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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.

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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.

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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.

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Multi pitch day on Nutcracker with Uncle Hee! (Kelly’s eyes closed again)

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Charging up the cracks on Nutcracker

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Getting instructions on ropes ascending which are important skills for getting on the big wall

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Long day on East Buttress of Middle Cathedral before getting on the South Face of Washington Column

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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!

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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!

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BBQ after a hard day

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San San and I on East Buttress of El Cap

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San San leading the direct route on Reeds. Tight hands!

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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!

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Mr Chow leading on Mungenella. Super good lead!

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Chew climbing well and enjoying the time out here!

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Breathe some thin air on Cathedral peak!

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On top of Cathedral Peak with Chew. We sat there for quite a while waiting for Kelly and Chow to get up!

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Yes it is really beautiful up there

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Approach to Snake Dike with Chew and Chow

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Summit of Half Dome!

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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!

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Kim Boon on Bishop Terrace

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Pulling up the last few moves on P4 of East Buttress of Middle Cathedral

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Just hanging out on Dinner ledge and learning the ropes of Big wall climbing

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That’s what I do all day, hang out on the rope, pose funny faces and take selfies all day long

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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!

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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

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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

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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’.

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Old anchor bolts on the left and newly installed Titan U bolts on Psycho Killer, Cat House

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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.

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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) 

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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.

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Alone on the wall drilling and glueing

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

Romancing 黎明, Liming, Lao Jun Shan

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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.

 

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Sights while walking to the crag

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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.

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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.

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Beautiful view of The Diamond from our balcony

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Enroute to Pillars Area

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Spring and bees are out on Canola flowers

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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.

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Cracks on Screaming to the Moon with the distinct turtle shell features on unique sandstone

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San San working on The Owl, 5.9 splitter crack

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Introduction to easy offwidth for San San on Screaming to the Moon P2

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Me sending Dungeons and Dragons with a roof traverse and a scary offwidth lip to clear

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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!

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Morning ride out in the 微信面包车

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Pee break!

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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.

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15 minutes on the road with occasional playtime with friendly dogs

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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.

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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++ .

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

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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.

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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!

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On his way to sending his first 5.10 in Liming

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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!

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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

 

 

The latest craze

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Make your choice. Do you know what to clip into?

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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.

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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.

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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

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Kong and Yanfang figuring out the nest of ropes that fell after pulling the rope off a rap station

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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.

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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.

 

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

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Jennifer and I blasting up ThaiWand Wall

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After a hard day of climbing its always good to chill by the beach and have dinner!

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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! ”

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

Long Dong winter climbing 2015/16

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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.

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Stephen sending Big Coach Falling as Meiling looks on from below

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Guiding Christina in the middle of winter for a day’s outing

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Guiding Helen for a day’s of rock climbing before heading to Tonsai for some multi pitch fun!

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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.

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Mr Weng on The Desert 

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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…

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

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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!

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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!

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New Year’s eve party with some of our local besties, Japanese crew and Matt Robertson who dropped in for a surprise visit!

 

 

Winter training starts…

It’s winter and it is climbing season in Long Dong. It is this time of the year that people tick hard grades and start working on their projects. You will also see less leisure climbing crowd in the coast. Which means you hear less spraying and see more climbing done out here. This winter I have focus on training instead of ticking hard routes. I would work on harder trad routes when cracks are dry (a rarity in winter) and jump on circuits which I have created for myself when climbing cracks are not quite an option.

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Xiao Xiang and I working on Taiwan Down Amigos. Each of us took 3-4 tries on the route before sending.

Notable climbs I made this winter is sending Taiwan Down Amigos 12c on trad. My first 12c trad sent and I’m psych to tick off other hard trad routes in First and Second cave.  Power endurance training has started and feel free to add or take out climbs, these are just reference for my training for 2016 summer season. Hope these inspire you to get out and start lead climbing!

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Mr Weng on 笑傲江湖, a mega classic 12c in the Backdoor sector

Stephen’s Circuit (3hrs)

New Ferrari – 11c

Big Rock Falling – 12a

Coach Demonstrates – 12b

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Qx’s Circuit (3.5hours)

I’m actually still working on this one and I definitely feel pain all over my body right now after the circuit yesterday. I could not climb Incomparable the legit way and have trouble clearing the last roof.

Everybody’s Welfare – 11a

Big Rock Falling – 12a

Motorcycle – 12c

Incomparable (TR) – 13a

Musical HIT (1hr circuit)

HIT for climbing, focused on volume in short timing,

Fucking Fall – 11a (trad)

Big Drum – 11b (TR)

Finger Crack – 11c (TR)

Musical Arete – 12b (TR)

Wedding Day – 5.8 (trad down lead)

Due to the bolts conditions, the routes on the Music Hall left face are not climbable. I would suggest climbing Fucking Fall on trad and get all the way up to the anchors of Wedding route and build a trad anchor. Use that anchor as a top rope and down climb Wedding route, that will avoid using the Petzl Collinox bolts on this walls which are considered unsafe.

Drink loads of water and have a energy bar in between! Hot chocolate in winter is a boost! Have fun everyone! I will keep posting new circuits!

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