Hidden 6 hours south of Beijing is a spectacular gorge system known as the Guoliang National Park. The gorge is part of the Taihang Mountains in central China. It is a world away from the heavy industry that sprawls from overpopulated Chinese cities east of the range. In 2009, the area was put on the radar by one of China’s first rock climbing festivals. The gorge system, unfortunately, fell off the radar after the festival. The spotlight turned to other climbing destinations, but the massive gorge system at Guoliang could not be ignored for too long. While writing Climb China, the team visited a well-known river valley north of Beijing called Baihe (meaning "white river"). While there, a few Chinese climbers talked gregariously about how their local crag was much larger then Baihe, and they offered to show us the place if we went to visit. Online research led to grainy photos of the huge gorge system, but produced very little climbing information. The information we ran across was very outdated, but through the low-quality photos, we could see unbelievable potential. After our time in Baihe, we decided to head straight to Guoliang. It proved to be more amazing than we anticipated.
The Chinese climbers who told us of the location met us at the train station in the city of Zhengzhou in the Henan province, drove us to the national park, and spent several days showing us what they knew of the climbing areas. As we drove on the park's winding roads, we saw nothing but tall, beautiful sandstone quartzite walls with cracks riddled among the ribbons of sediment. We were surrounded on all sides by the massive gorge system that stretches for more than 5 kilometers. Our friends had only climbed in two areas, so it was up to us to figure out where the rest of the developed crags were. Armed with suggestions and educated guesses, we wandered through the park making trails, cleaning overgrown crag bases, and climbing unknown routes to get an estimation of a grade for the book. We focused on making the area safe for future climbers by knocking loose rock, checking anchors, and documenting any unsafe features. We ultimately found more than triple the number of routes we originally tallied up from our initial research. What surprised us was not the number of rediscovered routes, but rather the lack of development of stunning crack lines for traditional climbing. More than that, the walls in Guoliang seemed to scream of unlimited sport potential for areas with little protection but great features.
The initial development of the area was in the traditional style, and there are a few moderate multi pitches that were put up, allowing climbers to top out to a tourist look out. But in actuality, the local community has focused mostly on sport. During the first visit, The Climb China team climbed with the locals, giving a short demonstration on gear placement, and did more bush- wacking and cleaning routes than climbing. We'd talked about trying to get more climbers stoked on the area by hosting a clean up or small festival, but (much to my happiness from an organizational/available resources standpoint) the China Mountaineering Association beat us to it and hosted a festival in July of this year.