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!