|Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Looking south towards the Golden Valley
The Dragon Cave, (龍洞 : lóng dòng in Mandarin) is a long stretch of sea cliffs on the northern end of Taiwan facing east into the Pacific Ocean. The name here sounds like a crude reference, but actually translates to Dragon Cave and was named for an impressive rock formation that can be seen from above or from the north. The Long Dong area is at the 25th North Parallel, just below the Tropic of Cancer, so the sun varies from coming from the south in winter, to directly overhead in summer.
The rock at Long Dong is dense but course grey sandstone, with highlights of yellow, red and brown. There are large crystals and inclusions that bite on the fingers and shoes and keep the rock generally extremely high friction, though ocean spray and hot temperatures can certainly take their toll on some days when the surf or sun is high. Some areas have beautiful clusters of fully-formed quartz points sticking out of the face as climbing features or out of the cracks. The latter of these can be generally avoided, but when not are uncomfortably sharp. Between the crystals and high friction, it is best advised to tape up for trad climbing at Long Dong if you plan to climb for multiple days- to save the skin.
Also beware that the course and undulating stone, though compact and hard, may make placing trad placements complex, so as to insure that the pieces have a good amount of surface contact and will not pop out.
The climbing here is regulated by the community of climbers; retrobolting is forbidden, ask locals or the route-setters (better!) before putting in or pulling out any bolts, and clean up after yourself. There is no government body that has to be kept in the loop about development here. There are plenty of lines remaining for FA's if you are adventurous, though those will either require bolts, boldness, or be 5.11 and over. A majority of the easier crack climbing has been done. The existing climbs are a mix of over 500 sport and trad climbs. The grades run the entire spectrum of difficulty, but seem to be centered around 5.10 and are fairly honest until you reach 5.11, in which case you may find them relatively soft compared to US grades, but perhaps a little harder than those in Thailand.
Beware that this is a sea cliff. As with any such cliff there are local hazards. Some cliffs may be inaccessible depending on tide and weather (swell size) and yearly people, generally fishermen, are washed away to sea never to be seen again. Bolts rust, and although there is effort going into placing stainless or titanium hardware, not everything has been updated or upgraded. Some fixed hardware is in less than desirable condition. Generally speaking, you want to avoid mechanical bolts and go for glue-in bolts - though this can't always be trusted either. Check the guidebook.
As for community, there will generally be others around at Long Dong, and quite a lot on weekends. Although the number of visitors is growing, it is usually easy to find a cliff or two all to yourself if you do not set your heart on one particular climb. If you do run into other climbers, they are as likely to be visiting as they are locals, but regardless, both groups seem friendly and willing to help, be it if you are looking for beta or a belay. More common will be the fishermen standing out on the rocks in all kinds of weather trying to pull in Mackerel and whatever else they might hook (I've seen a few brought in, and one big one). The fishermen are generally disinterested in the climbers, but be polite and maintain a good relationship. They are locals and don't bother us...
Depending on where you are coming from, you may arrive via different routes. As well, different walls have different arrival/parking places and are thus slightly different. All of Long Dong however is common to the N.E. Coastal Highway, #2, between Rueibin and Aodi, and lies at the most northeasterly point between.
There is a bus you can take from near Taipei Main Station. It's in a building called Taipei West Station Building A. The bus number is 1811 or 1812, and it costs about 120NT$. It leaves every day at 8:20am, 9:20am, 10:20am, and 2:20pm. It will get you there in just over an hour, and will drop you off at either the north or south parking areas. If you miss this bus, there are always buses going to Keelung, where you have to wait for a transfer to a bus going to Fulong (check the signs). On the way back, you can hitchhike, or wait for a bus, then transfer in Keelung back to Taipei (very short wait).
There are three main parking areas: North, Central, and South.
North Parking: This will be the first option most of you encounter, provided you are coming in from Highway 2 or 62. Perhaps 10 Minutes East of where Highway 2 and 62 Merge at Rueibin, the coastal Highway 2 will take a bend South along the shore and come quite close to the water. After a minute or two on this you will see a traffic light up ahead where you can turn down and left into a row of shops and a quiet Marina, or just past that light, where the coast and the highway sweep sharply to the left (East) and the road climbs. Take the left turn at the traffic light (Lung Tung St.) and drive a few hundred meters to the road's end where there is a public parking lot at the Marina. You can find a public bathroom and some shops for some snacks or drinks here. Park the car and strike out along the coast, keeping an eye up and right for the cliffs that you are targeting the trail to Apprentice Rock, School Gate and Disco Buttress is about 10 minutes long, is easily walked in casual footwear and fairly obvious. Sticky-rubber approach shoes are nice regardless for navigating the rocks, and I recommend them from the north approach if you have a pair, but tennis shoes and sandals are OK too. Beyond those, the tenderfoot climbers might want sturdier shoes, a better sense of direction, and a little more time as the remaining cliffs are a way further down the coast and more boulder hopping may ensue.
Central Parking: Not far past Lung Tung Street, having come considerably up hill, you will encounter an unmarked turn-off on the left. Take the first one you find, which is to your left on a right hand curve. Follow the road to its end after it curves gently up and left enough to have turned you almost completely in a circle. Park here and walk directly up over the hill on a dirt trail from the far end of the lot to encounter a white "paved" trail- the Lungtung Cape Bay trail. To the left, this goes back to the road you just came up, and to the right, goes first past some nice overlooks (a 5 minute diversion that will give you a beautiful overlook of the coast and climbing below) and then onward south to the rough rut known to climbers as the "Golden Valley Trail." The Golden Valley Trail is a steep and sometimes muddy rut of hard clay down to the shores, now well over 100 meters below. Any footwear with good traction will do on this one, but be wary after a big rain- it is a rut and holds water and the slick clay really sticks to shoes. There are a few sections where fat hemp ropes are added for hand-over-handing steep sections and thus, the only potentially dangerous sections of the trail are pretty safe too, but slipping and landing on your bum is still unpleasant enough. Something with good traction, lugged soles and good ankle support will be nice. After passing the somewhat obvious trail, the paved Lung Tung trail continues all the way to the south parking area. If you end up there, you've gone too far.
South Parking: Continue south on Coastal Highway 2 after passing the previous 2 turnouts and go through a tunnel. Shortly after the tunnel, take the first left into a small drive, passing a small Buddhist temple on your left and continue to the end of the short drive. This is the most popular parking area, as the fishermen prefer it, and there are park walking tours and such that begin from here. Weekend parking can not be assured. There is a public toilet and washing sink. From this parking lot, head up and north on the "paved" Lung Tung trail and continue uphill for a ways until you encounter the Golden Valley Trail, perhaps after 5 minutes. Refer to the central parking area description for more details on the trail.
As well, to reach the Backdoor, Basement, and Little Turtle climbing areas, one can continue directly downhill towards the coast from the south parking area on the Fisherman's Trail. This will also head steeply downhill and end on steps, with the climbing being to the north, so take a left turn when you hit the coast.
A standard light rack and a set of a ten draws (or even fewer) would do, there are a goodly number of wide climbs possible, and some that require a few longer slings, higher bolt counts, etc... A climber wanting to be able to do anything should take a full set of cams from quite small to a 4", or potentially larger (IE new #5 camalot), a full set of nuts, and small tricams, a set of 10+ QD's and 1/2 dozen slings, or if no draws, then 10 slings. A cordalette and some lockers are a plus for any multipitch routes.
Also beware to clean your gear after every trip, as the cams may be fine the night after getting misted, but may not work at all after a month in your closet. Gear is expensive, so don't screw it up or get lazy. This is true for all sea-cliffs. And lastly, 4 words: Ropes Sand, Wear Out. So get a mat or a bag and use it!
Technically speaking, you are not allowed to camp on the beach. There is a sign at the north parking area that says so clearly in Chinese and English. However, I have never heard of a story in which people who were staying in the Second Cave were asked to leave by the Coast Guard or any other authority. Maintain a low profile if staying the night. Clean up after yourself. Other people do the same - DON'T LET THE CAVE BECOME A JUNK SHOW!
There is a hostel run by the caretaker of an old couple at the north parking area. She is from the Philippines and understands English. From what I recall, one room is 800NT$/night, and provides tatamis, blankets, and pillows. If you have a group of three or more, this is a really affordable deal. We spent our evening here playing hide-and-seek with the kids of the village and buying stinky tofu from a roving cart.
The weather here can be good enough for climbing days to be had year-round. However, the summer can be uncomfortably hot and the late fall and early spring rainy and windy. Winters are often chilly but clear. Keelung, a city to the north, receives an incredible amount of rain per year (140in/370cm). Though the Dragon Cave escapes the worst of it, it can still be unclimbable at times. The best months are April-June and September-October... although these months too can have their nasty spells, and others their bluebird days. Check the weather feature above for forecasts.
There has been a long history of climbing at the Dragon Cave, but there is really only one definitive source of information...
Rock Climbing Taiwan, by Matt Robertson (2012)
This book has all you need. It is $30 from Matt's website www.climbstone.com or 800NT$ (cheaper) at a climbing shop east of Taipei Main Station. It doesn't really cover anything other than the Dragon Cave, but it does detail every one of the 500+ routes there. Beautiful color, easy to understand, lots of information... get it!
Long Dong Trad Climbs, by Matt Robertson (2006)
The only publication people could use for reference for many years. It includes 101 trad climbs that are all featured in the newest book. Most pictures and topos are in black and white - a nice retro piece.
Yum-Yum's Old Guide, by Yum-Yum (???)
If you hang around long enough, you will hear Yum-Yum's name thrown around a bit. This was a book published several years before Matt's trad book, and had some hilarious translations. Now a relic.
Get the new guidebook.
Browse More Classics in Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Long Dong (Dragon Cave):
Featured Route For Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
: ... : School Gate
An incredibly fun sport climb for any venue, and certainly one of the best here. This climb has a little of everything, overhanging jugs, slapping of aretes, hidden pockets, technical footwork, and if you stay belly to the bolts (harder) even some flaring jams. The grade will depend on how directly you do the route, but will be in the 5.11 range.Climb up past 2 bolts to a technical crux, where a taller climber can clip the third bolt before risking it (be mindful of the rocks behind you). There ...[more] Browse More Classics in International
Signs at the School Gate entrance
View towards the rock field entrance
Sign near School Gate crag
The shop at the school gate entrance. The next bui...
View north from Backdoor
|Comments on Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Jul 21, 2011
This place sounds rad. Is there a guidebook (english maybe?) for this area? when is the best time to visit?
|By Nate Ball|
From: Taipei, TW
May 2, 2012
With the release of the new guidebook, this place is going to be on the international climbing map. Tonsai and Ha Long Bay and Yangshuo and Yunnan have their limestone sport, Korea has stuff, Japan has stuff, but none of them with the concentration and accessibility and setting that Long Dong does.
Matt and Maurice, awesome job! To the rest of the community, you are what make this place so fuggin spectacular!