Long Dong (Dragon Cave) Rock Climbing
Taken from a boat, looking at Long Lane and Music ...
Matt's guidebook is beautiful. However, it is already out-of-date as there has been a lot of re(tro)bolting, several bolt failures due to corrosion (see "Bolts" note below), and a massive plan for retrofitting the entire crag with titanium. For those of you who have smart phones, you can download the MP app and view all of the information posted here at the crag. It could save you a lot of trouble.
There is also a locally-sourced and regularly-updated supplement called Guidebook Plus
If you have any information to share about the routes you've climbed, please contact the editors of GB+ or message me personally.
(龍洞 in traditional 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. It sits just north of the Tropic of Cancer, and is indeed a tropical paradise... though perhaps not the same one you had in mind.
The character of the climbing is totally unique. The crashing waves, the terraces of stone, and thorny pandanus plants all contribute to the exotic feel of this place. Although the Dragon Cave has a character all its own, it could be compared to the Gunks of New York state for its rock type and inordinate traditional style, as well as the Blue Mountains in Australia for the appearance of the stone and the isolated setting. Most of the cliffs are less than 30m tall, and the solid portions shorter still, but a few bigger, more adventurous climbs do exist. Many of the crags are separated by 5-10 minutes that involve a lot of boulder hopping, scrambling, and sometimes even traversing, which can be treacherous for the inexperienced outdoorsman.
The rock is dense but coarse "sandstone" - probably more aptly called "quartz conglomerate." It comes in many shades, ranging from dull gray to yellow, black, red, orange, gold, and silver. There are large crystals and inclusions that bite on the fingers and shoes that keep the rock generally high friction. Some areas have beautiful clusters of fully-formed quartz points as climbing features. Between the crystals and high friction, it is best advised to tape up for trad climbing if you plan to climb for multiple days, so as to save the skin. Beware that the coarse and undulating stone, though compact and hard, may make placing trad gear complex.
The climbing here is basically unregulated. There is no official group that maintains the routes, but the locals don't take kindly to anyone "changing things" except those who are revered within their own circles. Although it is in a designated scenic area, there is also no governmental regulation. It should be noted that although there are a large number of sport climbs, most of these can be (and have been) done partially or entirely on trad gear. The grades run the entire spectrum of difficulty, centered around 5.10 and fairly honest until you reach 5.11, at which point the relative difficulty is all over the map.
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. Every year, some people (usually fishermen) are washed away to sea never to be seen again. Bolts here suffer from accelerated corrosion, and although some routes have new bolts and hardware, many others are considered dangerous due to accelerated corrosion. Check the "Bolts" note below.
Top anchors are somewhat standardized. Usually there are two level or staggered glue-in bolts with quick-links. Some traditional climbs have rope-webbing-ring anchors that are solid as long as they aren't too sun-faded and crusty. Please do not remove any of the fixed hardware and never top-rope through it.
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, you can usually find a cliff 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 foreigners as they are locals, but regardless, both groups are friendly and willing to help, be it if you are looking for beta or a belay. There is also a large population of fishermen, whom you will see standing out on the rocks in all kinds of weather trying to pull in mackerel and whatever else they might hook. Divers and day-trippers are also common, especially in the summer, when they flood the north parking area day after day.
Food and drink may be purchased at the north parking area, but this is limited to instant noodles, canned bean congee, cookies, water, beer, and other cheap beverages. Highly recommend packing your own food.
To get in touch with local English-speaking climbers: Taiwan Climbing Calendar
For more information - gym locations, outdoor walls, other crags, gear shops, etc: Taiwan Rocks
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 NE Coastal Highway, #2, between Ruibin 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 110NTD. It leaves every day at 8:20am, 9:20am, 10:20am, 2:20pm, 5:20pm, and 8:20pm. 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).
There are three main parking areas: North, Central, and South. North is best for the School Gate, Clocktower, Long Lane, and Music Hall crags. Central is best for Grand Auditorium, First Cave, and Second Cave. South is best for Golden Valley and Backdoor.
North Parking: This will be the first option most encounter, provided you are coming in from Highway 2 or 62. Just past the lighthouse at Bitou, you will pass through a tunnel. Long Dong Bay will appear on your left, and there will be signs in English. 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. Approach along the rocky shoreline and follow a trail into the pandanus plants, making for the obvious corner of School Gate crag.
Central Parking: Not far past Lung Tung Street, having come considerably up hill, you will encounter an unmarked turn-off on the left on a right hand curve. Follow the road to its end and park here. Walk up a white stone trail which takes you to some nice overlooks. Go into the trees and follow the trail to a stone wall with metal railing. Jump this and descend to the Grand Auditorium. From the gazebo, you can continue on the white stone trail to the muddy rut that descends to Golden Valley.
South Parking: Continue south and go through a tunnel. Just 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. There is a public toilet and washing sink. For Golden Valley, walk out the far end of the parking lot on the white stone trail for about 500m to the muddy rut of the fisherman's trail which leads downward. For Backdoor, walk down to the gazebo and then past it. Follow a fairly obvious trail that eventually takes you down some stone steps to the tiered platform.
Return: Direct buses to Taipei arrive at the Long Dong bus stop just after 3pm and 6pm. Otherwise, hitchhike, or wait for a bus to Keelung and transfer to a bus to Taipei (very short wait).
In July 2015, both anchor bolts (forged 304-grade stainless steel) failed on a popular route while a climber was being lowered. Thankfully the climber was not seriously hurt. This should lead all climbers to suspect all bolts to be dangerous until determined otherwise. This is due to a phenomenon unique to seaside crags...
Salt from the sea water is sprayed and/or blown onto the cliffs, and thus onto the bolts. Steel, which comes in many different varieties, can degenerate from contact with the chlorides in this salt and from being weighted. This process is called "stress corrosion cracking." It works like this: interaction of chlorides and steel form superficial corrosion on the bolt; the cracks expand when weighted, extending and deepening the corrosion; eventually it can break from a force far lower than rated.
There are essentially two types of installment methods for climbing bolts: mechanical
. Mechanical bolts are far more susceptible to corrosion, because of internal stress of the manufacturing process, the way it is installed in the rock, and the crevices between it and the rock. These are universally considered unreliable in marine environments and have been almost completely removed.
Glue-ins, on the other hand, are attached to the rock with an airtight bond (the glue) that, when installed correctly, is stronger than the rock itself. However, glue-in bolts are still susceptible to stress corrosion cracking, and some more than others.
Even the best marine-grade steel bolts will eventually be compromised. Age and appearance only tell part of the story, as rate of corrosion is subject to numerous conditions. Thus, it becomes nearly impossible to determine if a given route or even a given bolt is safe or not. There has yet to be a confirmed 316-grade stainless steel bolt failure, thus setting local life expectancy at over ten years. However many of these are at or nearing that age, and it is very difficult to tell the difference unless you've informed yourself beforehand.
As the folks in Thailand and elsewhere have learned, titanium glue-in bolts are the only long-term solution. Connections have been made, a few have been installed, and they seem to be the future of fixed protection here.
Check the route descriptions for info on bolt types. Under "Protection" it will be described thusly: Dangerous
- 304 glue-ins, expansions, 10+ years old 316 steel
- Questionable, clip at your own risk Titanium
A standard light rack, a set of ten draws, and a 50-meter rope is fine for a vast majority of routes. However, a climber wanting to do anything should take a single set of cams from very small to 4", a set of nuts, 10+ QD's, and several slings. A 60m rope is necessary for a very select few routes. Some cord/webbing and lockers will come in handy for top-rope anchors and multi-pitch routes. And a helmet!
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.
There is a hostel owned by an old couple at the north parking area. It will have a #3 by the door. The old lady who runs it, call her Ah-Ma, doesn't speak any English, but just be polite and she'll know what you want. It's 1200NT/night or 400NT/person if more than three people. They provide tatamis, blankets, pillows, and beds. Call 02-2490-9546.
Opened in 2015, The Bivy is a new climber-run guesthouse in the village of Bitou. It is a 5-minute drive or 30-minute walk from the north parking area. It is 500NT/person for a dorm bed or 1200/night for a two-person room. Find them on Facebook.
There are also hostels in the beautiful tourist town of Jiufen, and established pay-site camping in the beach town of Fulong. Both are about a 20-minute drive from the north parking area.
Technically speaking, camping is not allowed. 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 camping were bothered. Maintain a low profile and clean up after yourself.
The weather here can be good enough for climbing days to be had year-round, though it has a reputation for being temperamental. 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 summer is dry (except typhoons) but uncomfortably hot. Spring and fall have regular wet streaks but are more often okay. Winter is soggy and cold but occasionally perfect. 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
Wonderfully done, but already out of date. It is $30 from Matt's website climbstone.com
or 800 NTD (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. Long Dong Trad Climbs
, by Matt Robertson
The only reference people could use 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. LungTung Rock Climbing Guide
, by Yum-Yum
If you hang around long enough, you will hear Yum-Yum's name thrown around a bit. This was the first legit publication, and presents an interesting perspective on how things have changed. Now a relic.
Get the new guidebook.
Weather station 6.8 miles from here
202 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',17],['3 Stars',85],['2 Stars',65],['1 Star',18],['Bomb',3]
Classic Climbing Routes in Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Long Dong (Dragon Cave):
Featured Route For Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Family 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Asia
: ... : (3) Long Lane
Low angle, easyish climbing past one or two bolts brings you to a very comfortable stance, where the route shifts to slightly overhanging. Power through sloping holds and small vertical seams for about two bolts, and the difficulty eases considerably until the anchors. The hard climbing is short, stout, and very fun, and the rock quality is very good. Add a few letters to the grade in humid conditions!...[more] Browse More Classics in International
View south from Discipline Hall Sept 2013
Looking south towards the Golden Valley
Above the Grand Auditorium, looking south
Sign near School Gate crag
Looking north from Golden Valley trail
The shop at the school gate entrance. The next bui...
View towards the rock field entrance
Signs at the School Gate entrance
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: Portland, OR
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 as for trad, none of them have 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!
By Hannah Watkiss
Aug 2, 2013
Thanks for the info! I just went to Long Dong last weekend for my first rock climbing experience, and it was excellent. I can't wait to try again. Here's my blog post on it.
If anyone has any advice on what climbs in Taiwan are great for absolute beginners (or would like to invite me to go along on a climb) I'd love to hear about it!
Oct 30, 2013
LD was my original stomping ground. Awesome crag, awesome community. Too bad it's on the other side of the globe for me now.
A few notes for potential visitors:
This place is very beginner friendly, for both sport and trad. Easy approaches, generally vertical terrain, good rock quality, excellent features for easy and solid placements, and many more bolts per route than you'll find stateside.
However, setting topropes is not as easy without having at least one lead-capable party member - top access is not possible for most areas and bolted anchors can be difficult to reach in areas where access is possible.
For more seasoned climbers, LD has lots to offer as well - much more than is listed on MP. There are many bolted lines in the 5.12 range, although notably fewer at 5.13 and above. Don't expect a hardman's mecca along the lines of the Red, New, Smith, Rifle, etc, but there are plenty of quality lines to keep all ability levels occupied for multiple seasons. Grading tends to be inflated by one or two letters on average, similar to numbers in China and Thailand.
The crags are generally not rain friendly, due to the mostly vertical nature of the cliffs. Cave areas suffer from humidity, slickness, and loose, sandy stone after storms. Exposed, south, and east facing walls dry quickly after rain, though.
The stores along the main entrance (He Mei elementary school) sell tropical fruit jellies when in season. This is critical beta during the spring and summer months.
Oh, and a super-quality guidebook is available in English.
By Nick Weinberg
From: Essex, NY
Aug 14, 2015
Thinking about heading to Taiwan for two weeks in late February to climb at Long Dong. Kind of scary story about both anchor bolts failing on someone. Any updates on what the status of a lot of the bolts is? Is it still worth going? Or are too many of the bolts of questional integrity to make it safe?
By Nate Ball
From: Portland, OR
Aug 23, 2015
Any updates on what the status of a lot of the bolts is?
Rebolting should begin soon. There has yet to be a verified failure of 316 stainless, and thus life expectancy exceeds 10 years. Read through this thread if you wish to know more:
Is it still worth going? Or are too many of the bolts of questional integrity to make it safe?
With just a little extra precaution, you will be fine. There are enough safe routes to keep any trad or sport climber occupied for months if not years.
See the link to Guidebook Plus at the top of this page.
By Nate Ball
From: Portland, OR
Jan 14, 2016
After many months of nothing happening, I've decided that if anyone thinks it's important to express a sentiment supporting the timely replacement of dangerous bolts with titanium, that you should do it exactly where it matters most...
Just say "Please use your money to replace dangerous bolts with titanium."
By Marcelo F
From: Oakland, CA
Apr 4, 2016
Take your snorkeling gear! There is some pretty good snorkeling only seconds from some of the best crags. The shops nearby also sell cheap masks and fins. A pretty stellar way to end the day or take a break from climbing.