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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.

Our Journey Time Lapse

It’s Christmas season and a time for sharing and giving. I hope you have got your present for your love ones and I have already got mine for realizing a dream that I wanted to live 8 years ago since I started climbing.

Here’s a time-lapse of the climbing destinations we have been to this winter in Europe. You can read about our climbing in Italy and AustriaFrance and trad climbing in France.

Have a great festive celebration and see you for trad climbing in 2014!

Gear Review by Kelly: Arc’teryx Rho AR Zip Neck & Gamma Rock Pant

It’s exactly 3 months down our Europe trip, how time flies indeed!

From Dolomiti in Italy, Gorge du Verdon and Annot in France and even right down south to El Chorro in Spain, we are now in the beautiful setting of Chulilla (a little village less than an hour drive from the Spanish eastern coast and about 3hr drive from Madrid) where we call our home for the next 2 weeks!

Bienvenido a Chulilla!

Bienvenido a Chulilla!

We figure that Spain is really the place to go if we want to climb through winter without getting ourselves frozen up. And with more daylight hours compared to the neighbouring countries up north, it means more climbing too =)

Before our departure to Europe, we have already expected that our trip will be a cold one since we will be here from September to January, basically experiencing autumn to winter. Being tropical animals, we don’t cope with the cold very well so it’s a natural choice for us to head to the south- and west-facing crags and climb in the comfort of the sun warm on our backs. Along the way, we have also improvised our personal preferred climbing attire to suit the cooler climate (see Qx’s post on his preferred attire combo here!)

I always have a Hybrid SL outershell jacket along on multi-pitch climbs (single or multiple days) since it is really light, highly compressible and given its functional uses (check out my previous review of Hybrid SL here), it’s not something I would like to go without. What I have discovered along the way is I have been climbing a lot in my Rho AR Zip Neck pullover with Gamma Rock Pant.

Rho-AR-Zip-Neck-W-Annabelle-GreenGamma-Rock-Pant-W-Heron

I really like Rho AR especially on days when the temperatures are down a little lower (less than 10 degrees with wind chill?) given the high collar which gives me the extra warmth I need. The pullover is also long enough to remain tucked under my harness and keep my body warm as I move on the wall (it’s not a good feeling getting chills at your waist when your top slips above your harness as you are making your next reachy move!). Given the abuse that I have been giving to the pullover, despite some mild pilling along the arms, I would say it’s doing great.

<<Mettrez ça sur m’Annot>>

The Rock Pant has been tough, dealing well against wear and tears especially at the knees, thanks to its Burly™ Double Weave fabric which is highly abrasion-resistant (that saves me quite a bit of skin!) and soft shell material which blocks enough wind to not get my legs cold.

Second pitch of >

<<L’ange en Décomposition>> Pitch 2

I first tried this combination on <<L’ange en Décomposition>>, a classic 80s four-pitch climb (100m) in Gorge du Verdon and it worked great for me. I didn’t even have to activate my outer shell despite the wind exposure during the climb. I am using the same recipe on single-pitch climbs in Chulilla and it works perfect too especially when the sun sets behind the gorge and the crag comes in the shade.

Looking forward to our next climbing day in this beautiful and tranquil place! =D

On pour way to one of our favorite sectors, Pared de Enfrente

On our way to one of our favorite sectors, Pared de Enfrente in Chulilla

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