By The Good Doctor
I have a theory about what makes Beijing so attractive to so many expats: whatever activity it is you’re interested in, you can advance to a higher level here more quickly than you could back home. And if there’s an activity you’re interested in, it’s much easier getting started in Beijing than anywhere else.
This theory certainly holds true for rock climbing.
Growing up in Indiana, I pictured rock climbing as an ultra cool sport on par with snowboarding and surfing. There’s no arguing it, rock climbers are fucking cool (in a way frisbee players never will be). I’d occasionally meet a rock climber at a house party and he’d amaze everyone with a couple dozen finger-pull-ups off the door frame. I’d be so jealous of how cool he was. But how was I ever going to become a rock climber? This guy certainly wasn’t going to drag me along on a three-hour trip to the closest crag and loan me equipment and teach me how to belay and be patient as I struggled up even the easiest climbs and shook with fear after getting fifteen feet off the ground.
Fast forward to a few years ago. Now I’m in Beijing, where everything is possible.
When you meet a rock climber in Beijing, they are eager to take you out and teach you. You can go to one of the local climbing gyms, where it’s affordable to climb, because we’re Westerners and everything is affordable for us. And even if, on most days, you can’t see them because of the “fog,” Beijing is surrounded by mountains. We’re less than two hours away from real, climbable rock, and there are people willing to take you out to teach you how to climb for a very reasonable fee.
The would-be rock climber has three main options for getting started in Beijing: the artificial wall in Ritan Park, the climbing gym at Ole Sports, and the guided trips led by Beijing Climbing Club. All are suitable for beginners. You don’t need to invest in equipment of your own, and it’s easy to make friends. If you commit to climbing twice a week, you’ll find that you improve very quickly. Next time you go home to (fill in Western country), not only will you be a world traveler, but a rock climber as well. Your friends will hate how fucking cool you’ve become.
Ritan Climbing Wall: Located at the northeast corner of Ritan Park. The closest subway stops are Chaoyangmen on Line 2 and Jianguomen on the transfer between Lines 1 and 2. For 40 yuan, you can climb as long as you want. Add 10 yuan for shoes.
Ole Climbing Gym: A slightly hard-to-find gym on Baiziwan, a few kilometers south of the Sihui subway stop on Line 1.
Both Ritan and Ole have a variety of multi-day and monthly passes available for purchase.
Beijing Climbing Club: BCC leads trips to various climbing spots around Beijing on weekends and some weekdays. 430 yuan includes transportation, all equipment, safety lessons, and lunch.
A NOTE ABOUT SAFETY: Rock climbing is a dangerous, sometimes deadly sport if you don’t know what you’re doing. (A foreigner died climbing at Ritan a few years back.) Make sure you always climb with experienced people who make safety the No. 1 priority. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if you feel uncomfortable with someone’s methods, don’t climb with them.
The Good Doctor is a writer in Beijing who made the above video. Check out his website, The Chaos Factory.