Access Issues

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to score a ride out to Long Dong (thereby avoiding the inconsistent buses and the drawn out train rides to Keelung) then you may have seen these dark, sandstone outcrops along Route 3. 

For months, these rock faces have drawn my gaze.  I often wondered why no one else had mentioned them. Why hadn’t any other climbers asked whether they were climbable? 

So began the Google Maps obsession on this area.  Piecing together street views and posts on Chinese language blogs, I compiled an assortment of pictures and a general topography of the area.

Yet, the best way to get a feel for the place was by going in person. I teamed up with my friend Hiroshi and we set out to see about entry points and top access. 

On the road to the first area we had a look at a stretch of 15 meter tall boulders, Dog Alley.  Despite some great off widths and some nice crack lines, we didn’t think the area would amount to much more than a few boulder problems, very hard problems, too.

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Across from Dog Alley was the first area called Pigeon Coop Wall, aptly named for the pigeon coop at the bottom of the rock faces.  Now, pigeon coops may sound strange to most but in Taiwan pigeon racing is akin to horse racing in the west (I wonder if there has been a pigeon Secretariat) with a lot more shady gambling attached.  The gambling aspect may have been the reason we were greeted with heavy suspicion and asked to leave when we asked who the owner of the land was.  We didn’t stick around to object.

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Directly behind Pigeon Coop Wall is yet another set of walls formed in a horseshoe shape.  Most of the walls are heavily vegetated but a few stick out and from faraway look climbable.  Access to this area is also problematic.  Hiroshi and I entered through some locked gates to a now defunct temple, called the ‘Temple of the Eighteen Gurus’ (or something close).

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We hopped the side fence, climbed back in and crossed a suspension bridge set amid some beautiful scenery. A short walk brought us to the base of the temple.  Though we were told it has been out of use for years, we saw obvious signs habitation (clean shoes, recently used water bottles, working electricity).  Behind the Temple we found an old metal staircase that sure enough led to the base of the rock faces we saw from the road (We’ll call this Guru Wall).  The entrance seems promising but the quality of the rock is questionable.  Besides some intense cleaning, the rock looks very bald from up close.  No 5.10s here.

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Still, we turned back to look at top access.

Across the bridge, over the fences and past the Pigeon Coop Wall we stepped onto the Nanggang trail, an easy hiking path connecting Nanggang with Elephant Mountain in Xinyi.  Only a few hundred meters into the trail we spotted a shoot off that led uphill towards the rock faces.  A short 15 minutes up, we came across two blazed paths.  We hiked each and found that they are municipal trails leading to power converters.  This may be good news, however.  So much of the trail has been blazed that only a hundred meters of bushwhacking remains to the tops of the rock faces.  This is great info to have if development is ever to come to these walls. 

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At the end of the day this is what we discovered.  Without a doubt, the Pigeon Coop Wall and the tower next to it have the greatest potential for climbing. The problem is that these faces are on private property and access right now seems to be denied (they wouldn’t even let us touch the wall).  Guru wall is also located on private property it seems but it’s likely abandoned.  I’m not sure yet if that is to the advantage of climbing development (we are going to investigate whether the “Eighteen Gurus” society still operates or not).  Lastly, we found that top access, though still sketchy, is absolutely possible as a result of the trails blazed for powerline maintenance.

I guess one more thing. This is about the rock itself.  The rock is a compressed sandstone, very durable, at least when you clean away the top layers of weak rock and thick dirt.  The issue then is not its strength but the lack of holds.  With the exception of a few walls (mostly around the Pigeon Coop area) there don’t seem to be many features. This is especially true near the bottom of the rock faces where the rock is more compressed. 

I have plans to take a further look at the Guru Wall and may look around Dog Alley for some bouldering. 

 

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