Our taxi came to an abrupt halt and everyone on board let out a collective groan. Up ahead the Jingbao River, full and flowing fast due to recent heavy rains, had submerged the crossing and our driver refused to take his vehicle any further. This was our third day in Yangshuo, China, and Britnee and I were finally getting our chance at some rock climbing, something I’d been dreaming about doing for months. Having been rained out the previous day and with expensive gear rentals weighing on us, we would not be deterred. 

Earlier that morning we had crammed into the taxi with Mike, Kate, Devin and Fia, (from New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Germany), and departed from the Climbers’ Inn for one of our few dry options: Twin Gate Mountain. Out of the 45 different crags listed in our “Yangshuo Rock Climbs” guidebook, there were 11 that would most likely be dry after the rain, but just one or two that provided routes that fell within my haven’t-climbed-in-a-few-months skill level. 

Nibble Fish, cormorant fishing, Driving in China, Yangshuo, China, Travel, Backpacking, Rock Climbing, Rock Climbing in China, Moon Hill, Karst Peaks, Limestone, Guilin,

So, facing the Jingbao River, we unloaded our gear from the taxi’s trunk, agreed to meet the driver at the same spot later that day, and continued into the dark brown river on foot. Thankfully, the submerged bridge provided great footing and the crossing proved to be easier than expected.

Safely on the other side, we proceeded along potholed dirt roads that divided flat, green farmland surrounded by towering karst peaks. After one wrong turn, we found our bearings with the help of a local who, only speaking Chinese, obviously knew what we tourists were looking for. And soon Twin Gate Mountain was before us.

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While Britnee and I were relatively rusty, having not climbed in a couple of months, we happily lead and set top ropes on the easier stuff. Meanwhile, our companions — who were all strong climbers working or looking for jobs as guides in Yangshuo — put on a good show on more challenging routes.

With such a beautiful backdrop, I insisted on making some photographs and Mike and Kate happily obliged, climbing an impressive 5.11b roof while I hung from an uncomfortable rental harness, happily snapping away.

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Sweaty, sunburned, bug bitten and tired, our group eventually backtracked through the farmland and across the river to our awaiting taxi. Back in town, we stopped off for Kate’s recommended street food: Chinese burritos just off West Street.

Later that night, we visited a bar where Devin’s band was playing. There I asked Mike more questions about his own travels, which had started 10 months earlier when he was guiding climbing trips in Vietnam, then China and possibly Kazakstan up next. At each new job and country, his family back home in the U.S. had grown more concerned, asking when he might be coming home to find a “job.”

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But having already gone that route, spending too much time working a desk job he didn’t enjoy, Mike seemed far too content with the way his life was going in China. Working outdoors, climbing some of the world’s best rock, mingling in a tightly knit community of expats; it’s easy to see how one could settle down in the lively little town of Yangshuo.

And while Mike admitted he had never imagined himself living such a place, he echoed the same thing each of the other climbers had said that day.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Next stop: the pandas of Chengdu.

About The Author

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Mark quit everything to travel the world for a year with his wife, Britnee. Along the way, he picked up a love for many other things, including illy coffee, Nepal, Bolivianos bills, and Thai beaches. Now happily home in Utah, Mark is a balding marketing professional with a mountain biking addiction.

4 Responses

  1. andrew

    Hello!
    I am currently writing a new rock climbing guidebook for Yangshuo. maybe we met maybe not. i’ve been there for 7 years developing routes. during the past weeks i have been searching the internet for some awesome climbing pictures of yagnshuo…you guys have a few that are awesome. would you be interested in contributing a few photos to the book?

    Andrew Hedesh

    Reply

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