Allegory of the Caves, Baiyansi, China


November 7th, 2021

Start approach: 5:40am

Start climb: 8am

Top out: 3pm

Start descent: 3:30pm

End descent: 4:40pm

Car to car: 11 hours

As my time in China comes to a close, I wanted to get on this classic that my two buddies, Ryder and Dane, put up in 2019. John was the perfect partner for this weekend strike mission. We flew into Lijiang on a Saturday morning in November, climbed it on Sunday, and flew back to Shanghai on Monday morning. On Saturday and Sunday night we were able to stay at the famous Stone Drum House, an amazingly cozy guesthouse in Shigu.

Below is an account of our trip, hope it helps anyone thinking about getting after it!

Getting in

Talk to Reuben from Stone Drum House for the contact info of the driver. He is the go-to Baiyansi driver and knows the new approach. He charges 150rmb each way and the drive from Stone Drum House takes about 40 minutes. He can also pick you up from the airport. You should stay at Stone Drum house before and after your climb.


The new approach drops you off about two miles west of the start of the route and we started hiking in at 5:40am. With sunrise at 7:30am, we wandered in a general easterly direction with our headlamps, getting lost a few times, and locating the first bolts signifying the start of the climb just as the sun poked through the horizon.

James at the start of the climb at sunrise



We climbed with a 62ish meter rope and highly recommend having a full 70. Would be safer if you had to bail and would make linking pitches more pleasant, since a handful of times either I or John would belay to the end of the rope and then simul about 10 meters until the leader hit the next anchor.


We got sandbagged by the guidebook which recommended gear from .2-4, even suggesting doubles if the route was at your limit. From what I saw, there’s no way you would ever be able to place anything close to that amount of gear on any pitch. We ended up playing hot potato at every anchor with the rack of cams. With how many bolts are on this climb, I recommend bringing singles of .5-2, for the handful of times a crack appears.

John and the giant rack


John and I both had small leader packs which held our puffys, shoes, water, and food. We chose a bluebird day in early November with highs in the low 60s and lows around freezing. This was perfect weather for us and the jackets never came out of the pack. The route gets sun most of the day which was awesome in the crisp morning. The leader packs actually screwed us both, for John on the 11c and me and the 11b. If you are going for the send, consider hauling on those pitches. Still, I highly prefer two small leader packs over a giant pack for the second, that sounds miserable.


I led the first pitch and we swung leads from there. We pitched out the first four, which are quite vertical and engaging. Excellent pitches, I quite enjoyed them. Starting from pitch 5, we linked every pitch (except for the two 9s due to potential rope drag issues), consolidating a total of 17 pitches into 11.

The rock quality was much better than it looked and had good friction. The route was great, Dane and Ryder did an amazing job. We were in awe the entire way of how much work had to have gone into putting this thing up. For sure a labor of love for them, and we were very grateful to be able to go on an excellent adventure thanks to them.

Amazing views from the top


The descent is very straightforward, following a faint hiking path the entire way down. On top of that, there is a GPX on Ryder’s website that would come in very handy, especially in the dark.

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