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 ** V6
Sit start using an undercut with the left and the arete 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 (Grade TBC)
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) Project (about V8/9)
Directly beneath the notch is a small flake. Go from this, to the notch, and the up the notch.

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 – Project
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 (Project). Photo: Stuart Millis

Starter’s Slab

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 Starter’s Slab and Number 11 (so called because of the large number painted on it).

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

Middle 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) Splitter Heaven *** 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.

Lower Cluster

On the next summit along from the stone forest of the Middle Boulders is another collection of notable blocks that have a scattered, but fine, collection of lines as well as a tonne of potential for further development.

Soft Tips Bloc

1) White Mule * V3
The left side of the arete, starting from whatever you can reach.

2) White Mule (sds) * V7
The sit start to White Mule from the arête and a poor undercut side pull out on the left wall.

3) Go Big and Go Home (sds) ** V5
Start matched on the low rail and, avoiding the wall to the left, crack your way up the steep wall to a dynamic finish.

4) Grotbags Corner V0
The corner crack between the two blocs

5) Project Arete
The overhanging arête will give a stunning line for someone keen enough to give it a good clean and put n the time to working it

6) McNuggets ** V2
Climb the assorted chickenhead protrusions in the middle of the wall.

7) Dihedral Dyno *** V4
Using a collection of small protrusions for hands (avoiding the chickenheads on McNuggets) and slightly larger footholds on either wall, climb the wide open corner which may or may not require a bit of a pop for the top.

Gonzalo Carranza holding the swing on Dihedral Dyno (V4). Photo: Stuart Millis

8) Blunt Bulge
The short blunt bulge above the slab looks like it will yield a short punchy problem, starting sat using the pocket around the left side and whatever you can find for the right.

9) Soft Tips (sds) *** V8
Sit start on the sloping ledge beneath the stepped overlap, just left of an adjacent boulder. Make powerful moves between the various ledges and cracks splitting the overlap until big moves (above the edge of the adjacent boulder) bring the top.

10) Stretch Armstrong ** V5
Use undercut holds to get established stood on the shelf and holding the triangular block above. From here make a committing rock over to get stood next to the block and established on the slab above. Finish slightly right using good holds on the arete. A unique problem for much of HK, requiring balance and technique rather than sheer crimp strength.

11) Chock’a Khan ** V4
Wedged between the Soft Tips Bloc and another adjacent boulder is a large undercut chockstone. Starting from matched handholds on the ledge left of this, work your way up and right along the lip of the bloc to its highest point, where a precarious rockover left lets you get standing atop it.

Ron Roy getting his groove on with Chock’a Khan (V4). Photo: Stuart Millis

Starship’s Boulder

Located about 30 m across the hillside from the Soft Tips Bloc is another small cluster of boulders including the Starship’s Boulder and Jabba’s Bloc.

1) Starship’s were Made to Fly * V5
Start matched on the undercut break on the left side of the face. From here, paste your feet on poor smears and slap for the top, being careful not to dab the block on the left. Mantle to finish.

2) Starship Enterprise (sds) * (Project)
The sit start to Starship’s involves transitioning from a painful hand jam into the undercut starting position for the original problem. Still awaiting a complete ascent even though individual moves have all been done.

Jabba’s Bloc

1) The Funk ** V4
The vertical wall around the corner from Jabba, starting from a high right in the seam and a lower left, gives a short but testy little line.

2) Jabba the Hut ** V7
Boulderers in HK will love this one as it gives them a legitimate reason to use a crouching start rather than a full and proper sit start! Start crouched low down using two holds on the inclined shelf. Move up from these to a bad hold in the vertical crack above, before launching out left and eventually fridge hugging your way up the steep narrow face.

3) Alien Slug V?
The slab wall right of Jabba

Big Willies Bloc

Located down the hillside from Jabba (about 5 minutes walk) is a gully between two blocks with a few lines either side.

1) PE Arete ** V2
Start matched on the rail beneath the the roof. From this, grapple with the slopey arête above before eventually rocking over to the slab to finish.

2) Big Willie Style *** V6/7
From a positive right chickened and low left, make a series of left hand bumps, including a very large one to hopefully nail the top of the bloc.

3) Project
Start on the obvious rail and then tackle the wall above via a collection of very small crystals.

Quickdraw Blocs

Contouring the hillside south of Jabba’s Bloc for about 30 m will bring you to a trio of blocks with big, but relatively easy, lines on the east face and a shorter but more interesting face on the back side. The safest descent from this block is to climb down the approximate line of Quickdraw, jumping the last few feet to the ground.

1) Buddha’s Arete ** V3
The left arete of the back face is a fine climb that’s over far too quickly. Needs a sit start adding too.

2) Quickdraw ** V6
A deceptive problem that looks like it should be quite easy, but isn’t. Start on two positive but small crimps on the left side of the wall, beneath a shallow pocket. Either with or without the pocket, climb directly up the face.

3) Hanging Tuff ** V4
Just right of Quickdraw are more crimps in a continuation of the same seam. Use these and a positive foothold out left to launch for the top of the boulder.

The front side of the bloc also looks to have some potential for lines.

The Final Frontier

The next summit along has huge potential for development, with another 10 to 20 blocs of good size and quality on it. Watch this space (Note: Although being called The Final Frontier, i’m pretty sure the next summit along will have just as much developable rock too…)

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