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There is a lot more climbing around Taiwan, besides Long Dong, that hasn't garnered the attention it deserves. None of it is world-class, but if you're here for any amount of time and you're into adventure, then check out this guide: Taiwan Rock Climbing
Unlike most Pacific islands which are volcanic, Taiwan is tectonic in origin, and its central mountain range is loaded with wilderness peaks up to 13,000 feet. The highest peak, Yushan, is 3,952m and features an impressive-looking north face with various alpine challenges.
Rock climbing areas in Taiwan include limestone in Shoushan and Guanziling, riverbed bouldering in Tainan and Xiao Wulai, volcanic slabs in Taipei, and a conglomerate pinnacle in Kenting. The centerpiece of Taiwan rock climbing, however, is Long Dong (Dragon Cave in Chinese), with over a mile of wave-battered, sun-baked sea cliffs of very compact quartz-infused stone on the beautifully rugged northeast coast of the island.
For more information - gym locations, outdoor walls, other crags, gear shops, etc. - checkout this website:
Rock climbing, as a separate discipline from mountaineering, began at Dapaoyan probably in the mid-late 70's. Being super tiny, it wasn't long before people started exploring other crags.
With the construction of the #2 Highway in the mid-80's, people began looking into the cliffs of the northeast coast, specifically Long Dong. Stories have been told of people climbing here before this time, of which I've only heard accounts from people who knew people who talked about it back in the day. After the lifting of martial law in 1987, people were a lot more willing to explore, and the most obvious lines fell in quick succession.
By the 90's, many local and international climbers - and often these two classifications are inseparable - had made Long Dong into a legitimate destination crag. Yum-Yum, Jeff Wang, Ta-Chi Wang, Laurence Huen, Two Teeth, Paul Foster, Milk, and many others were crushing some routes that are seriously proud even by today's standards. Many bolts had been placed, and a guidebook came out in 1998. Over 100 routes were documented. LD was still way behind the times, but those who climbed it didn't seem to want to catch up, enjoying their own unique and remote destination.
What little technical mountaineering there is to do in Taiwan was established by this time as well. Though likely climbed earlier, these were the first documented alpine climbs. Raymond Chen lead expeditions to Dabajianshan in Sheipa National Park and put up several bold multi-pitch routes on the tall, crumbling faces of the iconic mountain. Milk was part of a team that climbed the north face of Yushan, which is of similar quality. A few bold ice enthusiasts found prime conditions - a very narrow window of opportunity in Taiwan - and climbed some couloir routes nearby. The south ridge, an "easy" though extremely exposed kilometer-long traverse, was also established. In 1997, a group went up the south face of Zhenshan, an isolated 800m face above a river valley. They endured two typhoons and a 20km walk-out during their 20-day epic.
The early 2000's saw an explosion of activity at Long Dong. Matt Robertson arrived from Yosemite and brought the traditional ethic with him. The plethora of cracks and broken faces at Long Dong were systematically explored, sent, and documented. A team of Germans named Dirk and Edgar were also busy bolting the first multi-pitch sport routes using glue-in bolts. Meanwhile, local hardmen Deng-Rong, Two Teeth, and Jun-Ming were putting up routes on every semi-clean section of rock, especially around the Grand Auditorium, First Cave, and Backdoor. This included a retro-bolting of Commissary Crack, which stirred up a major controversy between the old school ethics and the desire to open up new routes and make LD more accessible. In the end, a standard was set to not add lead bolts to established trad routes, and Matt released a guidebook documenting 101 of LD's most classic traditional lines.
There was also a severe injury due to the failure of a certified mechanical bolt, in which the lead climber took a fall and hit the ground. The cause was attributed to seaside corrosion, similar to what was happening in southern Thailand. As a result, many classic sport lines were rebolted using a locally-produced stainless steel glue-in design.
At some point around this time, a few other crags were developed. Sean Wang produced a guidebook for a tiny limestone area in Guanziling, which was visited by Yuji Hirayama. A few routes were bolted in Kaohsiung too. Because of their small size and distance from the "climber's hub" of Taipei, these areas never garnered the attention that LD has.
Bolting at LD continued until 2007. Afterwards, the sport-oriented mentality continued to prevail, and top-roping parties began to come into vogue. The pioneers slowly began disappearing, and with them the memory of spicy adventure. During this lull, a few "foreigners" accomplished some incredible feats. One was Paul Brouard's variation of Golden Legend, a glistening golden arete in Golden Valley that went at 5.13+. Another was Marcelo Berti Lungo's The Great Roof, which pulled through an off-width crack in the biggest roof of the Grand Auditorium at 5.13-.
In April 2012, Matt released a comprehensive Long Dong guidebook documenting 500+ routes of every type, which coincided with an even greater exodus from indoors to out. In May, there was another serious injury as a result of a mechanical bolt breaking in which the leader fell to the ground. In the summer, a campaign was begun to replace all mechanical bolts with glue-ins.
In October 2013, Alex Honnold sent an unfinished bolted project at the Backdoor and named it Sorry Jeremy, downgrading it from 5.14- to 5.13-. Shortly thereafter, the local hardman Jeremy Hong redpointed the hardest sport climb in the First Cave, calling it Long March, his second attempt at establishing a 5.14.
In the winter and spring of 2015, Ryan Keenan, Garrreth Bird, and others "re"-discovered a section of the Grand Auditorium that had recently-bolted anchors but no recorded climbs. Some old gear and tat were discovered, and several new lines up to 12a were developed. They also downgraded The Great Roof to 12-, suggesting it could be climbed at the lower grade due to better jamming technique. At the same time, many new sport lines quietly went up in the jungle of Shoushan Nature Park in Kaohsiung. In the summer of 2015, both anchors bolts on a popular route at Music Hall failed simultaneously while a climber was being lowered. Although the first generation of bolts had been mostly removed, it was now clear that the second had advanced SCC as well. Titanium had replaced steel as the material of choice, and the local team announced a plan to begin pull-testing suspect anchors and then start rebolting.
In early 2016, a strong and well-known couple named QX and Kelly, who run an international guiding service, got involved with the rebolting drama. They found support among various groups, including a corporate sponsor, that weren't fully on-board with the local rebolting group's way of doing things. They sourced their hardware from the same company that had been making the bolts used in Thailand for years. Meanwhile, the local team determined through pull-testing that 304-grade stainless steel bolts were all suspect, but that 316-grade bolts could be deemed "safe enough". They produced their own titanium bolt design at great expense, absorbed by generous donations from the local climbing community. As two separate groups, and not without some friction, both diligently pursued differing replacement priorities.
As of 2018, most routes have been rebolted with titanium or are considered safe for the time being due to a lack of failure precedent in the locally-produced 316-grade stainless steel bolts.
Down in Kaohsiung, there has been some minor tragedy. A large section of the Qianguang temple crag was excavated by a government-approved treasure hunt, which resulted in (likely temporary) access complications. Up on the mountain, the Shoushan Nature Park office decided to make it officially illegal to climb in the park without approval. The same climber suspected of modifying holds at the crags helped the office to remove bolts from a new area on the border of the park.
Classic Climbing Routes at Taiwan
Days w Precip