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Cat Ba Island

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Summary

The Ha Long Bay region of Vietnam, a sweep of water from which approximately 1,600 limestone karst islands soar, lies in the Gulf of Tonkin just off Vietnam’s northern coastline and is part of the UNESCO world natural heritage. These craggy islands boast a stunning mix of rock blanketed in jungle and steep, exposed faces. Although not all of these walls contain solid rock, there is an overwhelming abundance of magnificent climbable faces. Many of the walls that rise directly from the water are ideal for Deep Water Solo (DWS). Other faces stand over uninhabited sandy beaches, making for a unique and isolated sport climbing paradise. Cat Ba Island also boasts some amazing limestone cliffs to behold and experience.

Description

There are more than 120 sport climbing routes on 13 crags, from 4a to 8a on Cat Ba Island and the beaches of Ha Long Bay. More than 230 deep water solo lines on 24 cliffs, from 4a to 7c+ wait for you in the bay, all in a day trip distance from Cat Ba Town. If you are an independent climber you can explore the crags of the main island Cat Ba on your own, you just need an access pass from Asia Outdoors and a motorbike or bicycle. To explore the sport climbing potential of the bay you will need a basketboat with driver and the access passes for the beaches. Both can be easily organised at the Asia Outdoors shop.

If you are interested in DWS the easiest option is to join one of the Cat Ba Climbing or Langur Adventures day trips. Going on your own or with an unlicensed basket boat driver can be potentially dangerous. First of all it is not so easy to find the right crags and secondly you cannot start climbing out of the water, since there is a notch at the base of the cliffs: you'll need a boat. Thirdly, you need intimate knowledge of the cliffs to avoid climbing at too low a tide or hitting one of the underwater rocks. If you are a group of experienced climbers Cat Ba Climbing or Langur Adventures will be happy to organise taylor made DWS trips for you. 
 WHEN TO GO:

There are two main factors to consider when planning a climbing trip to Ha Long Bay. First you should know, that the temperatures vary significantly in the course of a year. The winter months are ideal for sport climbing, when the temperatures are cool (10-20 degrees celcius) and there is only moderate precipitation (5-25 mm a month). The downside of the winter are the unfavorable tides, which make DWS less enjoyable and only occasionally possible. A tide of over 2 meters is necessary to safely DWS in the bay and there are much more days with high tide during the daytime in the summer than in the winter. The downside of the summer months is that the weather is very hot and humid and there is a higher percentage of rainy days. While moderate rain is not a problem for DWS, since most cliffs are overhanging, but it obviously lessens the Ha Long Bay experience.

The ideal time to have fun on Ha Long Bay's DWS and sport climbing cliffs are the spring (April - May) and autumn months (September - November). The weather is generally good and there are generally over 15 days a month where you can DWS. Check this calendar for a guide to suitable DWS tide days: http://www.climbdws.com/?fbclid=IwAR0TZjNpmuiE-FWeOZyDjwycSCLleYe15eBmIFmg-WYuQni2lebbnWjMybg

WHAT TO BRING:

Since the closure of Asia Outdoors, the situation with gear rental is a littl more difficult, Cat Ba Climbing have some gear to rent,but it is only a limited amount. maybe send an email or request prior to arrival to be sure! At the time of writing this, Langur Adventures is just tarting up in replacement of Asia Outdoors, they have the intention of being to offer the same services, but currently donot have gear rental.

THE GUIDEBOOK:

As of March 2019 Luca De Giorgi is putting the final touches on the third edition, and first comprehensive guide book for all of vietnam! this should be avaliable to purchase via Amazon, and at Vietclimb in Hanoi once completed and printed within the coming months. (Old info) This is the second rock climbing guidebook printed for the area, following in the footsteps of the 2008 book ‘Vietnam – A Climber’s Guide,’ written and printed by Erik Ferjentsik. Erik is one of the ‘godfathers’ of climbing in the area who, along with Onslo Carrington, came to Ha Long Bay in the mid 2000’s to develop the climbing scene into what it is (and is still being built into) today. The pair also founded Asia Outdoors, at the time known as Slo Pony Adventures. The company remains the local climbing custodian, representative and developer, as well as a go-to place for useful information and trips in the bay. Asia Outdoors is the only licensed rock climbing and deep water soloing company on the island and offers several guided activities including top-rope climbing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, yoga, and of course deep water soloing (2016).

This updated guidebook was needed because things have been happening: new sport routes have been bolted– some at entirely new crags– and a plethora of fresh deep water solo lines have been recorded, not all of which will actually fit into the guidebook. The guidebook’s production has been sponsored by Asia Outdoors and has been published in Vietnam in February 2016 and on Amazon in April 2016, making it available across the US and Europe. With details on access and accommodation, the book can be bought in advance of a trip to help in the planning stages. The photography alone is enough to wet any aspiring adventurer’s appetite for a climbing trip to these waters, and the sun, smiles and charm of Vietnam and its wonderful people means this is as unique a place to visit as you’ll ever find.

GUIDEBOOK SPECIFICATIONS:

  • 2016 Edition
  • 140 pages in colour
  • more than 120 sport climbing routes on 13 crags, from 4a to 8a
  • more than 230 deep water solo lines on 24 cliffs, from 4a to 7c+
  • 30 pages with additional information (climbing pics, maps, access info, rock climbing history, climate and geology, and other useful information)
  • 17 GBP, 20 Dollars, 20 Euro 


LINKS:

Guidebook excerpt: https://issuu.com/degiorgiluca/docs/halongbay-excerpt Climbing Companies: http://catbaclimbing.com/ / http://langursadventures.com/ Amazon.com link (Also available on Amazon EU and UK): https://www.amazon.com/Vietnam-Climbing-comprehensive-country-wide-guidebook/dp/1727545125 Youtube video of dws “Streak of Lightning - 7c+”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U12qM5PZOy8

Access issues

Rock Climbing in this area is more tolerated than actually allowed, for this reason we ask everyone to treat the situation with a large amount of respect.

Climbing on the Island: Apart from needing passes from the local climbing companies, or paying a small fee to the local land owners apon arrival to climb, there is no other large access issues on land.

Climbing or DWS within Ha Long / Lan Ha Bay: This brings many more difficulties. climbing within Ha Long Bay remains illegal, and the harbour police do enforce often, this means climbing at 'The Face' or DWS at 'Le MeKong' is a challenge, and although someclimbers have managed to get there with no issues, others have been swiftly moved on by the harbour police in the bay. Boat drivers leaving Cat Ba island to go to Ha Long Bay (The Face etc.) also risk loosing their boats.

Please respect that this is a situation that local people are working on changing, and also please DO NOT BRIBE officials, some have tried this in the past, and it sets a bad president that will lead to more complications as time goes on.

Approach

The easiest way to climb in Ha Long Bay is by staying on the southern main island of Cat Ba. In Cat Ba Town there is a wide selection of Hotels from which to choose and good touristic infrastructure. From there you can easily reach the crags on the island and in the bay. You will find the local climbing operator, at this point in time that is Cat Ba Climbing and Langur Adventures, they will be able to give you information about all things climbing related, as well as great things to do on your rest days!!

Getting to Cat Ba from Hanoi is quite easy and usually takes about five hours. You actually don't need to go to Ha Long City if you are mainly interested in climbing.

History

View historical timeline

The first climbers to visit Ha Long Bay came in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Americans Lynn Hill, Todd Skinner, Scott Milton, Paul Piana, Greg Child, and Frenchman Arnaud Petit, among others, led climbing expeditions to Vietnam and the Ha Long Bay region, bolting some of the area’s first known sport routes. Greg Child and Andy Parkin established early traditional multi-pitch lines in the bay, documented in the BBC’s The Face, Episode 2. British climbers such as Neil Gresham, Tim Emmett, Seb Grieve, Grant Farquhar, and Chris Lindner also visited, establishing sport and DWS routes. Tim Emmett and Klem Loskot are featured climbing at some of the locations presented in the guidebook in Big Up Productions’ Dosage Vol III, and Chris Lindner is featured in The Players.

Thanks to these pioneers, climbing in Vietnam and Ha Long Bay is growing fast in terms of development and popularity in the eyes of international climbers. Vietnam has since become a popular and inexpensive destination for travellers exploring and experiencing Southeast Asia through sport climbing and DWS.

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