Long Dong (Dragon Cave) Rock Climbing
Taken from a boat, looking at Long Lane and Music ...
Several 3D composites of the major areas: School Gate Clocktower Music Hall (L) and Long Lane (R) Grand Auditorium First Cave Golden Valley
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 However, it is already out-of-date as there has been a lot of re(tro)bolting, several bolt failures due to corrosion (see "Bolts" note below), and a massive plan for retrofitting the entire crag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. Although it is in a designated scenic area, the government either cannot be bothered to enforce whatever policies they may have (like the litter rule) or do not have any to speak of. This may change in the near future, and not for the better. 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.
There are a few local hazards to be aware of. 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 nest, please report it and keep your distance. Bolts here suffer from accelerated corrosion, and although some routes have new bolts and hardware, many others are considered dangerous. 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. 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 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.
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
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 on the north side of the train station outside exit M1. Get here at least 20 minutes early, as it is often sold out. 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. 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 arrive at the same spots you get off for the North and South entrances 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 top-roping. 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 stress (mainly internal). 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 along stress risers in the material; 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 greater stress from manufacturing, installation, 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 is 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. Most of these are at or nearing that age. 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 done some work as well with the help of a lot of crowdfunding.
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, twelve quick-draws, and a 50-meter rope is fine for a vast majority of routes. However, a climber wanting to do anything should take a double set of cams from very small to 4", a set of nuts, 15+ quick-draws, and several slings. Camp tricams and DMM offset/peenuts are ideal. 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 it may be fine the night after getting misted, but may not work at all after a month in your closet.
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 climate 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, and ignore the rainfall graph below - it is wildly inaccurate.
Rain & Shade
Heavy rain makes for a miserable overall experience. If it's pissing when you arrive, just go home. You can climb through a light sprinkle in either of the caves, though if the weather has been wet for a few days, these areas tend to be dank and slimy. Most areas dry out pretty quickly and don't seep much, with the exception of north-facing and cavey sections.
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->).
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 is beautiful and easy to understand, and has 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.
Weather station 6.8 miles from here
225 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',22],['3 Stars',93],['2 Stars',70],['1 Star',27],['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)
First Corner 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a Asia
: ... : (1) School Gate
Originally named In And Out of the GrooveAn 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 riski...[more] Browse More Classics in International
Beautiful day at Bulletin Board in Autumn
Looking south towards the Golden Valley
View south from Discipline Hall Sept 2013
Above the Grand Auditorium, looking south
Looking north from Golden Valley trail
Sign near School Gate crag
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 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.
Oct 11, 2016
Looking for a partner at Long Dong for 3 days of climbing about a week from now! October 20th to 22nd. Hoping to do mainly trad in the 5.8-5.10c range, but open to sport as well!