Any climbers in or heading to China, we’ve got some news that’ll send you Over the Moon: Yangshuo’s first-ever crag, the crescent-shaped Moon Hill, is back open to climbers after over two years of being off limits.
The now-lifted climbing ban on Moon Hill went into effect in early 2017. According to Andrew Hedesh, author of the new Yangshuo climbing guidebook, Yangshuo Rock, several climber were cragging, when one of them broke off a piece of a tufa that nearly hit a security guard on the viewing deck beneath the arch. “From that point forward,” Hedesh told Rock and Ice in an email, “climbing was almost completely restricted with the exception of one week per year, during the annual Yangshuo climbing festival in late October.”
But earlier this summer, new operators at Moon Hill—which is leased by a private company—met with the Yangshuo Climbers Association to rethink the blanket climbing ban. Hedesh explained, “After several meetings and some underhanded deal-making … rock climbing will now be permitted at Moon Hill.”
The reopening of the local landmark comes with a number of new conditions. A third-party company contracted by the general management company will conduct annual safety inspections of the crag, probing for loose rock—which will be cleaned—and compromised or outdated hardware—which will be replaced. Most relevant to visiting climbers is the new requirement that they purchase “crag insurance”—essentially an entrance fee that will offset the costs of the third-party safety inspections over time. The new fee will be between 50 and 70 renminbi, the equivalent of roughly 8 to 10 dollars.
Moon Hill sports some of the first-ever bolted routes in China. American climbers Todd Skinner, Sam Lightner, Jr., and Jacob Valdez visited Yangshuo in 1990. On that trip they established three first ascents that have become three of the area’s all-time classics: Over the Moon (5.12c), Red Dragon (5.12b) and Proud Sky (5.12b). Today Yangshuo has over 900 routes and is the center of sport climbing in China.
When Skinner and co first visited—he also made a return trip with another crew in 1991—the land on which Moon Hill lies was controlled by the local township. But around the year 2000, the local government decided to lease the land—Moon Hill included—to a private company, as a means of drumming up revenue for the town. “Moon Hill became one of the first pay-for-entry tourist attractions in Yangshuo,” Hedesh said.
As more climbers began visiting in the mid-2000s, Moon Hill, by then hosting some 30 routes, saw a steady increase in traffic. Access issues and the beginning of the discord between the Moon Hill steward company (and its successors) and climbers has its real origin in this era. “Most of the climbers were poor and couldn’t afford the entrance ticket [which was less than the new fee],” Hedesh explained. “Climbers created alternative entry points to circumvent the gate, which in turn upset the managing company and led to an unofficial prohibition of climbing at Moon Hill.”
This “unofficial prohibition” was enforced to varying degrees over the next 10 years, with climbing bans of limited duration alternating with periods of lax enforcement. Moon Hill changed hands a number of times in a short span starting in 2015, with different companies leasing the land and trying to make a buck off it.
For more fantastic stories about Moon Hill and the beginnings of sport climbing in Yangshuo and, check out the photo essay “Over the Moon,” by Chuang “Karma” Liu in Rock and Ice’s 2019 Photo Annual, on newsstands now.
For more information on climbing in Yanshuo, visit ClimbingYangshuo.com.