UPDATE AS OF LATE 2013-2014: Access to Shimenguan has been compromised. The local government, who recently sold off land use rights to a developer, is now preventing climbing from occurring within the park's boundaries. Apparently, the developer wants to undertake a massive project of building a cable car system through the gorge and up into the Cangshan Mountains. Stay tuned for any changes...
Shimenguan （石门官）is a massive river gorge outside of the southern Chinese city of Dali （大理） in Yunnan province. Though climbing is only beginning to be developed in the gorge, the route potential in the area is one that, I (and the site's main developer, Dane Schellenberg) believe, warrants a page; the gorge and the area surrounding it already have some sport routes and boulder problems, and there is a huge potential for big, multipitch trad routes. The gorge walls themselves are ~300 meters high of Gneiss rock; for those of you with a New England climbing sensibility, the walls are at least
as high as the highest point of Cannon Cliff. During the rainy/monsoon season, there will be vegetation on the walls, but even then some lines are still climbable. In the dry season, however, opportunities for big multipitch routes will abound. The walls themselves wind through a gorge for multiple kilometers, so during the right season, there will be a huge supply of potential routes in the gorge proper.
Current development is spearheaded by Canadian expat and Squamish / Canmore climber Dane Schellenberg. Routes have been developed by Andrew Hedesh, Cody Millar, and Adam Kritzer. Bouldering in the area has been developed by those mentioned above along with myself (Ryder Stroud), Matt Krakowski, Carol Wong, Lily Zhang, Jisu Youn, and Andrew Ensign.
Shimenguan has not received much climber traffic, and even now the number of climbers who actively enter the area for development are essentially limited to those names mentioned above plus possibly a handful more climbers. What little information that has surfaced on the Internet does not seem to capture the full potential that Shimenguan has to offer; the primary draw of the area at this point is not its multitude of pre-existing routes, but the potential for such a tight cluster of different types of climbing: sport, trad, multipitch, and bouldering all coexist within the same area of the river gorge.
What this page is meant to do is to encourage those climbers who are used to climbing in classic, route-saturated areas to get out to new places like Shimenguan. There might even be a first ascent in there for you!
A Word on Development
Besides the sport routes and boulder routes that have been established, there is essentially an infinite supply of new routes and problems. Each trip back to the gorge, we discover more boulders and new lines that, with cleaning, could be stellar routes.
If you do plan to develop: You will definitely need to come prepared with equipment for cleaning a route (e.g. heavy wire brushes, nylon stepladders/etriers(you don't want to be hanging by a crimper while cleaning out part of a crack!), small trowel, and possibly plastic covers such as halves of water bottles to protect the gear you are hanging off of from the dirt you will likely knock down on it!)
REMEMBER: Bear in mind that climbing is new in China. Access tends to be a little sketchy, especially since (as it appears to me) Chinese culture is very risk averse (see the “Red Tape” section). Be tactful and respectful if you arrive to develop climbing routes. Patronize local businesses and build good relations with the locals. If they see climbers as a potential addition to their livelihoods, the locals will support more climbers coming into the area. Same thing goes for local ‘park officials,’ though the process with them is a bit more opaque (again, see the “Red Tape section).
It is pretty much guaranteed that anyone headed to Shimenguan for the purposes of climbing will be coming from across continents or oceans. The most direct way to get into Shimenguan is to fly to the lakeside city of Dali, a trip that will usually entail a stop somewhere within China beforehand. Alternatively, you can 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 （洱海湖）. 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, the final step to Shimenguan is a matter of calling a van driver and having him bring you to the entrance of the park; this part of the trip might be a little easier if you have a friend who is proficient at speaking Chinese. The van ride will be about 30-40 minutes long, depending on if your driver opts to take the local roads or the highway (the highway is far more preferable); some drivers will not want to take the highway because of the toll costs, but a little haggling over price and conditions will generally get the driver to take the highway,
There is only one road that leads up to the gorge itself, so after you check in with the ‘park rangers’ the driver should drop you off at the trailhead, which is located just after two small white farmhouses/buildings that also double as hotel rooms for tourists.
Head into the park and pick a line; there is a high chance that the stuff you are looking at has not yet been climbed!
Routes and Areas
Current Sport Routes
Apprentice of Satan, 5.10a
BB Kuen Kuen Chu, 5.8
Blood Puke, 5.12c
Cherry Poppin', 5.10b
Donkey Schnitzel, 5.6
Dry Humping 5.10b
Flamingo Kid, 5.9
Moxis on the Roof David, 5.11c
"Open Project," 5.12d
Red Beard's Choice, 5.10d
Roast Goat Parade, 5.7
So Long and Thanks for All the Bolts, 5.12a
Stolen Baba, 5.10c
The Gardeners of Eden, 5.11a
The Land of Laaa, 5.9
The Mysteries of Vulcan, 5.11b
Where's the Peanut Butter, 5.10b
Established route and boulder problem topos coming soon
Some Project Photos
Shimenguan is technically a Chinese national park. Depending on what season you arrive in the area, the gorge will have varying amounts of tourists, the smallest number arriving during the monsoon season of July and August. Regardless, you will have to pay an entrance fee to access the park (generally around 10 RMB per person, depending on the ‘ranger’).
A word on the ‘rangers’ of Shimenguan Park: if you have an idea of what a park ranger is, especially those of you in the United States and Canada, get it out in the case of Shimenguan. The people who manage Shimenguan are indeed government employees, but they are not trained in the way that many Westerners might think. They are more likely than not just local folk who were granted these fairly cushy park jobs by the local government, and they are more inclined to be of hindrance than of help. The first time you arrive, you will most likely have to sign a hastily written waiver absolving the park of any responsibility should you get hurt. These ‘rangers’ might also demand to see your passport as well. If there has been a recent episode of rockfall in the gorge, they might try and stop you from entering.
However, these red tape issues are not insurmountable. Generally, the waiver will allow you to get into the gorge. If there is the occasional persistent ‘ranger’ who does not allow you to enter, you can access the gorge proper by getting an early start.
The ‘rangers’ seem to have less of a problem with climbing outside the entrance to the gorge proper. As a result, the sport routes that have been bolted so far have been just outside the gorge entrance.
Shimenguan Gorge is a Chinese national park. The park technically closes at sundown, but staffing is quite minimal. Camping might be possible if you stay far away from the well-traveled paths at the end of the day. However, I would AVOID camping in the gorge because of the access issues it will likely cause. The area around Shimenguan is all local farmland, so you do not want to piss off local farmers by accidentally destroying parts of their livelihoods.
Besides the above reason, there really is no reason to haul camping supplies to Shimenguan when the farmhouses at the entrance to the park offer basic hotel rooms for dirt cheap (see "Local Resources" below).
Lodging is cheap and easy at Shimenguan, especially in the monsoon/rainy season, when fewer tourists visit the area. The two white buildings at the trailhead are actually local farmers’ homes, and they rent out their upstairs rooms as hotel rooms for 15 RMB a night (if you do the math, that’s about USD 2.50 per night!). You can also purchase home cooked meals from the owners; I would recommend staying vegetarian, as meat dishes tend to be quite expensive.
For more information on the gorge proper, especially what lines have already been established, Dane Schellenberg is 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, based out of Dali Old Town: www.climbdali.com