El Cap Prep @ Long Dong, Taiwan

Long Dong, 2010, plagued my mind before i arrived in Taipei. We didnt know if weather, gears, accommodations and many other stuff were going to work out well. It didn’t help when i called my Taiwanese friend Xiao Hu Zhi and he told me there is a cold front and it has been raining for the last 1 week!

Heck, I told ginno, if there is no climbing we go shopping and see Mei Meis. So that was the Taiwan plan!

When we arrived, it all turn out well, the weather was cooling, no sign of rain and when we got to Long Dong in the morning, we were super psyched to see tons and tons of splitter cracks in the sandstone cliff! Awesome! We also had one of the strongest climbers in Taiwan as our tour guide, Xiao Xhiang.

So we spend 2 days at School gate, introducing Ginno to Trad climbing and climbing some easy route to get use to the rocks in Long Dong. Cool temperatures + Sandstone =  Phenomena friction . I was climbing in my La Sportiva Ganda Guide for most of the 2 days only changing into climbing shoes when i climb sports or harder trad routes.

This is School Gate taken from my Iphone.

The next day we decided to jump on the adventure wagon, we headed to Lower Dragon Ridge to climb the ultra classic, Commissary Crack, 5.10a, 55m. Im not sure if its the splitter cracks that makes it classic or the loose rocks. We dislodged some serious loose rocks that exploded into the air when they hit the ground. Despite all these, i loved the finger crack mid way of the route and the wide cracks that leads us to the top of the ridge. This is the first time i did not use a nut on a climb which i later found quite common in Long Dong. We decent from the North face of the Dragon ridge which we climbed with Ginno and Munch few days later.

Ginno exiting the wide cracks of Commissary Crack 5.10a (top) and
Qx starting out the same climb (right)

Golden Valley is a happy spot in Long Dong, with crashing waves and daredevil fishermen, there is tons of hard sports, some of which we jumped on without knowing the grades/name of the the routes. There also lies some of the classic trad routes in Long Dong. We cant resist doing some roof routes on trad since so many photos has been posted by Matt Robertson on his website and the guide books of Long Dong. So we jumped on Golden Shower, 5.10a, allowing Kelly to onsight the route. 

(Above) Kelly climbing the roof easily, before heading up a slab wall before the chains.

While climbing in Golden Valley, I set my eyes on Goldline, 5.11b R, a beautiful golden wall, gently overhang, with a crack that i cant seems to jam my hands in, just as the cracks splits up, the climb continues to a face climb with no protection and some bouldery sports moves before topping out with your last protection 4m below you. Im not sure does that qualifies as a R climb, meaning you may get yourself injured if you fall. But this is my first R climb, so i was kinda *meow* and Matt Robertson told me that no one ever onsighted this climb. So i figured that i climb the route beside it, Pearl Necklace, 5.10b, to top rope Goldline. It was indeed a wise decision as i found out i would have shit in my pants if i jump on Goldline without top roping it.

I left the project and head to Taipei celebrate Xmas with Matt Robertson, Xiao Hu Zhi and gang who greeted us with the Taiwanese hospitality. We ate and drink and basically enjoyed ourselves taking a break from the 5 days of climbing while waiting for the cold front and rain to go away.

Munch flew in to join us during Xmas and we took her to School gate and North Face of Dragon ridge where she got some trad action on Dragon ridge, 5.6. 

(Above) Munch on the decent point of North Face of Lower Dragon Ridge, 5.6, after leading the beautiful climb in the shade.

The sun was out and we got out to sent more routes. Ginno sent his second 5.10, on Pearl necklace, while i get ready to jump on Goldline. I had a long break and felt good. The climbing was strenuous with a lot of tension moves, placing protection wasn’t too easy too, just before the crux, i placed a .4 camalot (smallest on my rack) and prayed it would hold if i got too pumped at the crux. No dramas on the crux and i send it. Super happy.

(Above) Qx on Goldline, 5.11b R, placing the last protection before the crux. (Photo by Munch)

Super psyched, i set my eyes on another crack just not too far from Goldline, String Bikini, 5.11c. Stephen and Meiling (our favourite friendly Taiwan based couple) was there before us and Stephen gave me on some betas for protection. I wasn’t too sure if i could do it, after all im still quite a new crack climber. The route starts with a layback and some smearing on the wall, then you need to exit a overhanging section to a nice finger jam. The exit was the crux. I couldnt see why when i was on the ground but when i was climbing it, i realised that the feet for that section is so shit, i almost shit in my pants when i threw a right heel hook and a knee bar before placing a protection. Then i realised i had a pretty good run out from the last protection, i was super pumped and the finger jam didn’t work for me.
(Above) Meiling on String Bikini, 5.11c, before the overhang exit and the crux.
I was glad i flashed the route, in less than ideal conditions (freezing at 5-8 degs with winds that could blow my pants away). Meiling and Stephen later congrats me on my sent and we sat there the rest of the day talking about their ascent on Half Dome, Yosemite.
Taking a step back from all the harder trad routes, we had lots of fun with different styles of trad climbing; we had roof climbing, One way ticket, 5.11a, some offwidths and chimneys Via Del Drago, 5.10b and scary run out routes like Cold Sushi, 5.10c. I thought thats the best training we could have before flying to Yosemite, learning to climb all kind of cracks and taking big run outs. More importantly, we had good company, Kelly, Ginno and Munch, and food in Taiwan is to die for!
Perfect classroom for trad climbing. Look out for Taiwan Trad trips in 2011!
(Above) Gotta learn to eat this to climb 5 days in a row. Staple food for trad climbers. =D
I can’t wait to start 2011 with a big bang, El Cap is next on the list. Kelly and i will be doing a lot of technical training after getting all these trad climbing mileage in Long Dong. We will also be sleeping on Nose, Dairy Farm, to get some ledge sleeping experience. Stay tune for updates on ledge sleeping. =)
(Above) Qx on Golden Rod, 5.10c.
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