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Incredible Hulk – Sunspot Dihedral

The world is small, it is even smaller when it comes to the world of climbers. In 2010, Matt Robertson, author of Long Dong Climbing Guide, put together a team of 21 climbers from all over the world including some big names like, Mayan Gobat Smith, Hazel Finlay and Tim Emmett. Somehow the average Joe, climber wana-be, me managed to get into that climb as well.

During this climb of course we forged good ties, made new friends and climbed a pretty tall building. It was during this time I met Mike Knarzer from Phoenix. Of course Mike is a great climber known to climb desert cracks and towers. All this did not make any sense to me until last week when Mike and I shared a rope on the Incredible Hulk in the high Sierra.

Mike in blue shirt in 2010 climbing tower 2 of Marina Bay Sands and me in red shirt to his left

Mike in blue shirt in 2010 climbing tower 2 of Marina Bay Sands and me in red shirt to his left

The first time I heard about the Incredible Hulk was when I watch the video, Orgins, featuring Lisa Rands and Peter Croft climbing the route Venturi Effect. The video will seem a little boring to those who have no interest in alpine trad climbing or is expecting to see Lisa Rands crank another boulder problem. But the more interesting thing about the video features the amazing legend Peter Croft. This guy is a bad ass, in case our Singapore readers out there doesn’t know. He is the Alex Honnold of the 90s and has some amazing feature under his belt, first one day link up of Salathe Wall and the Nose in 1992, free soloed the Astroman and the FA of Airstream, 5.13 on the Hulk.


The only thing I can imagine myself doing, is to climb 5.9/5.10s at 11000ft. To climb a 5.13 trad route at that kind of height is a serious undertaking and not the same as climbing the 5.13 in Tonsai beach where you can have 2 Khao pai pak (veg fried rice) in between burns!

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk

I met up with Matt and Mike at Black Sheep cafe in Bishop when Kelly and I were passing through to get to LA after the whole month of guiding in Yosemite Valley. We had a great season, having 2 big wall summit and also guided another 2 clients on big wall summits and now its time for Kelly to go home and I will be without a climbing partner for 1 week. However when Mike talked about the Hulk, it struck me that this climb has always been at the back of my mind. The long approach, the altitude and the beauty of the wall is what draws me to wanting to try to climb something similar. Something more alpine like with big long routes.

Pretty high up in the Sierra with view of Outgarde Post on the opposite side of the valley.

Pretty high up in the Sierra with view of Outgarde Post on the opposite side of the valley.

Mike and I finally settle for plans after a few days of cragging in Bishop with the Singaporeans. We decided the 5mile approach is going to be our rest day and blast up Sunspot Dihedral on the following day, rap the route on the same day and descent. Sounds doable, after all its ‘only’ 11b and 8 pitch of climbing. Seriously, I have my doubts as I have never climbed so hard so high before and I know the approach is steep. That means the calves will blow out early on those crazy stemming and endless finger cracks.

The final approach before getting to bivy site. Hulk hiding behind the approach.

The final approach before getting to bivy site. Hulk hiding behind the approach.

There was no time to waste, we cooked a big asian dinner at Matt’s place and started to pack for the 1 night stay up in the high Sierra. The following day’s drive from Bishop to Bridgeport is about 2 hours and that includes getting to the ranger station to get our Wilderness permit. And we park in the village at the trail head which requires a USD 10 parking fee that last for 7days.

Parking at the village

Parking at the village

Packed our bags and have Mike’s little Miss Pather come along with us! The first 2.5 miles of the hike is on hiker’s trail which is easy to follow and pretty flat. We made good time to the fork of the trail before taking a break at the river.

Miss Pather!

Miss Pather!

The trail head

The trail head

Pretty good view!

Pretty good view!

From the river its another 2.5mile climber’s trail and steep rocky terrain. As we started gaining altitude, the body begs  for more air and the legs become sluggish. We took about another 2 hours for the last 2.5miles.

Crossing the river to the climbers trail

Crossing the river to the climbers trail

At this point of time, the objective is right in front of you and the size of the rock is just amazing. With many routes going up the wall, we chose something which is in between, not super easy like the Red Dihedral, 10b or something crazy hard like the Venturi Effect, 12+. The Sunspot Dihedral is a long sustain climb with 3 pitches of 5.11 back to back and the crux pitch is a 11b face climb protected by bolts.

Getting water before the heading to our bivy site

Getting water before the heading to our bivy site

The bivy cave!

The bivy cave!

The following day we bolted off at 0830hrs after a double breakfast and some coffee. 15 mins hike gets us to the base of the climb from our rock cave. I took the 1st pitch 10a warmup and accidentally climbed the 10c tips that Mike has been wanting to do! Sorry Mike! Its a great climb and one could actually link it up to the 2nd rap anchors from the ground with a 70m rope!

View from inside the cave.. 1st class!

View from inside the cave.. 1st class!

The 10c tips section I stole from Mike

The 10c tips section I stole from Mike

Funky stemming already low down on the route

Funky stemming already low down on the route

Pitch 2 was a breeze after the 10c crux is out of the way. I got pitch 3 which was pumpy underclings and roof that requires you to traverse out to the left. However the crux is actually high up on the pitch with a insecure shallow crack with huge run outs!

The runout before the bolt. Can you see the last gear?

The runout before the bolt. Can you see the last gear?

Mike down low after the underclings section

Mike down low after the underclings section

Entering the spooky section as described in Supertopo

Entering the spooky section as described in Supertopo

And a looooong reach out!

And a looooong reach out!

Mike got pitch 4 which is the tiny tips crack and super long and sustain! None of the crux on the pitch is hard but the route just keeps going and going for another 50+m ! Pitch 5 is a short bouldery crux with only 5-8m of hard climbing which pass a steep face and enters the Sunspot which is easy climbing all the way to the anchor. And if one as why is this called the Sunspot Dihedral, its not hard to spot the climb which has a big red patch of orange rock in the middle of the route!

Shadow of the wall! It doesn't get sun till late!

Shadow of the wall! It doesn’t get sun till late!

The cruiser sections after the crux of the route.

The cruiser sections after the crux of the route and to the right is the sun spot

Can you see the sunspot?

Can you see the sunspot?

Pitch 6 is a easy 11a and it all goes easy after that. Instead of climbing the summit we traverse right to the last steep headwall pitch of Positive Vibrations to climb another 5.10+ 70m pitch to get the the first rap anchors. At this point we are just a few meters short of the summit of the Hulk. Since we have a long day ahead and sunlight is quickly fading away, a few quick photos and off we go rapping the rite with a single 70m rope.

The mandatory selfie

The mandatory selfie

Just short of the fake summit

Just short of the fake summit

Summit shots!

Summit shots!

At the rap anchor!

At the rap anchor!

Going down!

Going down!

Windy and high Sierra clouds!

Windy and high Sierra clouds!

My first time wearing the Arc'teryx Atom Hoody to climb! Its too cold to wear other combos!

My first time wearing the Arc’teryx Atom Hoody to climb! Its too cold to wear other combos!

The day ended with a great dinner at Denny’s in Bishop at 1130pm and a 6 hour drive to LA at 4am for my scheduled car appointment.

Overall the climbing feels not too hard since there is not hard distinct crux but its long and keeps going and going. I’m happy to onsight the crux pitch and climb the whole route in good style with Mike. I will be back next season to climb another route on this wall and for now its the end of the climbing trip for me, just waiting for the flight out of LA tonight!

The route we took

The route we took

Taiwan Rock Trip 2014 is full for this October but we have Krabi Rock Trip in Nov and if you are keen to learn how to multi pitch get in contact with me! I will be running SNCS Rock Level 3 courses and guiding in Krabi in Nov!

Climb some classics on the Thaiwand Wall during your SNCS Level 3!

Climb some classics on the Thaiwand Wall during your SNCS Level 3!

Mega Classic climb of Tonsai that you should not leave without! Humanality 6b

Mega Classic climb of Tonsai that you should not leave without! Humanality 6b

Salathe Wall, July 2014

The route demarcated by the red line. (photo from Supertopo.com)

The route demarcated by the red line. (photo from Supertopo.com)

35 pitches and 3500ft of climbing, it is the longest thing Kelly and  I have climbed. Previously having done The Nose on El Capitan too, we knew that Salathe Wall would be a level up from climbing The Nose, since there is more wide climbing/offwidth in the route and many spicy chimney pitches including the Half Dollar pitch and the Ear.

Starting off the first pitch of Salathe wall (the first 10 pitch is commonly done as a multi pitch route also known as the Free Blast)

Starting off the first pitch of Salathe wall (the first 10 pitch is commonly done as a multi pitch route also known as the Free Blast)

After just 4 days getting off Mount Watkins, my mind was set on Salathe Wall, knowing that this is the most probable block of climbing days we have left before our clients are here for the Yosemite Rock Trip 2014. So we throw Ribbon Fall Wall’s plan out and focus on the preparation for Salathe.

Easy but run out chimney after the Hollow Flake (https://dreaminvertical.wordpress.com/tag/el-capitan/)

Easy but run out chimney after the Hollow Flake (https://dreaminvertical.wordpress.com/tag/el-capitan/)

The main crux for me on this route is the Hollow Flake pitch, a quick search online will show you endless horror stories of people bailing or freezing half way up this pitch. That definitely sounds like a show stopper for me and I did not want to get up to that pitch only to realise I cannot climbing this 5.9 runout off width flake.

Over view of the Hollow Flake (picture from http://mayangobat.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/salathe-wall/ )

Over view of the Hollow Flake (picture from http://mayangobat.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/salathe-wall/ )

We started training on off width climbing since we arrived in Yosemite and that includes, Moby Dick, Captain Ahab, La Cosita left(5.9 variation), Sacherer Cracker, Copper Penny and more. Trying to climb 5.9 and above off width which is inline with my army teachings, train hard fight easy. To be frank, after all those wide and off width climbing I have been working on, it all seems more natural to climb with one side of the body in the crack and the knees, elbows quickly become very accustomed to be the weapon of choice.

Me onsighting  Sacherer Cracker (Photo by Sam Cheng)

Me onsighting Sacherer Cracker (Photo by Sam Cheng)

Gunning for the onsight of Moby Dick

Gunning for the onsight of Moby Dick

Kelly muscling some funky off width and squeeze variation on La Cosita left at the base of El Cap

Kelly muscling some funky off width and squeeze variation on La Cosita left at the base of El Cap

Big run out off width on Five and Dime

Big run out off width on Copper Penny @ Five and Dime

However, bringing a set of really good off width skills is one thing however being up there with 100oft of air below you, knowing that a fall onto that pendulum can possibly land you the fast way to hospital. Kelly and I decided that I should spend the money and get a big ass cam.

The big ass Friends #6 from Wild Country

The big ass Friends #6 from Wild Country

So we got on Freeblast on Monday and as usual we had a late start at about 9.30 knowing that its 1o pitches of hard climbing (at least hardest we have attempt to free) there was no time to waste. Flake the rope, got the tag line out, rack up and off we go on the first pitch of Freeblast which is 5.10c fingers. I would say finger crack would be more of mine and Kelly’s thing as compared to say wide cracks or chimney. The climbing on Freeblast went pretty well and I would onsight the 5.10 and below pitches (except Half Dollar pitch) and pull on gears on the 5.11 pitches. It was great to climb with a small rack without hauling and move quickly through the 10 pitches of superb climbing. The only pitch which we really had problems was the Half Dollar pitch which was a chimney with good hand jams but very slick on both side of the rocks. I think I was facing the wrong direction when I went into the chimney and that’s why I fell.

On the third pitch of Freeblast and muscling the 11b section which I couldn't free

On the third pitch of Freeblast and muscling the 11b section which I couldn’t free

The exit from the roof and getting into the chimney could be the hardest move which I fell off in this photo

The exit from the roof and getting into the chimney could be the hardest move which I fell off in this photo

Beauty crack system before getting to the Half Dollar pitch

Beauty crack system before getting to the Half Dollar pitch

In total we spend about 10 hours getting to Mammoth Terrace and back drop to the ground via the 6 raps on fixed ropes. Not the fastest but enough for our standard. =) The body however was feeling it and we decided to drive to Wilson Eastside in Bishop to get my big ass cam the following day. The big ass cam isn’t really that big after all, if you put the Wild Country size 6 claiming to be 7.6in side by side with BD’s size 6, you will be surprise they look the same size! However the shape of the cam for the WC size 6 gave it a larger camming range at the end which allows it to be used when its almost tipped out. Paid for this expensive cam and drove back to Yosemite the same day to get ready for the long week on the wall!

Finishing up the last 2 pitch of Freeblast with easy climbing

Finishing up the last 2 pitch of Freeblast with easy climbing

On Mammoth Terraces at the end of the day!

On Mammoth Terraces at the end of the day!

Kelly is tired and Qx is hungry!!!

Kelly is tired and Qx is hungry!!!

What is this expression?! haha

What is this expression?! haha

Sibei shag face

Sibei shag face

Driving on Tioga pass to East side for that WC #6 friends

Driving on Tioga pass to East side for that WC #6 friends

Day 3, we woke up early, cooked a lot of food, ate a lot, drank a lot and started to packed our haul bags. drove to Fern spring to fill up close to 35 litres of water for the haul bag and started off with hiking! Here’s our packing list,

- 35 litres of water

- 2 haul bags

- 9.8mm 55m climbing rope

- 9mm KM III static haul line from New England

- Camalot C4 double rack to 4, with 1 #5, 2 #6  ( 1 from WC)

- 2 offset TCUs + 1 offset masters, 1 set of C3 to #00, 1 set of nuts and 1 set of micro nuts.

- Cam hooks, 1 of each size

- Arc’teryx Atom hoody X 2

- Campers’ Corner light down sleeping bags

Preparing to hike loads up the wall

Preparing to hike loads up the wall

I have to say getting the pigs up to the fixed lines of Heart’s Ledge is not that bad since we hike 2 manageable loads. However the hauling is mad, there will be always a small little roof to get the bag stuck on or the rope will be running over a ledge that made the hauling impossible. Kelly and I spend a lot of effort and time to get the bags to the Heart’s Ledge before taking a rest. It was close to 4 hours of effort to jug the 5 fix lines and bring the pigs up.

Starting the jug!

Starting the jug!

Sat around waited for the sun to set and I set off for the pitch to Lung’s Ledge. P12 is a weird line, moving off with some face climbing to gain a crack then up to a roof and traverse to the left before traversing back to the right. I had too many gears down low and the rope drag was just incredible. There was a time I could hardly move and I had to down lead back to the last gear and remove it. Close to 1.5 hours to get the bags up to Lung’s Ledge where we spend our first night.

Kelly after a night's bivy on Lung's ledge

Kelly after a night’s bivy on Lung’s ledge

Lung’s ledge is a great ledge, as there is loads of space and you can choose to sleep on a sloping ledge, rocky bed or right at the edge. I chose right at the edge since its the flattest.

Looking at the monster off width on the left and the 5.10d and the Ear pitch to the right

Looking at the monster off width on the left and the 5.10d and the Ear pitch to the right

Kelly following on the easier 5.10 pitches after those scary wide climbing

Kelly following on the easier 5.10 pitches after those scary wide climbing

My turn to 自拍

My turn to 自拍

Day 4, is a early start, we have a whole bunch of climbing up to El Cap Spire consisting of 8 pitches of climbing with 3 pitches of wide climbing. First off the class 4 pitch was Hollow Flake, the fixed ropes from the belay to the flake meant that we will end up directly at the 5.9 crux of the flake. The crux was short and the WC size 7 works superb in there. I work my way above the crux bring the WC with me to a point where there would be little rope drag and I started to climb above the gear where the crack starts to widen. Taking my time and being very care (my belayer cannot see what I’m doing) I placed another Big Bro #4 about 20 feet above the WC #6 and started to climb the Hollow flake facing towards the Valley. To look at El Cap Meadow and climb this flake at the same time actually made me feel very calm, there wasn’t actually a lot to do except to jam the thighs in and keep pushing the body upwards. I also have a A0 wooden block attached to my BD #6 for the last part of the flake in case I needed to take a break.

My A0 ammo on the Hollow Flake

My A0 ammo on the Hollow Flake

When my wife gets bored belaying me, she takes pictures instead

When my wife gets bored belaying me, she takes pictures instead

Bio hazard!

Bio hazard!

Thank you for the warm sleep!

Thank you for the warm sleep!

The pitch after Hollow Flake is worth mentioning, graded at 5.7 there is little gears that you can use on this chimney as its kinda big. First good gear is about 45ft off the belay and its a mental game to keep it together and not fall, as falling would means falling onto the ledge below. 3 more easy pitches (we took the optional belays) and that get us to the Ear pitch. A Bombay chimney that becomes smaller and smaller upwards, I took off my helmet and hang it off my daisy just 15ft into the chimney and started to squeeze and leap frog the 2 #6 outwards. This is indeed a spicy pitch! I back cleaned the whole chimney leaving a free rope to jug so Kelly wouldn’t need to waste time squeezing in to retrieve gears.

Dangling the helmet on my daisy in order to squeeze deep into the Ear

Dangling the helmet on my daisy in order to squeeze deep into the Ear

One more hard pitch and we got to the Alcove, its such a relief to be at the Alcove as we can bivy there if it gets late or if we are too tired but also its such a big spot to hang out and rest the tired body! I decided we should push on and get to El Cap Spire since its such a beautiful place to spend the night and I still have some gas left in the tank. Kelly at this point of time look trashed.

Looking at the El Cap Spire from Alcove

Looking at the El Cap Spire from Alcove

Airy 5.7 chimney before El Cap Spire

Airy 5.7 chimney before El Cap Spire

Getting the bags up to El Cap Spire and the last haul for the day!

Getting the bags up to El Cap Spire and the last haul for the day!

Getting to the ledge before sunset. (watch out for mouse on the El Cap Spire!)

Getting to the ledge before sunset. (watch out for mouse on the El Cap Spire!)

Good night and enjoy the ledge!

Good night and enjoy the ledge!

Day 5, we climbed a few easy pitches to Teflon Corner followed by the Sewer pitch. Luckily it is in the middle of summer, Sewer pitch is all dried up with a huge garden to climb through and a quick link up to the Block, a sloping bivy. I fixed 1 pitch to Sous Le Toit (below the head) to a bird shit infested ledge and head down to enjoy the beautiful sunset. While doing so, a big piece of bird shit hit me on my pants. What great luck I have today!

Warm up dance..

Warm up dance..

First pitch off El Cap Spire. I regretted not wearing my free shoes as I had to climb the 5.9 squeeze in my approach shoes.

First pitch off El Cap Spire. I regretted not wearing my free shoes as I had to climb the 5.9 squeeze in my approach shoes.

Trying to get a picture like Royal Robbins on their FA

Trying to get a picture like Royal Robbins on their FA

Under the Teflon Corner

Under the Teflon Corner

Happy to be on the Block

Happy to be on the Block

Check out the sloping ledge!

Check out the sloping ledge!

View from the Block

View from the Block

My wife gets the super single on the Block

My wife gets the super single on the Block

Day 6, after waking up from a ok sleep, I did not slide on the Block as I used a haul bag to cushion my ass against some loose blocks. Kelly however had a nightmare and scream as though she fell off the Block and I actually thought I would find her hanging off the wall somewhere.

Following morning we ate our usually breakfast, bread with tuna and salami and gunned for the last bivy! Guarding the Long Ledge is the head wall, a split pitch of 12a and 12d which we took the optional belay as our rope is too short. The aiding on this pitch is tricky with some flaring pin scars and long reach for good placements. I took a few falls before getting to the belay under the huge roof.

Off the Block with Kelly jugging back to the last high point

Off the Block with Kelly jugging back to the last high point

Jugging to the last high point with El Cap below me

Jugging to the last high point with El Cap below me

Check out the steep cracks before the Roof

Check out the steep cracks before the Roof

Below the roof..

Below the roof..

The exposure is big!

The exposure is big!

The bongs on the belay. Pretty solid!

The bongs on the belay. Pretty solid!

Sticking my ass off the roof as I'm aiding the whole thing.

Sticking my ass off the roof as I’m aiding the whole thing.

The 5.13 crux of the route. Steep!

The 5.13 crux of the route. Steep!

The roof is great and manageable for free climbing and the great position you are in when pulling those steep moves and having the whole El Captian under you is pretty rad. I skip the chains right after the roof (bad move) and went for the bolted belays instead. This could be the hardest aid climb of the whole route with tiny gears, steep wall and hard to communicate with the belayer (under the roof) I pulled a few pieces of small nuts before getting to the belay. I would think this bit would be a really hard free climb clocking in at 5.13s!

Looking down from the belay

Looking down from the belay

Tired and moving very slowly we catch a full view of the El Portal fire from the start on the head wall. The fire spread really quick and soon Kelly and I were just covered in smoke and dust from the fire.

Fire just started

Fire just started

Grew really big by the time we reached Long Ledge

Grew really big by the time we reached Long Ledge

The window of light and ray of hope

The window of light and ray of hope

We got to Long Ledge which really lived up to its name, about 35ft long and just shoulder width apart, it made the last bivy really interesting place to be at. As usual I would rest drink some water and eat some cliff bar and try to fix a pitch before the sunset. Knowing that we have 3 more pitches to climb, the mood of the climb suddenly lighten up and we ate and drink all we could for that night. One word of advice for Long Ledge is there is almost 15litres of water left there and if you could drink some of those and bring the empty bottles with you, it could prevent the place from becoming like Camp 6 on the Nose.

Take a rest first la..

Take a rest first la..

Off Long Ledge on the hidden crack and just 4 pitches from the summit!

Off Long Ledge on the hidden crack and just 4 pitches from the summit!

Day 7, was straight forward climbing, the body could hardly free 10d cracks but it doesn’t matter anymore since getting to the top and jumping into the Merced river for a quick wash off was all the body is asking for.

The Long Ledge and the rest of the route downwards

The Long Ledge and the rest of the route downwards

Smoky morning but lets take a picture first. After all its not every day you get to sleep on the wall huh?

Smoky morning but lets take a picture first. After all its not every day you get to sleep on the wall huh?

The last few meters of climbing!

The last few meters of climbing!

Summit shot!

Summit shot!

My best big wall partner on earth

My best big wall partner on earth

The pine tree at the top marks the end of the route

The pine tree at the top marks the end of the route

I’m happy that we free climbed more on Salathe Wall, instead of the full aid mode we were in on the Nose 2 years ago. I’m also glad I have muster enough courage to climb the Hollow Flake which ended up being not a big deal. The Ear was actually the scarier one. Kelly and mine 8th big wall together and 2nd big wall on El cap, I guess we have come a long way and I will work towards being a better climber so I can free all the 5.12 pitches when I get on Salathe Wall the next time!

Our sponsors Arc'teryx Singapore for helping us so much in the last 2 years for all our wall adventures! Big Thank you!

Our sponsors Arc’teryx Singapore for helping us so much in the last 2 years for all our wall adventures! Big Thank you!

The descent off East Ledges

The 4 hrs descent off East Ledges

Got to the Manure Pile Buttress bus stop at 5.50 pm and wondering if the bus is coming.

Got to the Manure Pile Buttress bus stop at 5.50 pm and wondering if the bus is coming.

Yes got on the last bus!

Yes got on the last bus!

Hope everyone enjoyed the read and look out for the trad course and Taiwan climbing trip in Oct 2014! Hope to see more aspiring big wall climbers and trad climbers soon from Singapore!

While soaking in the Merced river, El Cap is staring down at us with the sunset on it

While soaking in the Merced river, El Cap is staring down at us with the sunset on it

Many more big walls in this couple!

Many more big walls in this couple!

Mount Watkins – July 2014

2009 photo of Kelly and I on Regular North West Route of Half Dome. Mount Watkins is the wall to the left of me with a depression in the middle.

2009 photo of Kelly and I on Regular North West Route of Half Dome. Mount Watkins is the wall to the left of me with a depression in the middle.

Nested at the back of the Yosemite Valley with a big 4-5 hours hiking approach, Mount Watkins is pretty remote with no tourist bus coming by to snap pictures of climbers, no hikers walking at the base of the route and pretty far from help if you were in trouble. To top it off, there is a 3-4 hours or 800ft of fixed ropes guarding the start of South Face of Mount Watkins. The guidebook says 4 pitches of class 4 – 5.8 climbing and I could see how all those fixed rope could be done in 4 super long pitches.

The top of Watkins peeking out at us from the climber's trail

The top of Watkins peeking out at us from the climber’s trail

Kelly and I’ve been wanting to climb the Mount Watkins since last August, but have to bail on the plans as we have more work to do in US than expected and we ended up climbing the Lost Arrow Spire. Which was a great climb but the big obstacle of getting to the back of the Valley with huge loads, spending 3 nights on the wall and possibly getting the summit late on the last day with no daylight to find the hikers trail continues to make Mount Watkins a challenging yet attractive wall to climb.

Long hikes to get water and gears to the base makes this wall a huge challenge and keeps many Yosemite climbers away

Long hikes to get water and gears to the base makes this wall a huge challenge and keeps many Yosemite climbers away

However on the hike there are many beautiful spots!

However on the hike there are many beautiful spots!

We decided that we wanted to get on this beautiful wall and quickly made plans to hike our first load up the base of the wall. Supertopo says 3hrs on the approach and 4 hours on the access pitches and as usual I find the guidebooks in America is always very optimistic or just superhuman, nuclear powered timings.

The second load of equipment and food. Kelly's Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30 fully loaded!

The second load of equipment and food. Kelly’s Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 fully loaded!

Catching the bus to Mirror Lake trail head

Catching the bus to Mirror Lake trail head

Starting off with the hike to Mirror Lakes -> Snow Creek trail -> Climber's trail after wooden bridge

Starting off with the hike to Mirror Lakes -> Snow Creek trail -> Climber’s trail after wooden bridge

Taking a break at the wooden bridge. Its really hot out here!

Taking a break at the wooden bridge. Its really hot out here!

 

Kelly and I took close to 5 hours with 4 gallons of water, 2 ropes and some gears. We thought we were pretty slow as the trail after the bridge on Snow Creek Trail is hard to follow and we stray off the trail onto the river bed a few times. The key to getting on the right way is to wall along the river till you come to a huge boulder on your left with Watkins right behind it. At this spot it was great to pick up water and head in for a cold dip!

Shower time!

Shower time!

Huge rock with Watkins right behind it. Marks almost the end of the long hike.

Huge rock with Watkins right behind it. Marks almost the end of the long hike.

The mosquitos were the crux of the hike as we stood at the base of the access pitch, that could be like 250 mosquitos swarming around us and on average I could kill 4 mosquito with one swap on my back.

Looking up at the wall from bivy spot 1

Looking up at the wall from bivy spot 1

It was pretty late at about 6.30pm when we got there we we brought the bags to the top of Pitch -4 and hung it on the tree. The job was done and we ran down the trail and marked the trail with cairns and sticks avoiding the blood donation drive.

We rested the following day, cooked a lot of food and water parade like NSFs during BMT knowing that we will be thirsty during the 4 days on the wall. The climbing preparation for such a big mission is to be have enough water, food and gears to get you up there and stick it out on the wall till the job gets done. So after the big rest day, we hiked our gears and empty bottles to the base of the wall again. This time we use purification tablets and about 9 litres of water from the river. In total we would have 25litres of water for 4 days on the wall, that includes a leaking water bag which we tried to duct tape together to prevent the leak.

Our precious water!

Our precious water!

Here’s our gear list -

- Singing Rock Guru harness and Nara

- 2 x Arc’teryx Atom hoody jackets

- 2 x Arc’teryx Hybrid SL Goretex jacket (I know its summer but the Sierra storms do come)

- 2 x light down sleeping bags from Campers’ Corner

- 1 x 65m New England KMIII 9mm static rope

- 1 x 56m Tendon 9.8mm

- Double rack of c4 with triples of .75,1,2

- Single rack of c3 – 0,1,2

- 1 x Talon, med and large Cam hooks

- 1 x offset master and 2 x offset TCU

- Singing Rock  Cam clean

- 2 Juma and 1 mini traxion

Its mostly our regular rack for big wall with nothing extras except for a size 5 camalot.

Kelly on the fix ropes hauling water and gear to the start of the climb

Kelly on the fix ropes hauling water and gear to the start of the climb

The first 800ft of fixed ropes to the ledge is brutal. We packed 2 haul bags and one Arc’teryx FL 30 pack and had to shuttle the bags in a leap frog method in order to have enough rest. However the bag with the most water was too heavy for Kelly to carry and jug and I figured that it would be much faster for me to make a few more round trips to get the bags higher than to have my wife suffer with a bag that is close 1/2 her weight.

Fixed our ropes to Pitch 2

Fixed our ropes to Pitch 2

3 hrs on the fixed ropes to get to the nice bivy spot at the base. Time was 7pm and we hung around drank water rested a little and head off to the base of the climb. At this point of time the guidebook had a huge error with a pitch to the pendulum and the 5.11d variation starts right off the ground. It’s actually 250 ft of climbing to the pendulum anchors and 2 raps to the ledge. There is also a old leaper bolt in the middle of the first rap which you will need to clip in order to stay tensioned on the rope to get to the next anchor. We took much longer than expected and was on the wall without headlamps until 10pm. Kelly wasn’t pleased about that, however we have to full moonlight as our headlamps! Super beautiful and bright night!

I know this could be taken anywhere haha

I know this could be taken anywhere haha

There were a lot of trash on the wall and at the base of the wall, that includes 2 shit paper bag(which we burned), pillow, first aid kit, toilet paper, 2 pairs of hiking shoes and a Gerber knife. We managed to clean up some of the mess but have to stash the rest of the rubbish at the corner of the first pitch since our fixed ropes for the first day doesn’t go there.

Lost your shoes?

Lost your shoes?

The second day’s plan is to jug up to pitch 2 and climb to pitch 8 of Sheraton Watkins ledge which was a huge sloping ledge with 2 good spots for bivy. The climbing or the aiding in these 8 pitches are easy but the wall is super glossy! Pitch 7 have got a lot of confusing anchors but it doesn’t really matter which one you haul or climb to, they will work out pretty much the same. Our bags were heavy and hauling is painful of the low angle wall before Sheraton Watkins.

Starting out the day by jugging

Starting out the day by jugging

Belaying off a tree at pitch 3

Belaying off a tree at pitch 3

I love the view of walls dropping down below my feet

I love the view of walls dropping down below my feet

Kelly and I got to Sheraton Watkins at about 7pm with 2 more hours of daylight we could have fixed pitch 9 but decided we want to chill out and enjoy the view of Half Dome in sunset.

3 more pitches to Sheraton Watkins !

3 more pitches to Sheraton Watkins !

Sunset on Half Dome

Sunset on Half Dome

Kelly's the wall chef

Kelly’s the wall chef

Enjoying Mama Noodle dinner(Tom Yum!)

Enjoying Mama Noodle dinner(Tom Yum!)

The decision was wise as we started the next day late since we know the next bivy is at pitch 11 which is kind of close to where we are actually. So we took our time, enjoyed breakfast as a leisurely pace and move on to pitch 9. Pitch 9 starts off with some grassy cracks which I french free and got to another huge ledge where I made a terrible mistake of going too low instead of the ‘belly crawl’ on top. There was also a huge mess of bad bolts, broken slings and broken wires which we tried to clean up and replaced some of them. At this point there is one hard free move after the bolts to the right and that gets you a much deserved rest with a 2 beefy ASCA bolts on a great ledge!

Looking down at Sheraton Watkins with a blue haul bag stashed there

Looking down at Sheraton Watkins with a blue haul bag stashed there

Kelly's lead!

Kelly’s lead!

The husband doing the hauling @@

The husband doing the hauling @@

 

Kelly led pitch 10 which was her first successful big wall lead (great job Kelly!) and I quickly dispatch pitch 11 to get to our bivy ledge. It was 4pm and the sun is out of the way with nice cool temperatures, we decided to fix as many pitches as possible. So I went with the 10b variation of pitch 12 and it was sweet fingers that was a little pumpy but not hard and that pitch went pretty quick.

Sent it!

Sent it!

Next pitch is the pendulum pitch which most of us are familiar with as shown in Reelrock 7 where they filmed Alex Honnold . The moves off the belay to a large expanding flake is a huge runout without gears a fall means you will hit one of the ledges below you and the creaking sound from the expanding flake just freak the hell out of me. I think I was mentally ‘pumped’ and gave up on free climbing to aid all the way to the pendulum, while Kelly quickly jug the pitch.

Sweet ledge on Pitch 11

Sweet ledge on Pitch 11

We fixed our rope on top of pitch 13 and our 65m static rope was too short as we tied it to the anchor of pitch 11! Rectify the problem and head back to bivy and dinner. Easy day with some scary moments =D

Jugging to our last high point

Jugging to our last high point

Body ache la

Body ache la

Last day on Watkins, started off with jugging that ’180′ feet rope back to pitch 13 and a big day ahead of us. Pitch 15 onwards, the wall starts to get really steep and bolt ladder on that pitch needs some work. Clipped a copper head on the first piece and just dinosaur era bolts all the way to some free climbing and pass a ASCA bolt to the anchor. Way long pitch and a funky hook move in the middle of the bolt ladders since the shorty me couldn’t free that face move.

What is this?!

What is this?!

War relic

War relic

High up on pitch 15

High up on pitch 15

Ever beautiful view

Ever beautiful view

Hand cracks that I can't climb because I'm so wasted!

Hand cracks that I can’t climb because I’m so wasted!

Hauling on the head wall is sweet!

Hauling on the head wall is sweet!

Last belay!

Last belay!

Staring at the lip!

Staring at the lip!

Summit! Yay!

Summit! Yay!

The 10d off width and the 10c hand cracks at the top of the route are truly the pitch of the route, with long 120-150feet pitch with just perfect hand cracks soaring to the top of Watkins. It already felt like the beer keg is waiting for you at top. But when you top out and realised that the walk down is 7 miles down with knee busting switch backs, its a good idea to drink up all the water you have and have some dinner before heading down for the 5 hours walk to the car!

Tough Jefferey pines that grew everywhere!

Tough Jefferey pines that grew everywhere!

Summit shot!

Summit shot!

We stole a shower from Curry Village at 1am and drove to Oakhurst for supper at 2.30am! Double serving of breakfast at Denny’s! Awesome!

Sweetest view after a 4 days climb

Sweetest view after a 4 days climb

Salathe wall is up next and I’m going to lose some sleep over hollow flake. Hopefully I do not die if I fall out of that flake!

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014 trad climbing!

I understand a post is way overdue on this blog and I apologise to all readers who have been following my blog. Its just been a crazy block since I got back from Taiwan and getting ready for our big trip to US and after our summit of Mount Watkins which marks the completion of the triple crown or climbing the 3 biggest faces in Yosemite via their main routes, I finally feel I can take a break and write a entry!

Me and Kelly on the summit of Mount Watkins via South Face (Trip report on that coming up!)

Me and Kelly on the summit of Mount Watkins via South Face (Trip report on that coming up!)

Before all these madness, we spend a month in Taiwan with great people and new faces who decided to step forward to learn this amazing skill of trad climbing. The first step to becoming a big wall climber is to have good trad climbing skill and know how to place gear. And I have to say we have 12 more climbers from Singapore have taken that big step!

Great weather, bleed fingers and my wife's monkey face.

Great weather, bleed fingers and my wife’s monkey face.

April – May weather in Taiwan is good, from cooling weather in April it gradually turns warm towards May as the summer approaches. We have many days off good climbing weather except for a 4 day block when it was time for Kelly and I to climb, it started to rain really hard. I guess plum monsoon gotta live up to its name!

Some sandstone action at School gate

Some sandstone action at School gate

Most participants come for a 4 day trip over a weekend and taking 2 days off the week. They would fly into Taoyuan International Airport via a overnight flight via Scoot and arrive at 6am (tiring!) or flight via Tiger or other airlines the night before for me to pick them up at a near by train station like Fulong or Ruifang train station.

Great weather in April and May. View of Bitou Cape.

Great weather in April and May. View of Bitou Cape.

The first day would be learning the ropes of placing gears and lead climbing on trad gears. Of course our training is relative to participants abilities level. If you are confident on rocks and have a flair with trad gears, we can move really fast and climb many interesting things in the coast. Having said that, we go progressive and gear you up to leading your first trad route on easy routes 5.5 – 5.6 YDS.

Learning to place gears! The first lesson in Second Cave! Great outdoor classroom when it showers in Long Dong!

Learning to place gears! The first lesson in Second Cave! Great outdoor classroom when it showers in Long Dong!

Learning the jamming techniques

Jie Ling learning the jamming techniques

The second day is usually doing some revision, learning how to build anchors and getting off a typical trad route setting up a abseil. These are all important skills to learn when you are leading any kind of routes outdoor. So even if you do not like trad climbing by now (which I do not think so) you still get to learn very important skills in a safe and beautiful environment.

Sek Koon from KL on anchor building and learning how to get off a climb

Sek Khoon from KL on anchor building and learning how to get off a climb

The third day is spent climbing some of the more beautiful single pitch routes in Long Dong or also known as the Long Dong classic trad climbs like,

Jie Ling on Sea Crack 5.6 School gate sector

Jie Ling on Sea Crack 5.6 School gate sector

Tom on Bomb Fuse 5.8 Clock tower sector

Tom on Bomb Fuse 5.8 Clock tower sector

Kay on Golden Shower 5.9 Golden Valley sector

Kay on Golden Shower 5.9 Golden Valley sector

Nicole on Images of Yosemite 5.10a Golden Valley Sector

Nicole on Images of Yosemite 5.10a Golden Valley Sector

As usual we have surprise for everyone before they go home and there is a choice to climb a offwidth multi pitch Via Del Drago 5.10 in Grand Auditorium sector or climb to a sea cliff tower in Long Dong on Clock Tower. Whichever option the group chooses they get to experience the true adventure of climbing and getting up to see a beautiful view of the North east coast of Taiwan in a unique way.

Those unfamiliar with the wide jamming technique will love this climb. Some scraps and bruise guaranteed!

Those unfamiliar with the wide jamming technique will love this climb. Some scraps and bruise guaranteed!

The party of 4 + 1(photographer) hanging out on the ledge of Via Del Drago

The party of 5 + 1(photographer) hanging out on the ledge of Via Del Drago

Elton on the access pitch of Via Del Drago

Elton on the access pitch of Via Del Drago

Enjoying the view from top of Clocktower!

Enjoying the view from top of Clocktower!

 

Easy routing on the last day with Sek Khoon at Golden Valley

Easy routing on the last day with Sek Khoon at Golden Valley

This trip, Kelly and I have not been trad climbing a lot as we are just working on strength and power training for our upcoming projects in Yosemite. Did a whole load of climbing in Backdoor trying to send every route in the 5.12 range there. Not quite successful but we will get there!

Kelly working the muscles on Coach Demonstrates 5.12

Kelly working the muscles on Coach Demonstrates 5.12

Taiwan Trad Climbing will be back in October 2014 so check the flight tickets and book your flight early! We are already half booked for the trip so get in touch with us really soon with your timings and we will get a tailored course or itinerary for you soon!

Taiwan Trad climbing 2014

Learn trad climbing!

Learn trad climbing!

 

 

老君山, 黎明攀岩。 Liming rock trip!

In Singapore for just under 5 weeks and got many things done including putting up the first urban highline in Singapore and also Singapore first Urban Highline gathering! It was great to see slackliners in Singapore opening up to new ideas and get out of their comfort zone. =)

Judith on the line!

Judith on the line!

Thanks to Rock Exotica Singapore for loaning us the enforcer!

Thanks to Rock Exotica Singapore for loaning us the enforcer!

Above all, we are also proud to have Arc’teryx Singapore as our sponsor for the 2nd year in a row! This time we have Marmot, Singing Rock,Boreas and Exped throwing in new clothing and gears for another year of exploration and climbing! Big thank you to Campers’ Corner, it is important for us to have your support so we can continue our adventures!

Our new gears

Our new gears

First stop this time is to Liming, 黎明,  a little village 3 hours from Lijiang nested in Yunnan, known for its landscape and beautiful snow peaks. I have wanted to climb in 黎明 for a long time since the first news of trad climbing have appeared in this Red Sandstone walls. Also described as the Indian Creek of the East, 黎明 spots walls and walls of red sandstone with splitter cracks and corners.

The other gorge

The other gorge

The rock features!

The rock features!

Thousand turtles!! Tourist view!

Thousand turtles!! Tourist view!

The minute we arrived in 红石街, Red Stone Street, the thing that caught my attention is the Dinner Wall, a huge red sand stone wall at the back drop of the street. The noisy and busking street of Lijiang was quickly replaced with the quietness of the gorge and the music of the flowing river. From the street, I could quickly pick out lines that were striking and calling out to us to climb it, and one of them is Soul Awakening, 5.10 that rise to the top of Dinner wall.

Dinner wall from the hotel entrance

Dinner wall from the hotel entrance with Soul Awakening to the left of the wall

Dinner Wall with the ladders for primitive honey farming

Dinner Wall with the ladders for primitive honey farming

Cherry Blossom too! Its spring!

Cherry Blossom too! Its spring!

Unfortunately, no trip to China is not accompanied with food poisoning and blackouts. This time is was me who wasn’t feeling great in the stomach and have to spend the first day in bed puking my guts out and nesting the high fever. However, I was up the following day and we wasted no time and headed to the crag we came for, Lisu Pillars, 立柱区. This is where the hardest trad climb, Air China, is nested at together with mixture of 5.5 – 5.13 routes. The access was easy with hikers stairs that lead us to 3/4 of the way and the rest is on climber’s path.

The stairs!

The stairs!

Looking pale after a day lying in bed from food poisoning

Looking pale after a day lying in bed from food poisoning

Still feeling the effects of puking my guts out the previous day, I took it easy and climbed easier routes on Screaming at the Moon, P1, 5.9, Highway to Hell, 5.10a and Morass, 5,10d. With the body warmed up and getting excited, I decided to get on Faraway Corner, 远角, 5.11+ after watching Kelly TR it. My body must be feeling great after a whole day in bed and itching to sink those finger locks and lay backs as I flashed 远角 giving the trip a great start!

Kelly on the send on

Kelly on the send on Faraway Corner

Another view after the hardest parts

Another view after the hardest parts

Working on my 2014 resolution, which is to climb a 5.12 trad route in Yosemite, I decided to try to onsight as many 5.11s as possible and work on as many 5.12 as possible. The hardest route could be Japanese Cowboy, 日本牛仔, 5,12+ which is a steep layback on 6 inch cracks all the way up to a tiny crack that barely takes C3 0. It was a little too much for me as I haven’t climbed a lot of overhanging crack lines but I make it a point to red point that route on my next trip back to Liming.

Naldo on his first lead in Liming

Naldo on his first lead in Liming, Japanese Cowboy is the route to the right after this anchor.

Going for it! On his first few leads in Liming

Going for it! On his first few leads in Liming on Screaming to the Moon,5.9, P1

Naldo sinking a jam and a cam..

Naldo sinking a jam

There was indeed something in the bag after trying at least 5 5.12 routes in Liming as I unexpectedly onsighted Boving Reflection,5.12- in the Primitive area. Its a awkward hands to finger crack that runs up over 2 arch with very thin feet for smearing. It was kind of a fight at the crux of the route as I developed the sewing machine legs and was jamming gears in the undercling crack.

Kelly entering the crux of Boving Reflection. Some really thin feet with blind placements of gears.

Kelly entering the crux of Boving Reflection. Some really thin feet with blind placements of gears.

Entering the crux

Entering the crux of The Reckoning, with a few powerful moves before the finger locks.

终审判决,The Reckoning, 5.12c is the other route that is worth mentioning for this trip. Its the hardest route I have worked on trad and also pretty close to what I usually climb on bolted routes. The great thing is there is a top rope on this route! Whoever is working on it, big thank you for your TR! I climbed 终审判决 twice on TR to find out where to place gears also to know the moves on the route a little better. The next time I had a chance to get on it was the last day of the trip when I have 2 lead attempts on it, with the first attempt being the closest as my finger locks slipped out of the crack while trying to step above the crack to make the next move.

Kelly flashing the Owl!

Kelly flashing the Owl!

Now most of you Singapore climbers will think that the good routes in Liming are all pretty hard lead on trad but there’s where you are wrong! The great Owl, 5.9 is a great route in the primitive area with a 22m hand crack that runs all the way to almost the top of the wall!

Soul Awakening!

Soul Awakening!

On Souls Awakening, P4

On Souls Awakening, P4

Soul Awakening, a 6 pitch 5.10 route is worth spending a morning on too. The first 4 pitch are superb with good gear and long endurance climbing. Pitch 5 is covered with bird shit and if you are looking at climbing a off width painted with birdshit, this might be your thing. Pitch 6 is a long chimney with some loose rocks so please take care when climbing P6!

Getting cold in the shade with the rain threatening to pour on us and Naldo climbing Scarface

Getting cold in the shade with the rain threatening to pour on us and Naldo climbing Scarface

Naldo TRs the Scarface

Naldo TRs the Scarface

Scarface 2 , at a moderate 5.11- grade is a long endurance climb with some great hand and feet jams. If you are Kelly’s size then it may not be your thing as the size 5 crack down low might put you off.

Looking for the Pineapple.. as Kelly looks on.. =D

Looking for the Pineapple.. as Kelly looks on.. =D

Getting the knees in, the right way!

Getting the knees in, the right way!

Pine Apple upside down, 5.9, at Dinner wall is also another great climb with a little twist to it, since nothing really fits in the crack except for your knees.

In the cave when it rains

In the cave when it rains

The sun is out!!!!

The sun is out!!!!

It works like a solar panel. Keep the heat in and store it in the down jacket!

It works like a solar panel. Keep the heat in and store it in the down jacket!

Squeezing it in.. Satisfying climb on its own..

Squeezing it in.. Satisfying climb on its own..

Kelly lay backing some un named crack line

Kelly lay backing the unnamed crack line

Bao and trad gear!

Mantou and trad gear!

Indeed they have a trash problem..

Indeed they have a trash problem..

Liming is a great trad climbing place in Asia, apart from the great culture experience from the Lisu tribes, there are also many beautiful attractions like the Lover’s pillars and the Thousand Turtle mountain, 千龟山. In my opinion, just being in Liming, Lao Jun Shan National park is a great get away from the busy crags at home and busking city. A beautiful trad climbing crag with more than climbing it has to offer!

Lover's Pillar

Lover’s Pillar

Real beauty

Real beauty

 

Look out for trad climbing courses and trips to Liming, Lijiang soon! Or contact me if you are interested in travelling to this beautiful sandstone trad paradise! Private guiding, multi pitch or SNCS L3 courses and Crack climbing workshops/coaching available!

 

Viva espanol

Almost a month back in Singapore and not a single entry on my blog. It’s been a stressful month back home with Chinese New Year hitting us and working on weekends in climbing gyms and slackline events. While all these are happening, my heart and mind always drift back to the peaceful land of Spain where climbing is at your doorstep and abundance of trad,sports, multi pitch and all-you-need-outdoors activities.

Penon D Ifach from the tourist view

Penon D Ifach from the tourist view

One special place, I would like to highlight is Penon D Ifach in Coasta Blanca, which is one of the areas that is out of the Singapore climber’s radar. Due to it not being featured in mainstream American media nor does it have pitches and pitches of 5.14 next to each other. Anyway how many of us actually climb 5.14s in Singapore anyway?

View from Puig Campana

View from Puig Campana

Kelly and I being terrible climbers, who are able to climb up to only 5.12s decided to go to Coasta Blanca, a place which seems to be really popular among British climbers due to the climate and the warm winter! Sella seems to be a major climbing area in Coasta Blanca and that was our obvious first stop from whatever information we could gather from the internet. Sella is nested about 30mins drive in the highlands away from the major cities and highway. There isn’t a campsite and some expensive accommodation which are not really climber orientated. We’ve heard of a climber’s refugio in Sella but failed to find it in the fading sunlight and decided to head to a popular refugio in Finestrat, The Orange House.

Puig Campana

Puig Campana

Interesting rock composition

Interesting rock composition

Sella bird

Sella bird

Rapping off Puig Campana

Rapping off Puig Campana

It was great staying at The Orange House for a couple of days exploring the crags of Sella and Puig Campana. The climbing here was alright, Sella has some older crags are super polish and Puig Campana on the south west face got some really uncleaned routes. The only place worth mentioning in this area was The wild side, which is more of a solid 5.12 and above climber’s playground. However the place faces some access problems and you actually need to hop the fence at someone’s garden and climb in their backyard. Once you are in the area, there are routes from 5.11c all the way up to 5.13s. Kelly and I are not into projecting a hard route on our last 2 weeks in Spain so we decided to head to Calpe.

Climbing in Sella, The wild Side

Climbing in Sella, The wild Side

Calpe on the other is a big tourist town with beautiful beaches, marinas, restaurants by the sea and amenities of a tourist town. We stayed in Casa Kariya with Ian and Mitchell up in the nest of private houses. They have a small cottage in the garden which is one of the best accommodations we have had in months of travelling in Europe. It was cheap and totally worked for us and most importantly travelling to Penon D Ifach was a breeze from the cottage!

Climbing in Olta with Penon in View

Climbing in Olta with Calpe and Penon in View

Cooking in 2 pots our little cottage

Cooking in 2 pots, Casa Kariya, our little cottage

The pots

The pots

Penon Dance, with new harness and better weather..

Penon Dance, with new harness and better weather..

Once in Calpe, the first mission was to climb Penon D Ifach via a easy route to check out the approach and descent, plague by a few days of bad weather and a very worn out harness, our plans had to be postpone. On a day when the weather was threatening to rain just for a while and less than 1mm, we decided that we can’t wait anymore and head up Penon D Ifach via Coasta Blanca, 6c+. The route has the same start as Via Valencienos and split right to a some really loose climbing which can’t qualify as the top 50 climbs in Coasta Blanca. Once you get off the 2nd pitch, the route starts to flow with long pitches and varies from some crack climbing to slabs and face and finally the crux pitch on top is kind of steep. Non of the pitch disappoint us except for pitch 4 which I would suggest bringing a size 1 cam to protect the run out face leading to the first bolt.

IMG_7693

Kelly on pitch 3 of Coasta Blanca

View from pitch 3

View from pitch 3

On Coasta Blanca checking the route topi

On Coasta Blanca checking the route topo

The weather did not hold up and it started to rain on us from the 4th pitch onwards and climbing all the harder pitches on top was more exciting when it is wet! Did we mention the seagull dump on top of Penon? It was really gross when it rains so watch your hand holds!

The view from pitch 4 of Coasta Blanca with the rain chasing us up the wall

The view from pitch 4 of Coasta Blanca with the rain chasing us up the wall

P4 of Coasta Blanca in rain jackets (Hybrid SL from Arcteryx)

P4 of Coasta Blanca in rain jackets (Hybrid SL from Arcteryx)

The cave on Coasta Blanca before the last pitch!

The cave on Coasta Blanca before the last pitch!

Topping out

Topping out

The cats who probably thinks that the bird shit smells fishy..

The cats who probably thinks that the bird shit smells fishy..

Loving the location of Penon D Ifach, we decided to give the wall another go at a slightly harder and longer route to the right, El Navigante, 7a. Again the crux pitch was at the headwall of Penon at the last pitch, however the overall pitches are easier with good warm up climbing right from the start and only get harder towards the last 3 pitches. The route was worth mentioning since there is a really hard variation at the end and instead of heading straight up which is graded 7a, I climbed to the right leaning bolts which leads into a steep wide crack. There is some fixed tads and slings around a tufa at the end of the traverse. After some research it seems like the possible grade for that pitch is 7b/7b+ which is out of my onsight ability and obviously I was murdered by that pitch.

Beautiful day to start with..

Beautiful day to start with..

View of Alicante with wind picking up

View of Alicante with wind picking up

Kelly splitting off to El Navigate

Kelly splitting off to El Navigate

Meh..

Meh..

Cranking a few moves to the anchor on the 6b+?

Cranking a few moves to the anchor on the 6b+?

Gunning for the 6c pitch

Gunning for the 6c pitch

Superb pitch on El Navigante with not so straight forward climbing! Exciting!

Superb pitch on El Navigante with not so straight forward climbing! Exciting!

IMG_7766

Crawling my way up!

Glimpse of the intense last pitch on El Navigante. The original goes straight up on the left and my backside was itchy so I went right..

Glimpse of the intense last pitch on El Navigante. The original goes straight up on the left and my backside was itchy so I went right..

We reached the top of the route and high winds gusting to 55km/hr which makes walking on the exposed top really difficult. We also saw another party topping out at Pueto Paso Ecologica which is also 7a/+ and what they describe as many consistent hard pitches with amazing climbing.

Top out on El Navigante and barely able to walk off the top with strong winds blasting at us

Top out on El Navigante and barely able to walk off the top with strong winds blasting at us

Still loving the experience of climbing on this piece of rock, Kelly and I return just 2 days after and climbed Pueto Paso Ecologica, hoping to free all the pitches. I got to say the first pitch is really hard exiting the crumbly cave onto some really thin moves on the slab. I screwed up the pitch after down climbing and trying to moves for more than an hour. Never mind the freeing part.. I thought and just enjoy the climbing. The second pitch which Kelly took was an amazing 7a slab with thin moves and some delicate, balance crux sequence. Its one of those climbing which makes you feel like you have learned something about foot work. The best pitch was 3 which is a bolted crack with occasional jamming and some layback.

DCIM104GOPRO

Stuck at the crux for close to an hour with no progress and not willing to take the fall. I think I took most of the crumbly cave out in the process..

After Kelly climb out of the cave there is still some really dicy moves to the anchor

After Kelly climb out of the cave there is still some really dicy moves to the anchor

Kelly on the superb pitch 2 with some amazing climbing

Kelly on the superb pitch 2 with some amazing climbing

Kelly cranking on the crack on P3

Kelly cranking on the crack on P3 with a crowd on USBA

Watching another group doing P3 2 days before

Watching another group doing P3 2 days before

Unfortunately, at this point of time Kelly send the Gopro down to the ground while fishing the pack for her Arcteryx Hybrid SL. =( Tough luck. We continued up the wall with Kelly cruising the 6c pitch which have a steep steep exit on some funky pockets. I took the last 7a pitch which is the easiest 7a pitch on the whole route with some airy step across to some hidden holds and straight up the finger cracks to a glorious end! Superb climbing with no disappointing pitches!

Some funky step over to gain P4

Some funky step over to gain P4

Kelly doing the step over to gain P4

Kelly doing the step over to gain P4

On top and watching the last 2 groups crawl their way up the final meters of USBA

On top and watching the last 2 groups crawl their way up the final meters of USBA

Penon D Ifach is a national park with a ongoing long battle with the authorities to keep the walls open to climbers. I feel that having climbers in the park is fine as long as we take our trash out and avoid dislodging large loose rocks to the ground which may hurt someone. As long as everyone keep it a clean and safe environment this beautiful piece of rock is a must go if you like a lot of good climbing in a day!

Last photo I took from this beautiful summit

Last photo I took from this beautiful summit

On the descent while the sun hides behind Alicante

On the descent while the sun hides behind Alicante

Enjoying the sun.. lucky cats

Enjoying the sun.. lucky cats

Do check out our trip calendar for the year 2014 for more amazing trips to Malaysia, China, Taiwan and US! Our outdoor trips are suitable for everyone from novice hiker or climber to aspiring big wall climbing enthusiast. Take an outdoor holiday this summer!

Hola! Hablas Ingles?

On the Camino Del Rey, The King's path, a via ferrata in one of the worst conditions I have ever encountered in my life.

Kelly on the bridge of the Camino Del Rey, The King’s path, a via ferrata in one of the worst conditions I have ever encountered in my life.

Apart from lots of good rock climbing in Spain, it is also well known as a winter destination for the Europeans. Climbers from all over Europe will nest themselves here during the winter months to avoid the bitter cold and take a break from work. From snowy Haute Provence we traveled more than 1800km towards El Chorro near Malaga in Spain.

Sunshine capital can be pretty windy high up but generally its pretty warm climbing in the sun, allowing topless climbing days.

Sunshine capital can be pretty windy high up but generally its pretty warm climbing in the sun, allowing topless climbing days.

El Chorro is a European climber’s escape for sunshine in the winter, being in the southern tip of Spain there are loads of warm days in the winter and really cheap cost of living. We arrived in El Chorro and found Krabi style tufas, huge pockets and steep – overhanging rocks.

Poema De Roca is a huge cave with routes from 6b - 8c on huge overhangs

Poema De Roca is a huge cave with routes from 6b – 8c on huge overhangs

Solarium Sector with high quality routes up to 7b. One of our favorite sectors with good rock and friction.

Kelly on Solarium in Solarium sector with high quality routes up to 7b. One of our favorite sectors with good rock and friction.

There are many south facing routes in the main climbing arena of Fontales Media, there you can find something for everyone from 5c – 8c+. This is truly a sports climbers paradise and we were enjoying the climbing just as much as the we were enjoying the sunny days.

Looking down at Africa, one of the hard trad multi pitches which we did not get to do after the premature end to our El Chorro trip.

Looking down at the start of Africa, one of the harder trad multi pitches which we did not get to do after the premature end to our El Chorro trip.

It was a short romance with El Chorro as our trip came to an abrupt end when 2 thieves stole from our car while we were climbing at Castrojo. Fortunately, after a short epic show down, we got most of our things back but unfortunately just a day in the police station and they were released. We had to leave El Chorro since it’s not very nice to put a knife on someone’s throat and threaten to kill them, isn’t it?

The little village of Chulilla

The little village of Chulilla

We rolled out of El Chorro and headed on to the next rendezvous point with team PMS in Chulilla. For some reason, there is very little you can find about this crag on the internet. It could be due to the lack of UK’s media presence or it’s more like a locals’ crag. Either way we decided to go despite not being able to book any reasonable priced accommodation or campsite in or near the village of Chulilla.

Team PMS leader Chee Meng on Paco El Thor

Team PMS leader Chee Meng on Paco El Thor in his Spiderman color outfit

Huge orange and grey limestone walls in the gorge

Huge orange and grey limestone walls in the gorge

Arriving at Chulilla, Kelly and I were stunned by the beauty of the gorge of Chulilla, walls and walls of orange limestone on every side of the gorge. There is even a wall that is 10m away from the carpark! It was significantly colder in Chulilla than in El Chorro and there was no campsite in sight in the village, in fact on a lazy Sunday evening there was nothing opened in the village except for 3 bars in the village square. After weighing our options we decided to stay in the climber’s refugio, El Altico, which was one of the cheapest options at that point of time.

Refugio owner and WC 2000 boulder champion Mr Pedro Pon making our stay in Chulilla an enjoyable one.

Refugio owner and WC 2000 boulder champion Mr Pedro Pon and Nuria making our stay in Chulilla an enjoyable one.

El Altico on top of the hill above the crag

El Altico on top of the hill above the crags

El Altico sits on top of the hill at the end or the beginning of the village (depending which direction you come from) It has a boulder room, swimming pool, coffee bar, kitchen and very good rooms and dorms. We love the place and think that it is a great accommodation if you are heading to Chulilla. There are also lots of apartments in the town square area, if you spend sometime walking around you will find a lot of Se Alquila (for rent) signs on the facade of the buildings. Depending on your bargaining skills, the same apartment can cost you 20 euros or 100 euros a night.

At Competicion sector with some crimp fest going on

At Competicion sector with some crimp fest going on

Here we began our 1 month worth of single pitch sports climbing, something that Kelly and I hadn’t been doing a lot lately. We decided to start our climbing block at a nearby old school crag near the parking lot, Competicion sector, which was a great place for flat or slightly steep routes typical of Chulilla.

Elisa reaching for the clip on Los Profesionales

Elisa reaching for the clip on Los Profesionales

Prickly pads and looking at one of the classic La Diagonal, 2 pitches which can be linked into one 65m pitch of 7a+. Superb!

Prickly pads and looking at one of the classic left leaning crack lines, La Diagonal, 2 pitches which can be linked into one 65m pitch of 7a+. Superb!

We spent some time in the first gorge at crags like Sexshop, Enfrenta and Lamentation Sector. It was great in the first gorge where there was sun on the wall on the south east side sometimes up to 3pm. We could wake up late and still warm up in the sun and as the sun set behind the gorge we would be climbing the harder routes in the shade which required more friction.

Signs pointing to the crags

Signs pointing to the crags

Cody on Catalobos in Enfrenta sector late in the day with the sun behind the gorge.

Cody on Catalobos in Enfrenta sector late in the day with the sun behind the gorge.

Bao Yan warming up in the sun at Sex shop

Bao Yan warming up in the sun at Sex shop

Shirtless winters were hard to come by and in Chulilla we had some! Alvin on Panza Con Panza at Sexshop sector

Shirtless winters were hard to come by and in Chulilla we had some! Alvin on Panza Con Panza at Sexshop sector

The 2nd gorge which is about 25mins walk away from El Altico, is where a lot of hard and good climbing are nested. Here is the mecca for climbers who love sent conditions 5 degrees or less sometimes. The north face of the gorge gets little or no sun and is perhaps the main arena for hard sports climbing in Chulilla. Climbers who climb 7c and above will find loads to do here and those who climb mere mortal grades will also find a few nice crags around here like El Oasis and Choreras. Kelly and I found these areas in the 2nd gorge a little too cold for climbing comfort and hence we climbed there only 3 times in the whole month’s stay.

A beautiful walk into the second gorge

A beautiful walk into the second gorge

Looking at a lot of climbing in the second gorge

Looking at a lot of climbing in the second gorge

Alvin on a cold windy day in Chorreras

Alvin on a cold windy day in Chorreras

4 weeks went by and we clocked in as much climbing as we could, trying to push our sport climbing grades a little higher in Europe. We love the face and slightly steep style of climbing in Chulilla and that could explain why we had climbed the hardest (in terms of grade) here as compared to anywhere else in the last 6 months. It was great to learn this climbing style and I’m sure it will help me a great deal when I’m in those tricky run out face situation on more serious undertakings!

That's me reaching for the thank god tufa after the crux

That’s me reaching for the thank god tufa after the crux

Kelly on staying on her feet at the crux of Culo De Herodes

Kelly on staying on her feet at the thin crux of Culo De Herodes

Sexshop, Enfrenta and Lamentaciones in the sun!

Sexshop, Enfrenta and Lamentaciones in the sun!

Farewell dinner for Team PMS, Team Canada and Qxadventures. =D

Farewell dinner for Team PMS, Team Canada and Qxadventures. =D

Some useful tips for climbing in Chulilla,

Guidebook – There is a Chulilla Guia De Escalada / Climbing guidebook for sale at the Tito’s bar in village center or at El Altico climber’s refugio.

You can also check out latest updates on grades and routes at El Altico where newly bolted sector are updated and display near the refugio’s cafe bar area.

Accommodation in Chulilla – Obvious and very good choice is El Altico and if you stay long term (more than 5 days) they give a good discount. If you are here for a month or so, it’s worth it to check out some apartments like Las Cuerva or La Muela Casa Rural. The internet price is a rip off and they could go pretty low on prices during off peak season during the winter.

There is also a van camping community in the main carpark with a public fountain although car camping is not encouraged.

Food – 40km away is a huge Carrefour and within the village square you could get loads of reasonable priced food and daily products.

Climbing – The routes in Chulilla are well bolted and long! Bring at least 20 quick draws and a 80m rope is just right for many routes!

You cannot say no to a view like this.

You cannot say no to a view like this.

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