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.

DCIM147GOPRO
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.

IMG_7357
From movie dates we have moved on to Rock dating. Hanging out at a random piece of rock trying to crawl our way up
DCIM150GOPRO
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.

IMG_7281
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!

IMG_9477
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.

IMG_9422
Lightening up the loads and packing right for the climb
IMG_9464
The newly revamp carrier system we have. Alpha FL 45 (left) at only 670gm and Altra 65 (right) the load hauler
IMG_9459
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
IMG_7323
Satu tent from Campers’ Corner packs light and small at 1.2kg shaving 1 full KG from our REI Dome
IMG_7347
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!

IMG_7338
A warm night in my Campers’ Corner Nepal sleeping bag
IMG_7478
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.

IMG_7346
Racking up!
IMG_7354
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
DCIM151GOPRO
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!

IMG_7380
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?

DCIM151GOPRO
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.

IMG_7390
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.

13754162_10153572005651637_3579558711503707512_n
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.

DCIM151GOPRO
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.

IMG_7460
Our Austrian friends on the Pitch 8
IMG_7427
Mega smile from my wife +10 cookie points
IMG_7435
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!

IMG_7468

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 qxadventures@gmail.com 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
IMG_7327
Getting to fresh water involves some steep glissading without tools =D (The Incredible Hulk in the beautiful backdrop)
IMG_9151

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.

DCIM151GOPRO
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.

DSC00777
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.

DCIM150GOPRO
Multi pitch day on Nutcracker with Uncle Hee! (Kelly’s eyes closed again)
IMG_8634
Charging up the cracks on Nutcracker
IMG_8669
Getting instructions on ropes ascending which are important skills for getting on the big wall
DCIM150GOPRO
Long day on East Buttress of Middle Cathedral before getting on the South Face of Washington Column
IMG_8770
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!

DSC00825
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!
IMG_8858
BBQ after a hard day
DSC00894
San San and I on East Buttress of El Cap
IMG_8887
San San leading the direct route on Reeds. Tight hands!
IMG_6569
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!

IMG_9151
Mr Chow leading on Mungenella. Super good lead!
IMG_9095
Chew climbing well and enjoying the time out here!
DCIM150GOPRO
Breathe some thin air on Cathedral peak!
IMG_9219
On top of Cathedral Peak with Chew. We sat there for quite a while waiting for Kelly and Chow to get up!
IMG_9225
Yes it is really beautiful up there
DCIM150GOPRO
Approach to Snake Dike with Chew and Chow
DCIM150GOPRO
Summit of Half Dome!
IMG_6891
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!

IMG_9373
Kim Boon on Bishop Terrace
IMG_7135
Pulling up the last few moves on P4 of East Buttress of Middle Cathedral
DCIM150GOPRO
Just hanging out on Dinner ledge and learning the ropes of Big wall climbing
DCIM150GOPRO
That’s what I do all day, hang out on the rope, pose funny faces and take selfies all day long
IMG_7071
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!

IMG_7380
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!

 

Clean on Rap VS Clean on Lower

IMG_5883
Freshly removed anchor bolts from Wedding Route, most of them came off with a gentle tap with a hammer

If you have been following me on Facebook, you would have known I with the help of local champ Xiao Xiang have started to rebolt some anchors in Long Dong, Taiwan with Titan’s titanium U bolts. The reason for doing this is simple, UIAA have issued a warning on using stainless steel bolts on sea side crags and recommends sea side crags susceptible to SCC (Stress Corrosion Cracking) to use only Titanium bolts.

UIAA Warning about climbing anchor failure

IMG_5678
The choice of bolts

What does this mean? Does it mean that all stainless steel bolts are going to fall from the sky? Is it still safe to climb in Long Dong, Taiwan?

This is a 304 anchor bolt removed from The Wedding Route (mega popular 5.7 classic) at Music Hall sector in Taiwan, Long Dong. The bolt sample has been sent to UIAA for analysis.

This simply means that all bolts in sea side cliffs that have cases of SCC eventually needs to be replace with Titanium bolts. SCC takes time and in different stages, it can either show no signs of corrosion or simply just break at its final stages. This means that there is no way to see or test if the bolt is safe to use. We can however make a ‘safe’ assumption that the higher grade stainless steel bolts widely used in Long Dong 316 stainless steel, will still have some ‘time’ left until the final stages ‘arrive’.

IMG_5737
Old anchor bolts on the left and newly installed Titan U bolts on Psycho Killer, Cat House
IMG_5711
Preparing the new holes for rebolting on Cat House with the left OLD bolt pull out later during the removal process (glue failure)

Does this means it is safe? No, it just means that we have to start replacement of all bolts starting from the ones that have history of failure (304 stainless steel and expansion bolts). Rebolting is a long process, using loads of manpower, time, money, sweat and of course politics. However it has to be done in order to maintain a ‘safe’ status of bolts in a climbing area. Eventually, all bolts will be replaced with Titanium bolts however we have be critical now and replace anchors that are in the danger of failing like the July 2015 Big Drum incident.

110899824_medium_0b7924
Climber fell 3m to the deck after both anchor bolts failed. The entire area is closed off to climbing right now with only one route rebolted with Titanium anchors (Wedding Route) 

13112867_10154058986806203_7005367183940408639_o.jpg

Luckily, we have some help from the local outdoor company, Outdoor Adventure International Inc, 探索戶外國際股份有限公司. They put us in the right position by giving the taiwan rock climbing community 350 Titan Titanium U bolts! Kudos to Liu Kuan Chieh who is a major support of our push for replacing dangerous anchors in Long Dong.

IMG_5704
Alone on the wall drilling and glueing

IMG_5646
In the rebolting process, we have decided to use U bolts because of the ease of rappelling from these anchors with out additional links or carabiners attached to the bolts. Without the proper usage of these new U bolts, they will eventually wear out and require another rebolting process. The answer to this issue is to use the correct technique to get off various type of anchors.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anchors with replaceable links like some sports routes in Long Dong, anchor rings in Krabi  and quick links with chains in Singapore and Malaysia are relatively acceptable to lower off them and clean the routes. However I would still recommend all climbers to rappel off fixed hardware on the walls. The simple reason being, it takes time and effort to replace these hardwares and since its public hardware, we should take care of it and reduce wear and tear on them. Worn out anchors can fail (obviously) and also cut your rope!

CRW_6015
Rock and Ice article on how worn out anchors can be dangerous  ( Picture from 

http://www.rockandice.com/lates-news/climb-safe-dangers-of-rope-worn-carabiners )

With this in mind, bolts are permanent installation in the rock and there is no way to replace them ‘cleanly’ unless you drill another hole. We certainly do not want to have a anchor station with 10 different generation of bolts. And hence we are recommending all climbers to clean routes on rappel as shown in the video below when you encounter anchors with just 2 bolts.

IMG_5645.JPG
Typical anchor setup that I have placed in Long Dong (to the left of it is the old bolt scar left in the wall)

Do consider this the next time you get off a route and take care of fixed climbing hardware in climbing areas because the next person using it might have it fail on them because it is too worn out!

 

DCIM147GOPRO

Romancing 黎明, Liming, Lao Jun Shan

IMG_4903

Nested far in the south west border of China is a quaint little village of Liming. Liming is a village occupied by a minority tribe named Lisu tribe. The tribe is made up of Tibetan Burman ethic group, inhabitants of the mountainous region of Burma, China(Yunnan), Thailand and India. Rich in dance and music culture, the Lisu tribe is a big part of the 黎明 attraction.

 

IMG_4854
Sights while walking to the crag

IMG_4936

IMG_4941
Very old but healthy Lisu Granny

 

With the beautiful landscape you can get lost here in Liming and forget that you are in a huge country that has been overtaken by industrialization and capitalism. The beautiful costumes that the Lisu tribe wears and the friendliness quickly gets to you too.

IMG_4915
Friendly provision shop owner who seems to love San San and attempts to strike a conversation with him everyday!

 

San San came for Long Dong trad climbing course and multi pitch course in Oct 2015, we had a blast in Long Dong and he helped me put up FA on Blade, Whale’s Head, Music Hall. He’s learnt a lot of trad climbing skills and rope works on multipitch and is looking to put his skills into good use somewhere. So when he asked me where he should go bef0re coming for Yosemite Rock Trip 2016. The answer is 黎明.

IMG_4853
Beautiful view of The Diamond from our balcony
IMG_4807
Enroute to Pillars Area
IMG_4957
Spring and bees are out on Canola flowers

DCIM147GOPRO

 

黎明 offers great weather in March, good scenery, cherry blossoms and if you like peace and tranquility in climbing areas, you will find it here. San San wasn’t quite use to how remote we were and kept asking me where are the climbers?! Apart from all these, 黎明 has loads of red sand stone walls and endless amount of cracks!! A perfect crack climbing paradise if you are looking for crack paradise in Asia.

IMG_4810
Cracks on Screaming to the Moon with the distinct turtle shell features on unique sandstone
IMG_4875
San San working on The Owl, 5.9 splitter crack
IMG_4841
Introduction to easy offwidth for San San on Screaming to the Moon P2
IMG_4967
Me sending Dungeons and Dragons with a roof traverse and a scary offwidth lip to clear

DCIM147GOPRO

I have to say getting there is a little hard, with Tiger Airways flying to Lijiang direct only once a week on Wednesday and if you opt to fly with China Southern, it will take you approximately 14hrs to fly a 4hr direct route.

Once you get to Lijiang, temperature drops and the great scenery of Yulong Snow mountains becomes your backdrop. We decided to head to 黎明 without waiting too long in the city and drove out with a mini van at 5am. A quick nap and we arrive in 黎明!

DCIM147GOPRO
Morning ride out in the 微信面包车
DCIM147GOPRO
Pee break!
DSC00634
Breakie affair with noodles and loads of pork fats

 

Most of the climbing areas are within walking distances however be prepared to hike a little more than 30 minutes for most areas. It will be useful to have hiking poles if you want to arrive at the crag fresh.

IMG_4943
15 minutes on the road with occasional playtime with friendly dogs
DSC00644
The not so easy stairs climbing, getting me all tired and delirious, did I read the sign board wrongly or is it orientated wrongly? I’m confused. Perhaps I need some Diamox for my AMS

 

Some might ask what is the difference between climbing in Long Dong, Taiwan and 黎明, China. Long Dong is sea cliff sand stone and the rock is really hard and featured. Making crack climbing really easy because mostly there will be face holds and one does not need to jam too much to get up most routes. Making it a easy transition to learn trad climbing skills in such areas. 黎明 however is splitter cracks that requires jamming skills, laying back may get you up the route but could spell disaster if you are lead climbing as you quickly find yourselves in territories where you cannot place gears.

DCIM147GOPRO

Crack climbing difficulty is mainly made up sizes of the cracks and steepness of climbs. The steep hard stuff are usually finger sizes and the off widths. Finger sizes cracks are crack that you could only get anywhere from the full fingers in cracks to just your tips of your fingers in the crack. Offwidth on the other hand is a size where the its too big for 1 hand and too small for the body to be in. Very often offwidth cracks are known to be physical and requires a lot of body strength since you are not really climbing with you fingers anymore. 黎明 is a great place to practice all sizes of crack climbing from 5.4 – 5.13++ .

DCIM150GOPRO
Me on sighting the classic fingers at the Guardian, Akumrah, 5.11 +

10484046_10153907372321203_3125778490594868011_n

A season crack climber will find themselves in paradise with loads of 5.10 and 5.11s within an hour’s hike from the village of 黎明 and climbers on the high pay grade will find themselves with more than enough 5.12 – 5.13 to work on and maybe even send some open projects.
San San already knew how to place trad gears so this trip was really to get him into crack climbing. Most people thinks that crack climbing is painful and unpleasant, however I look at it as another genre of climbing. Using the correct techniques and equipped with the right kind of climbing shoes, San San had his taped up hands swimming up splitter cracks in Liming on the first day.

IMG_4950
A crack climber’s hands

 

Apart from jamming techniques, route reading, gear placements and resting techniques are all part of the crack climbing workshop. I have aimed to get San San up to speed to be able to lead 5.10 cracks of various sizes by the end of the trip. A battered and torn San San could say he is very well acquainted with crack climbing after 10 days in 黎明!

IMG_4813
On his way to sending his first 5.10 in Liming

DCIM149GOPRO

DCIM150GOPRO

I’m looking forward to take Singaporeans out there every March to get into this amazing style of climbing and get super fit from squeezing yourselves into every single crack you can find in Liming, Lao Jun Shan!

IMG_4874
Beginner crack, Looking Through the Glass 5.7

 

Want to head out here for some crack fun? Contact qxadventures@gmail.com or call +65 96828340

 

 

IMG_4421

The latest craze

IMG_4468

Sitting in Krabi Airport feeling pretty pleased about how Jan and Feb went for Qxadventures could be the best way to start 2016. We had a blast in Krabi, Thailand this season and I want to thank all the participants who made it happen. Without you, I cannot continue doing what I love to do.

IMG_4032

When I started guiding and taking people outdoors to climb and teaching courses out there, the aim was to get climbers out of the climbing gyms to experience rock climbing. Its important to note that climbing in the gym does not really qualify as rock climbing simply because you are not climbing on rocks! Yet we all know there is a new generation of climbers who loves gym climbing and detest climbing outdoors at all. Not that this is wrong, but it works the other way for me, I prefer climbing outside much more!

 

IMG_4654
Part of the training plan to get more experience in multi pitch climbing before heading to Yosemite. Getting real experience is one of the most valuable things you can get when climbing outdoors.

I spent the last 2 months in Tonsai teaching the new SMF certified courses, SNCS sports level 3 or also known to many as the multi pitch course. Where most climbers and instructors runs this course in the indoors on artificial walls, I find it almost impossible to teach this course comprehensively indoors. The reason being, there isn’t a artificial multi pitch indoor and participants are denied the experience of climbing a real multipitch when they are being supervised. They are left to explore the real thing on their own, realising what they have learned indoors is miles away from what the real world of multi pitch climbing is about.

 

DCIM147GOPRO

Now our overseas readers are going be scratching their head right now thinking that I must be high on weed after 2 months in Tonsai or overdosed on mushroom shakes. No, I’m not overdosed and yes we teach multi pitch courses hanging 5 meters off the ground pretending we are high up. The problem lies with education system here in Singapore. Certification is equivalent to proficiency. On the other spectrum I would like to think proficiency will eventually lead to certification. Hence, I chose to run individual or small group multi pitch course. So I can oversee and ensure the safety of participants and create a good realistic environment.

IMG_4764
Make your choice. Do you know what to clip into?
DCIM147GOPRO
The girls having fun managing rope off the ground.

Over Jan and Feb, we have 9 climbers from all over the world (USA, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore) coming to Tonsai to climb these famous limestone multi pitches and learn the ropes of surviving in the vertical world. I would think that climbing and getting up is simple but survival skills when things goes wrong is what separates the well trained and untrained.

DCIM147GOPRO

DCIM147GOPRO

The course usually starts with some easy routes to warm the climbers up. Having them acclimatise to the steep limestone walls of Tonsai, slippery foot holds and polished rocks are all part of the prescription. In the vertical world of multi pitches, you have to deal with the heat, bring enough water, getting ropes unstuck, manage never-ending messed up ropes at the belay, route finding and figuring the descent out! Moving out from the gym, and getting into all these can be a big challenge. Hence we have catered the first day to be simple, learning the skills of top belay and building anchors. As well as climbing some easy pitches on beginner crags to build up for the course.

IMG_4737
Chew getting his bearings on Big Wave, where he led his first 6b and probably did the most 6b in his climbing career on one day
IMG_4607
Kong and Yanfang figuring out the nest of ropes that fell after pulling the rope off a rap station

DCIM147GOPRO

Day 2, we focus on ascending some simple multi pitches usually 2-3 pitch to get everyone in the groove of climbing above the ground and getting the belayer used to belay off a hanging belay. Anchors are pre set in these crags but we make all participants build a simple equalised anchor to prepare them for areas that does not have anchors setup already. Recognising the right bolts to clip into in a sea side environment is also key to setting up a good anchor. We end the day but setting up a auto bloc abseil system and rigging a multi pitch abseil.

IMG_4119

 

DCIM147GOPRO

DCIM147GOPRO

Day 3 is about contingencies for example, when climbers get stuck on the wall, lead climbers lose their anchor slings or belay device. We start the day early in order to get on the wall for a 4-5 pitch multi pitch so everyone gets a chance to lead at least 2 pitch on the routes and get some vertical milage. They also get to rig the abseils and learn how to get down by a dedicated descent route. Climbers will also learn how to ascend ropes by using prusik cords, back clip on steep routes to avoid missing a rap station and rigging a simultaneous abseil.

 

DCIM147GOPRO

IMG_4500
Jennifer commits to the crux move on Humanlity. We blasted the route in 2 hours!

DCIM147GOPRO

DCIM147GOPRO

IMG_4421
Jennifer and I blasting up ThaiWand Wall
IMG_4672
After a hard day of climbing its always good to chill by the beach and have dinner!
IMG_4015
Or just loads of masaman curry and basil leaf minced meat is good too!

After all the lessons, day 4 is about putting it together and demostrate how much you have learned over the 3 intensive days of class. We will put participants on a mega classic route in Tonsai, Humanility. This 4+2(access pitches) multi pitch is a morning classic that will leave you yearning for more after you get to the ground! With the skills the participants have learned, they will be able to get themselves out of the situation that they face on simple bolted multi pitch. Like I always tell them, ” Finishing the course is the beginning, it gives you the skill and confidence to deal with more in future. So get out there to explore! ”

IMG_4542
That’s me learning how to rodeo line in paradise. We never stop learning.

Long Dong winter climbing 2015/16

IMG_2642

2015 has passed and it was a big year for us. We got our climbers’ hostel in Long Dong up and running, with phase 2 and 3 of renovation to come in the upcoming year ahead. The entire winter up till the Feb has been great too. We want to thank all the climbers who have come and join us in Taiwan this winter to enjoy what I regard as the true climbing season of Taiwan.

IMG_7608
Stephen sending Big Coach Falling as Meiling looks on from below
IMG_3489
Guiding Christina in the middle of winter for a day’s outing
IMG_3688 3
Guiding Helen for a day’s of rock climbing before heading to Tonsai for some multi pitch fun!
IMG_7889
Shane and Michelle came in Dec for a pre Christmas day trad course or SNCS Rock Level 1

Unlike what most climbers thinks, Long Dong is actually great for climbing in winter, temperatures are low, friction is great and there is absolutely no one out here! Trust the Long Dong locals and get out here more often and you will be surprised. Yes, of course it does rain a little bit more than the summer months but if you are ticking that project of yours, you will want to climb out here when the weather is cooler.

IMG_3587 2
Mr Weng on The Desert 

IMG_8082

The winter is mild, with temperatures between 10-20degrees and occasionally there will be a cold front and the temperature dips to single digit. The colder the weather is the less rain you will get. This winter, apart from guiding and teaching courses, Kelly and I also ticked some projects like…

IMG_8296

IMG_7427
Kelly blasted another 5.12d on sports sending The Desert in this photo

IMG_7032

IMG_7666
Kelly worked and sent her nemesis The Motorcycle, 5.12c, on 108052 tries. (just kidding)

We hope to see more visitors to Long Dong in Winter next year. Stay tune for Thailand SNCS level 3 post coming up!

IMG_3553
Surprise visit from the industry giant Mr Khoo Swee Chiow and family. The same time our climbing friends Alvin, Elisa and Rong hui were out here crushing routes too!
IMG_3876
New Year’s eve party with some of our local besties, Japanese crew and Matt Robertson who dropped in for a surprise visit!