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)

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