Sunday 3 August 2014

Nationals 2014

19th -20th July, 2014

I have a vivid memory of the first few times I competed in the Open A Female category at a Nationals Lead Climbing Championship. I was also competing in the youth categories at that time and having the opportunity to compete in Opens as well was absolutely awesome. Not only would I get to climb more routes and gain more experience but it was a “nothing to lose” no pressure situation at which I usually perform my best anyway. But best of all, I would get to climb and compete with some of the top female climbers in the country… and that was incredibly inspiring for me. I remember watching them glide up the walls seemingly effortlessly and wishing I could be that strong one day. It’s been my goal for a long time now to win the National Lead Climbing Championships… to be able to nearly top all my allocated climbs, to glide up the walls my own way, and to finally stand on top of that podium and become that person who inspired me so much in the beginning.

A few weekends ago I finally achieved that goal… and although it happened in an unusual set of circumstances, it made it all the more rewarding for me. This is how it happened…
(James Kassay and I after winning Open A National Lead Championships 2014)
Waking up Friday morning with a throbbing headache and sore throat, I was certainly having second thoughts about making this trip to Melbourne for the 2014 Lead Nationals. I really didn’t like the idea of becoming that annoying person on the plane coughing and sneezing, spreading the viral love to the world. I also didn’t want to have flown all that way and be too unwell to climb in a comp I’ve trained so hard for. But a crazy something inside me (probably the virus) decided that despite all these negatives, somehow it was still a better idea to make the trip and see how my luck would pan out. A bit of anger sparked inside me… I wasn't going to let some silly head cold stop me from at least trying to achieve this goal that I’ve trained so hard for. But the virus had its own goal too, I guess. It certainly wasn’t going to give up without a fight… but neither was I.

The day of the qualifying climbs was difficult. The Opens and Masters categories didn’t start until the afternoon and the comp was running a few hours late. I made the right decision to rest in the hotel all morning while Mum, Dad and Sarah did some Melbourne shopping and coffee drinking. I was pretty excited for both Mum and Sarah as they would also be competing!  Unfortunately my brother Sam couldn’t make it as he had to work but we nominated Dad as the Stirling coach for the weekend! It was another Stirling invasion.
I had slightly more energy when we got to the competition around midday and watched the Youth Finals. I really enjoy watching the youth categories climb. They are incredibly strong and it’s awesome to think of the amazing things they’ll be doing in a few years. It was also really lovely catching up with all my interstate buddies again.

I had a light boulder in an attempt to warm up a bit… But after feeling slightly exhausted already, I decided it was more important to conserve the little energy I had left. I sat down in a corner and wrapped myself with numerous jumpers and downys until it was my turn to climb (I was pretty consistent with this approach for the entire weekend).

The first qualifier climb was relatively straightforward with most of us topping out. It was really fun though and would have been a great warm up for the next climb. However, it wasn’t until 8:00 or 8:30pm that it was my turn to climb the next route… Way past my bedtime but I tried not to think about it.
The 2nd quals climb was very tricky and technical and no one actually topped out. The crux had these really fun, cool, balancy moves off polished slopers… A technical style I’ve really come to love in the last few years. Andrea Hah and I were the only two who managed to get to the last move, placing us both 1st in the ranking for the semi-finals the next day.

(Photo by Mike Davis: Open A qualifier climb #1) 
I didn’t sleep very well that night but did manage to get a few solid hours of deep sleep in to keep me going for a while. I tried to warm up before the semi-final route but my heart started racing so I decided to stick with my energy conservation plan. It didn’t work as well for this route… It was incredibly pumpy and as soon as I got on the wall I started shaking like crazy… Not enough warm up! I felt pretty horrid on the wall but managed to make it up most of the way before falling from complete exhaustion. I was really happy about how far I’d made it to on the climb considering how unwell I felt. I ended up ranking 2nd going into the finals that afternoon.

(Photo by Mike Davis: Open A semi-finals climb)
As soon as I came down from that climb I went into hibernation mode… I curled up in a corner in the isolation area, covered myself in down jackets and had an incredible nap dreaming of rainbow elephants, giant flowers and monkeys. It served me well… I emerged a few times to zombie walk my way to the toilet and back and wish my big sister, Sarah good luck for her climb in Open C and my Mum for Masters. When I finally got myself up for the viewing of the Open A finals route, I felt significantly better. I didn’t have much of a voice left (much to everyone’s amusement) but I had a fair amount more energy than I did in the morning, thank goodness! I even got a pretty good, light warm up just before my climb without exhausting myself.
During observation and visualisation time of our route I tried not to get caught up too much on any one cruxy looking section. Like usual, I spend my time scoping out all the holds and getting a general idea of where the harder parts are and a few possible ways I could do them. I then actually focus on the start of the climb, no matter how easy it looks, and get really comfortable with the moves and holds... because how I feel when I start the climb has a huge effect on the rest of the route and how “in the zone” I am. When it comes time to climb I just let my body do the work and trust my instinct and muscle memory when it comes to a difficult section. I do it my own way because I know what works best for me.

It was my turn to climb…I knew this route was long, and I knew it would be difficult, but I was going to give it everything. I stepped onto the wall and just climbed. I felt comfortable and relaxed but psyched. I didn’t waste any time through the start or think about what was ahead too much… I just climbed and let my body do the work. Before I knew it I was at the first harder looking section but it was surprisingly easy so I kept moving. I began feeling slightly pumped so I rested when I could, on whatever I could, but tried not to waste too much time… I would fatigue quickly if I wasn’t careful. I was in the last quarter of the climb where it becomes a battle of the pump. Nothing is that good to rest on so you just have to keep moving and hope that your fingers will close on each hold you grab despite the pump. I made it to the last few holds on the climb and they were absolutely terrible. I could barely hold on and the next hold looked worse. I went for the move just as the pump in my arms was making my fingers peel off the hold. I touched the next one but fell off, completely exhausted, but very happy. I had nearly just topped my Open A finals climb at Nationals! I was thrilled.
                                               (Photo by Mike Davis: Open A finals climb)

After finding out I had also just won, I could barely believe it. I thought back to that morning in bed and an hour or so beforehand in isolation, just feeling horribly sick and sorry for myself. I truly believed I had no chance of winning Nationals in the state I was in. But there I was… and I felt on top of the world. I couldn’t speak very well though… my voice was almost gone but I didn’t care.

(Photo by Climb Media: Andrea, me and Kumari on the Open A Finals podium)

We had wonderful celebrations that night at an Italian restaurant close by. I devoured an entire pizza and was almost falling asleep after one glass of wine. Mum and Sarah had done really well at the comp as well. They had both come 4th, only just missing out on podium in each of their categories. It was so lovely to celebrate with my family, and also to have Rob and Eric from ICP and Dave there to support me. What a weirdly awesome and unexpected weekend! 

(The weekend's Stirling team)
I would like to send a huge thank you to my sponsors Pinnacle Sports for their incredible and ongoing support over the years, you guys are amazing. To Flight Centre Active Travel for their ongoing support and for always making it so easy to organise my flights and accommodation. And to ICP, for their endless support and helping me celebrate reaching this big goal of mine, I am incredibly grateful. I have many more big dreams for climbing to work towards and it’s awesome to know I have such amazing sponsors to support me along the way. Thank you so much :)

Tuesday 3 June 2014

The Month of May

Last month was awesome! I’ve started up a new training program which we wrote at the beginning of the month and although it’s pretty intense, it’s going really really well. I had two state comps two weekends in a row (QLD and NSW State Lead Championships), and a social ICP comp the weekend after that! All three comps were very successful and I placed 1st in Open A’s.
Open A finals climb - QLD State Lead Championships. Photo by Chris Hampton from Climb Media

The first comp was the QLD State Lead Championships at Urban Climb and was sponsored by Pinnacle Sports. It was an absolutely awesome comp which went over 2 days (I competed on the Sunday). The turn-out was amazing too, with over 200 competitors. There were heaps of prizes and giveaways thanks to Pinnacle Sports who did an outstanding job as head sponsor of the comp! It was awesome to have so many of my interstate buddies travel up to compete as well! The climbs were great fun and super hard. I was the only female to top the first qualifying climb which was very technical but incredibly fun and perfectly at my limit. The second climb was quite different, with much more bouldery, strengthy moves. Visualising that climb was hard… I seriously thought I was going to come off quite early. But I was surprised, the holds weren’t as bad as they looked and I managed to get much further than I anticipated. I got pretty pumped as well… I did a funky heel-hook above my head to take the weight off my arms to give them a rest but it wasn’t enough… My arms were telling me that unless the next hold is a huge easy jug then I probably won’t be climbing much longer. I fell off dynoing for that next hold… hoping for my arms to change their mind before I reached it (which definitely wasn’t an easy jug)… but they didn’t haha. I was happy with how I went though and managed to get the furthest in the females. I was pretty tried when it came time for our finals climb, and I was the last person to go out of isolation. The climb looked very hard… We had the same finals route as the Open A males… so it was bound to be difficult. I managed to get to what I had visualised as the first crux and went for the next move, touching the next hold, but my foot slipped as I launched and I came off the wall. All the girls in the Open A finals climbed really well though and we all got to a similar spot on the climb. I placed first winning $1000!!!! I was incredibly happy and am very keen to put it towards an amazing climbing adventure in the not so distant future.
QLD State Lead Championships Podium
Photo by Ann Stirling
Open A finals climb - QLD State Lead
Photo by Chris Hampton from Climb Media

The NSW State lead comp was also great fun. I flew down to Sydney on the Friday beforehand and back to Brissy on the Sunday afterwards... another big thank you to Flight Centre for sponsoring my flights over there! It was so good to see all my NSW friends at the competition and see them climb so well. The gym had just put in a new wall which was really cool and very steep and pumpy. The routes were really enjoyable. I managed to top both my qualifying climbs and my finals climb, placing first in Open A’s. It was so great to have Liliana Scacheri and Rhys Brandon also fly down from QLD to compete at the comp. They climbed amazingly, both placing 1st in their youth categories and Lil also placing 2nd in Open A's! Go QLD!

NSW State Lead Championships Podium
Rhys, Liliana and I representing QLD at the NSW Lead State Championships
Last weekend was the ICP social comp at the sunshine coast! The comp was sponsored by Pinnacle Sports, it was great fun and heaps of people turned up to the themed comp: lights-out, head-torch pump-fest, making it an awesome night of fun. Alex and I had just finished our week of intense stamina training and we were absolutely exhausted, our hands were SO sore… but it was great fun anyway. The next day we had a great climbing day at Mt Coolum and I climbed a lot better than I expected, considering I hadn’t had a rest day in a while. I’m pretty sore now though and this week is the beginning of power and resistance training.

Alex and my sore blistery hands
So far the training is going really well and I'm feeling the strongest I've ever felt on the wall which is really cool. At the beginning of our intense stamina training week (last week) Alex and I did a "Super Awesome Endurance Challenge" where the challenge was to do 1000 moves on the steep bouldering wall in under 2 hours with the least number of attempts (so we were aiming for the least amount of times to come off the wall to rest). I managed to get 1001 moves in 1hr 29mins with 5 attempts (4 rests off the wall). It was incredibly difficult. My skin was getting very raw and blistery, it felt so sore and each move became a mental struggle (not so much because my arms were super tired but because I felt my skin might rip of my hand with the grip of another hold). In the end it was very rewarding and definitely good stamina training!

Sore hands right after the endurance challenge
I am really looking forward to heading to Nowra for a few weeks at the end of this month and doing a good solid block of outdoor cranking! It'll be pretty cold down there but at least the friction will be amazing. I’m also super keen for Lead Nationals coming up in Melbourne in July!!! Then Queensland State Boulder in August!! ...Gosh this year's going quickly. A huge thank you to my wonderful sponsors Pinnacle Sports, Flight Centre, Indoor Climbing Productions and REIZE for your amazing support.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

VIC State Lead Titles 2014                                                                                

Last weekend, I travelled down to Victoria to compete in the VIC State Lead Climbing Titles held at Bayside Rock Climbing Gym. The comp was run really well and was a great way to kick-start the Australian lead climbing season for 2014.

Flying down there on the Friday evening, I found myself buzzing with a mix of both excitement and nervousness. The first comp of the year is always a bit nerve-racking, I guess… but having missed so many comps last year because of my wrist injury, it felt like forever since I’d last competed! Despite the nerves, I was super excited to finally catch up with a lot of my interstate climbing buddies after so long and just to be able to jump on a bunch of really fun, well-set routes.

The youth categories took up the first half of the Saturday and I was glad to arrive at the gym early enough to watch the youth finals. The climbs looked really cool and all the youth categories were climbing really strong. Eager to start climbing again, we all began scoping out what routes they might put us Opens on for the qualifications. There was one stand-out climb which no one had any doubt would be for the Open A Finals. Parts of it were covered and it was likely they would alter it slightly to make sure it was an “onsight,” but even so… everyone knew it would be a real pumper. It was just awesomely long, starting on the right side walls of the gym, then traversing across the gym roof on these massive new features and then up through the classic huge Bayside overhang. I couldn’t wait to have a go.

It was a strong field, with 8 of us in the Open A female category and a few had already competed in the youth that morning. We were all so psyched to get on the wall. The two qualifier routes for our category were great fun. The first climb was cool… it felt relatively easy (even though my nerves made me hesitate on the last move) but I still managed to top-out clean. Many of us topped the first route but I was the only one who managed to top the second route as well. This meant I would be the last person to come out of isolation when finals came around.

In isolation, waiting for my turn to climb in the finals, wasn’t nearly as tedious as it can be at many other competitions. I had lots of friends to catch up with and a really awesome bouldering area to warm up in. But when it was finally my turn to go out, I was just busting to get on the wall. It was an awesomely fun route… incredibly long and pumpy but flowed really nicely and the moves were really fun. I was SO close to the anchor when I fell off… I’d made it through the whole overhang (apparently skipping holds which I forgot about around the side) and was throwing over the last little lip to the third last hold but just missed the positive edge and fell off. Being lowered down to the ground, I was buzzing from the climb, my burning forearms felt like they were about to explode, and I was really happy with my effort.

The worst thing about qualifying first and coming out of isolation last is that you don’t get to watch anybody else climb! It turns out that I got the furthest on the finals route placing me first in the Open A women, followed by Ashlee Hendy in second place, and Sarah Davis in third. Everyone climbed really strong, the routes were well set and imaginative, making for an awesome comp day. Big thanks to the Bayside team and all the volunteers for their amazing efforts! Looking forward to what the rest of this year’s comp season has to offer!

Sunday 16 February 2014

China Trip 2013 - Part 2 - Yangshuo

28th October 2013 - Yangshuo Part 1

We have finally arrived in Yangshuo! We ended up having to leave Getu a few days earlier than planned because Alex threw a rock at me!! Haha not really… He actually accidentally dislodged a massive rock while climbing but I wasn’t quick enough to move out of the way as I was concentrating on getting my shoes off. It hit me on my back near my neck and shoulder when I was sitting beneath the climb. Silly me… Obviously not a very smart place to take off my climbing shoes. But anyway… I didn’t break anything luckily, but as soon as my body cooled down, my shoulder couldn’t support or hold up my arm. I started freaking out a bit… questioning whether I would be able to climb at all again on this trip. But over the next few days it improved significantly and I still haven’t even developed a bruise, which is crazy! I don’t quite understand how that works… it was a pretty hard hit and a rather large rock… but oh well… I’m certainly not complaining. I had a light climb on it today and it was fine… only a tiny bit sore. Now I’m off to celebrate our first night in Yangshuo!

(Getu - Holding the mean rock that just hit my back)

31st October 2013

I’m currently sitting at the bottom of the North face of a crag called “The Egg.” It’s a pretty nicely weathered day compared to the past few we’ve had here. But even if the mornings are rainy, it generally clears up a bit in the afternoon. It’s also a lot warmer here than we all expected but I’m sure it’ll get pretty cool in the next few weeks leading up to the China Winter.

I’ve decided I should probably be taking it easy today because I haven’t really had a rest day at all since we’ve been in Yangshuo… and my muscles and fingers are starting to complain about it. These past few days here in Yangshuo have been great fun. This place and the general experience here is incredibly different to Getu though. In Getu you wake up to the sounds of roosters trying their best to “cockadoodledoo” (but this sound could easily be confused with a weird dog trying to howl with a chest infection or something), and the streets are more occupied by herds of cows, goats and buffalo on their way home and dingo-like dogs lying in the middle of the road. In Yangshuo, things are very different. The sound you wake up to is probably the honk of a bike or car horn trying to dodge the many scooters and tourists. A walk along the river in the morning, and you’ll pass lots of tai-chi and healthy old Chinese people doing their morning ritual of body pats, energy releasing throat noises and in this morning’s case, an old man giving himself a back massage on a bridge railing, hehe. The main popular street at night is called West Street. It’s pretty much a Western version of China Town in Australia. It is hilarious to see, but seems very fake. You can get Wood fired Pizza, go to German beer gardens, bars, pubs, clubs, smoothie stalls and climbing shops. It is a nice break from the complete lack of English in Getu… but I love the authenticity of Getu and how it’s not just a big show for the tourists.

There are obviously many climbers in Yangshuo, and hence quite a few Inns’, bars and shops designed completely for climbers from all around the world! It’s so awesome that just within a few days of being here we’ve made so many new friends and met so many people who share our passion of climbing.

(Yangshuo - Johnny, Alex and I having dinner with our new climbing buddies from around the world) 
The landscape here is absolutely beautiful. You are surrounded by so many huge unusual rock features and pointy limestone mountains that jut straight out of the ground, absolutely perfect for climbing. On our first day of climbing we visited “Wine Bottle” crag. It was fun and once again it was a very different style of limestone climbing to anything we had experienced before. We visited “The Chicken Cave” on the second day which was good fun. It had a great long climb up the left side of the cave, through some awesome hip-hugging, straddle humping tufas and then into the roof of the main cave. I jumped on a short overhang crack climb which was surprisingly slippery and terrible, so that was short-lived... but towards the end of the day I got on a really fun, steep, resistancy 7b (25) called “Lily”. I got it on my second shot, great fun and solid climbing. We went to an awesome place that night for dinner called Rock and Grill which does amazing Western food for very good value. I’m so psyched to try the big duck dish on the menu one night!

(Yangshuo - Alex and I on our way back from Wine Bottle Crag)
Yesterday was everyone in the Pinnacle Sports trip’s rest day, but I bought a cute bike for 170 Yuan (with a bike lock and basket included) and Alex, Johnny and I rode out to the White Mountain crag to check it out. It took us a fair while to find our way there (not quite used to the map yet) but once we arrived it was just awesome! SO many fun looking lines to try there. You could spend most of your trip just here... But there is so much amazing rock here in Yangshuo… you’d be crazy to spend it all at one crag. Luckily we’ve given ourselves a good solid month at least to get a feel for the Yangshuo climbing style. I’m so keen to find a few projects and get a feel for the rock here.

The Wifi sort of works here… but not really (just for a slight change of subject). But hopefully it’ll decide to work sometime soon. I’m so keen to Skype the family and friends back home.

Sat 9th Nov, 2013
This is my third night in the new share-house apartment we’ll be staying in for the rest of this trip. It’s a great little climbers’ apartment. It has a little kitchen with a stove and sink, a campus board and a bamboo chin up bar! Each room has its own squat-toilet on suite and there’s a nicely sized living room with a fridge, washing machine and working shower room. The apartment is also really close to the centre of town which is super handy and after every long day of climbing, you thank yourself for not renting a place any further away. There is a cool group of us living here as well. Alex and I share a room. Peta and Scott are in another room, and at the moment Johnny is sharing a room with Bao (a lovely Taiwanese girl we’ve just met here who has also been to Australia and climbed at Urban a fair bit!).

(Bao, Alex and I having dinner in our new share apartment)
(Alex photo-bombing my campus-board photo)

I’ve been craving steamed corn for so long… and yesterday I bought some fresh from the markets and steamed it in the kitchen… oh my gosh, at the time it was like the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Anyway, since I last wrote we’ve done quite a fair bit. We visited Twin Gate Mountain crag which had an awesome tufa forest maze cave climb called “Anti-Polar.” (A 7b or 25 which I managed to flash) So much fun! We also went to the famous Moon Hill which was absolutely amazing! I was incredibly close to Onsighting this amazing 7c (27) called “Moon Walker” which is SO much fun and goes through the right arch of the mountain (Looking from behind). I was on the second last move and I had the energy left in me to do it but my foot kept slipping on this high jib and eventually it slipped me off. Very keen to jump on and get it.

(Yangshuo - Twin Gate Mountain: Me flashing "Anti Polar" (7b). Photo by Adrian Amies)
(Yangshuo - Moon Hill - Me coming down from "Moon Walker" (7c). Photo by Adrian Amies)
We also went to a fairly new crag called “Dragon City” which was really cool. Alex got his first 7c (27) flash called “Finger in the Nose” I was so excited for him. Such a fun climb too! I managed to onsight it and then later on in the day I found a really fun 7b (25) called “Angry Bird” which I managed to onsight as well. That climb was really cool… very technical, thin and delicate and you just have to take your time. Then there’s this dynamic move in the middle which I actually committed to and stuck! I was so happy with myself haha… usually I don’t commit to dynos… I would usually give a half-arse try and then try and find a static alternative. But since that committed throw, I’ve been committing to so many more dynamic moves now which is great!

We visited a crag called “Riverside” 2 days ago and Alex and I found this stunning route. SO much fun! Something about it was just beautiful and the moves just flowed and fell together. It was also very tough and graded 7c+ (28) so Alex and I gave it one shot that day and then decided we’d leave most of the draws on it and come back the next day… and that was yesterday! We warmed up on a dynamic 7a+ which I flashed called “dragonfly” then we jumped straight back onto “Fat Monkey” (The stunning 28) and I got it on my first shot of the day! And so did Alex!! It was SO awesome and we were both so happy but surprised as well! So many times I thought I was definitely going to come off but I told myself I can’t let go and I didn’t! Yay! Project 2 completed. That day I also managed to flash another 7b (25) and redpoint another 7b on my second shot (a really cool dynamic move in that one too).
(Yangshuo - Riverside Crag - Me flashing "Dragonfly" (7a+)) 
Today we are having a rest day… A proper rest day… only because when I was climbing that 7c+ yesterday… part of what got me up the wall was me talking to myself and I said: “Look body… if you make it up this climb, I promise to give you a full rest day tomorrow”… and it delivered… so I guess I have to keep my promise. Not sure what I’ll get up to today though… maybe go look for some foam to make the beds softer. Maybe a light jog or bike ride.

Mon 18th Nov, 2013 – Beginning of my Red Dragon adventures

OK. So I’m up like an hour earlier than usual this morning because I can’t get back to sleep. I woke up to go to the loo… then I started thinking about this climb I tried 2 days ago which is absolutely AMAZING and I can’t wait to get back on it. It’s called “Red Dragon” and it’s an 8a+ (30) at Moon Hill, and an extension of a 7b+ (26)… so it’s very long and pumpy… but SO good! I think I may have fallen in love with it.

I was having an awesome climbing day that day at Moon Hill. When we got there, I onsighted a hard 6c to warm up. Then I jumped straight onto my project of “Moon Walker” (7c) (that amazing one through the arch that I almost got on my first try) and I ticked it!! For some reason all the moves felt much easier than last time and I had heaps left in the tank when I clipped the anchors… so that was satisfying! Then I flashed a fun 7b+ (26) called “Over the Moon” which was just right of it. I was having such a good day so I decided I would jump on this “Red Dragon” climb that everyone was talking about… and I would try my best to onsight it. If I felt like I had the energy to keep going after the anchors of the 7b+ I would continue into the 8a+ for fun and just see how it goes. And that’s what I did! I had heaps left in the tank at the 7b+ anchor so I kept going into the 8a+ and on my first go, I got to the second last quickdraw! I was stoked! I pulled back up to try the last few moves and managed to work it all out pretty well and do the last part in one sit. The end is so cool too… once you clip the anchors you can bat-hang hands-free in this hole or cavelet thing beside the anchors and it’s right in the middle of the big arch.
(Yangshuo - Moon Hill - Me working on "Red Dragon" 8a+)
(Yangshuo - Moon Hill - Me flashing "Over the Moon" (7b+). Photo by Jonathan Shen)
I got back on it again that day but was feeling pretty fatigued so I only got to the same spot again. But I’m so keen to jump back on that climb. I really think I might be able to tick it this trip… I really hope so. It would be my first ever 8a+ (30)!

Poor Alex has had a bit of a wrist injury so he’s had to have a few days off which really sucks. He had a light climb yesterday though and it seemed ok so fingers crossed it keeps improving. It happened when we were at White Mountain a few days ago and Alex had just onsighted and I flashed a fun 7b called “The Phoenix” (Nice work Alex!!!!) We were going to jump on an 8a called “Gin and Tonic” but I decided to try a 7c called “White Devil” first and I onsighted it which was cool. But when Alex got on, his wrist twinged so (us both being paranoid about wrist injuries given my 7 to 9 months off this year because of one) we decided we should be safe and call it a day.

Today apparently it will be a bit cloudier so we will probably head to a crag called “Banyan Tree” which we haven’t been to yet so that should be fun! Next super sunny day we get I’m going to do my best to convince everyone to catch a bus together again and go to Moon Hill. Can’t wait to get back on Red Dragon!

24th Nov, 2013

Banyan Tree was pretty cool. After a fun warm up I tried a very reachy 7c called “LaLiao.” I didn’t think I would get it that day but I tried it again and got it on my second shot. I then jumped on the super classic 7b “Todd Skinner Line” which was great fun.

We went to “Lei Pi Shan” 2 days later and had another good day! I sent my project called “Honky Tonk” which is a 7c (27) and is really good fun but very reachy and lots of big moves where the feet are terrible. That day I also onsighted a 7a and redpointed one of the hardest and boulderiest 7a+’s around; “The Artful Dodger).
The day after Lei-Pi Shan, we went to Moon Hill again. I put the draws up and brushed the holds on “Red Dragon.” After a little break I got on to try and send it but got to the pocket at the second last move!!! I was devastated! I had given it absolutely everything. What a heart-breaker of a climb. Anyway… Alex jumped on “Moon Walker” and it was awesome! He was so close to flashing the climb. He fell off on the last move like I did, only because he couldn’t sort his feet. When he pulled back on straight away, he did the last move so easily! So he’ll most definitely get that ticked next day at Moon Hill. I had a little nap beside our bags then gave “Red Dragon” another shot but only got to the crimps at the crux and fell off because I was so exhausted. I pulled back on though and did the crux and the last few moves over and over again so I’ll have it dialled for prime efficiency on my next go. I back-jumped to clean it and that was the end of a very tiring day. Oh and we had stir-fry on “Cheap Street” (we call it that anyway) again for dinner which was yum as always.

I definitely needed a rest day after Moon Hill. Alex and I went on a bamboo boat ride for 25 Yuan each up the Li River in the afternoon which was lovely. We went to White Mountain the next day and I ticked “Gang of Four” which I was happy about. We have planned today to be another rest day (So sick of rest days but I guess they’re essential if I want to tick anything) so that we can go to Moon Hill again tomorrow! Yay! Can’t wait to get back on “Red Dragon.” That climb is going down!

(Yangshuo - Alex and I on a bamboo boat ride up the Li River)
Kate, Johnny’s girlfriend arrived yesterday! It’ll be awesome to have her around as well. Lately we’ve all been hanging out and climbing with an American guy called Max, another American guy called Jason, a Swiss guy called Daniel and of course Bao, our Taiwanese room-mate. They are all really friendly and fun, cool people. I think we are having stir-fry again tonight which should be awesome!

26th Nov, 2013 – Red Dragon goes down!

What an awesome day yesterday was! We went to Moon Hill again and it was another super clear, sunny day (but slightly colder than last time). The previous day had been really dry and windy so the rock was super grippy. I warmed up again by putting the draws on “Red Dragon” and sitting on the rope. Alex ticked “Moon Walker” (7c or 27) on his 2nd shot which was awesome! I tried Red Dragon but was nervous and made a silly mistake up near the crux and fell off. However…

After a rest and some delicious steamed corn for lunch I got back on “Red Dragon”… and I got it!!!!!! I can’t explain how incredibly happy I was when I clipped the anchor and did a victory bat-hang from the clipping hold. YAY! I finally got my first 8a+ (30). I still have yet to tick a 29 though haha. Such an amazing climb, and I’m so happy to have finally completed it. I think I got it on my 6th shot altogether, but the past few days it has seriously been the only thing on my mind. It was definitely starting to play with my head. Every time I’d close my eyes to go to sleep, “Red Dragon” would be there, taunting me… the crux moves just playing through over and over again. But now I can finally rest easy knowing I have that amazingly beautiful climb under my belt.

(Yangshuo - Moon Hill - Me doing a bat-hang at the anchors after finally ticking "Red Dragon" (8a+))
That whole afternoon I was just buzzing and I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. I did “Moon Walker” again to the top and then down-climbed it to clean the draws off. We had big celebrations that night (last night… so I’m feeling rather hung-over at the moment). When we got back, I Skyped Mum and Dad, which was lovely. Alex and I shared two Tsing-Tao beers (So I was already rather tipsy before dinner). Then we celebrated by going to Rock and Grill for dinner again. Alex got the Chicken Fajita’s which was really good value and looked absolutely delicious. I got the roasted half chicken which was amazing and so tasty. Then after being so very satisfied by that dinner… we went to the bakery and as promised, I ate a whole Portuguese custard tart for dessert… Alex had a few too of course.

We are at Lei Pi Shan today and everything hurts… my muscles are so sore. I did a really slow warm up on a 6c+ and then Daniel (one of our new climbing buddies) had put the draws up on “Paper Cut” 7c+ (28) so I decided to give it a crack despite my intentions of having an easy day. I ended up flashing it! I’m pretty sure that might be my hardest flash so far! So that was exciting! I think I should let my body rest now though since it has been so awesome to me lately. Alex is currently working on a really hard 8a (29) in front of me called “Single Life.” I reckon he can tick it this trip, he looks really solid on the moves!

(Yangshuo - Lei Pi Shan - Alex on "Single Life" (8a))
(Yangshuo - Lei Pi Shan - Me on "Single Life" (8a))

29th Nov, 2013

I’m sitting here, in this awesome cave called “Odin’s Den.” It was pretty miraculous that we managed to find this place. When the guide book states that there’s “not really any obvious path or track there”… They actually meant that there is really NO path up here whatsoever! But it was awesome fun trying to find… that is if you find crawling blindly, head-first up a steep (most people would call impenetrable bush), long grass, slippery bamboo, lots of twigs sticks and leafy walls of thorny shrubs “fun.” But when there is an awesome crag to discover on the other side, we really couldn’t help ourselves. When we finally arrives at the bottom of this huge cave (which has an awesomely big headwall as well), coughing and snorting up seeds of grass, we congratulated ourselves for finding the crag everyone said was near impossible.
This place is a little gem, but today is a pretty sunny, hot day and inside the shadiest part of the cave, there isn’t much to climb easier than an 8a+ (30). Alex and I are climbing with Max, our new friend from America. We decided to jump on our only real option for a warm up (a 7b… not a very good warm up, but awesome fun, yet funky confusing climbing). Alex just onsighted it which was really cool to watch. I flashed it after him and now Max is currently working his way through the fun yet terrifying maze towards the anchors.

This place is amazing... Odin’s Den and everywhere we’ve been in the past 6 weeks. This whole trip has truly been something special. On long trips, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the fast motions and routine of things and forget for a moment where you actually are in the world and how long it took to plan to get here… I feel incredibly lucky.

A few hours later and we jumped on the next climb in the cave… an 8a+ (30) called “Valhalla” It was SO much fun! I almost ticked it on my second shot! We kind of ran out of time though and decided we should make the difficult trudge back down the bushy, precarious “track” well before dark. I spent much of the way down on my backside, slipping down the grass, hoping for the best… or getting tripped over by all these natural, thorny trip-wires. We made it back with heaps of time to catch the 3 Yuan local bus back into Yangshuo town.

(Yangshuo - Odin's Den - Me on "Valhalla" (8a+) Photo by Johnathen Shen)

1st Dec, 2013

I had a surprisingly successful day yesterday at “Swiss Cheese Wall” with Alex, Peta and Scott. It was Alex and my 3rd day on of climbing and our plan was to get some vertical mileage in. Somehow I managed to tick the whole left side crag in that day! I have no skin left on my fingers but I was pretty happy with that. I onsighted one of the hardest 7a+’s (25) I’ve ever come across (took me a while though haha), then managed to tick my 7b project, then flash the hard 7c (27) next to it. I then decided to jump on the 7b+ over to the right because it’s the last thing I had left to do at that crag… and somehow I managed to onsight it! I was on some crazy ticking spree which came out of nowhere. I’ve been feeling really strong lately, which is such a confidence booster for me after having 8 or so months of little to no climbing because of my wrist injury. I’m so happy to just be back and climbing again!

Rest day today… Only 2 weeks left till we go back home to Australia!

13th Dec, 2013 – Last two weeks of our China trip adventures

On the 3rd December we went back up to Odin’s Den for the day and I finally got “Valhalla” that 8a+ (30), on my 4th ever shot which I was really happy about! We also went back up to “Lei Pi Shan” a few times and Alex was SO incredibly close to ticking “Single Life” the 8a (29) but just missed out. We were going to go on our 2nd last day and I am so sure he would have ticked it then… but we didn’t have enough people to book a taxi to get there. It’s a bummer… his last shot was SO close and he got through the whole crux but just missed the pinch slightly before the rest. He’s climbing so strong at the moment!

With our trip home approaching so fast our psych and our body’s complete exhaustion from 2 months of constant climbing was forcing us to wind down. The temperature dropped significantly in the last week and we spent many days at some of the easier crags just getting some mileage in. We went to “Riverside” again, “The Goat” (which was really cool), “White Cliff,” “Dragon City” and on our last day we climbed at “Wine Bottle” and ticked all the 6’s at the crag. It was a great crag to end the trip at, as it was the first crag we visited on our arrival into Yangshuo!
It’s funny… the last few days we were so ready to come home and lacked psych to get on hard routes and risk finding a project… but during our last night in Yangshuo, I struggled to sleep because all I wanted to do was try “Sea of Tranquillity” 8b+ (32) at Moon Hill and “Gin and Tonic” at White Mountain and of course “Single Life” at Lei Pi Shan. I guess we have to leave some things to come back to.

I’m really going to miss China and its amazing limestone mountains. I’ve had such a fun time here, met so many amazing people, experienced a very different culture and approach to life and climbed some of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever been on. Such an amazing trip I will always remember!

Friday 31 January 2014

China Trip 2013 - Part 1

Arriving in ChinaShanghai, Guiyang (Touristy stuff)

11th October 2013
We have just begun our two month climbing trip to China!! After our long flights from Australia, Alex Turnbull and I spent our first two days in the largest and most chaotic city I think I’ve ever been in… Shanghai. My Gosh, that place is huge! We spent pretty much the entire two days on our feet, fighting the jetlag, walking between touristy sights, puzzling over unusual Chinese maps and just taking in our new and very different surroundings. Alex, being the whole 1.85 metre tower he is, next to a short, blond me… Two westerners casually strolling through the chaotic city streets of Shanghai, map in hands (probably upside down)… We obviously looked and felt incredibly out of place.

While it seems chaotic throughout the day in Shanghai, it’s nothing compared to when the sun goes down. At night the city just explodes with life and lights, it’s just amazing. The huge main outdoor mall (which feels like it goes on forever) had something new at every corner; group dancers, karaoke, some form of tai chi and music everywhere. The city just bustles with this atmosphere that makes you smile.

(Shanghai skyline at night from the South Bund)
On our second night there, we were deciding where, out of the thousands of options available, to go for dinner. But our tricky decision was quickly made easy by a Chinese lady standing outside her restaurant holding a menu. She said something in Chinese and pulled my arm, forcing us into her restaurant… Alex and I just went with it. She walked us past all these tables occupied by Chinese locals, and plonked us in the back left corner on a round table which already had two other western couples sitting there. It was obviously the “Western tourist” table of the restaurant… hilarious. We ordered our dinner and shared it with the strangers on our table, chatting about where we come from and laughing about how we were all just plonked on the same “foreigners” table together.
We did as many things we could while in Shanghai, but there is still so much we weren’t able to fit in.
(Shanghai Yuyuan gardens - entrance markets) 
(Shanghai Yuyuan gardens chaos & Alex making friends with the locals)
We then flew to Guiyang which is quite different to Shanghai. I preferred it because it’s far less busy and has a little bit more order and character to it. Despite this, it is still a city about the size of Brisbane and when I say “order,” it is still very chaotic.

Alex and I had an interesting experience with a Sichuan hot pot one night. It was literally the hottest thing I have ever eaten! SO much chilli. I was so full because I kept shoveling plain rice in my mouth to dull the pain and throbbing in my mouth. It was very funny though… I looked across the table and Alex was just sweating and the whole of the restaurant’s staff members were standing there looking at us in horror probably thinking they had just killed us with chilli! People even bought us refresher drinks to help us!

 (Guiyang - Sichuan hot-pot experience)

The next day we met up with AJ, Emily, Peta, Scott and the rest of the Pinnacle Sports crew and we all caught a 3 hour bus ride South West to our first climbing area for the trip… Getu He. When we finally arrived in the small farm town we went for an afternoon climb at one of the closer crags called “Olliver’s crag.” It was so nice to finally be on rock again.

Getu He – Part 1

Sat 19th Oct 2013
Getu is amazing! It’s so beautiful and peaceful. It’s just this old, poor Chinese farm town surrounded by these huge beautiful limestone mountains, hundreds of metres high. The little town has so much character... Nobody speaks English and all the little old ladies seem to be able to hobble down the streets carrying huge amounts of anything and everything on their backs, heading toward their farms.
Our chosen accommodation was OK… It was very cheap and the people seemed lovely (even though we had no idea what they were saying most of the time)… but the toilet smelt a lot and you’re not allowed to put the toilet paper down the toilet, you have to put it in the bin, which doesn’t really help the smell! The shower, which only occasionally worked, was hand held and is in the middle of the bathroom so you kinda have to try and avoid the toilet when showering. The beds were super hard and the pillows didn’t really do much… But hey, it was livable, cheap, and perfect accommodation for a few days of amazing climbing adventures.

(Getu – Alex pointing at Fish Crag with “Pussa Yan” crag in background)
(Getu – Muddy trekking adventures on our way back from Fish Crag)

On our second day there we trekked up to an amazing crag called “Fish Crag.” It was a very, very muddy walk in… clay and straw would just cake up on your shoes and it’s impossible to get it off without a rock. It was a pretty funny sight, everyone plodding along with their new mud platform approach shoes.
The climbs there are really long and my favorite route, “Les Boules de Geisha” a very difficult 7c (27) was probably the longest, at about 35metres. This climb had a really hard, delicate, spicy start with a funky mono-pocket throw, which felt more like a 28. It then goes into some hard grade 24 or 25 moves. By this stage you’re incredibly pumped and you look up and you’re only just over half way there. Alex and I went back up there the next day to retrieve the draws we had to leave there from the rain on the previous day. Alex ticked and cleaned a fun route around the right corner and after a few shots I managed to tick the really long 7c! After retrieving our draws and trekking back down the muddy forest (or slipping and sliding down in my case), we made our way back to the guesthouse to change our muddy pants before heading over to the National Park to check out the Great Arches.

The arches are absolutely AMAZING and incomprehensibly huge! There was a new walking section which allows you to walk through the bottom cave, up some concrete stairs, across a sketchy bridge and up an elevator if you can believe it! I think Alex and I got the last functioning trip in that elevator... haha. We sat down for lunch at the top and a Chinese fellow walked past us to go back down the elevator… but after about 3 metres the lift stopped and wasn’t going anywhere. Alex and I spent the next few minutes trying to yell at Chinese workers down the bottom that the “lift is broken with person inside” in attempted Mandarin pronunciation from our handy “Learning Mandarin” book. Eventually someone else came along so we gave up and left it in their capable Chinese hands. Luckily there is another exit through the other great arch… a long descent of hundreds of tedious steps leading to a little lazy ferry driver to cross the river for 1 Yuan each.

(Getu – Bottom cave of the great Arch)
(Elevator inside the Great Arch)

(Getu – Ferry man taking local school kids across river)

Getu He – Part 2

Mon 21st Oct 2013
It’s crazy! These past few days, climbing at all these new limestone crags, each crag has a really different style to the last. Each time we get blown away by how massive the cliff is, but by every new crag we visit, they seem to just get bigger and bigger! It’s such beautiful rock and there’s just so much of it. You could probably spend your whole life here in Getu, and never run out of things to climb.

I tried this 7c+ in the Great Arch called “Chinese Lady” which had a really fun start of slopey-pockets, pinches and funky gaston burls. You have lots of foot options, but each one is just as slopey and frictionless as the last. And there are SO many pockets to choose from but only a select few are actually holdable. But by about halfway, the route transforms into this slopey, under-cling, reachy campus-fest where nothing is positive… and for me this section felt rather desperate. The fact that I couldn’t feel my toes probably didn’t help my situation though.

I’m really keen to try a few long multi-pitches around this Great Arch. It would be absolutely amazing and beautifully exposed.

(Getu – Inside the top cave of the Great Arch)

Tues 22nd Oct 2013
I had an awesome day today. The weather was much better than the past few days have been and yesterday I had a rest day… or half rest day I guess since we went to Oliver’s Crag in the afternoon.
We went up to Banyan’s Cave today which is awesome. I really enjoyed it… and it now has one of my favorite climbs in it! It’s an overhang called “Calf” and it’s just my favorite style of climbing… an overhung maze of positive holds and pumpy goodness... It’s just so much fun. I didn’t really think I would make it because it’s supposedly an 8a (which is a 29) but I just said I would jump on and have fun playing around on what looked to be a stellar route. I ended up onsighting it! I was so happy but I concluded that it isn’t really a 29 and that it is definitely more like a 27… but still that would be my first 27 onsight! I couldn’t get over how fun the moves were. I then onsighted another 27 further to the right which wasn’t nearly as fun… and quite scary to back-jump clean as well…rather run-out in sections. But anyway… all in all, a good fun and successful day at the crag. Alex, Johnny and I have planned for a multi-pitching day tomorrow! YAY!

(Getu – Alex crushing at Banyan’s Cave
Photo by Scott Hailstone)
(Getu – Me onsighting “Calf” at Banyan’s Cave
Photo by Scott Hailstone

Getu He – Part 3 (EPIC)

Wed 24th Oct 2013
Holy crap, what an EPIC. Yesterday was such a huge day and the most scared I I’ve ever been for my life for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I’ve ever felt luckier to finally be back in a bed in an enclosed room on the ground. Where to begin…

We began the day climbing the 1036 stairs of the Great Arch in the rain to arrive pretty close to the beginning of our multi-pitch for the day. We’d attempted to pick the easiest, simplest and most direct multi-pitch in the guide for the Great Arches. The climb is called “Dos Forasteros en la Selva,” is 4 pitches (6c+, 6c+, 6c, 6b+), 180m long and in the guide it looks like a straight line to the top anchors. It was decided that I would do the first pitch, Alex the second, Johnny the third, and me the last. So we geared up at the platform with the chairs and stairs and scrambled down the foresty descent about 15 metres to where the 1st pitch began. The rock looked dry the whole way up so we were sweet to go. We began climbing at 11:30am. I was pretty freaked leading up the first pitch and was happy for that to have been my only lead for the day. I’m not sure why I was a bit jittery, I think it may have been the spider I came face to face with before the high first bolt and the moves weren’t that obvious and were about a hands length out of my reach and the bolts were rather run-out. Anyway… I got over it and made it to the anchor of the first pitch, set up the belay and belayed Johnny and Alex up. Alex really enjoyed the first pitch… me not so much. So I belayed Alex up as he lead the second pitch, which to our surprise, traversed right a fair bit, past a big old palm tree and a large, broken but apparently solid stick. It was a beautifully exposed pitch though and probably the best of the 4.

You look around and you can see right down to the river where you catch the ferry, all the way down the valley, through all the beautiful mountains… and on your left is the huge arch, hundreds of metres high. You look down and although
You’ve only done one pitch, it’s a whole mountain beneath that before the river. So yeah, very exposed and incredibly beautiful. You also do some fun traversy moves over these great tufas which is stellar.

The second anchor wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the first and all 3 of us up there was rather cosy. Johnny lead the next pitch which also traversed right a bit, unlike the perfectly straight line shown in the guide. I lead the last pitch which was the shortest, but good fun but rather sharp and wet towards the top near the anchor. We all made it up and were very happy to have done all the leads clean.

(Getu – Johnny, Alex and I finally at the top anchors of the multi-pitch)
We got up to the top by about 4:00pm and we all really needed to pee so we quickly took some photos and got stuck into working out the abseil back down. At that time, had we had good anchors, we would have had heaps of time to reach the bottom of the climb, walk back down all those stairs and make it to the ferry in time before it stops taking people across at 6:00pm when the park closes. So Johnny would do the first rappel down to the anchor of the second pitch and then Alex and I would simultaneous rapp down after. However… not all was as easy as hoped. As Johnny went down he realized he was not only hanging in mid air away from the cliff, but also had to make it back left to where the anchor was. So he had to stick draws in to gently pull himself over (while we watched his rope didn’t run over and cut on the super sharp rock near the top). Both Alex and I would have to do the same. Eventually Johnny made it and by some magic, Alex and I did too, although we were both (well I was anyway) definitely starting to fear for our lives at that moment.

When we made it to the second pitch anchor we did our best to quickly sort out our ropes and things for the next abseil. It would have been nice if the ropes reached the ground from there, but they didn’t… and as we pulled the rope, it got stuck on the big funky palm tree and broken stick so Johnny had to belay Alex up a few bolts to dislodge the rope hoping that the tree wouldn’t break and snap the rope as it fell. But thankfully, by some magic it didn’t. However by this stage it was beginning to get dark and we decided we would definitely miss the last ferry ride at this rate and would have to rapp down the elevator on the other side of the arch to get back to the guesthouse. So we turned on our head-torches and this time Alex did the first rapp and Johnny and I simmuled down after… Although Alex had a similar problem, needing to put draws in as he went down to pull himself left to make it to the anchor. At this point we were abseiling down in pitch black, except for our head-torches. Johnny was using Alex’s old spare head-torch which really only attracted moths than lit up anything… So for the last abseil, I let Johnny borrow my head-torch as Alex and I simmuled down to the ground first and Johnny came down after.

(Getu – Alex texting Peta telling her we’re still alive and on the second last abseil of the multipitch)

We were all so sick of being on that cliff (over 6 hours!), and we were all busting to pee, we could not wait to be safe and sound on the ground. When my feet hit the ground at about 7:30pm I was so incredibly happy to be alive and standing on my feet. I grabbed my bag and started to trudge my way back up to where the chairs and stairs were, where I was planning on putting my shoes on and going to finally pee. I only had that crappy head-torch… but it would do. I could hear the dogs that they usually have tied up well inside the Great Arch to protect the worker’s equipment all day, barking as they usually do. However, when I was about 5 or 6 metres from the platform I decided the barks I could hear were getting quite loud and definitely a lot closer. I yelled out to Alex casually, “hey, I wonder if they let the dogs off at night.” Then I looked up and realized that those tiny beady lights surrounding me weren't just in my imagination… I could now see all these yellow eyes surrounding me and barking and growling.  I pretty much just shat myself. I have never been so scared in my entire life. I screamed out to Alex in tears “Alex, they DEFINITELY let the dogs off at night!!!! I am SO F*ing scared! I can see them!”
I literally just froze. Alex says he hasn’t scaled a hill that fast before, managing to grab a defensive bamboo stick on the way. He grabbed me and took me back down to where Johnny was only just reaching the ground. Luckily the dogs didn’t follow us down there but that ruled out our option of trying to bypass the dogs and rapp down the elevator on the other side of the arch. We would now have to somehow cross the river, hoping there was a boat we could maybe hijack on each side and that the dogs weren’t waiting for us at the stairs. We packed our bags (I packed Alex’s while he stood guard with his new bamboo stick) and then we bush-bashed our way back down to a lower platform of stairs. Thankfully the dogs weren’t there… but when we made it to the river, neither was any sign of a boat we could use. So we called Peta who went through an epic trying to translate that she had friends stranded on the other side of the river. We waited for a long time, deciding whether we would need to swim across, but finally we got a text from Peta saying they were on their way with someone who would get the boatman. When they arrived we had to do some more bush-bashing to a spot they were willing to pick us up from… it was a very steep, slippery descent, Alex accidentally got a bamboo stick to the head thanks to Johnny... haha, but we finally made it onto the boat where a very kind man took us across to the other side. We offered him money but he was very strong in declining.

We were even lucky enough to get a bus ride back to the guesthouse, and the lady up the road even made us dinner of rice and 3 very spicy dishes. So a whole 10 and a bit hours from when we started the climb, we were finally sitting down having a beer each, celebrating being alive, un-mauled and relatively dry. I think we will need another rest day today. I’m looking forward to what Yangshuo has to offer when we head there next week!

(Getu – Alex, Johnny and I enjoying a few beers while we wait for dinner after our epic day of multi pitching)