Lonely Planet Writer

Chinese man with paralysed leg stuns internet as he free-climbs sheer cliffs with no equipment

A man with a disability from south-western China has become famous for climbing down sheer rock faces without any equipment.

Chinese man Huang Xiaobao of Miao ethnic minority climbs the cliff in a cave at Getu River National Park in Shuitang town, Ziyun county, Anshun city, southwest China's Guizhou province.
Chinese man Huang Xiaobao of Miao ethnic minority climbs the cliff in a cave at Getu River National Park in Shuitang town, Ziyun county, Anshun city, southwest China’s Guizhou province. Image by Imaginechina

Fifty-two-year-old Huang Xiaobao has made headlines on the Chinese internet for rock-climbing despite having a paralysed leg since he was a small child. Huang, who is of the Miao ethnic minority, has practised the art of cliff-climbing without harnesses or safety equipment since the age of 12.

 Chinese man Huang Xiaobao of Miao ethnic minority climbs the cliff in a cave at Getu River National Park in Shuitang town.
Chinese man Huang Xiaobao of Miao ethnic minority climbs the cliff in a cave at Getu River National Park in Shuitang town. Image by ImagineChina

Free-climbing is a traditional skill in some Miao families, and Huang learned to climb with his father. The Miao people are one of 55 ethnic minority groups that are officially recognised in China. Around eleven to twelve million Miao people live in south-western China, including a large population in Guizhou province, where Huang is from.

 Chinese man Huang Xiaobao of Miao ethnic minority shows a birds nest he found on the cliff in a cave at Getu River National Park in Shuitang town

Chinese man Huang Xiaobao of Miao ethnic minority shows a birds nest he found on the cliff in a cave at Getu River National Park in Shuitang town

During his climbs, Huang collects items like swallow faeces and saltpeter from ledges and small caves. The bird poo can be sold to local farmers as fertiliser, while saltpeter is used in making explosives. Sometimes, Huang also collects herbs that are used in traditional Chinese medicines.