Two Men Trying to Steal Bricks From Great Wall of China Get Trapped On Freezing 165ft-high Cliff Edge

Two young men were found trapped on a snow-covered cliff edge of the Great Wall of China after attempting to steal bricks from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, believing they would bring good luck when placed at home.

The pair, aged 20 and 26, were reported to have lost their way while crossing the mountain near the Mutianyu section—one of the best preserved areas of the wall—in the Huairou district of Beijing, The South China Morning Post reports.

The two men were found trapped on a cliff face more than 165 feet (50 meters) high in freezing temperatures nearly four hours after they called for help, according to Chen Funing, who rescued the duo.

The pair, who traveled from the city of Langfang in the Hebei province, were reported to have carried an empty bag which they claimed would be used to pick up litter along the wall. But they were reported to have eaten at a restaurant nearby where they told staff they were planning to steal a few bricks from the Great Wall, police discovered.

The two men were exhausted and shivering from the cold but otherwise reported to be unharmed. They were allowed to return home after receiving a warning from police that what they had attempted to do was illegal and dangerous.

The latest incident isn't the first instance of brick theft at the historic landmark. Locals living in villages near the Great Wall were reported to regularly steal bricks to either be sold to tourists for around $4 or used as building materials, China's Great Wall Society said in 2016.

Today, less than 10 percent of the Great Wall, which spans around 20,000 kilometers across 15 provinces, is made of brickwork following natural erosion and theft over the year, according to the South China Morning Post.

In 2018, a northern section of the wall located near the Yanmen Pass in the Shanxi province collapsed following a period of heavy rain, with many blaming poor-quality renovations for the deterioration of the ancient site.

Many towers were also reported to be increasingly shaky, according to a survey by China's Great Wall Society released in 2014.

"It doesn't have large-scale damage, but if you accumulate the different damaged parts, it is very serious," the Great Wall Society's vice-chairman Dong Yaohui told The Guardian.

"The problem is we spend a lot of money on repairing the Great Wall instead of preserving the Great Wall."

In 2016, the state administration of cultural heritage (SACH) of China announced that regular inspections and random checks would be carried out along the 20,000 kilometer-long wall to ensure local regions are following the national protection measures introduced over a decade ago, The Guardian reported at the time.

Graffiti on the wall, including tourists carving their names into it, was also reported to be a major problem especially in the Mutianyu section. Back in 2014, in a bid to help curb the growing issue, the Mutianyu administration office established a designated "free graffiti area" at the No 14 Fighting Tower building where tourists would be allowed to freely carve their names.

The Great Wall is one of the largest building constructions ever undertaken, with parts of the wall dating as far back as the 7th century. The most extensive and best-preserved parts of the wall are from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), which spans nearly 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) from Mount Hu near the Dandong prefecture of the Liaoning province to the Jiayu Pass of the Gansu province.

Beijing Great Wall of China 2015 winter
Snow is seen on the Great Wall after a snowfall on November 23, 2015 near Beijing, China. Getty Images