The Miao people of Guizhou Province are skilled at climbing, just like Spider-Man. The Getu River Scenic Area in Ziyun County has a unique landscape of shear cliffs that are perfect for free solo climbing, where the climbers perform alone and without ropes, harnesses, or other protective equipment.
The local Miao people have ancestral skills in free solo climbing, which has become a tradition. Even though some of these walls tower 100 meters in height, the climbers attack them with only their courage for protection.
In an interview with Great Big Story, one of the “spider-men,” named Wang, said they do not use ropes or other equipment because their ancestors relied only on their courage for climbing, and that is how the skill has been passed down.
In the past, villagers climbed the shear cliffs to place coffins of deceased relatives in small caves in the cliff walls, but that tradition has declined. Today, a handful of these self-proclaimed “spider-men” continue this custom, but for an altruistic purpose: to procure rare medicinal herbs for their village.
These herbs, which are said to have a therapeutic effect in the treatment of asthma and rheumatism, grow only on cliff walls, so only those who have free solo climbing skills can collect them. Wang said it normally takes him at least four or five hours of steady climbing to gather a sufficient amount of herbs.
Understandably, very few people in Wang’s village engage in this kind of herb gathering. Fortunately, a young woman named Luo has acquired the skills necessary for free solo climbing and is eager to pass down the tradition to others.
Luo said that climbing skills were traditionally only passed down to young men, but she wanted to climb and begged her father to teach her. Today, she is the youngest climber in the village. Wang has been free solo climbing for over 30 years, and he hopes to see more people participate, for he truly enjoys the thrill of climbing.
Translated by Yi Ming.
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