Every seasoned rock climber knows about the limestone cliffs (off which 5.13 sport climbers clip or deep water soloists jump) of Krabi, Thailand, or the ’14 pitches, bitches’ of Portero Chico, Mexico. But sometimes it’s worth venturing ‘off the beaten track,’ putting down one’s Lonely Planet ‘X’ guide, and discovering new and beautiful places, full of phenomenal rock, to climb. Here’s a personal list of preferred and premier rock climbing destinations, segmented by continent, organized alphabetically (yes, I’m _that_ person, ha):
Lukenya, Kenya: there’s nothing quite like camping and climbing in the African bush – waking up to a sunrise where you can almost see the faint shadow of Kilimanjaro lingering in the background, basking in the scorching equatorial sun as you route find and lead your way up V Diffs whilst battling the thorns and bushes of various vegetation. Located just 30 miles south of Nairobi, Lukenya is a Kenya climbing scene favorite – but you must join the Mountain Club of Kenya to gain access to climb there (do it, they are one gnarly group of good peoples!)
Yangshuo, China: sport climbing and stunning limestone karst – need I say more? Make sure to check out China Climb, a solid guiding service who will certainly lead you in the right direction as far as bar, food, and routes beta are concerned.
Fontainebleau, France: duuude, bouldering in a forest, living it up in a chateau (or you can select more modest means of accommodation – a three-season tent – comme moi, as I did), and Carrefour pain au chocolat for petit dejeuner – the good f*cking life!
Joshua Tree National Park, California: bloody fists, climbing tape gloves, clean, granite cracks set amongst surreal, beautiful desert landscape and Joshua Trees – it’s a Dali painting come to life, and nothing beats its beauty. This is crack climbing at its best, kiddies.
The Shawnagunks, New York: an obvious and natural choice for a native New Yawker who got her climbing cherry popped in the Gunks on Gelsa, a classic and beautiful multi-pitch 5.4 climb in the Near Trapps. Pumpy quartz roofs, overhangs, sketchy ledges: a trad rat’s ultimate dream, or worst nightmare, depending on the route and whether it’s an ‘off the couch’ climbing day :).
Rio de Janiero, Brazil: where else in the world can you climb up 710 meters of granite to the foot of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado and celebrate with a mini-bottle of cava and some tasty coxinhas? Recommended route: Italianos, 5.10a, 6-10 pitches (depending how you run out you like it) on the famous Pão de Açúcar.
Suesca, Colombia: high-altitude rock climbing is always the supreme test of endurance, and although Suesca is set only slightly higher than Bogota at 2,688 meters above sea level and can’t compare to its southern friends Bolivia and Peru in terms of height, there’s still something badass about climbing ABS (above sea level). Plus, shit is run out here (make sure to bring and get ready to place some trad gear on your way up these multi-pitch ‘sport’ routes as bolts are far and few in between), which only underscores one’s sense of badassness.