Best of the Blocs

At the very back of the Hong Kong Bouldering Guidebook we included a little tick list under the heading ‘Best of the Best’. This was provided to give people with limited time (or extremely refined taste) a little teaser of some of the best boulder problems HK has to offer.

Sadly, in the interest of keeping costs low and not turning the guide book in to even more of a behemoth than it already was at 500+ pages long, we didn’t really have space to provide much discussion on the reasons for the selections made. The benefit of having a website running in parallel to the guide however is that we can bring you some of that reasoning here instead. So here goes…

Footnote: Following increased traffic after the publication of the guidebook there has been a degree of grade rationalisation for some problems in the list. In the interest of consistency, problems have maintained the guidebook graded for the purpose of this post, even if the current grade is different.

Getting Started

The entry level classics to get people new to bouldering started on their journey through the purest aspect climbing has to offer.

V0 and below

Highball, Radar Rocks: A neglected gem that has seen very little traffic since it was established during the development of this area about 20-years ago. Granted, it’s not one for someone only operating at this grade and we’d recommend you be solid at V2 before attempting. However, it has great moves that deserve more attention and is a good intro to the dark art of high balling.

She’s the One, Southside, Cheung Chau: Simply put, this is a great introduction to bouldering with the only downside being it’s relatively short length. Good moves, great holds, and all by the seaside too!

Summit Arête, Ha Fa Shan: The perfect introduction to lay backing and trusting your feet on small pebbles and smears. With the added bonus of being a reasonable height above a flat landing too. what’s not to like about problems like this one!

V1

The Arête, Ha Fa Shan: Another classic Ha Fa Shan arête line that’s just as good as Summit Arête, if not better. A bit more technical and requiring a bit more thought on how to make best use of the features available, this is a must tick for those working their way through the Ha Fa Circuit, and one you’ll likely repeat dozens of times as you visit this sector.

The Classic, Shek O Headland: Fine lay backing up a clean wall of granite overlooking the sea. Technical enough to make you think and high enough to make you think carefully, this problem is an absolute peach.

Wall Patrol, Stanley: The first traverse to make it on to the list. This line attacks the lip of an overhanging face that, with little in the way of footholds to choose from, will test your heel hooking ability.

V2

Beast of Burden, Buffalo Boulders: The first foray in to really steep terrain on the list. This problem follows the crack formed by the intersect of two large blocs, climbing through improbable terrain on on very large holds that require good 360 spatial awareness (just ignore the lack of the sds in the video here – it does need one for a proper send).

Prison Break, Stanley: A slightly highball journey up a beautiful wall of granite on the Stanley Coastline. Fortunately the climbing high up is very amenable, with the meat of the technicalities packed in the lower part of the climb.

Supersonic, Radar Rocks: Another of the absolute classic Tsuen Wan lines that should be on everyone’s tick list. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case given the vegetation around the bloc so hopefully its inclusion herein will help up the amount of traffic it ses a bit.

The Apprentice

V3

Breach of the Peace, The Beach, Chung Hom Kok: Slabby arete climbing at its finest. Tenuous, delicate, insecure and purely delightful. The almost complete lack of positive footholds means this is a great line to build up that confidence and technique for smearing (for an even stiffer test of this, take a look at the V6 to the left)

Fear Wall, Mai Tai Stream: Another line that packs in a good variety of climbing styles in a relatively short space. The line works its way out from a roof low down to then force its way up an imposing face above. Engaging and technical and with just enough height to get that heart pumping a bit.

King Lion Traverse, Lion Rock Boulders: A great left-to-right lip traverse that will get those forearms burning (for ‘true’ boulderers at least) and help refine your ability to effectively use a heel hook.

Near Misses

A few extra top quality classics to \add to the list

Plumbline, Shek O
Death Metal, Chung Hom Kok
Herbicide, Shek Lung Kung
Geoff’s Arete, Chung Hom Kok

V4

Leap of Faith, Shek O Headland: A nemesis line for many and a walk in the park for a lucky few. Regardless of which category you fall in to, its one of the most fun slaps in HK and really does require that leap of faith that the name implies.

Candy Crush, Buffalo Boulders: A committing and powerful line up a gently overhanging wall with the crux at a reasonable height, but still some slightly committing moves above.

Stretcher Variant, Lin Fa Shan: One of the best lines on one of the best blocs in HK. Stretcher Variant takes a left-to-right line across a face of super compact volcanic tuff above one of the most perfectly flat landings around.

Near Misses

Blitzed your way through the above lines? well here’s a few extra gems to keep you entertained:

Mala, Tai Mo Shan
Moon Madness, Kai Kung Leng
Jon’s Traverse, Ha Fa Shan
The Flying Russian, Colin’s Boulders
The Matrix, Radar Rocks
Blown Away, Cheung Chau

V5

Dave’s Traverse, Ha Fa Shan: A full body pump of a problem that’s more akin to climbing on rock like gritstone than the volcanic and granitic blocs found throughout HK. The problem follows the lip of an undercut bloc, utilising a series of ‘just about okay’ slopers to work your way across it. For extra fun, and a matcged start on the far left arete (V6) and skip the lower bloc for feet once you get about half way across.

Semisonic, Shek O Otherside: Technical insecure wall climbing at its best, at least for those with a wingspan of 165 cm or more. This is a slightly neglected classic that deserves far more attention that it typically sees and justifies a trip to the Otherside for this line alone.

Colin’s Amazing Technicolour Dream Roof (a.k.a. Sparkies Roof), Colin’s Boulders: A must tick for any aspiring boulderer and a line you will climb countless times whilst working the other problems on this bloc. Simply put, you couldn’t have designed a better mid-grade roof problem than mother nature did with this one!

Near Misses

Just in case those weren’t enough to keep you entertained, here’s a few more more gems to add to your tick list:

Kev’s Arete, Buffalo Boulders
Little White Lies, Shek O
Scoop de Grace, Ha Fa Shan
The Wave, Silver Bay
The Portal, Radar Rocks
上海姿飯, Sisyphus: anyone thinking this is a 6 needs to go try Superhardness 😉

The Connoisseur

So you’ve mastered the basics and worked your way through those classics up to and including the V5’s, well here’s the list of problems for you to step up your game on and really get stuck in to some of the best HK has to offer.

V6

Kung Hei Fat Boy, Shek O Village Boulders: A contender for the most popular problem in HK, but sadly also a contender for the most cheated on problem in HK from those who fail to understand the meaning or significance of a proper sit start! An awesome problem that slaps its way up the arete and crack on the right side of a steep face, with cruxes at the two best locations, the very start (hence the need for a proper sit start) and the very end.

Primal Scream, Farside of Chung Hom Kok: An absolute beauty of a line that includes steep powerful moves low down, coupled with insecure and precarious moves high up. Originally above a somewhat daunting boulder, you can thank Stuart Millis and Boybi Sarmiento for several hours hard labour burying the offending bloc toprovide a nice nicer and safer fall zone.

Roaring (sds), Kowloon Peak: A stunning line up a steep wall on (mostly) positive but spaced crimps and with a slightly intimidating top out to add a much needed bit of spice to the line and ensure it stays fresh in your memory for a long time after the send. Aficionados of the Moonboard will find this a breeze, provided they can keep their head high up that is…

Near Misses

For me, V6 is the magic grade for Hong Kong Bouldering where the nature of the rock excels in providing quality challenges for us to attack. This means there are a number of other quality lines that could have easily made the cut in terms of a best of the best list. These include (amongst others):

Practice for the New, SCL Boulder
Rocky Road, Shek Lung Kung
Socrates, Kowloon Peak (for extra value do the sit at V7 too)
Little Women, Ha Fa Shan
Bamboo, Radar Rocks
Superhardness, Lin Fa Shan
Pokemon Go, Kai Kung Leng
Stretcher Direct, Lin Fa Shan
Dislocator, Lin Fa Shan
Trainspotting, Colin’s Boulders

V7

Bak Fu, Sisyphus: Some of the thinest crimps you’ll find lead to a big slap either for the sloper above or the jug out right. If you don’t like crimps, don’t come here… However, if you do, file down those finger nails and get cranking!

Painful Birth, Chung Hom Kok Coastline: A gem of a line that includes technical trickery to escape the roof (or brute force and campus ability for those who like to work harder rather than smarter, just remember to engage that core as the slightest brush of the wall behind you and its a dab that’s blown your send) followed by a steady head as you finish up the line of Alien (V3) above a slightly daunting drop.

Taipan, Colin’s Boulders: A HK classic that attacks the right side of Sparkies Roof via technical toe / heel hooking along the lip, before engaging in one of the most fun sequences as you work your way around the corner and through the main roof itself. Sheer class!

Near Misses

Likewise, there are also a host of top quality V7’s that could have also made the cut, such as:

Too Fast, The Tunnel, Cheung Chau
Sugar Daddy Direct, Shek O Hillside
Silent Day, Shek O
Obe Wan Ext, Ha Fa Shan
Colorado Climber, Cheung Chau: awful name, quality line
Raging Bull, Colin’s Boulders

V8

Blind Faith, Tai Koo Boulders: The Karma of Hong Kong and one of the best V8’s (if not problems) the territory has to offer. Insecure technical crimping low down leads to even less secure sloper slapping high up. Just pray that heel stays firmly in place for the top moves, there’s been cases of whiplash for those where it didn’t…

Compression Session, Shek O Otherside: Technical bear hugging up an overhanging prow. A brilliant exercise in squeezing that feels solid V8 until you figure out a good sequence, after which it feels more like V6 – hence the line has sort of settled at V7 these days. Unless you do the super low start that is, then you’re getting back in to that V8/V9 territory…

Golden Arête, Lamma Boulders: There’s not that many lines out there where you can definitively say there isn’t a single actual hold on the entire line – just a collection of features that can be linked together to let you just about scrape your way up the bloc. Fortunately, we’re lucky enough to have one of those rare lines with Golden Arête, a fiendish test of lay back and smearing ability.

Near Misses

Similar to V6, this is a grade that HK rocks provide a plethora of quality to play on. The first two near misses are HK classics that could have easily made the main list if it wasn’t for the fact they’re both my nemesis and have been routinely spitting me off them for the last 20-years… i never said the list was democratically selected 🙂

Gaijin, Colin’s Boulders
Locked and Loaded, Shek O
Ass Crack, Shek O
The Last Dab, Tai Mo Shan
Khubz, Sisyphus
Tornado, Sisyphus

V9

Rock on the Road, Chung Hom Kok Coastline Boulders: A line with a little bit of everything: steep roof climbing low down (be careful not to dab), technical lip turning trickery, fierce crimping and insecure arête slapping, what’s not to love about it?

Seamless, Colin’s Boulders: One of the original HK hard problems and one that had the honour of being the hardest in the original guidebook. Today, this is a rite of passage for any wanna be pebble crusher, providing technical crimping up a steep wall on one of the most popular blocs in HK.

So High, Lin Fa Shan: The definition of a one move wonder, although it’s still possible to blow it on the top out if you’re not careful, and a line of pure simplicity. Simply pull on to the two crimps (this term is used generously for that left hand hold) and jump. That’s it, simple right…

Near Misses

If you can tick your way through the lines above plus these beasts below you’re well on your way to becoming a bloc god (or goddess):

Klingon, Ha Fa Shan
Bamboo (sds), Radar Rocks
Buddha’s Palm, Sisyphus
Transformer, SCL Boulder

The Master

If you can tick this lot, as ably demonstrated by Jack Lam below (he had by far the best collection of vids for these problems) then you’ve truly mastered the art of bouldering in HK.

V10 and above

Mega Tsunami, Colin’s Boulders: Originally graded a V9 by Rocky Lok but widely acknowledged as a pretty solid V10 these days (most seriously strong climbers have had to put in a number of sessions to get this in the bag). Technical crimping up an overhanging wall and with a crux right where it should be, at the top…

Metamorph, SCL Boulder: A link up of the start of Black Cow (V10) and Transformer, a pretty solid V9 in its own right, this line provides sustained hard climbing from start to finish. Add to that the beautiful rock texture and mellow stream side setting and you’ve got yourself an absolute king line to play on.

Will’s Sit, Shek O Hillside: Recently downgraded to V9 (and a moderate one at that) following a few more ascents. Regardless of grade, this problem provides an absolute beast of a line with technical crimping low down being followed by blank arête slapping above. Add to that a slightly spicy finish and you’ve got one of the best problems in HK.

Near Misses

Lets be honest, we don’t really have that many more to choose from, but if you can nail those above as well as the ones below then it’s time to pull your fi:

Black Cow, SCL Boulder
X-Storm, Sisyphus

Another Footnote: apologies for the limited number of climbers in the vids above – seems not that many crushers are YouTube’ing their sends so options were a bit limited…

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