Hong Kong Climbing
Hong Kong is not on my vacation list, but when the school sent me to a conference there, I decided to spend the rest of my vacation visiting old friends, showing my wife the sights, and, most importantly, climbing on some great granite. I have to admit, the crimps and slabs of Hong Kong were a welcome relief after climbing on Asia’s tropical limestone for nearly a year. Sure, Hong Kong is known for its towering skyscrapers, great restaurants, and smog, but what most visitors don’t realize is how much climbing is easily available from the city’s public transportation system. Hidden among the urban sprawl, on hillsides and on the nearby islands, lies a wide variety of crags with routes in every grades and a variety of style to keep things interesting.
Lion Rock, which dominates the Kowloon skyline, offers excellent multi-pitch routes with a moderately long approach. Unfortunately, my wife and I didn’t have time to climb any of the lines there, but I can say from past experiences, the routes are all worth the approach. A few years ago, local climber Ed Pramuk decided to explore the cliff band above the Central Station. His curiosity paid off with one of Hong Kong’s fastest growing crags, Soho Crags. When Ed was first developing the cliffs, I was living in Guangzhou and had the opportunity to play on some of the first routes. Looking at the area, I saw potential for maybe 15 routes. What I didn’t see was the other half dozen cliffs hidden in the brush across the hillside. Ernita and I explored three separate walls and climbed a dozen and half of the area’s seventy routes. The routes here are exposed. Not only because of their position on steep hillside, but also because they are perched above the city’s tall skyscrapers. While climbing Blade Runner, my wife commented on how strange it was to climb a single pitch route and look down on 60-story buildings. After climbing, we strolled down to a series of escalators and enjoyed a nice meal in one of Soho’s numerous cafes. In hopes of escaping the downtown crowd, we decided to pass on climbing above central and headed to Beacon Hill crag instead.
The cliff is a ten-minute taxi ride from the subway station and overlooks the city’s harbor and residential area. Enough old tree trees grow that you don’t have buildings, and the area had a more natural feel to it. Here, the routes are either slabs or crimpy overhangs. Every route sees traffic, probably from the after-work crowd. With a casual and pleasant approach, I can see why this was one of Hong Kong’s most popular crags. To completely escape the city, my wife and a couple of local climbers decided to take the ferry to Tug Long Island, where Hong Kong’s favorite crag is. The technical wall is above the water and has a wave cut platform across the bottom. I remember coming here on a Sunday by mistake once. The area easily had 200 climbers and three ropes on every route. To avoid the crowd, we decided to climb here on a Saturday, but when we arrived, a dozen ropes already littered the routes. We wanted to climb, so we moved on to the less popular Sea Gully Wall. Why this wall is less popular, I have no idea. The setting is high above the ocean with crisp clean granite. Routes are sustained, technical, and fun. One of my favorite routes anywhere, End of the World, is located here. The four of us had the entire wall to ourselves for the afternoon. No waiting in line, no one creaming Beta or encouragement, and great rock. Who needed anything more? The perfect last climbing day in Hong Kong.
While Hong Kong might not be on your list of climbing destination, it could easily turn a dull or boring lay over or a long business trip into a mini climbing excursion. A dozen quickdraws and personal gear is plenty to experience some great and easy to access routes around the city. Www.hongkongclimbing.com offers specific information about each area and has free PDF topos to many of the crags.