I've left up the old topo papers to this crag as well, but I'm not sure why.) Since the cliffs are all very short at BCC (less than 10 meters) and there is a small collection of bolt anchors and natural anchors on top of the cliffs, you can toprope with a minimum of a single rope and some biners. This would require you use your climbing rope to set up the anchor, so you may want to add a couple of long pieces of webbing or cord to that gear list.

The artificial wall climbing opportunities in Taipei are extensive. Raymond has put together some information on the best places. Click here for the full beta on Taipei climbing: "Raymond's Guide to Taipei Climbing"

About an hour and a half drive outside of Taichung is the Ku Kuan[pics] [location] scenic area which hosts a few climbing areas for the climbers in central Taiwan.

Climbers from Taichung may want to drive down to GwanDzLing [pics] [location], south of ChiaYi in the mountain foothills. The soft limestone at GwanDzLing is nothing to get excited about, but central Taiwan climbers have got to take what they can get.

Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan and does have some climbing as well. There is a climbing gym in Kaohsiung and there is some natural rock climbing. Recently Leon [climbing98@hotmail.com], a foreigner who lives in Kaohsuing, sent me this information on the climbing scene there:

You did hear right about the new climbing gym in [Kaohsiung].I have been training there for about four months now, and occasionally advising the owner (who hasn't the slightest clue about running a climbing gym) how to develop it for the future. Most of my advice goes out the other ear. The gym is solid and big. Indoors about 850 sq. mtrs. with wall heights ranging from 6 meters to 12. There is a good little bouldering room and a large roof arch for roof lovers. Outdoors there is a huge 23 meter wall that is excellent. Lots of inclines and roofs. The construction quality is high and safety is not a concern at this time. I worry for the future though as he has yet to implement any sort of inspection system. The main problems with the gym are a lack of set routes and (in addition to the inspection system) a cleaning system, so many of the holds have become black and smooth from shoe soles. There are also a few abseiling stations, a couple of firepoles, lots of rope ladders and a Dangling Duo (also known as a Jacobs Ladder) a massive ladder of rope and wood which traditionally functions as a 'teambuilding' exercise. As I said the gym really suffers from management who lack any understanding of climbing, the industry or what it takes to create a successful gym. Contact numbers are: (07) 285-1430 or 0938-220-937. It's located at 30 Tung-ai Rd., just off Chishien Rd near Jungshan; walking distance from the train station for any day trippers.
[Regarding the outdoor climbing sites in Kaohsiung,] the problem is that they are so complicated to get to (read: many small trails crisscrossing around the mountain) that the only way to tell you is to show you. . . .We are introducing the area to others who are keen to climb outdoors, and so far all of them have been foreigners. The Taiwanese who climb in [Kaohsiung] (maybe about 6 dedicated climbers) have developed another small crag in the city that is far more accessible (the one crag Mark discovered is a good 30-45 minute hike up the hill) and so we never see them elsewhere. That is a strange thing because the one crag on Monkey Mountain was bolted by Taiwanese, but in 4 months climbing there I have never seen a single Taiwanese climber there.

In the far south of the island is the beautiful Kenting National Park[pics][location]. This is a great area for those who love the beach. There are a few areas being developed here as well and the potential for small crags is probably endless. Bouldering, toproping and minimal leading exists. More potential certainly exists in this area for the adventurous with thick calluses. If you head down to Kenting, have someone show you the way up Big Pointed Mountain (a.k.a. "Witch's Hat" to us foreigners). It's the one on the postcards that looks just like a witch's hat from the south. It's a fun hike that ends with a nice view of the southern tip of the island. There is even some third class scrambling near the top. Also while in Kenting make sure you head out to Sail Rock. From the parking lot and road to the north, Sail Rock takes on an uncanny resemblance to a profile of Richard Nixon's head, hence the nickname "Nixon Rock". The snorkeling is nice in this area and there is some climbing to be done on the side of the rock that faces land. But the real fun is to swim over, climb up and jump off of Nixon's nose into the ocean. If that jump seems a little too tame for you, climb on up to his eyebrow for a long ride!

There is a tiny bit of rock climbing out on Green Island, a very small island east of Taitung [location][pics]. I can't really say that there is a particularly good reason to go to Green Island for rock climbing, but if you are going there anyway, might as well take along a little gear and climb too. The snorkeling is great and the salt water hot springs is a unique experience.

How to get there--The best way to get to the climbing areas in Taiwan is to have a local climber take you, so you'll want to make some friends quickly. Contact Raymond if you are looking to climb in Taipei (see above). You can also have a look at "Raymond's Guide to Taipei Climbing" to find Taipei walls on your own. If you really want to find the outdoor areas on your own, click here for a page of maps and directions. More and more of the colleges and universities are building climbing walls and this is a good place to make some contacts. There are climbing walls and gyms in other parts of Taiwan as well.

In Taichung there are three main climber hangouts. The Together: Giant Outdoor Spirit store wall [pics] is located at Wen Hsin Rd., Sec. 1, #17 (台中市文心路一段17) tel. (04) 2475 8525. You need to pay to climb at Giant and harness & shoes are available to rent as well. The Sun & Tree Outfitters [pics]bouldering cave is located at Wu Chuan West Rd., Sec. 2, #316 (台中市南屯區五權西路二段316, tel. (04) 2471 4655. You've got to pay to climb at Sun & Tree. They also have a bulletin board inside their front door with postings of outings by different clubs for mountain climbing, rock climbing and other adventures. Taichung has another artificial wall that allows climbing for free. This wall goes up the outside of the Outdoor Fun Taiwan[pic] gear shop for four floors to the roof, about 50 feet high. They have a bouldering cave as well. You'll find the shop at Chung De Rd., Sec. 2, #330 (台中市崇得路二段330), tel. (04) 2245 0678. There are some days of the week that the wall is used for classes or competition, so there isn't open climbing every day. You need your own gear to climb at the Outdoor Fun wall. All three walls are part of ourdoor sporting goods shops, so you can find your gear there as well. Additionally the Tang Dynasty outdoor sporting goods shop has gear. You can find them at DaDuen Rd., #690, near the intersection of DaDuen Rd. and GongYi Rd. Their phone number is (04) 2325 1819. Tang no longer has a climbing wall.

If you live in Taichung, you may want to join the Coolbe Climbing Club. You'll meet a bunch of climbers quickly and get in on a lot of fun outdoor trips as well. Contact Lubin Hsu (pronounced Loo-bean) on his cell phone at 0991-233-022 or via e-mail at coolbe11@ms29.hinet.net and tell him Ron sent you.

As mentioned above, the climbing gym in Kaohsiung is located at 30 Tung-ai Rd., just off Chishien Rd near Jungshan, walking distance from the train station.

More questions or info to contribute? Click here to drop me a note at (taiwan_rock [at] yahoo.com).

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