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Kids Commute From Clifftop to School With Death-Defying Ladders

A village in rural China replaced decaying bamboo ladders with steel steps, improving safety.

Would You Send Your Kid on a Deadly Climb to School? Here, It Happens

In a remote part of southwestern China, children who were once making dangerous climbs through terrifyingly steep clifftops are now making safer journeys, thanks to a steel ladder installed late last year.

Atule'er Village sits isolated in a mountainous area of China’s Sichuan province. The village went viral after the state-run Beijing News published photos of schoolchildren as young as six years old scaling the cliff faces and climbing a set of flimsy vine ladders to make their treacherous journey to school. The trips were made without any safety rails or support.

After the images made the village and the school children famous for their death-defying climbs, the local government raised 1 million yuan—about $145,000 U.S.—to build safer, modern steel ladders.

“Before, it was dangerous. Now we have the stairs, so we are all relieved, the old and the young,” one local villager told China Central Television, or CCTV. “The journey is safer and we are confident in shaking off poverty.”

The village’s improved accessibility may also open up the door to tourism to the area, the locals hope. Their home is rich in dramatic scenery and traditional culture, they say.