Dairy Farm | Singapore climbing Mecca

Table of Contents

POP! Ahhhhh! A piece of rock the size of a golf ball hit me. I had my BD helmet on and thought I would be safe from rock falls. But, that wasn’t the case. A rock fell and ricochet off a slab face and hit me……. in the neck. This is the gift I got for not visiting for 10 years. Fortunately, it was nothing serious.

Okay. First of all, the title is a touch dishonest. Dairy Farm (DF) is no climbing mecca. However, it is the only natural outdoor climbing available in Singapore so the title is somewhat justified.

I’d climbed in Dairy Farm more than 10 years ago. I did that for over a year and I stopped. Dairy Farm’s crag has all the hallmarks of a horrible outdoor climbing area. The place is humid with branches and grass growing out from the cracks on the wall. You have bugs (especially mosquitoes) for company. If it rained for the past few days, the walls will be wet with water seeping out from cracks. Last but definitely not least, loose rocks (Climber hit by a rockfall at DF). The chances of getting hit by one may be low but some people do win TOTO just by pure luck.

Return to Dairy Farm

I was looking at ways to get more outdoor climbing experience without the need to travel abroad. Hence DF is the best and only option. An MRT ride to Hillview station via the Downtown Line and the crag is just a 10 minutes walk away.

After 10 years I am happy to say… nothing changed. It is still the same horrible climbing place I remembered. Although it is always easy to disregard something that you don’t like as something crappy. Dairy Farm is the one and only outdoor crag in Singapore, hence there isn’t any other option for me but to pay this old friend whom I don’t like a visit.

The best climbing information on Dairy Farm crag is in this book.

Climb Singapore (Edition 2)

Unfortunately, the one I have is this book.

Climb Singapore (Edition 1)

Published in… I’m not sure when I can’t find the publishing date on the book. Anyway, I have had this book since 2003. Of course these days you can get Dairy Farm routes information online. There are many websites and mobile apps that provide information on climbing routes. However, www.thecrag.com is by far the best site for climbing information on Dairy Farm.

If you have the Climb Singapore guidebook, it is quite an interesting read. I highly recommend you to read the section on the history of climbing in Singapore.

History of Dairy Farm

If you read the Climb Singapore guidebook edition 1 now, you can tell that rock climbing had come a long long way in Singapore. The Dairy Farm crag we climb today was discovered by Lawrence Lee back in the 80s when he was delivering climbing gear to a customer at Sherwood Towers in Jln Anak Bukit. It was atop the Sherwood Towers where he saw the granite cliffs in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve area. And as they say, the rest is history (FYI, I got all this info from the Climb Singapore guidebook).

Lawrence Lee established the first official route in 1987 at Dairy Farm called “No Name” a 25 meters trad route graded 4c. Now there are a total of 106 routes (according to thecrag.com). There had been numerous climbers putting up routes for the past 3 decades at DF. The last bolted route in DF according to the Climb Singapore guidebook (Edition 2) is 2009.

Climbing at Dairy Farm

Climbing at Dairy Farm is not exactly safe by most Singaporean standards. The climbing gym environment we are so used to, have quickdraws permanently fixed on the wall at 1 meter apart. With 10 draws on a 12 meters route yet skipping a couple of draws can be an action frowned upon by gym staff or climbing instructors. With so many rules and safety policies in place at all commercial gyms, climbing at Dairy Farm is a breath of fresh air. The only rule is your own. 8 bolts on a 26 meters route. Want to skip a couple of draws? Sure. Why not, if you think 8 bolts is too many for a 20-plus meter route go ahead. Want to go topless? No problem. Need to go when nature calls? Hey, wherever you want so long it is far away from the crag. Of course, it is a nature reserve and the National Parks Board rules do apply, so please clear your trash before you leave.

Appreciate the routes and their creator

Bolting a route on a natural rock face requires great vision and a shit load of effort, especially for a place like Dairy Farm. Clearing loose rocks, and digging out vegetation on the crag to find a lineup is no small feat. Hauling up bolting tools and gears is a pain. Yet different generations of Dairy Farm climbers who bolt routes had done it for free for the past 3 decades, spending their own time and money on tools and protections to establish new routes. The only reward is having their name in a guidebook as the person who bolted the route.

You can climb numerous hard, fancy, futuristic routes in a gym but the routes will change in a couple of months. Whereas the routes in DF will always be the same and every generation of climbers will share the same beta and experience. That alone is a great reason to head out to DF and see how you as a climber measure up to your peers and others before you.

Take a break from plastic and head out to Dairy Farm

DF climbing pic1
Living Water 6a+ (Third Kid Section)
DF climbing pic2
Devil’s Hand 6b (Third Kid Section)

Climbing in an air-conditioned gym with clean toilets and rows of food stalls just outside is making you weak… mentally. If you think you are a kick-ass climber in your favourite climbing gym, I’ll suggest you pack your gears and head out to DF if you had never been there before. Apply your plastic holds pulling skills to good use on DF granite holds instead.

There is a Dairy Farm FB group that you can join, where you’ll get the latest DF updates. If you are new to climbing but want to give DF a try, you can post questions or seek advice from members of the DF FB group.

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