The hard way to school: Children climb 800 meter cliff by vines ladders in Southwest China
By, Published: 2016-05-27 11:51:05
A line of children climb the ladder on the way back home in Liangshan, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on May 14. Photo: CFP
Editor's Note:
Atule’er Village in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province is commonly known as the “cliff village”, as it sits 1,400 meters above sea level just a stone's throw away from an 800 meter precipice. In total 72 households call the village home.

Their only link to the outside world is a series of 17 vine ladders, including some of more than 100 meters in length. Many of the cliffs are completely impassible due to a lack of ladders, and even the experienced young men in the village need at least 90 minutes to scale the cliff face and another 60 minutes to climb down.

This treacherous trek has already cost several villagers their lives, and is the only point of access for 15 children aged from 6 to 15 that go to boarding school outside the village. Twice a month they come back home for the weekend, at which point they too must brave the many ladders under the watchful eye of their parents.

15 children and 3 adults climb vine ladders to their mountaintop home. It takes them around 2 hours to scale the cliff face. Photo: CFP
The village sits at more than 1,400 meters above sea level next to a canyon with an 800 meter sheer drop. Photo: CFP
A villager ventures to the edge of the cliff in search of a signal for his mobile phone. Photo: CFP
Villager Chen Guji attaches a safety harness to his son before attempting the climb. Photo: CFP
Villager Chen Guji helps his son to climb the cliff with a simple safety harness. Photo: CFP
A household located at the edge of the cliff. Photo: CFP
Children climb the near-vertical vines up the cliff face. Photo: CFP
A child climbs the cliff without the aid of any ropes or ladders. Photo: CFP
Children sit on the rocks for a brief rest during their climb. All schoolchildren must carry heavy schoolbags on their backs as they make the climb up and down the mountain. Photo: CFP
Children not yet enrolled in school stay behind in the village and play. Photo: CFP
Children take a rest atop a vine ladder on the way home from school. Photo: CFP