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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! ”