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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

Leave your rack at home?

Beauty in the woods

Beauty in the woods, I mean the trees…

Before I leave for Europe, I’ve got numerous advices from climbing pals and friends on where to stay, what to do and basically how to travel Europe like a climber. One interesting advice was to leave my Rack at home and bring 30 quick draws with me as there isn’t trad climbing in Europe and we will only be clipping bolts.

Things that I did not left behind in Singapore

Things that I did not leave behind in Singapore

I wasn’t sold on that idea. We wanted to climb in Dolomites and that require some gear although most of the time the crux is to find the right pitons to clip. Climbing in Verdon require a fair bit of gears (mega classic 13 pitch ULA is now bolt less) unless you are willing to run it out between bolts on sometimes fairly committing moves. But it was in Verdon that we meet Lionel (guidebook author of Escalade traditionnelle @ Annot) and he told us more about the premium trad climbing spot in Europe just 1.5 hrs drive away, Annot.

The south face

The south face

Houses under the rocks

Houses under the rocks

Annot was first developed as a bouldering area, well known for houses built under huge blocs (boulders). Along with bouldering there are numerous blocs there were too high to be enjoyed by general public like you and me unless you enjoy soloing and highballing depending on your tolerance for death or broken bones, these blocs will be bolted and sometimes chipped in order to be climbed. Most of the time they will be about 10-12m high with about 4-6 bolts of climbing. Sounds like our indoor gyms in Singapore? Yes, I prefer to call them roped bouldering. =D

Forgotten area

Forgotten area features beautiful bolted lines up to 8c

Shiver fest warm ups

Shiver fest warm ups

However, what Kelly and I was interested in is the newly developed trad lines in Annot, mainly concentrated in the south face of Les Gres D’Annot. However there are many more lines that sprung up all over the other faces of Annot and you can find out more from tradannot.over-blog.com (if you read french, or google translate it)

L'ange En Decomposition

L’ange En Decomposition

We left Verdon after climbing a mega classic, L’ange En Decomposition which took my heart away but I know we have to leave and explore the splitter lines up north. When we arrive in Annot, it doesn’t have the big walls of Verdon nor the climbers infested feeling to the place. Instead, Annot is a little french village in the mountains and Les Gres D’Annot is a backdrop to the village which local tourist will visit over the weekend to visit the famous Chambre Du Roi or the Oubliette (forgotten area). Both of these areas are pleasant to the eyes of hiking tourist and also important climbing areas in  Annot.

Top of the Yellow hiking trail

Top of the Yellow hiking trail

First day, Kelly and I decided to buy the guidebook and hike the recommended tourist hiking route and visit most of the climbing areas. The 5-6 hours yellow hiking route which starts from Annot train station, will take a huge loop to the Les Portettes and back down to the middle of the village at the main car park in front of Cafe Du Commerce.

Train!!

Train!!

Annot train station

Annot train station

Arriving at Chambre Du Roi, we met 2 very important climbing figures in Europe, Arnaud Petit and Stephanie Bodet. (google them if you haven’t heard about them). We found them in the dark corridor of Chambre Du Roi with their trad climbing students on Hand Training (6a/5.10b) I had to do the climbing idol thing and ask them for a photo shamelessly.

Kelly and Steph Bodet

Kelly and Stephanie Bodet

My shameless request for a photo with the legend

My shameless request for a photo with the legend

In the corridors of Hand Training

In the corridors of Hand Training

Hand training 6a with head lamps

Hand training 6a with head lamps

We have 2 weeks in Annot and with the days of November getting shorter as we move into the winter months, the temperature also became lower. However the days are warm with south facing crags and single pitch climbs means you are less exposed to the wind and other elements compared to hanging off the walls on a multi pitch. That feels like a good break after 1.5 months of climbing on the big walls of Verdon and Dolomites.

6a Roof

6a Roof

The trad climbing in Annot on large occasion are splitter cracks, with large sizes ranging from C4 #2-#6 and usually a few of the same large pieces. Like a 6a warmup on the La Vire Inter most of the time requires 2-4 pieces of BD #5-#6 which of course we did not have since we are flying a strip down rack around. Most of the time we will run out the climbs with 1 #5 and 1#4. So if you are planning a trip around in Annot, take at least 2 #4-#6 each in order for a great time with little restrictions on what you climb.

Lake Placid 6b

Lake Placid 6b with a roof exit

Working out the moves on 7B roof crack

Working out the moves on 7B roof crack

The climbing here sometimes features some pockets next to the cracks which usually requires good jamming skills and foot work on vertical or gently overhang faces and some roofs if you look around. This is the place where I have learned new jamming stills like fist stacks & butterfly jams and extensively used chicken wings and arm bars even on 5+ – 6a warmups.

Kelly's proud send on Mongol crack 6c

Kelly’s proud send on Mongol crack 6c

The best line kelly and I agreed on is the Mongol crack graded at 6c/5.11b which Kelly sent after 3 tries. It is a left leaning finger to tight hands crack to a steep face layback and a balls shivering top out to the chains. I did the extension of the route 7a which spit me off with its off width climbing and run outs with out a #6.

I’m really glad to have pushed my trad climbing standards here in Annot with some test pieces,

-Les Portettes Face 6b (hard for its grade and have loads of tape on your hand)

Les Portettes taught me a lesson

Les Portettes taught me a lesson

-Krusty Et Le Demi Boudin 6b (hard to get off the ground)

Ass kicking start

Ass kicking start

-L’arche 6c

L'arche the 30m onsight with 5 pieces of gears

L’arche the 30m onsight with 5 pieces of gears

-Mongol crack 6c extension 7a

-Spitalgie 6c (Boulder start follows a roof entrance to huge run outs before placing slings in cheese look alike wall)

The Cheese climb

The Cheese climb

- Fumble with the Jungle 6c

Fumble with the jungle 6c

Fumble with the jungle 6c

- Les Villages Faurmes La Jenice 7a+ (overhanging crack that gets harder and harder towards the top)

The hardest trad route I have tried ground up insight attempt. Yes I know you cannot see shit, but from how much my ass was sticking out shows the steepness of the climb. =)

The hardest trad route I have tried ground up onsight attempt. Yes I know you cannot see shit, but from how much my ass was sticking out shows the steepness of the climb. =)

If you are in Europe and you need a fix for your crack addiction without clipping bolts on a retrobolted crack, Annot is your answer. Just bring loads of tape and grow more skin!

Remember your tape gloves

Remember your tape gloves

Winter is coming.. are we ready?

Its time of the year when people go shopping for their next piece of clothing for either a family holiday, hiking trip or just a climbing holiday in a winter destination.

Kelly and I have been traveling for the last 5 months mainly for climbing and guiding but hiking, camping and just staying outdoors is all part of the business. It is cold be it belaying on the big walls of Yosemite or climbing in the Italian Alps. Right now in Haute Provence, the small village of Annot we are working on our trad climbing techniques on the sandstone cracks with temperatures rapidly dropping day by day as winter sets in.

As the leaves fall, the temperature drops too.

As the leaves fall, the temperature drops too.

While traveling, Kelly and I do not have a privilege of carrying a lot of clothing and we make sure what we carry works. Here is 2 pieces of clothing that should be in your backpack for the upcoming December holidays.

Arcteryx Phase SV Crew LS

m-phase-sv-crew-ls-f12-1

The most basic outdoor piece of clothing one should own is a good base layer. I have heard too many times people say, “oh its just a piece of underwear beneath your jacket right?” or “I can always wear that long sleeve that I own since my Uni days, it works well in the lecture hall!” After a few trips to rather cold (+/- 5) but not extreme conditions, I realize the need for a good piece of base layer as it acts as a moisture control next to the skin. Which means that my sweaty armpits actually drys out faster and that actually allows me to stay warmer.

The gusseted underarm area allow them to breathe!

The gusseted underarm area allow them to breathe!

Sometimes I would just wear the Phase SV (sometimes with a T-shirt over to prevent my nips from showing) when the temperatures are cool and if my activities are high intensity like climbing a multi pitch in Verdon gorge in autumn. This piece of clothing is also super light weight (155gm) and almost doesn’t occupy any space. I have used many brands of base layers and the Phase SV Crew LS outperform all of them owning to its moisture wicking properties. Oh, did I mention about the odor control fabric it uses actually works?

A 12hr day in the gorge means it will get cold at some point of time. I would roll up my sleeves if its too warm or pull it down while belaying the second.

A 12hr day in the gorge means it will get cold at some point of time. I would roll up my sleeves if its too warm or pull it down while belaying the second.

 

On Double Fond in Surbottes sector in Verdon. For tropical beings like us, not being in the sun usually means that its too cold and climbing with a jacket will be too cumbersome.

On Double Fond in Surbottes sector in Verdon. For tropical beings like us, not being in the sun usually means that its too cold. However climbing with a jacket can be too cumbersome on more athletic routes.

Arcteryx Gamma Rock Pants

Gamma Rock Pant comes in Male and Female cutting

Gamma Rock Pant comes in Male and Female cutting

This trip to Europe, I have 3 pairs of pants for the 4 months here. Arcteryx Gamma Rock Pant, Arcteryx Palisade pant and Marmot Rock Star. When the temperatures are low between 0 degrees – 10 degrees  or if we have a long day out hanging off a multi pitch, I would opt to wear the Arcteryx Gamma Rock Pants simply because the pants is durable and keeps me warm. I have worn  this pants from the big walls in Yosemite to single pitch cragging in Annot. The Gamma Rock Pant features a light weight stretchy fabric which give you a good range of movement needed during climbing and also burly double weaved textile on the knees and seat needed during those endless limestone chimneys on La Demande in Verdon. The lightweight soft-shell material keeps the wind out and at the same time is highly breathable.

Intergrated Belt

Intergrated Belt and zip pockets which allows you to keep your iPhone in the pocket and harness on while climbing

My fav part of the design is the integrated belt system which sits flat under the harness and is fully adjustable. This makes those hanging belays so much more comfortable as there is no pressure points on the waist. It also have a belt window at the back for those bouldering days where you clip your chalk bag directly to your pants. A tough pair of pants which I wouldn’t give a second thought when jamming my knees in those offwidths.

On the belays of Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite Aug 2013

On the bivy of Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite Aug 2013

Hiking up to the Cassin Route on the Tre Cime in Dolomiti

Hiking up to the Cassin Route on the Tre Cime in Dolomiti

Climbing on Riveria D'Argrent

Climbing on Riveria D’Argrent

So there you have it 2 very important but basic gears for the winter destination that you are heading to this December.

While writing this, the temperature is 1 degrees in Annot and The Arcteryx new line of down jacket, Thorium AR, is my line of defense during the long and cold winter nights in Europe!

This down jacket features a hoody and synthetic insulation on the hem, collar, sleeves and underarms which are areas prone to moisture.

This down jacket features a hoody and synthetic insulation on the hem, collar, sleeves and underarms which are areas prone to moisture. Perfect for those dish washing duties or more importantly belay duties on the wall. 750 fill also means that you are not puffed up like tele tubby and activities like climbing is still possible. 

Kelly climbed the Cassin route with 4 layers, including the Rho AR, Thorium AR and Alpha SL Hybrid.

Kelly climbed the Cassin route with 4 layers, including the Rho AR, Thorium AR and Alpha SL Hybrid.

Looking for the correct start and end points on a rest day

The combo for super cold days! Thorium AR jacket and the Gamma Rock pant

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