Shuanglang （爽朗）Crag (a.k.a "Hardcore Crag")
Location: West Erhai Lake, Yunnan Province, China
Approximate Elevation: 6857 ft./2090m
Activities: Sport climbing
“Hardcore” crag along with its sister crag “Softcore” are two limestone cliffbands under development on the north end of Erhai Lake （洱海湖) in Yunnan province, China. It is one of the many projects that Squamish/Canmore expat Dane Schellenberg is currently developing along with other locations such as Shimenguan.
The names of both crags, while amusing in their suggestive themes, are named after the nature of the routes at each crag. Softcore crag features predominantly moderate sport lines, and the cliffband itself has largely been climbed out and established. Hardcore crag, on the other hand, has just been opened up, and all of the lines currently established there are—you guessed it—hard! The easiest sport line at the crag is a stout 5.9+, with the predominant number of current routes being in the 5.10 to 5.11 range. There are even a few 5.12s with a current unsent project that is thought to be a burly 5.12d.
Much like Shimenguan, the draw for this crag is its route potential. Dane has been hard at work outfitting this crag and others. Even with his work, only about 1/3 of the cliffband has been outfitted with bolts. He does plan on continuing work, but the potential for new lines here is incredible, especially in the realm of hard sport climbs from 5.13 and up (though there is plenty of potential to develop routes for normal climbers, too!).
The cliffs themselves are limestone and approximately 30 meters high. The rock features make fore some excellent situational climbing, as the cliffs feature tufas, stalactites, huge overhangs, cracks, and even the occasional rock tunnel.
What makes climbing even more enjoyable at this crag is its location: Hardcore is one of the multiple cliffbands in the area that sit right on the north end of Erhai Lake. On a clear day, you have commanding views of at least half the lake as well as the 4000+ meter ridgeline of the Cangshan （仓山）Mountains on the west side of the lake. Weather in this area can also allow for year ‘round climbing, even during the rainy/monsoon season; some of the overhangs at the crag are more than adequate to shelter you from weather that might surprise you from over the ridgeline.
To editorialize: Dane and I hope that by getting more information out there in the climbing community, we can get more climbers excited about developing routes in China. Unlike Himalayan mountaineering, rock climbing as a sport is a very new phenomenon in China. Much is happening as more expats begin traveling to new crags to develop. A lot is also happening with their interactions and pedagogy with aspiring local Chinese climbers, too. Dane has been doing a killer job at development, but more manpower would certainly speed up development!
For those of you who have grown accustomed to climbing in route-saturated, developed crags, areas like this are a chance to really explore and possibly put up an FA that will bear your name!
Most likely, climbers looking to access Hardcore will be doing so from overseas (or from distant locales within China, at least).
The most direct way to get to Hardcore is to fly into the lakeside city of Dali in Yunnan, China. However, the airport is fairly small and will likely be more expensive than flying into a larger city. Many people traveling to Dali will opt to fly into Yunnan’s provincial capital, Kunming, and catch a bus from Kunming West Bus Station （昆明西部车站）to Dali. Buses are quite frequent, leaving about every 20 minutes from the station from 7 am to 11 pm. There is also an overnight bus that leaves from downtown; the latter of the two choices will most likely feature a sleeper bus.
Buses will take you to Xiaguan （下关）which is the more touristy, developed region along Erhai Lake. You can opt to go to Shimenguan from there or base your operations out of Dali Old Town （大理古城）about 15 minutes north. The Old Town while having its touristy elements, feels less like the bizarre overdevelopment that is pervasive in larger Chinese cities.
Whichever location you choose, you will have to hire a van to get you to the north end of Erhai. Usually, you can call a bus/van company and arrange for a driver to pick you up wherever you are staying. It will help to have a friend proficient in Chinese in order to negotiate.
The driver should take you north to the town of Shuanglang. Some of the roads will get bumpy as you pass through some of the rapid development areas along the side of the lake. You will know that you have arrived when you enter a small, quaint Chinese village that is ringed to the north by a long-distance train track and, behind that, a massive bridge that is currently under construction as part of a super highway system being built around Erhai. Once you arrive, head into the village, heading north. You will pass through a small open-air market and a few convenient stores that sell some basic provisions that you can bring up to the crag (things likr instant noodles, water, etc.)
Once behind the town, you should be able to see the cliffs. Pass underneath the massive pylons of the super highway and head for the cornfields that blanket the mountain uphill towards the cliffs themselves. Remember, Hardcore is the cliffband on the right if you are looking uphill.
From there, you need to locate one of the many farmers’ paths that run through the fields. Though there are paths that people like Dane know by heart, nothing there is marked, so more likely than not, you will have to intuit your way towards the cliff by following the paths. Follow the farmers’ paths uphill (be careful! The path drops off steeply downhill once you get closer to the crag!).
Once you arrive at the cliffband, there is a broad ledge that varies from the size of small sidewalk to the width of a small road (better for camping). Some of the best camping is farther left down the cliff (if you are facing the cliff) underneath some huge, rounded overhangs.