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Yunnan Province Rock Climbing 

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Submitted By: Bob Moseley on Mar 16, 2008

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Local villager with Bosch.


updated April 2016

Most of Yunnan province lies on a rolling subtropical highland traversed by the Tropic of Cancer, officially known as the Yunnan Plateau. It is entirely underlain by limestone and a majority of Yunnan climbing crags lie here. A common refrain amongst new-route developers over the years has been that there is a lifetime of new routes awaiting anyone who starts poking around. There are hidden escarpments and caves everywhere, nearly all with high quality rock. Because this is the subtropics and rarely freezes, the frost shattering doesn’t weaken features on the face and you end up with reliably solid holds. The exception to this limestone orgy is Liming, which lies west of the Yunnan Plateau in the fore-ranges of the much more geologically complex Hengduan Mountains. Most of the Hengduan are a mish-mash of substrates, but the Liming valley is home to clean, pure, beautiful sandstone. The crags being developed in the Shigu area are in the physiographic transition between the Yunnan Plateau proper and the jumbled geology of the Hengduan, but are all limestone.

Climbing Areas of Yunnan: As of April 2016, Yunnan climbing is clustered in four areas of the province:

Dali Area – Two escarpments on the east side of Er Hai (Lake) near the town of Shuang Lang are the best developed areas and are treated here in Mountain Project and in the 2015 Climb China guidebook. Two others are mentioned on the The Crag website: Shi Men Guan tourist site and an area simply called Binchuan, presumably after the county town northeast of Dali.

Kunming Area – Kunming city lies at the heart of the Yunnan Plateau, where adventurous locals began exploring the surrounding hills in 1999. Since then numerous caves and faces have been developed west of the city in a hilly belt extending from the Western Hills (Xi Shan) escarpment along Dian Chi (Lake) in the southwest and running northwest for 30 km to Fumin Canyon. This is just the beginning. There are plenty more hidden gems waiting to be found.

Lijiang Area – Climbing occurs in three widely dispersed valleys in Lijiang County. The sandstone cracks of Liming, 60 km (air distance) into the mountains northwest of Lijiang, have gotten the most international attention of any crag in Yunnan. Climbs there are treated in a locally produced guidebook and in the 2015 Climb China guidebook. Activity on the limestone above the town of Shigu started in 2014 and is continuing at a rapid clip. Shigu lies in the Jinsha River (upper Yangtze) valley, 30 km due west of Lijiang and lower in elevation. Guanyin Gorge is a small crag developed in the early 2000’s and lies at the mouth of a canyon between Lijiang and the airport, 13 km south of old town.

Stone Forest (Shi Lin) – This wild karst landscape 100 km east of Kunming is mostly of historical interest.

Some background info about Yunnan climbing:

History: Here’s a brief history, up to 2005, which is when Renée and I left Yunnan. The first place to be developed in Yunnan was in the unique karst topography of the Stone Forest (Shi Lin), 100 km east of Kunming. Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Gullich put up some climbs there in 1986. During 1999 and early 2000, four sport routes were pioneered by Chinese climbers on the short limestone towers that constitute the “forest.” Stone Forest climbing was largely abandoned when the enormous potential of the Western Hills (Xi Shan) was discovered in 2000. The Western Hills, 15 km southwest of Kunming, still have nearly unlimited potential for new routes, from short, sport routes to high-end, multi-pitch lines on big walls. During May 2002, development began of a new area in a relatively remote valley of Fumin County. Lying 30 km northwest of Kunming, the atmosphere of this quiet, rural canyon is in sharp contrast to the mass tourism of the Western Hills at the edge of metropolitan Kunming. A small sport climbing area was developed near Lijiang in 2002 and in 2004. As of 2005, there were 7 climbs in a limestone canyon south of town. Wang Zhiming and crew began development of Little Dark Rain (Xiaomoyu) Cave in 2005, the first of many crags that would be developed in the hills west of Kunming city in subsequent years.

Climate: The limestone sport crags range in elevation from 1700 m in Fumin Canyon to 2200 m at Guanyin Gorge, near Lijiang. Liming village is similar to Lijiang in elevation, although sandstone cliffs are 200+m above the valley. Across the area, however, the relatively high elevation combined with a subtropical latitude (ca. 25o N) makes for a very pleasant climate. Indeed, Kunming is nicknamed the Spring City because of its enjoyable year-round weather. As expected then, you can climb throughout the year. Be aware though that precipitation is highly seasonal and the best seasons to climb are autumn, winter, and spring. The dry season begins in late September and runs through June. Monsoon rains begin sometime in June and persist through September, with the possibility of at least some rain nearly every day. There are times during the winter when the Spring City moniker seems like a marketing ploy by overly optimistic city fathers. It can be quite cold at times, but only if it’s cloudy. But if that subtropical sun is out, it will be pleasant on the rock. Guaranteed.

Grades: In the early days of Yunnan climbing (and China, generally), the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) was used almost exclusively, probably because American climbers had the most influence back then. But as Yunnan opened up for climbing, French grades also became common, especially for sport routes. You’ll see both grades associated with many climbs.

Equipment: Except for Liming, most climbs are bolted on limestone faces and roofs. At some crags, the first bolt was purposely placed relatively high off the ground and sometimes a long reach from the stance. This was done to prevent local villagers from stealing the hanger, which is also a common problem at Moon Hill near Yangshuo. Again, aside from Liming sandstone, there are few trad routes in Yunnan due to the overwhelming dominance of limestone. There are a few crack climbs on the Western Hills and Shigu and most are fun. A word of caution--most cracks have been created or altered by water (solution) erosion in limestone and are very uneven-sided. Nuts, tri-cams, hexes, and threaded webbing often afford the best protection. Be very careful when placing camming units. Helmets are highly recommended! The rock is generally solid, but so few climbers have ascended some of these routes that there could be loose stones. Be especially careful on multipitch routes and when pulling ropes and top-roping. Helmets are essential for pioneering new routes. A 60 m rope is recommended for climbing in Yunnan. Many pitches are 30 m long and can only be top-roped with a 60 m rope. Some newer routes are even longer.

Trail and Route Conditions: The crags described here are off the beaten path. As the small, but growing Kunming climbing crowd has shifted activity to new areas, access trails and, in some cases, the climbs themselves have become overgrown with subtropical brush. Be aware that the descriptions in this guide are written as if the trails were open and the climbs had just been cleaned. We always carried a long Tibetan knife to clear the monsoonal growth every autumn.

Nasty Animals: During the late summer and early fall you’ll see a bright red caterpillar common on the brush. This beautiful little creature has a nasty bite that raises a large welt. Stay away! And then there is the occasional snake, but it’s rare to actually encounter a live one (although you’re sure to see shed skins on absurdly small ledges high on routes).

Getting There 

Check any travel guide to China. Kunming, the provincial capital, is the usual point of entry to Yunnan. Lijiang is a well-known international tourist destination and is covered in all foreign and domestic tourist guides. There are direct flights to Lijiang from around China and a few select international destinations.

Climbing Season

Weather station 2.6 miles from here

338 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',42],['3 Stars',87],['2 Stars',109],['1 Star',34],['Bomb',3]

Classic Climbing Routes in Yunnan Province

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Yunnan Province:
Through the Looking Glass   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 45'   Lisu Area : Primitive Buttress
Screaming at the Moon (half)   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 60'   Lisu Area : Pillars area
Soul's Awakening (half)   5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a A0     Trad, Aid, 4 pitches, 250'   Dinner Wall : Cretaceous area
Truffula Tree   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches, 200'   Lisu Area : Primitive Buttress
VPN Crack   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 140'   Dinner Wall : Cretaceous area
Japanese Pixelated Genitals   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 70'   Yangshuo Sports Climbers' C... : Uncensored Wall
Munsunned   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 70'   The Holidays : Space Mountain
Wind of the Valley   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   Dinner Wall : Cretaceous area
Throw Your Legs Around My Shoulders and Let Me Wear You Like A Feedbag   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 125'   Yangshuo Sports Climbers' C... : Censored Wall
Clam Digger   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 90'   Lisu Area : Pillars area
Screaming at the Faraway Corner   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   Lisu Area : Pillars area
The Raven   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Lisu Area : Primitive Buttress
Clam Digger "Direct"   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 85'   Lisu Area : Pillars area
The Lost World   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 5 pitches, 600'   Lisu Area : Primitive Buttress
Back to the Primitive   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c A0     Trad, Aid, 8 pitches, 600'   Lisu Area : Primitive Buttress
Akhum-Rah   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Valley : The Guardian
The Sphinx   5.11c/d 7a 24 VIII 25 E4 6a     Trad, 85'   South Valley : The Guardian
The Funky Dan   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 1 pitch, 110'   Lisu Area : Pillars area
Japanese Cowboy   5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b     Trad, 80'   Dinner Wall : Cave area
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Yunnan Province

Featured Route For Yunnan Province
Rock Climbing Photo: Rapping the Faraway Corner-Screaming at the Moon L...

Screaming at the Faraway Corner 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c  Asia : China : ... : Pillars area
A great link-up climb that is seldom done. It can be done in two 15-meter pitches or one, long 30-meter pitch. Doing it in one is highly recommended!This link-up gives you everything. Traversing, sporty liebacking, crack climbing, and even a tasty bit of off-widthing.Begin at the right-arching traversing crack of Faraway Corner, which is 10 feet right to the first pitch flake of Screaming at the Moon. Traverse into the left-leaning corner crack. Some sporty face moves will deposit you in a left-...[more]   Browse More Classics in International

Photos of Yunnan Province Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Iraq war hair protest. Wang Zhiming, Wang Bin, and...
Iraq war hair protest. Wang Zhiming, Wang Bin, and...
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting the approach to Dove Rock (looming in bac...
Starting the approach to Dove Rock (looming in bac...
Rock Climbing Photo: Western Hills (Xi Shan) escarpment as seen across ...
Western Hills (Xi Shan) escarpment as seen across ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mini minivan transport to the crag.
Mini minivan transport to the crag.
Rock Climbing Photo: Loa Xiang on the ground after sucess on a hard one...
Loa Xiang on the ground after sucess on a hard one...
Rock Climbing Photo: Climber on portable wall, tai chi in fore. Kunming...
Climber on portable wall, tai chi in fore. Kunming...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kunming City, Climbing City
Kunming City, Climbing City
Rock Climbing Photo: Some routes have not been climbed much, so be prea...
Some routes have not been climbed much, so be prea...
Rock Climbing Photo: Doug Johnson wondering about route potential on th...
Doug Johnson wondering about route potential on th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Typical cave on the vast Yunnan Plateau. No route ...
Typical cave on the vast Yunnan Plateau. No route ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Winter is the climbing season of choice - long per...
Winter is the climbing season of choice - long per...
Rock Climbing Photo: ... and a machete (or in this case, a Tibetan knif...
... and a machete (or in this case, a Tibetan knif...
Rock Climbing Photo: Be prepared for some bushwacking to get to all but...
Be prepared for some bushwacking to get to all but...
Rock Climbing Photo: Wang Zhiming high above Kunming on the Western Hil...
Wang Zhiming high above Kunming on the Western Hil...

Comments on Yunnan Province Add Comment
Show which comments
By Connor M.
Mar 25, 2017
I'm potentially going to be in Kunming (or maybe Guilin) for the summer (May 8th - August 21st) I live in Utah right now and climb 2 or 3 times a week. Looking for a climbing partner. I lead 10b-10d here in Utah and project 11a-11b. Probably be a little bit stronger by the time I get out there.

Let me know if you are going to be out there or if you know where I can get some more info about the climbing communities.


p.s. I speak alright Mandarin
By Levi Davidson
Apr 8, 2017
Going to both Yunnan and Guangxi provinces to climb over the next 18 days. I'll try to remember to comment but send me an email to remind me to post about preferences, getting around, etc. My email is


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