Long Dong (Dragon Cave) Rock Climbing
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|Shared By:||Tony B on Nov 9, 2009 with 1 Suggestions|
School Gate : Clocktower : Music Hall (L) and Long Lane (R) : Grand Auditorium : First Cave : Golden Valley
Matt's guidebook is beautiful. However, it is out-of-date due to several bolt failures caused by corrosion (see "Bolts" note below) as well as re(tro)bolting with 316-grade stainless steel and, more recently, titanium. You can also 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 to the guidebook 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.
The character of the climbing is totally unique. The crashing waves, 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 and Mt. Arapiles of southern Australia for its rock type and climbing style. 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 recreationalist.
The rock is erroneously referred to as "sandstone". It is in fact a dense quartz conglomerate that 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 even have beautiful clusters of fully-formed quartz points as climbing features. Beware that the coarse and undulating stone, though dense and hard, may make placing trad gear complex.
The climbing here is informally managed by a local non-profit climbing access organization. Although it is in a designated scenic area, and efforts have been made in the past by the land management bureau to enact some nonsensical rules, it currently remains joyfully regulation free. It is worth noting that most of the sport climbs 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.
There are a few local hazards to be aware of. Most routes currently have solid to semi-reliable hardware, but this is complicated by a failure mechanism specific to seaside crags. Check the "Bolts" note below. 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. Wasps like to build their hives under overhangs from July to September. You are likely to get buzzed if climbing during this time. Though stings are rare, the big orange ones can be deadly. If you see a hive, please report it and keep your distance.
Top anchors are a bit of a hodge-podge. Routes with stainless steel anchors will have two level or staggered glue-in bolts with quick-links for lowering or rapping. Titanium anchors often have rams horns. Do not clip your quick-draws into these directly but rather drop your rope in and lower off when you're finished. Sometimes there will be bare bolts that you must rap from. 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. While locals make up a majority of the community and typically congregate in large groups, visitors and expats are also common. People are certainly willing to help out, but it is advised that you seek partners before you arrive. There is also a large population of fishermen, whom you will see standing out on the rocks in all kinds of weather. Divers and day-trippers are also common, especially in the summer, when they flood the north parking area day after day.
Snacks and drinks may be purchased at the north parking area, but this is limited to instant noodles, canned bean congee, 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
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. South is best for Golden Valley and Backdoor.
North: 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. If driving, turn left at the intersection onto the road that circumnavigates the bay to the parking lot. If taking the bus, continue past this to the next stop (Lóng dòng gǎng) just up the hill. Cross the street and take the stairs down into the village and continue to the parking lot (5 mins). There is a bathroom here. Approach along the rocky shoreline and follow a trail into the pandanus plants, making for the obvious corner of School Gate crag.
Central: After the intersection, 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. Follow the trail uphill, then turn left into the trees, and continue 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. This parking lot is not accessible by bus but you can walk up the stone trail behind the school from the north parking area.
South: 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. The bus does not have a marked stop here, but if you ask nicely in Chinese they will usually let you off just after the tunnel.
Return: Direct buses to Taipei (1811) arrive at the same spots you get off for the North and South entrances just after 12pm and 6pm. Otherwise, hitchhike, or wait for a bus to Keelung (791) and transfer to a bus to Taipei (very short wait).
Dangerous - 304 glue-ins, expansions, 10+ years old
316 steel - Questionable, clip at your own risk
Titanium - Solid
Story of SCC:
There have been a few severe injuries and several near-misses as a result of bolt failures at Long Dong. In July 2015, both anchor bolts on a popular route failed simultaneously while a climber was top-roping. Thankfully they were not seriously hurt. The phenomenon that caused these failures is unique to seaside crags...
Basically, salt from the sea water is deposited by wind or spray onto the bolts. Steel, which comes in many different varieties, can be severely weakened by contact with the chlorides in the salt, which reacts with the internal stress. This is called "stress corrosion cracking."
Mechanical bolts are far more susceptible to corrosion for various reasons. These are universally considered unreliable in marine environments and have been almost completely removed. Glue-ins, on the other hand, are stronger and more resistant, but they are still susceptible to stress corrosion cracking, and some more than others. There has yet to be a confirmed 316-grade stainless steel bolt failure, so their lifespan remains unknown. The local team has decided to leave them in place for the time being.
As the folks in Thailand and elsewhere have learned, titanium glue-in bolts are the only long-term solution. QX from the Bivy has been very proactive in acquiring bolts, installing them, and chopping the old ones, all on his own dime. The local team has also rebolted with a locally-produced titanium bolt, and are engaged in ongoing pull-testing of stainless bolts.
Also beware to clean your gear after every trip, as it may be fine the night after getting misted, but may not work at all after a month in your closet.
The Bivy, home of the local gurus QX and Kelly, is the original climber-run guesthouse, located 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 rooms in a house owned by an old couple at the north parking area. It will have a #3 address plate 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.
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 at LD. 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.
Rain & Shade
If trying to escape the sun, it is important to keep in mind that the entire cliff line is oriented eastward. Thus, for the majority of crags, shade doesn't come until well past the zenith. There are a few areas that come in somewhat earlier, especially Illusion Wall (sunrise-2), Discipline area (12->), Long Lane (8-10, 12->), Whale's Head (12->), Balcony (all day), First Cave interior and South Claw (10->), Second Cave interior (all day), Dragonboat Wall (10->), Black Wall (10->), and Backdoor (11->).
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 is beautiful and easy to understand, and has lots of information.
Long Dong Trad Climbs, by Matt Robertson (2006)
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 (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.
Classic Climbing Routes at Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
Days w Precip