“Hardcore” crag along with its sister crag “Softcore” are two limestone cliffbands under development on the
north end of Erhai Lake （洱海湖) in Yunnan province, China. It is one of the many projects that Squamish/Canmore expat Dane Schellenberg is currently developing along with other locations such as Shimenguan (also on SP: http://www.summitpost.org/shimenguan-gorge/810670
), Temple Crag, and Xiaxi.
The names of both crags, while amusing in their suggestive themes, are named after the nature of the routes at each crag. Softcore crag features predominantly moderate sport lines, and the cliffband itself has largely been climbed out and established. Hardcore crag, on the other hand, has just been opened up, and all of the lines currently established there are—you guessed it—hard! The easiest sport line at the crag is a stout 5.9+, with the predominant number of current routes being in the 5.10 to 5.11 range. There are even a few 5.12s with a current unsent project that is thought to be a burly 5.12d.
Much like Shimenguan, the draw for this crag is its route potential. Dane has been hard at work outfitting this crag and others. Even with his work, only about 1/3 of the cliffband has been outfitted with bolts. He does plan on continuing work, but the potential for new lines here is incredible, especially in the realm of hard sport climbs from 5.13 and up (though there is plenty of potential to develop routes for normal climbers, too!).
The cliffs themselves are limestone and approximately 30 meters high. The rock features make fore some excellent situational climbing, as the cliffs feature tufas, stalactites, huge overhangs, cracks, and even the occasional rock tunnel.
What makes climbing even more enjoyable at this crag is its location: Hardcore is one of the multiple cliffbands in the area that sit right on the north end of Erhai Lake. On a clear day, you have commanding views of at least half the lake as well as the 4000+ meter ridgeline of the Cangshan （仓山）Mountains on the west side of the lake. Weather in this area can also allow for year ‘round climbing, even during the rainy/monsoon season; some of the overhangs at the crag are more than adequate to shelter you from weather that might surprise you from over the ridgeline.
Hopefully by getting more information out there in the climbing community, we can get more climbers excited about developing routes in China. Unlike Himalayan mountaineering, rock climbing as a sport is a very new phenomenon in China. Much is happening as more expats begin traveling to new crags to develop. A lot is also happening with their interactions and pedagogy with aspiring local Chinese climbers, too. Dane has been doing a killer job at development, but more manpower would certainly speed up development!
For those of you who have grown accustomed to climbing in route-saturated, developed crags, areas like this are a chance to really explore and possibly put up an FA that will bear your name!
Route descriptions will be up soon.
Most likely, climbers looking to access Hardcore will be doing so from overseas (or from distant locales within China, at least).
The most direct way to get to Hardcore is to fly into the lakeside city of Dali in Yunnan, China. However, the airport is fairly small and will likely be more expensive than flying into a larger city. Many people traveling to Dali will opt to fly into Yunnan’s provincial capital, Kunming, and catch a bus from Kunming West Bus Station （昆明西部车站）to Dali. Buses are quite frequent, leaving about every 20 minutes from the station from 7 am to 11 pm. There is also an overnight bus that leaves from downtown; the latter of the two choices will most likely feature a sleeper bus.
Buses will take you to Xiaguan （下关）which is the more touristy, developed region along Erhai Lake. You can opt to go to Shimenguan from there or base your operations out of Dali Old Town （大理古城）about 15 minutes north. The Old Town while having its touristy elements, feels less like the bizarre overdevelopment that is pervasive in larger Chinese cities.
Whichever location you choose, you will have to hire a van to get you to the north end of Erhai. Usually, you can call a bus/van company and arrange for a driver to pick you up wherever you are staying. It will help to have a friend proficient in Chinese in order to negotiate.
The driver should take you north to the town of Shuanglang. Some of the roads will get bumpy as you pass through some of the rapid development areas along the side of the lake. You will know that you have arrived when you enter a small, quaint Chinese village that is ringed to the north by a long-distance train track and, behind that, a massive bridge that is currently under construction as part of a super highway system being built around Erhai. Once you arrive, head into the village, heading north. You will pass through a small open-air market and a few convenient stores that sell some basic provisions that you can bring up to the crag (things likr instant noodles, water, etc.)
Once behind the town, you should be able to see the cliffs. Pass underneath the massive pylons of the super highway and head for the cornfields that blanket the mountain uphill towards the cliffs themselves. Remember, Hardcore is the cliffband on the right if you are looking uphill.
From there, you need to locate one of the many farmers’ paths that run through the fields. Though there are paths that people like Dane know by heart, nothing there is marked, so more likely than not, you will have to intuit your way towards the cliff by following the paths. Follow the farmers’ paths uphill (be careful! The path drops off steeply downhill once you get closer to the crag!).
Once you arrive at the cliffband, there is a broad ledge that varies from the size of small sidewalk to the width of a small road (better for camping). Some of the best camping is farther left down the cliff (if you are facing the cliff) underneath some huge, rounded overhangs.
Current Routes and Area Climbs
As mentioned above, there will be a local climbing guidebook available online/in PDF through Adam Kritzer (proprietor of Climb Dali) in the near future. Bear in mind that because this area is under development, versions of the guidebook will change relatively quickly as new routes are bolted and established.
For the moment, I have included some project photos to give interested climbers a glimpse of what climbing at the crag looks like.
Unlike places such as Shimenguan, Hardcore is on non-government land and is not a park. It is likely that some local villagers own the cliffbands themselves, as there is evidence of goat herders and their flocks at the crag itself. However, the cliff does not hold the same significance as the fertile farmland below.
That being said, please be careful when doing things like approaching the crag and camping. Most of the approach to the cliff passes through locals’ farmlands. As long as climbers leave farmers’ livelihoods intact, access should not be an issue.
It will certainly help to patronize local business such as the convenience stores mentioned above. If the locals see climbers as an addition to their livelihoods, they will be far more receptive to an increase in climbing traffic to the area.
Because the current climbing population going to Hardcore is so small, camping is mostly done at the crag. There are a few broad, flat sections of the ledge underneath the cliffband. Some of these spots are also protected from rain by large, rounded overhangs.
However, it will be wise to save yourself the weight and just stay at one of the many guest houses in the town of Shuanglang. They're pretty basic, but it can beat hauling your camping gear up to the crag.
On the other hand, if you get an early enough start, you can make the whole excursion a day trip, especially if you are basing your operations out of a place such as Dali Old Town, which is much closer to Hardcore than places like Xiaguan.
For more information on the gorge proper, especially what lines have already been established, Dane Schellenberg and Adam Kritzer are your main contact (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more information on other local climbing crags around Dali, you can contact Climb Dali, a local outdoor outfitter run by an American expat, Adam Kritzer (www.climbdali.com
Climb Dali, the local outfitter and guide service operating out of Dali Old Town and run by Philadelphia expat, Adam Krtizer: www.climbdali.com