Gear review – Mad Rock Life Guard

ABD or the Assisted Braking Device has been the most used acronym in the last 2 weeks in Singapore climbing community. Before this I have never seen so much interest being paid to a belaying device after all its just for belaying right?



For those readers who have no idea what the issue is about, 3 major gyms in Singapore have banned the use of tubular device or commonly known as the ATC. Citing that it does not have a assisted locking feature and has high potential of accidental release of brake hand during a belaying accident. They also mentioned that they hope to lower the number of accidents in the climbing gyms after having the community migrate to ABDs. Seriously??


Now we already know that ABDs are not safer and the root of the problem is education and active policing. However, since you and I are not going to fork out some cash to start our own climbing gym, I guess we have to suck it up and go buy a ABD and continue climbing in their gym. Nothing much we can do except burn our harness and hit the boulders.

If you are not going to do that and is in the market for a new ABD do continue to read.

The Petzl GRIGRI has been the staple for climbers for a long time until recently all shape and sizes of belay device came out in the market. There are also rumours that GRIGRI is not safe, citing Ashima + Dad accident recently. Is it not safe or is it the user?

Beer belay or no hands belay is no bueno

Before we continue the gear review here are 3 things to look out for when using a ABD.


1. Brake hand must always be on. Its Assisted not AUTO brake. 

2. The device must be setup and orientated correctly if not most of the ABDs in the market would not work. 

3. Understand the lowering mechanism, some are lever operated, some are ‘thumb loop’ operated and some are ’tilt shift’ operated 

If you belay like her no ABD is going to save you or your climber
Now with the above mentioned it seems like ATC is a simpler device and I always like ‘KISS’Keep It Simple Stupid. But I am also a user of a GRIGRI for many years, why?

Its less tiring to hold on to the rope when your partner is working on a route. On multi pitch it also allows me piss and belay at the same time (yes it works). And the best thing is I use the GRIGRI for abseiling, ascending (with a jumar) and belaying. Essentially meaning the choice of ABD I have is being used for more than one thing other than belaying single pitch sports climb.

The ABD has been part of our climbing for a long time. In here Kelly is able to take a selfie with her eyes close when she is using a ABD

Now I have jumped ship from GRIGRI to Madrock Life Guard. I wasn’t going to jump ship easily after all I’ve been using GRIGRI for more than 10 years but the Life Guard was just a true beauty. Here are some of the reasons.

Weight and size

The Life guard shed some weight from the GRIGRI 2 and to be exact, 16gm. Not a lot comparing a 170gm GRIGRI 2 to a 154gm Life Guard but the size of the device is nearly half!   Ounce make pounds.

Small + for Life Guard


Top rope belays did not see any difference in the 2 device. However during lowering, the GRIGRI 2 can be jerky on 10.5> old fat ropes (you find them alot in the gym) while the Life Guard would lower slower but smoothly. The camming springs on the Life Guard seems a little stiffer and require more force to have it jammed.
Lead belay is when you see the 2 devices pull apart. GRIGRI 2 will require a fairly new rope and usually a less than 10mm rope to feed rope smoothly. In a short rope situation, the GRIGRI2 requires belayer to hold the brake rope down with the last 4 fingers and use the thumb to deactivate the device to pay out rope quickly and safely. Lifeguard does not have that problem and will feed rope out smoothly as long as you pull the rope outwards (instead of upwards) and feed in rope from the brake side simultaneously like using the ATC.

Big + for Life Guard.

Belay as per normal like a ATC for lead climber.

Kelly and I abuse our equipment quite a fair bit. We show no mercy and use them as tools of trade. One thing I truly hate about the GRIGRI2 is the plastic filmsy lowering lever and the ever loose plate that opens and closes for rigging the rope. As wear and tear happens (pretty fast for us) the plate becomes looser and at some point of time, the rope gets stuck between the cam and the plate. It wasn’t me who experience the problem but a few friends who used my GRIGRI 2 complained about it too! They actually told me my GRIGRI is broken.  =D

Life Guard comes with a Aircraft grade Aluminium lever and zero free play on the plate. The design also doesn’t allow the rope to be jammed at the cam. At least not that I have notice in the last 2 weeks of usage in various situation.

Big ++ for Life Guard

That lever


Rope diameter 

GRIGRI2 – 9.4mm – 10.3mm
Life Guard – 8.9 – 11mm

I tried to lead belay with the Life Guard on a old shitty 10.5++mm Mammut Classic Eternity Rope and I could belay as though I was using a ATC. The GRIGRI 2 had no chance. Mega Jul had problem even squeezing the rope in the device! This should be a key consideration for gym top rope climbers since the gym in Singapore uses big fat static rope for top rope setups. ‘Smooth as silk’ that’s what my wife told me after her first belay with the Life Guard.

Big +++ for Life Guard


The price tag is always a big deal or not? For a device that will last 3-5 years, I think its not big of a deal. More importantly is are you able to use the device safely and comfortably for the period of time you going to own it.

GRIGRI2 – 99.95USD – most website without sale (not including sale tax)

– 149SGD at

Life Guard – 89 USD – MSRP in Madrock website (not including sale tax)

– 145SGD at Campers Corner


In a nutshell, Life Guard IMHO is a top winner in its class of camming device ABD. While the hefty price tag is going to keep most new ABD converts away but those looking to exchange their GRIGRI2 or Cinch for something better I think the choice is clear. The thing I wish the Life Guard will have is anti panic features and that will really set it ahead of its competitors. For now a competent belayer will be able to pick the Life Guard and get use to it pretty quickly.

I’m not comparing Elderid Jul, Mammut Smart and CT Click Up because they are not in the same class and they all have problems of their own.
In the end no device is a perfect device, if you do not know how to use a ATC you probably don’t know how to belay and should not attempt to do so. Strapping you with a ABD is not going to make you a proficient belayer, instead it almost guarantee you to be part of the statistics. Get proficient, certified and practice practice practice holding the brake rope.

Our High Sierra exploits requires use to rappel and that means taking our Singing Rock Shuttle with us all the time

For those who hates the new ruling and wants to melt your ATC device or send it to the trade in store, stop! You will need your ATC for abseiling off that multi pitch that you have been eyeing for a long time and most ABDs just cannot be used for double rope abseils! I know it is a pain but yes I expect to see a most climbers in Singapore with 2 belay devices hanging off their gear loop. But hey its Kiasu Singapore right?

Peace! #climbmoretalkless


Exploring Thailand

Its been a while since I’ve visited a new climbing area. Its always fun to discover new places and climb on new rocks. New formations that you have never seen before or just getting inspired by climbing with new people with good vibes.


Straight off the first trad course I have conducted in 2017, I flew out of Taiwan to Chiang Mai to join a group climbers whom I have guided and climbed together. Its always great to hang out with a group whom you knew have learned something from you and still putting them to good use.



Chiang Mai is a charming little city in north of Thailand. I’m not super excited about the city but realised it has a lot to offer. Great massages, local jazz jams and nice hangouts. We were kept in the Anxiety State crisis cave for a day due to the rain. But still manage to find good stuff to climb in there. A 4 pitch 5+ easy multi pitch which will be great for our participants who are interested in doing their SNCS Sports Level 3/ Multi pitch course. The upper cave spots some super exciting multi pitch through the roof of the cave. There is also a new gem bolted by Francis Haden, Lift Off F7c. Great climbing on steep scaly flakes which features a very different style of limestone climbing.


Local Jazz bar
View at the top of Reunion buttress
Chow belaying Felix up on last pitch of Reunion buttress
Felix rapping off

After 4 days of climbing, I left for Bangkok to meet Kong, who’ve also attended a few of my courses in Thailand and Taiwan. He was interested to climb a route on Khao Chin Lae, Lopburi named Flying Farang. A 6b+ trad route with a little bit of reputation. Arriving in Bangkok DMK airport, I Uber to Silom and the pickup rig to NamPhaPaYai camp was waiting for me. Kong and I shot up on espresso and blasted to the crag.

Breakfast before the drive!
Rice, fats and whatever protein in there. The athlete choice. =D

It was mixed feeling to be in this crag since I knew the guy who put up the routes and put in the work on building the camp. Now that he is gone, I feel the place is missing something. However I thought I should visit this place for at least a day just to see what is left of the camp. Arriving on Sunday, the camp was busy with a large group of Americans who sat at the resturant till about 3am drinking and listening to loud music. I was dead tired so I slept through the night but Kong hardly got a wink.

Driving to the camp you pass by these farms and yes long beans!
Rustic environment. Sleeping in ready made tents pitched on platforms. Next to Pasak River
The wash room and shower area. Bring a headlamp. There is electricity at night but only at selected spots.

The climbing in NPPY is great. Long routes of 25-35m with slightly steep walls,  giving the routes a different feel from most places I have climbed in Thailand. If you like technical climbing with a pinch of steep moves, there are many routes in NPPY like that. I got on Tufa madness – Sweet lip which is a classic 6c+ that you can pinch your way up or stem your way up. Also gave a good go at Pasak Ride a new 7b at the extreme right end of the crag. Beautiful climbing with various techniques involved and a problem solving crux at the end of the route. Inspired by Halil at Chiang Mai the previous day, I was on a onsight spree in NPPY.


We woke up early and started the drive to Khao Chin Lae at about 6.30am. Was lost in the village road a little but also a great sight seeing drive. There is so much rocks around and I can’t help to feel that if there is no access problems in Thailand, the climbing here could be as good as Spain?

so much rocks out here!
Khao Chin Lae, Lopburi. Happy spot.

Got to Khao Chin Lae and hiked to the base trying to locate the chimney pitch of Flying Farang. Apparently this trad route never got repeated as I was told by Pleum the following day. The FA attempt  was completed with a head injury?! The route doesn’t follow a natural crack system so you constantly have to rely on the topo and also good sense on route finding to stay on good rocks. I went off route about 3 times and pulling off about 10 rocks in that process. We got to P3 and stuck in this gully of bad rock engulf in vines and cactus. After almost blowing a move and got some crazy ass thorn stuck in my finger from the cactus, I called it. Decided to rap the route and run over to Waltz with the Lovely Lady 5+ and blasted to the summit!

Before starting Flying Farang
Toes to back on the first pitch of Flying Farang
Loose rock on P2
These bastards
My view when we decided to bail


Walts with the Lovely Lady is a beautiful 7 pitch climb. Although graded only 5+, I feel that the run outs and route find is tricky and a good 6a lead climber with good multi pitch skills should attempt this. Bailing from the route can be tricky due to ropes may get stuck at various spots. Kong link P1 and 2 and I link P3,4,5 in one mega long draggy pitch. Kong got the the ledge tired and thirsty so I blasted P6 and 7 in order to prevent us rapping down in the dark.

Topping out on a great ledge for hanging out


Emo and tired!
Mandatory shot with my sponsors
These are your hand holds most of the time. Limestone conglomerates, some of them blew off on me on Flying Farang! 

Great views and very tired from 6 days of continuous climbing and a 10 pitch day. We drove back to Bangkok to my nice capsule hostel in Silom and sip away some single malts at Maggie Choo’s. Its been a while since I had a climbing holiday. =)


Want to climb at Lopburi? Look out for 2018 climbing courses and Rock trips to Thailand! You can also hit me up on

I will be back soon!


Fixed hardware. What you should know about them?

Anchor bolts from Taiwan, Long Dong on Big Drum. 24th July 2015 both anchor bolts failed on climber when he was lowered off. Quicklinks look new, the exterior of the bolts looks rather new too.

Everytime we clip into the chains or the bolts at the end of the route, it is a sense of relief and rejoice. You would have either sent your long time project or got away without leaving bail biners or draws on the route.


Before you heave that sign of relief, think again what you are clipped into. A old piece of fixed rope that has been on the anchor for too long or a bunch of corroded quick links or bolts that you know at the back of your mind that is not really ok?

Poorly rigged fixed anchor with little or no redundancy. 

You celebrate, put your rope through the master point and ask your belayer to take in rope. Stare at the sorry state of the anchor and make a prayer and asked to be lower off. Hoping that you are the lucky one to not have the fixed gear fail on you.


Does that sound common? Well to some climber yes and there will be another group of climbers, they just don’t really know what is wrong with the fixed gears and will blindly trust them and believe that ‘someone’ with maintain these equipment. After all the last guy climbed it was safe!

Stainless steel rings in Tonsai cracked at its welding and most likely caused by pit corrosion and SCC


That is the greatest misconception of all fix equipment outdoors. No one really maintains them. It is climbers who used them decides to spend their time and money on rings, ropes, quick links, bolts, drill bits, grinders, drills and the list goes on. So who is really picking up the tab?

FullSizeRender 6.jpg

In United States, they have ASCA who are actively sending out new hardware to individuals who are rebolting routes. In Asia, unfortunately we do not have such luck of having an organisation who is actively funding and keeping tab of fixed gears replacement. So most donations comes from visiting climbers and people who care about the safety of other climbers. In Taiwan we are lucky to have a corporation who cares for the safety of climbers and have put in close to 1000 Titanium bolts and ram’s horns in donation. Those hardware is currently with us and every season during our off days we will be hanging out on the sea cliffs putting in new hardware.

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Why is it important for climbers to pickup the tab for fixed equipment replacement?
Most problems comes from sports routes which requires huge investment, assuming a 10 quickdraw climb requires about 12 bolts and some anchor hardware. In sea cliffs, UIAA recommends using Titanium only and that comes up to about USD160/route. That’s a lot of money for an individual to come up with day after day to put up routes for everyone to enjoy.


There are a few things I believe every climber should note next time when you are clipping into that nice TI bolt or the anchor chains,
– who equipped these routes?
– how is it funded?
– what can I do to reduce my impact on fixed hard ware?


  • Is that old fixed anchor safe?
  • is the master point too worn out/sharp that it might be unsafe to use?
  • what can I do to help maintain the routes that we all enjoy and climb on?

Do your part to help maintain fixed hardware outdoors. Find out who are the people that maintains the fixed hardwares and find out what they need and what can you do to help them. A little donation goes a long way most times. Let’s all do our part to make climbing outdoors safer for everyone.

An old bolt on Clocktower with a crack hanger and badly corroded parts. Avoid!!

Highlights of 2016 and 2017 trips schedule!

Kelly low down on Astroman on the boulder problem.

Its been an exciting 2016. It began with Krabi Rock Trips running multi pitch course in the limestone mecca followed by Taiwan Rock Trip in spring. During the spring season we also started the Titanium Bolting Project in Taiwan. A very interesting summer in Yosemite this year with some spare time after work to climb in the High Sierra. Now autumn is over and winter is setting in as we get ready for the last group to do their SNCS Rock Level 1 course (trad climbing) in Long Dong Taiwan before going through the entire cycle again.


We want to thank all the participants who have traveled with us for courses and guided trips. Its been a great year and I true fully enjoyed guiding and teaching every one of those courses.

Guiding and teaching beautiful and happy people is part of the joy of my work.

This autumn was plagued by continuous typhoon hits in Taiwan bringing lots of rain and bad weather in Oct. Fortunately, our participants were mostly not affected by the bad weather and instead most of them enjoyed the dry winter with the most climbing days available in Dec ever!

Post typhoon – Tags of unsafe routes everywhere on the ground being blown away from their original positions. Something that has happen year after year without anything done to those unsafe routes.
In May 2016 I’ve decided to start replacing old and failing hardware after seeing how bad the conditions are. These are the first set of bolts I bought from Tonsai BaseCamp. Elke’s been great help filling me in on details of how Tonsai did it.
Then we placed replaceable hardware, Ram’s horns on the TI U bolt anchors.

Apart from guiding and teaching, majority of the rest days were dedicated to Titanium Bolting Project in Taiwan. Till date, we have replaced 253 bolts in Long Dong. In total we have made 117 routes in Long Dong safer for climbers. Here’s the list,

Back door
45 Olive branch – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
46 Who fooled who – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
47 Vita – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
48 Yum Yum TI U bolts
49 Everybody’s welfare – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
50 Incomparable – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
51 Xiao Ao Jiang Hu – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn

Golden Valley
101 Lap Dance – TI U bolts
102 Rastafarian Birds – TI U bolts
103 Dangerous Games – TI U bolts
104 Stalker – TI U bolts
105 Psycho Killer – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
106 BA insanity – TI U bolts
107 Cunning Linguist – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
108 Love you long time – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
109 Fillet show – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
110 Happy ending TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
111 Cat’s away – TI U bolts
128 Pearl Necklace – TI U bolts
129 Bring the Betal Nut – TI U bolts
130 Gold Line – TI U bolts
131 Golden Shower – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
132 Golden Rod- TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
133 Gold Member – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
134 Gold Club – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn

Second Cave
194 Weibin’s Route – TI U bolts
196 Yum Yum hard work – TI U bolts
197 Back porch Saloon – TI U bolts
198 Taiwan Down amigo – TI U bolts
205 Crack a smile – TI U bolts
206 Hammer Time – TI U bolts
207 Stone Age – TI U bolts
208 Manic Crack – TI U bolts
209 Face off – TI U bolts
210 Manic Crack 2 – TI U bolts
211 Left Arch – Entire route rebolted U bolts + ram’s Horn
212 Have a leg – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
213 Zhong Jiang soup – Entire route Eterna
214 Luck Streaks – TI U bolts
215 keep your chalk dry – TI U bolts
216 Grotto – TI U bolts
217 Box of rain – TI U bolts
218 Rain Dance – TI U bolts
219 Box of rain – TI U bolts
220 Rain on my parade – TI U bolts
221 Singing in the rain – TI U bolts

First cave
239 Taipei Flower – Entire Route U bolts
240 Building on Building – Entire Route U bolts
241 Project – Entire Route U bolts
242 Agar Jelly – Entire Route U bolts
278 Happy Valentines Day – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
279 Wilson Over hang – TI U bolts
280 Fen Yuan Trap – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
281 Heaven’s falling – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
282 Deceiving arete- Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
285 Reggae – TI U bolts
286 Calypso – TI U bolts
287 Clean Face – Entire Route U bolts
289 Walkway – Entire Route U bolts
290 Noodle line – TI U bolts
291 History – Entire Route U bolts
292 Dragon Arete – Entire Route U bolts
299 Taiwan Rechao – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
300 Notebook – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
301 Wisteria – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
302 Cape to the sky – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts

Grand Auditorium
323 Arupa – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts
326 Verdon Du Taiwan – Eterna Lead
327 Provence Roof – Eterna Lead & TI U bolts

Music Hall
339 Nancy’s attempt – 1 TI U bolt
Red dates mochi – Ti U bolts
365 Nut pitch – Ti U bolts
366 Board Chimney – Ti U bolts
367 Fucking fall – Ti U bolts
368 Long Fatang- Ti U bolts
369 Big Drum – Ti U bolts
370 Frustration – Ti U bolts
371 Finger crack – Ti U bolts
372 Musical Arete – Ti U bolts
386 Wedding Route – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
387 Northeast coast – TI U bolts + Ram’s Horn
394 RH 5 – Ti U bolts
401 Balcony Dihedral – Ti U bolts
402 Balcony Seven – Ti U bolts
403 Balcony Cruise – Ti U bolts
404 Balcony party – Ti U bolts
409 Harmless slab – Eterna Anchors
410 Harmless Horror – Eterna Anchors
411 Harmless Corner – Eterna Anchors
412 Harmless Sheild – Ti U bolts
413 Peaceful Sword – Ti U bolts
414 Shield – Ti U bolts
415 Sword – Ti U bolts
416 Easy dick – Ti U bolts
417 Moby Dick – Ti U bolts
419 Captain Ahab – Ti U bolts
420 Call me Ishmael – Ti U bolts

Long Lane
436 Virtues on Street signs – Ti U bolts + ram’s horn
437 Zhong xiao – Ti U bolts + ram’s horn
438 Renai – Ti U bolts + ram’s horn
439 Xinyi – Ti U bolts
440 Heping – Ti U bolts
441 Fear only fear itself – Ti U bolts
443 Reach for the sky – 1 TI U and 1 Eterna anchor
444 Long Lane dihedral – 1 TI U and 1 Eterna anchor

School Gate
527 Fight – Ti U bolts
528 Don’t Look down – Ti U bolts
529 Disco Fist Crack – Ti U bolts
530 Don’t look down – Ti U bolts
531 Right Disco Fist crack – Ti U bolts
532 Triple – Ti U bolts
533 Tripple crux – Ti U bolts
534 Inimitable – Ti U bolts
551 Tiger Tooth – Ti U bolts
552 Surprise crack – Ti U bolts
565 First Corner – Ti U bolts
566 Above the groove – Ti U bolts

Sustainable bolting, trying to use as many old bolt holes as possible as well as using the best products that is available in the market with a good track record. Its a long term investment.


Looking forward to 2017, we are going to have a exciting year ahead. Here’s how the travel schedule will look like,

January – Chiang Mai and Krabi

Feb – March – Krabi (SNCS Sports Level 3 and guided climbing trips) 

April – Mid May – Taiwan ( SNCS Sports level 3 and Rock Level 1 courses) 

May – USA (Upgrading course with AMGA) 

June – July ( Yosemite Rock Trip) 

August – Sept ( Taiwan Summer Rock Trip ) 

Sept – (Japan Mizugaki pilot trip) 

 Oct – Dec – Taiwan (SNCS Sports Level 3, Rock Level 1 and Instructor Training course) 

Kelly being the rope gun with Kim Boon holding the end of the rope.
Me hanging out on the rope with Kim Boon cleaning the traverse on Pitch 4 of South Face

Mark down your calendar and tick that new year resolution list! Be it a big wall climb or just learning how to trad climb or running up that first multi pitch, we are happy to have you out here climbing with us!

Wishing everyone a great 2017 and safe climbs!

We hope to climb with you soon!


High Sierra 2016

IMG_7339It has become a pilgrimage to visit the High Sierra yearly for me and Kelly. Ever since the first outing I did with Mike Knarzer to climb the Sunspot Dihedral, I appreciate climbing in the altitude more now. The uncertainty on how I can perform on each climb depends on how well I acclimatise each time I head up there.  The peace and tranquility of the Sierras is hard to beat anywhere else. Sure I love climbing in the Valley, with all the mega walls and multi pitch that never seems to exhaust and all the timeless test pieces that kick your butt so hard that it makes you look like a gym gumby.

Kelly on the ‘crux’ pitch of Rostrum 2015 (climbing in the Valley is a equally beautiful) 

Climbing in the High Sierra always involve a hike to get to the base of the wall. The hike can be quite a ways for some or for the ultra fit in a day dudes a quick dash from the car. Kelly and I prefer to take our time, enjoy some photo taking, sit in a tent cook our dinner and watch the stars. Its really a ‘us’ time out there since there will be other 4 climbers in the area doing the same thing.

This summer, Kelly have to cut her season in USA short and head back to The Bivy to guard it from the tropical typhoons hitting the island. So its the first year since 2013, she did not spend her birthday in Yosemite (lucky girl)! So we had a pre birthday climb this year and again she chose The Incredible Hulk. In 2015, it was her introduction to the High Sierra and her first climb above 10,000 topping out at 11,040ft. The loads from the packs killed her knees and the loose talus field descend from the climb did not make things better. Needless to say she was tired after the climb but determined to get into shape to tackle the Incredible Hulk again.

From movie dates we have moved on to Rock dating. Hanging out at a random piece of rock trying to crawl our way up
On the trail head hiking towards Barney Lake

This year, while I’m working and guiding, she would spend time hiking in the Valley. Although she did not get as much climbing as we did in the past years, we made sure the climbs we did were good training building up to the 2 weeks climbing holiday we get after the last guided group leave Yosemite.

Kelly crushing the hike to the Incredible Hulk

Positive Vibrations is the climb Kelly chose this year, a notch easier than the Sunspot Dihedral and a good entry level 5.11 multi pitch on the main face of this 1200ft rock. We hike in after a long drive through Yosemite getting to 395 from Lee Vining. Had a short break, a shot of espresso and ate our packed lunch. I was surely feeling the effects of having worked 45 days straight and going for a climb in the High Sierra. But hey, that is the only 2 weeks I have to climb with my wife in USA before she heads home!

Parking the car at the resort

Same deal as before, we parked at Twin lake, paid the fees for parking at the resort and blasted off the trail. This year we pack light, getting out loads down by about 35% -40%. We also reviewed our carrier system and conclude that haul bags are one of the worse ways to hump loads if you are not getting on the big wall. So we talked to Arcteryx Singapore and did a quick review on how much stuff we actually need and came up with a light weight system. I used the Altra 65 with a S sized frame and Kelly used the light weight pack with the Alpha FL 45. I got my pack under 20kg and Kelly’s pack at about 10kg which is about 10-12kg combined weight under what we carried last year! The Altra 65 made a difference and I will be talking about that in my product review for this pack soon.

Lightening up the loads and packing right for the climb
The newly revamp carrier system we have. Alpha FL 45 (left) at only 670gm and Altra 65 (right) the load hauler
Thanks to Outdoor Adventure Inc from Taiwan for sponsoring us a set of Ultralight C4 which cut the weight of our rack by 25%

We got to the base of Incredible Hulk after a 3.5hr stroll constantly stopping to take photos, chase marmots and basically taking in a piece of the High Sierra. We setup the Satu tent and got in it to get warm and cozy. It was a windy evening so we made dinner in the patio of our tent as we watch the sky turn dark. Somehow I had a really bad sleep waking up every hour or so and barely getting any eye shut. That was a sign of poor acclimatisation.

Botak head tree on the way to Incredible Hulk
Botak head tree on the way to Incredible Hulk
We really stopped a lot to take photos.
We really stopped a lot to take photos.
Selfiecamerawhore at work
Selfiecamerawhore at work
Satu tent from Campers’ Corner packs light and small at 1.2kg shaving 1 full KG from our REI Dome
Our spot!

Alarm clock rang at 6am and as usual the snooze monster hit us and we only started to make breakfast at 6.30am. By that time it was already bright and the first party made their way to the start of Positive Vibrations. As I was having coffee, I saw another crew high up on Sunspot Dihedral’s crux pitch. They must have had a dawn start!

A warm night in my Campers’ Corner Nepal sleeping bag
Breakfast burrito High Sierra style! With coffee of course!

I took my alpine shit, rack up and stroll to the base of the climb. Surprising the first party is just starting up on the route so Kelly and I sat around to wait for them to get off. The plan was for Kelly to lead most of the 5.10 pitches and I will lead the 2 crux pitch and the 5.10 pitches higher as the route finding gets tricky.

Racking up!
Kelly got to the base, racked up and checking the route

Kelly cruised the 5.10c tips getting and I was starting to feel the effects of the lack off sleep and the 1.5 months of guiding fatigue. I got to the first 5.11a crux on pitch 3 which should be really simple for me but struggled on the exit of the crux. I got up anyways, Kelly was enjoying the climb and it was great to see her climb so well on the Incredible Hulk.

Belay duties on top of P2
Belay duties on top of Pitch 2
View from the belay!

Pitch 4 was Kelly’s lead, it is a cool looking easy chimney with steep hands and fingers leading to a windy belay. Kelly floated the pitch and by this time 2 Austrian climbers who were super chill and friendly caught up with us and we shared the belay. They were not interested in passing and instead we talk shit all the time at the belay. Suddenly we heard, ‘Its Peter Croft!!! OMG!’ It is so cool to see the man on this piece of rock. It was his video with Lisa Rands on Venturi Effect that inspired me and Kelly to come here. So he was the one high up on Sunspot and now is rappelling the route to run another lap on Positive Vibrations. Talking about in a day. This dude just did 2 days in 1. Legend material at its best!

Kelly on the cool P3 crux, with a airy traverse

Kelly was in fan mode and talked to him for a bit before putting me on belay. When I got up, Peter Croft has already left the belay. Pitch 5 is a nice wide hands at the back of the crack and some parts of it, you will need to reach in deep in order to get purchase. Graded only 5.10, I think some climbers may get thrown off if they were not used to such cracks. This was also the time we caught up with the party in front of us. Apparently they have pitched out in the middle of Pitch 5?

Me on pitch 5

Pitch 6 was the business, I got there pretty fresh and was ready to gun for it. It was very windy at this belay and I was climbing in my Arcteryx Fortrez Hoody and Alpha SV shell to keep the wind out. The first part of of Pitch 6 is small fingery pods where you put your feet to work and the gears are sparse. I used the crack on the adjacent left wall for protection and got to the roof. The roof is 4-5 easy moves traverse to the right and up a flare section. At this point of time, the party ahead pitched it out again in the middle of this pitch and the belayer with some really bad rope management dropped his rope all over the pitch and did not bother to stack it. I was climbing in the flare navigating his rat’s nest and just below his belay stance I asked for take as it was really frustrating since the belayer pretend to not see me and did not bother to clear his rope. I hung out there for about 30mins before they got off and did the rest of this amazing pitch.

Kelly on P6 entering the crux from the fingers

The second part of Pitch 6 contains tight hands and thin fingers with a small bouldery crux before the anchor. I was gas by the time I got to the fingers section and fell a few time before figuring out the boulder move. Beautiful pitch! Would be perfect if I have managed my rope drag a little better. 165ft of great climbing.

That’s me on P6 already gas(ed) out from rope drag (Photo by Ryder)

Pitch 7 was mine as Kelly was feeling tired after Pitch 6 so I started off with a easy hands on the climb and getting to the fingery roof section where the party ahead have pitch it out again?! This time I just hung on to the hand jams and waited. The Austrian party were getting frustrated and one of them was shouting out some unknown language, I guess he was cursing.

Our Austrian smiley friends! Who eventually cursed really loud =D

Pitch 8 was uneventful with a short pitch past a wide hands section where Kelly got lost and I took over and got us to the top of summit ridge. I felt tired, perhaps more tired than when I climbed Sunspot Dihedral. Maybe I did not sleep well, there wasn’t enough coffee in my system or just much waiting behind a slow party. But hey, its in alpine and every climb is a different climb. The body reacts differently everyday as its get acclimatised to the altitude but before that, you just got to take it nice and easy. It was a great climb and judging from Kelly’s smile on the summit ridge, my wife is happy.

Our Austrian friends on the Pitch 8
Mega smile from my wife +10 cookie points
Job done
Not sure about the hands though. I think I was on a blood donation drive on the route
Not sure about the hands though. I think I was on a blood donation drive on the route

We simu rap most parts of the descent and when we got to the base of the climb, the Austrian party just started their descent from the summit ridge. It must be frustrating for them but hey I guess this could be one of the most popular routes in the High Sierra. Looking forward to the next trip out  there!


These are climbs which puts trad skills and multi pitch skill together and creating an incredible experience. I hope to share this experience with more people in future! If you are looking to attain these skills check out the classes we hold for SNCS rock level 1 (trad climbing class) and SNCS sports level 3 (multi pitch class) which runs from Oct 2016 – Jan 2017

Taiwan Rock Trip 2016 Autumn Winter

If you are looking forward to climb in the High Sierras, do contact me on I will be happy to hook you up with a itinerary and training leading up to the climb! Stay safe and thanks for reading!

The people who made our climbing adventures possible, Arcteryx Singapore, Singing Rock Singapore and Campers' Corner
The people who made our climbing adventures possible, Arcteryx Singapore, Singing Rock Singapore and Campers’ Corner
End of adventure burger at Burger Barn of Bridgeport town
End of adventure burger at Burger Barn of Bridgeport town
Top it up with a thousand calories from the root beer float and another thousand calorie when you ask for a free refill
Top it up with a thousand calories from the root beer float and another thousand calorie when you ask for a free refill
Getting to fresh water involves some steep glissading without tools =D (The Incredible Hulk in the beautiful backdrop)

Yosemite Rock Trip 2016

As our season of guiding in Yosemite for 2016 comes to an early end, Kelly and I are clocking our climbs in before she flies back to Taiwan to guard The Bivy from the typhoon season. While I stay on in US to attend my WFR course in preparation for my AMAGA rock guide course the following year.

Our climbing holiday begins with The Hulk! (Kelly with close eye disease)

Its been a great season of climbing and guiding and we have some more objectives line up for the next 12 days. And now? We are just sitting in Starbucks in Sonora downing ice coffees and staying away from the 100F week.

Psych to see so much ice on Fairview Dome with the crew! (Photo by San San)

This year, our participants are all steroid charged and ready for the climbs. The average age of participant also went up to 40-50 years old range! Our first participant is Uncle Hee, an avid climber known in the local scene and also a lecturer in the outdoor learning classroom in Republic Polytechnic.

Multi pitch day on Nutcracker with Uncle Hee! (Kelly’s eyes closed again)
Charging up the cracks on Nutcracker
Getting instructions on ropes ascending which are important skills for getting on the big wall
Long day on East Buttress of Middle Cathedral before getting on the South Face of Washington Column
We got rain out on Washington Column so the following day we climbed Fairview Dome in Tuolumne!

San San after attending my trad and multi pitch class (SNCS Rock 1 and SNCS Sport 3) in Long Dong Taiwan, he’s decided to come for a trad climbing boot camp with me in Lao Jun Shan, Liming, China. We jam so much cracks that his toes started to hurt really bad towards the end of the trip. When he got to Yosemite, it took him 2 days to get acclimatised to the slick granite crack climbing before we started blasting up the walls!

Mr San San with Kelly on top of Fairview Dome. San San’s first day in Yosemite was 12 pitches on wet cracks, icy approach and descend in the dark off the dome! Full package!
BBQ after a hard day
San San and I on East Buttress of El Cap
San San leading the direct route on Reeds. Tight hands!
Blasting up the South Face of Washington. First big wall for him and done in a day with much daylight to spare. Super well done!

That include Washington Column, South Face in a day and getting on East Buttress of El Cap. Well done for getting so much done in less than 2 weeks and being in Yosemite climbing for the first time!

Mr Chow leading on Mungenella. Super good lead!
Chew climbing well and enjoying the time out here!
Breathe some thin air on Cathedral peak!
On top of Cathedral Peak with Chew. We sat there for quite a while waiting for Kelly and Chow to get up!
Yes it is really beautiful up there
Approach to Snake Dike with Chew and Chow
Summit of Half Dome!
Looking down at the rest of the valley for Chew and Chow

We step down the gear for Chew and Chow and went on some super beautiful and great spots in Yosemite. We climbed on some of the most beautiful routes like Snake Dike on Half Dome and Cathedral peak in Tuolumne. The crew had great weather, saw Yosemite from the top and most importantly had great fun in style. We stayed in the beautiful lodge and yurts as they wanted a little more comfort during their holiday. We truly enjoyed the hangouts in the warm cosy yurts too! Thank you Mr Chew and Mr Chow!

Kim Boon on Bishop Terrace
Pulling up the last few moves on P4 of East Buttress of Middle Cathedral
Just hanging out on Dinner ledge and learning the ropes of Big wall climbing
That’s what I do all day, hang out on the rope, pose funny faces and take selfies all day long
Big long day for Kim Boon on East Buttress of El Cap

The last participant for July is our Singapore Mountaineering Federation Assessor Mr Lim Kim Boon. Well known for his mountaineering and ice climbing trips and achievements, he set his sights for a few big climbs here in Yosemite. Having been here a few times previously, he wanted to climb some bigger stuff and train up for a big wall ascent eventually. We took him out on the 13 pitch East Buttress El Cap, 10 pitch East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, Arch Crescent on Daff Dome and 16 pitch Royal Arches to wind down the climbing trip. It was all great climbing done in a short period of time. Yosemite is such a great place to climb loads and get super wall fitness in short period of time!

Kelly on P3 of Positive Vibrations on The Hulk. We are looking forward to the next climb soon!

One more group for a short weekend trip and Kelly is off to Taiwan and I’m going into study mode. In the meantime Kelly and I are going to climb loads and we are looking forward to the autumn season in Long Dong, Taiwan!