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food / travel

Rock Climbing In China: Scaling The Limestone Ledges Of Guilin

Welcome to Guangxi Province, a land of karst mountains, rice farmers and – rock climbers. Yes, the famous karst mountains of Guilin in the south of China can now be climbed.

The tourist town of Yangshou in China's Guangxi Province
The tourist town of Yangshou in China's Guangxi Province
Marlene Weiss

GUILIN -- Hen‘s Egg Mountain: surely that can't be hard to find. It must be the one over to the left, the one that's clearly shaped like an egg. Or else it could also be the one next to it, or the one behind that. Turns out they all look a bit egg-like. Better to ask someone. "Hen's Egg?" says an elderly woman in the village. "Some ways away," she says, pointing to a footpath that leads through what looks like jungle.

When we get there, we're happy to find that the steel bolts to put your rope through are the same as the ones we're used to. Since we brought our own ropes, climbing harnesses and carabiners, everything seems very familiar as we start our climb. It's only 20 meters up that culture shock really hits: in a monsoon mist we see white egrets, and farmers wearing conical straw hats. We also see limestone hills, some as high as 200 meters, jutting up sharply from the rice fields below. For a minute it's as if we're in a time warp, far from the 21st century…until the mood is broken by the arrival of two very loud Spanish climbers with their mountain bikes.

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