Yangshuo China Trip Report – Space Buttress

The path leading to the base of Space Buttress was tricky to find; it is right next to a farmer’s house. Before reaching the base, you see a mini pigpen first, which makes you doubt yourself twice whether you are indeed trespassing other people’s property.

When we were climbing there, the owner of the house came to chat with us. He humbly stated out his concerns for climbers; it seems that many climbers had walked right in middle of his front yard when they missed the path a couple feet away. He said, “if it’s sunny, I don’t mind but when it’s rainy, people just leave mud everywhere and it takes forever for us to clean.” Although local farmers do not own the cliffs, they are in fact very generous allowing climbers to climb at very close proximity. I suggested him to make a sign and promised him that I would email the author of the guidebook to urge him to put something in the new edition to help maintain a friendly relationship between climbers and locals. Gladly, on the same day, I also bumped into a western route setter who told me that those actions were in fact under progress.

We climbed a few routes; I was very fond of this 25-meter route called Klingon. It has very technical and fun moves at the bottom, followed by powerful elements towards the top. My favorite route was Dark Star, a two-pitch route, 5.10a and 5.10b. The 5.10b pitch is long – 25 meters. The 5.10a pitch is shorter but it is at least 15 meters long. I decided to link the two pitches together, and carried 26 draws on my harness which almost gave me this delusion that I was trad climbing.

The first two/three moves of the 5.10a pitch were easy and then I arrived at this scary spot – the next bolt was kind of far, it was exposed, and the fall didn’t look pretty. I had to step out left and use either lie-backing (which required me to lean all the way to the left) or try to throw some jams in that wide crack in a corner to the right without many good footholds. Anybody who has climbed with me before would know that I almost always choose jamming over lie-backing especially when I am on lead; no exception here. Jamming gives me a sense of security even though sometimes lie-backing is a more efficient choice (later, my two friends both lie-backed the part).

The 5.10b was long and super fun. It started with many exposed but good and interesting stemming moves. None of the moves throughout the climb were difficult but the difficulty of the climb was very consistent. In my opinion, it was the 25 meters worth of consistency that won the route a 5.10b grade. I could do all the moves but I had to “take” towards the end when I had only three more bolts to clip. I wish I could have rested more at the ledge where the first pitch ended. I remembered that I read this line in one book, “when you lead, you rest wherever you can even when you think you don’t need it.” Until now, many of my climbing occasions have reminded me of this line, and I still haven’t taken full advantage of all the resting opportunities. Furthermore, I can always try to improve my endurance, and this route is perfect for that reason: this .10b pitch is so fun and consistent that I am more than happy to do laps on it.

Photo Credit: Ian Farquhar

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