Across China: Spiderwoman thrives on cliff-climbing career
GUIYANG, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Without the use of any climbing gear, not even a rope, Luo Dengping crawls up and down a vertical cliff almost effortlessly.
Luo, 38, is a native ethnic woman in the Getuhe Village in Ziyun County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. Growing up in a place well-known for its steep karst mountains, Luo started climbing cliffs around the age of 15.
"I've always loved climbing, but when I was young I knew it was something for the boys to do, not for a girl," she said.
Luo's father was one of the best climbers when she was young, and he taught cliff-climbing to young apprentices.
"When I told my father I wanted to learn too, he refused, but I pleaded with him to let me do it," she said.
Later, Luo studied along with five other trainees of her father and years of practice made her a good climber. Since she was 20, she started to work for a local tourists' area, and her job was climbing mountains.
The tradition of cliff climbing goes back hundreds of years for the local ethnic Miao people. In the beginning, climbers ascended the mountains to place coffins of deceased family members into caves. Mountain climbing was popular as locals liked to collect bird droppings and medicinal herbs from the mountain rocks.
Now the tradition has been revamped by booming rural tourism in Luo's hometown. During the four-day holiday for the Labor Day at the beginning of May, close to 16,000 tourists visited the Getuhe scenic area. Many of them were attracted to see the daredevil performance staged by the climbers.
Luo works in a six-member group to climb the 100-meter cliff. The other five performers are men.
"When there are many tourists, I climb up and down around five to six times," she said.
Years of climbing have left her hands calloused, but she never missed a step in the past 19 years. She attributes her success to the golden rule of rock climbing her father taught her.
"Do not push yourself too hard if you do not feel you can do it. Try as many times as possible," she said.
"It is easier going up than coming down. I always do as my father said, have a few more tries," she said.
Luo earns about 5,000 to 6,000 yuan (882 U.S. dollars) every month, which includes a base salary and commission on the number of tickets sold to tourists each day. Her salary has increased as the number of tourists grows.
Her family was worried about her safety, but she said she couldn't give up something she loves doing.
"I told them climbing is like walking on the ground. There is no need for them to worry," she said.
Luo's two children, an 18-year-old daughter, and a 15-year-old son, are both in school. "If they want to learn cliff-climbing in the future, I can certainly teach them," the mother said.
"We are also trying to find interested young people, take them as apprentices, and train more spidermen and spider-women," said another climber Huang Xiaobao.