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Rock climbing and fat biking in Yangshuo: Here’s why China’s adventure capital will break you

My fingers feel like they’ve been sandpapered, and my thighs feel like iron bars. These are the joys of climbing the Egg, a legendary karst crag in China’s rock climbing capital of Yangshuo.

Following a spate of luxury hotel openings, this gem in southern China is creeping on to the radar: as Asia’s most adrenaline-filled adventure town and the country’s most beautiful rural hangout.

(Banyan Tree’s riverside villas opened a couple of years ago and turbo-luxe brand Alila is due to open in an old sugar mill this year.)

I’m here to get my heart-rate going in as many different ways as possible – on an extreme, one-day, dusk-till-dawn adventure itinerary.

The sprawling karsts of Yangshuo, on the Li River (Bernt Rostad/Flickr)

(Bernt Rostad/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

Morning: Cracking the Egg

I’m clinging to a slim shelf in the rock, having fought my way, very slowly, just 10 metres up the Egg’s 60-metre high face. I’m doing a 5.8-level climb, a tough start for a beginner. Allegedly, I’m doing “really well” – or at least my guide Aniu from local firm Blackrock Climbing says so. He’s standing below, feeding ropes through the carabiners, attached to hooks in the rock face, slowly.

I’m hoping he hasn’t noticed that I’ve already broken the first rule of rock-climbing: never grab onto the hooks to steady yourself.

Thirty years ago, the small settlement of Yangshuo in the Chinese province of Guangxi was a snoozy rice farming village – until backpackers turned up, demanding banana pancakes, jugs of Tsingtao beer and some adventure to kill time between trips to Beijing and Hong Kong.

Attempting to climb the dastardly face of the Egg

(Cathy Adams)

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