Switchback Boulders

Access

The bouldering areas on Tai Mo Shan are all accessed from Tai Mo Shan Road, which in itself is accessed from Route Twisk. For those approaching on public transport,  your best bet is to take the MTR to Tsuen Wan or Tsuen Wan West Stations. From either of these you can then take the #51 Lui Kung Tin Tsuen bus to Tai Mo Shan Country Park Visitor Centre. From here you’ll have to hike up Tai Mo Shan Road a fair way to reach the bouldering areas themselves. A better option is to just grab a taxi from the MTR station to avoid (or at least cut down) the amount of hiking needed.

Switchback Boulders

The Switchback Boulders are the widespread collection of blocs located on the ridgeline to the east of the series of switchbacks in the upper portion of Tai Mo Shan Road, close to a collection of ruined old buildings.

Upper Cluster

The Upper Cluster is the first collection of significant blocks encountered after leaving the main hiking trail, comprising a number of short walls and a seemingly endless supply of right to left lip traverses that will give your right leg one hell of a workout from all that heel and toe hooking.

Grit Slab Blocs

The cluster of three blocs on the southern side of the hill top

1) Switchback (sds) * V1
The short crack on the edge of the boulder has a tricky start with poor feet, but a nice juggy finish above that.

2) The Butcher (sds) ** V6
Sit start using an undercut with the left and the lower part of the arête with your right. From these, slap your way up either side of the block until it is possible to meat hook the prow above and, eventually, yard through for the top itself.

3) Grit Slab * V2
Balance your way up the slab via a series of insecure moves using smears in small gritty scoops.

4) Chuck Norris Left * V7
Start on the positive side pull on the arete and small pocket. From these, somehow work your way up the arete to the notch and scoop out right. Rock left om to the slab to finish. The more ‘proper’ finish in the scoop itself awaits an ascent.

5) Grasshopper *** V7
Directly beneath the notch is a small flake. Go from this, to the notch, and the up the notch. Sounds simple, it isn’t.

6) Venus Fly Trap – Project
The overhanging finger crack. Bring several spare layers of skin cos this thing looks like it’ll eat you alive.

Lip Line

Sitting just above the Grit Slab Blocs is an obvious perched boulder with a fine traverse along the overhanging lip line.

1) The Lip Line *** V1
From positive holds on the right side of the lip to the overhanging face, traverse the positive lip all the way left to finish with a rock over once you reach the far side.

The Tablet

Even further up the hill is a collection of large tabular blocs that yield even more slopey lip traverses…

1) Tablet Extension (sds) * V?
Sit start on the right side of the rounded scoop, next to a low sloping ledge on your left. Make difficult moves to get off the floor, followed by equally difficult moves to get across the scoop and join the start of the Tablet Traverse, which is then followed to its end.

2) The Tablet Traverse ** V1
What looks from afar like a but scraping traverse is actually a pleasant lip trip at about 6 ft height. Start matched on the rounded arete, above a low flake, and then traverse your way left along the lip of the block to reach a rock over finish at the far arete.

3) Calf Killer (sds) * V?
Yet another right to left traverse across a rounded lip. Start at the right side of the overhanging lip and work your way across the rounded lip to finish with a rock over / mantle when you reach the crack on the far side. Easy at first but increasing in difficulty all the way to the end.

Fantasia

You guessed it! Yet another slopey lip traverse, but this time above a not so welcoming landing (which is as much the reason it’s still a project as the difficulty of the line itself)

1) Fantasia ** V7
The steep right arete of the block has an easy start from sat on the boulder, but soon gets worrying as you venture out above the pit below. Even more so when the positive lip becomes more and more rounded as you get closer to the prow itself.

Ian Millar braving the drop to play on Fantasia (V7). Photo: Stuart Millis

Nameless Bloc

A few minutes down the ridge to the right (as you look down) of the Upper Cluster is another small cluster of blocks, including the Nameless Bloc and Stranger Things Bloc (so called because of the large number painted on it).

1) Shattered Earth * V0
Follow the line of shattered and broken flakes up the right side of the face

2) Hollow Lens * V2
In the middle of the face is a scar left by a broken flake. Use the remnants of this to edge your way up the wall.

3) Voldemort ** V3
The blunt arête feature in the middle of the face yields to technical and insecure climbing on slightly crumbly footholds and tiny crystals and pockets.

4) John Doe ** V2
The left face of the boulder has a small pocket feature at about chest height. Use this to attain tiny pockets above before a small slap brings a good jug and easier top out.

5) Nameless VB
Climb the left side of the face via the slightly hollow and detached flake.

6) Anonymity (sds) ** V4
Sit start on the flake on the right of the face and slap your way up the arêtes on either side to eventually gain good holds at the top of the bloc.

Stranger Things Bloc

1) Eleven ** VB
Climb the diamond shaped slab on the right side of the boulder.

2) Demogorgon (sds) (Project)
Sit start at the pocket and small holds on the right side of the arête. Slap and compress your way up the poor holds above to get established on the arête proper.

3) Contortionist (Project)
Attack the middle of the undercut face, starting in the scooped out portion. Extreme flexibility and the ability to heel cool the lip from the ground will help for this one!

4) Stranger Things *** V5
Start matched on the lip on the left side of the undercut face. Throw on a high heel hook and slap your way up poor holds above to eventually gain the positive break. Finish easily up the crack.

Seam Stress Slab

Located immediately adjacent to the main path and about half way between the main part of the Upper Cluster and the Middle Cluster is a large block split by an obvious crack on its left side and a vague seam on its right side.

1) The Vine Yard (sds) ** V1
Sit start on the left side of the face and at the base of the steep crack / flake. Make awkward moves to get off the floor and then power your way up the positive crack above using good laybacks.

2) Seam Stress Slab ** V3
The thin slab just right of the crack is both technical and terrifying. A very thin start enables you to reach the discontinuous seam in the upper part of the face, which yields just enough purchase to let you balance your way to the top.

The Notch

1) The Notch * V1
Climb the steep right arete of the block from a stand start. A sit start is possible for those willing to contemplate the drop into the void if you get it wrong…

2) Rugosity Wall – Project
Using the rugosities high in the middle of the face and poor undercuts low down, somehow crank up for the lip above and an easier finish. A lower start to this also looks (vaguely) feasible but will be proper hard.

Grunty Gary

Located off to the right as you head down towards the Lower Cluster, this single problem is worth seeking out.

1) Grunty Gary (sds) ** V6
Climb the right arete of the block from a sit start to a slopey top out.

Gary Siu on Grunty Gary (V6). Photo: Royce Ferguson

Lower Cluster

The middle cluster comprises an obvious collection of blocks lower down the hillside focussed around the flanks of the small summit area that is literally littered with large blocks.

Cracked Wall

1) Project
Sit start with your left hand in the flake and right out on edge of the rounded groove. Pull up to better holds in the flake before slapping your way up the arete to the rounded ledge higher up. The next bit hasn’t been done so its up to you where to finish…

2) Cracked Wall (sds) ** V2
Sit start at the slightly hollow feeling flake at the base of the obvious crack splitting the wall. Pull on using this, before following the crack itself up the face. This is not as easy as appearances may first suggest.

Pearl Jam

This is the small collection of blocks most easily identified by the number Ten painted on them at several locations (hence the name…)

1) Canadian Crab ** V0
The uphill facing side of the boulder, climbed on its right side, gives a short but pleasing line

Canadian Crab (V0)

The Divine Bloc

1) The De-Vine Dyno ** V3
From a positive rail and crimp on the left side of the block, follow the arête until it is possible to make a slap for positive holds on the lip itself. Mantle to finish. Short but fun.

Highball Wall

1) Ochre Groove ** V4
The shallow groove on the right side of the wall starts with positive holds that sadly run out and leave a somewhat thin and exciting finish.

2) Coping Out * V3
Starting from the positive rail make your way to the obvious side pull above before finishing diagonally out left to jin the very upper part of the crack.

3) Romper *** V0
Layback the right side of the big obvious crack.

4) Faithless (Project)
Starting at the vertical features in the middle of the wall, make your way to the horizontal break. From here, look at the obvious handhold above, question whether it will really stay put if you commit to it and decide if you’re faithless or not. Currently not had enough pads (or trust) to commit to the top section.

5) Project
The left side of the wall is big, bad and mostly blank.

Triple Sloper

Slightly lower down the hillside and amongst the trees is one of the better boulders in the Switchback Sector, with relatively solid rock and a host of good problems.

1) Pocket Rocket *** V3
Start on the two positive pockets either side of the bulging arete bounding the right side of the boulder, the left one being the start hold for Perry’s Eliminate. From these, pull up to the sloping ledge above, swing left and finish with big moves between positive holds (provided you hit the right spots) above.

2) Perry’s Eliminate ** V4
Start on the small pocket with the right and a poor hold beneath the crack with the left. Engage maximum core tension to lock on to the wall before bumping your left hand 6 inches to gain the positive part of the crack. Now power your way between the distant, but good, holds to finish.

3) Triple Sloper ** V6
Start on the large sloping dish on the arete and follow a line of equally slopey holds up the arete to a slightly insecure slap for the top of the wall.

4) Triple Sloper (sds) *** V7
The sit start to Triple Sloper provides the more logical and complete way of attacking this great little feature.

Silvy Liu working the sds to Triple Sloper (V7). Photo: Stuart Millis

5) Misty Mountain Hop ** V1
The obvious right trending line of flakes provides on the easiest, and most fun, ways up the face.

6) Mini-misty Rocket ** V3
Start on the good juggy flake low down, right out left to the triangular crimp and then (in order to avoid all the suspect looking think flakey holds above, simply launch all the way to the top of the wall. Super fun!

7) Misty Rocket ** V6
Start as for ‘mini’ but skip the triangular crimp and simply jump all the way between the start and finish holds. Go double or nothing for the best chance of actually sticking the top hold!

Thomas Chu not quite sticking the dyne (that time) on Misty Rocket (V6). Photo: Stuart Millis

Sliced Block

1) Sliced *** V3
A tricky start up the bulging lower slab eventually gains access to the perfect (if slightly highball) crack slicing the upper two-thirds of the face.

Crystal Grazer

1) Nose Rib * V0
The rid on the left side of the face provides a pleasant outing up and through the nasal like feature.

2) Crystal Grazer ** V4
The middle of the slab provides a delicate smeary slab test piece focussed around the thin crimps flakes at mid-height.

3) Acne Slab ** V2
The right side of the slab is split by an intermittent series of spot like pockets. Climb these.

4) Heaven Sent *** V1
Around the corner from the previous problems is a narrow corner separated by a perfect splitter crack. This gives a perfect introduction to the art of lay backing.

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