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New Areas Discovered in China and Portugal

Nuno Pinheiro on Vida de Casal (7b [5.12b]), one of the hardest routes at Casal Pianos on Portugal’s coast. Though discovered six years ago, the crag only began attracting climbers, including Pinheiro–one of the area’s foremost developers–last summer. [Photo] Ricardo Alves

Crack Area in Portugal Explodes

In the summer of 2009, climbers in Portugal began developing routes on a series of beautiful seacliff crags. Casal Pianos, which has already been called Portugal’s “little Indian Creek,” is a short (7-25 meters) but significant swath of black and gold basalt on the Atlantic Ocean, 30 kilometers northwest of Lisbon. The country’s first notable trad crag that requires crack technique, Casal Pianos currently features about 60 routes up to 7b (5.12b) in difficulty, with current projects ranging up to about 7c+ (5.13a).

Rui Rosado first discovered the spot six years ago, but it wasn’t until last summer that the crag began to see real development. “Only a couple of routes were set up there” before 2009, said Portuguese climber Ricardo Alves, “because not many climbers know how to jam cracks and the rock was really dirty and lose.”

But when Fernando Pereira cleaned and climbed 10 new cracks last summer, a number of other climbers–in particular, Rosado, Nuno Pinheiro and Filipe Costa–followed suit. An organization called the Sociedade de Equipadores Anonimos (SEA), or Anonymous Bolters Society, have been maintaining and promoting the crag, from cleaning to drawing topos. Popularity spread enough in a few months that a sponsored festival was held there in mid-November. Beyond climbing classics and trying remaining projects, festival-goers gathered for tape-glove lessons and a party with award ceremonies.

Casal Pianos’ routes are predominantly vertical cracks and technical slabs. The quality of the climbing, though certainly less extensive, has been compared to the Peak District in the UK.

Climbers gathered for a festival, called Pianos Rachados 2009, at Casal Pianos in mid-November. [Photo] Ricardo Alves

Potential in China’s Keketuohai

Across Eurasia, in China’s Keketuohai region, is another new area, as yet untouched by climbers and much larger in scope. The only problem: it may be impossible to visit.

Lindsay Griffin reported that a climber named Dennis Gray confirmed the existence of dozens of new granite peaks and spires in Keketuohai, also known as Koktokay, in China’s Xinjiang Province, in the southern part of the Altai Range.

“There are reported to be 108 granite peaks here, with rock faces reaching an estimated height of ca. 1,000′,” Griffin said. “Gray feels that out of all the valleys he has seen in his world travels, Keketuohai compares closest to Yosemite.”

See a photo of Keketuohai and read more about the area’s climbing potential–and potential barriers to entry–at

Sources: Ricardo Alves,,,

Despite its smaller scope, basalt rock and proximity to the ocean, some have called Casal Pianos Portugal’s “little Indian Creek.” It’s the country’s first notable jamming crag. [Photo] Ricardo Alves