|Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Preface for Smart Phone Users
Matt's guidebook is beautiful and I highly recommend any climber at Long Dong get it. I will also say that it is dangerously lacking in information about certain routes, and it is already becoming out-of-date as a lot of work is being done to rebolt, upgrade, and generally spruce the place up.
For those of you who have smart phones, you can download the MP application ($$$) and view all of the information posted here at the crag. It could save you a lot of trouble.
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 character of the climbing is unique from anything else I've climbed. The crashing waves, the sunshine, the terraces of stone, the perfect swimming pools, and thorny pandanus plants all contribute to the exotic feel of this place. Although the Dragon Cave has its own completely unique character, it could be compared to the Gunks of New York state, for its inordinate traditional style and juggy roofs, as well as Arapiles in southern Australia, for the color and texture of the stone, and the isolated setting. There are a few multi-pitch routes here, but a single 60m rope should get you to the top of every route. 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." The rock itself comes in many shades, ranging from dull gray to striking hues of black, red, orange, gold, and silver. There are large crystals and inclusions that bite on the fingers and shoes that 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 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 placements complex.
The climbing here is regulated by the community of climbers. Ask locals before you power up yours tools and clean up after yourself. There is no government body that has to be kept in the loop about development here. 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 (swell size) and yearly people, generally fishermen, are washed away to sea never to be seen again. Bolts here suffer from accelerated corrosion, and although most routes have new bolts and hardware, not everything has been upgraded. 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, 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 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, who you will see standing out on the rocks in all kinds of weather trying to pull in mackerel and whatever else they might hook. They are generally disinterested in the climbers, but be polite and maintain a good relationship. They are locals and don't bother us...
For more information - gym locations, outdoor walls, other crags, gear shops, etc. - checkout this website:
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 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 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 for some snacks or drinks here. 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. 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 up a white stone trail. This will take you first to some nice overlooks (a 5 minute diversion that will give you a beautiful overlook of the coast and climbing below), from which you can actually descend to the Grand Auditorium. A hundred meters past this you will reach the rough rut known to climbers as the Golden Valley Trail - a steep and sometimes muddy rut of hard clay down to the shores over 100 meters below. After passing the somewhat obvious turnoff, the trail continues all the way to the south parking area.
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. From this parking lot, head up and north on the white stone trail and continue uphill for a ways until you encounter the Golden Valley Trail, or you can walk down to the gazebo and then past it. Follow a fairly obvious trail that eventually takes you down some stone steps to the Backdoor area.
Bolts here should be considered suspect 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 and glue-in. Mechanical bolts are far more susceptible to corrosion, because the way the bolt and hanger are installed places them under stress. They have been known to fail even when they don't show any visually obvious symptoms. No mechanical bolts have been installed at Long Dong since 2002, thus the ones you see are quite old and should not be trusted.
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. For example, 316 steel is the standard for use in marine environments, but not all of the bolts at Long Dong are 316 - though most of them are. Unfortunately, even 316 steel bolts can be compromised within a few years. Most of the bolts are of a special 316 that has been proven to be stronger and last longer than any other type in a marine environment. Most of the routes that get climbed were bolted in 2006, and many others in 2013. But...
As the folks in Thailand and elsewhere have learned, titanium glue-in bolts are the only solution. They are strong, non-corrosive, but also expensive and hard to find. None have been installed yet, there is no effort being made to acquire them, and some question as to whether they are really stronger than the current steel ones.
Check the route descriptions for info on bolt types. It will say "bolts" and the year they were installed if they are considered solid. Otherwise there will be a note.
A standard light rack and a set of ten draws would do. However, 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 double set of cams from TCU's to 4", a full set of nuts, 10+ QD's, and several slings. Some cord/webbing and lockers will come in handy for top-rope anchors and multi-pitch 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.
There is a hostel owned by an old couple with a caretaker at the north parking area. It will have a green #3 by the door. The caretaker is a nice lady and speaks English fluently. It's 1200NT/night or 400NT/person if more than three people. They provide tatamis, blankets, pillows, and beds if you're lucky.
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, 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! Also, bring a tent. Unless you enjoy being eaten alive.
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 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 September-November and March-April... 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.
LungTung Rock Climbing Guide, by Yum-Yum (1998)
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.
146 Total Routes
['4 Stars',14],['3 Stars',58],['2 Stars',45],['1 Star',13],['Bomb',1]
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Above the Grand Auditorium, looking south
Looking south towards the Golden Valley
Looking north from Golden Valley trail
View towards the rock field entrance
The shop at the school gate entrance. The next bui...
Sign near School Gate crag
Signs at the School Gate entrance
|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 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.