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BLOG | NEWS | 01 July 2016

Video: First Ascents in the History of Zhangjiajie National Park

In April 2016, Mayan Smith-Gobat and Ben Rueck joined Chinese climbers Liu Yongbang (Abond) and Xiao Ting to become the first climbers to be granted permission to explore Zhangjiajie, China’s largest national park, with routes of 300m and 7c+.


Photos and video: Frank Kretschmann - Author, courtesy of Adidas Outdoor

This past April, climbers from the Adidas team, New Zealander Mayan Smith-Gobat and American Ben Rueck, teamed up with Chinese climbers Liu Yongbang (Abond) and Xiao Ting to explore the possibilities of climbing in the Qingfeng Valley which is located in oldest and most extensive National Park in China: Zhangjiajie.

The park has more than 3,000 towers and is a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Despite receiving over 30 million visitors a year, strict protection laws have prevented climbers from ascending the countless amount of red quartzite sandstone towers.

Ascending one of the many sandstone columns
The four of them were the first climbers who have ever received permission to climb in the park which is located in the province of Hunan. The goal, and the rules, were to climb while trying to leave the place and walls as they were. That is to say, using as little fixed protection as they could and leaving the beautiful park untouched, the way they found it.

The team spent a month in the Qingfeng Valley, battling their way through the thick jungle to find the base of the towers. When they arrived, they ventured up these freestanding towers, with no idea of what they would encounter. There were no continuous cracks and the rocks were often loose or hollow, so finding protection was difficult and the climbing was very adventurous and demanding, both physically and mentally. They constantly had to summon all their courage to continue upwards.

The firsts to ever reach the summit
Ben and Mayan focused on two of the highest towers. It took all of their skills and courage, to succeed in doing two ground-up first ascents of three hundred meter walls, the highlight being the Dragon’s Nest, 5.13a (7c+). Abond opened a beautiful sixty meter endurance test-piece with a mixture of bolts and trad on Kungfu Emperor, 5.13c (8a+). Lastly, Ting focused on learning traditional climbing, overcoming her fears and finally completing her first trad lead – the first ascent of Kyo run, 5.11a (6c).

The diverse rock forced the team to use cracks that ranged from minuscule, where their fingers barley had purchase, to wide troughs that swallowed their entire bodies. They were the first people to stand on any of these imposing summits which were an unfathomable maze of countless red spires, all previously untouched. In the eyes of a climber, these represented a lifetime of diverse challenges.

Mayan, Ben, Abond and Ting were proud to have been the first to climb and reach these summits. During their month in China, they accomplished their goals and left nothing behind, besides their success and inspiration.

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