New Line on the Great Wall

I made a trip out to the Great Wall near Stone City last week with Eben Farnworth and Alex Honnold. We had great, cool weather but the adventure was cut short by shortened daylight – this is a better spring crag. Alex got on lead on a new line up a crack system that proved too chossy and loose. We bailed after placing only one additional bolt and headed over to the arete at the top of the approach pitch to the main ledge.

Eben got to lead the pitch up to the Heather Terrace and we agreed that it is probably the best line on the wall so far. Alex liked the face just to the east of the arete and he rigged a line and rapped down and tried to find moves on top rope. He marked the bolt placements and I cleaned and bolted the line afterward but we ran out of daylight and did not finish it. There is still some loose rock that needs to be taken care of, including a death block near the top, and the route needs the white lichen to be brushed off before I attempt to send it.

The route is a full 40 meters long and will end on the Terrace so we can use existing rap anchors to descend. Alex thinks the line will go at 12+. This will be the hardest FA I’ve attempted and it is at the top of my list once I fill in my next pyramid. Pulling this off would make an excellent Christmas present to myself.

Fall Tick List

After reading The Self-Coached Climber I constructed a pyramid and listed 50 routes I wanted to tick in Yangshuo this fall season on increasingly harder routes. My hardest grade climbed at that time was an 11c so my new pyramid had eight 11a’s at the bottom, then four 11b’s and two 11c’s before an 11d (7a). I started at the bottom and by the time I was attempting the c’s and d, I felt fit and ready. I got them all in 2 or 3 attempts. It is a great system to get me climbing closer to my potential while not spending too much time flailing on stuff that is just too hard for me right now.

Now I’ve constructed my next pyramid with a 12a at the top and I’m climbing more 11b’s, 11c’s and 11d’s to get ready for the top. I want to complete this one before I leave Yangshuo for the winter; this gives me another 3 weeks at most. Should not be a problem if my progress continues apace.

I did jump on the Todd Skinner 12b at Banyan tree on TR the day before yesterday and got a good taste of just what it means to be a fit 5.12 climber. I gave it three burns and was wiped out by the end of the day and still feeling sore the next. I did make it out to Wine Bottle late yesterday for some easy routes and one go on the 5.11c Great Wall route. After the 12b, it felt relatively simple and I’m confident I can send it first try, probably tomorrow morning. Then I’ll do the other 5.11c at the crag before going after five more 5.11b’s. Filling inn the bottom of the pyramid will get me prepared for two more 5.11d’s before I step into the realm of 5.12. Good stuff for an old guy!

Climbing Festival

The 2009 Yangshuo Climbing Festival went well and largely according to plan. Friday night was a gathering in the sports stadium where the new bouldering wall was open to all climbers. Saturday started the treasure hunt: prize tags were hidden at the top of 70 routes at 8 different crags; there were also a number of clinics at the Wine Bottle Crag including those by Black Diamond athletes.

The afternoon saw more open climbing before the evening activities in the sports stadium including a dinner and slide presentation by Alex Honnold on speed climbing – he mostly talked about his recent free solo adventures. A local rock band provided the music and there were many gear give-aways. Entreprises, the climbing hold company, donated all of the holds and a finger board they had brought to the festival to the Yangshuo Access Initiative (YAI) and we auctioned for a good price. It went so well we will consider having more auctions at next year’s festival.

After the auction the bouldering competition got underway and lasted till well past 10pm. It was exciting and holding it in the stadium allowed us all to be together in a comfortable environment. Using the stadium proved a great decision as we woke up Sunday morning to rain and cold; many climbers chose not to go to the crags and waited for the final rounds of the bouldering competition held that afternoon, only Chinese climbers were in the mem's final round. The route setting was much better on the second day.

What was missing from was the outdoor group activities we had last year climbing competitions. I hope we can combine the two aspects next year focusing on the outdoor climbing that makes Yangshuo one of the top destinations for climbing in Asia and being together in the stadium in the evenings.


Climbers arriving for Festival

Alex Honnold and Ellen Powick were the first two Black Diamond athletes to arrive for the festival and we climbed in hot temps yesterday at White Mountain. It was great to watch them shred routes up to 13a, they stand on stuff I cannot even see let alone think about putting any weight on. Kind of opens up new realms of the possible in my mind. One of the local farmers came over to watch and asked me why Alex climbed so effortlessly while I seemed to struggle. And I thought I climbed the pitch pretty well.

There are a few other groups of climbers here but it is not like I was anticipating as the festival kicks-off in just a few days. Skies are gray this morning and temps are at least 5 degrees C lower. Light rains are forecast for today and tomorrow and I hope this will bring and keep the temps down for the rest of the year.

I'm still very busy with getting the YAI launched, and working with the local villagers as well as moving into my flat and working on the festival, so I haven't gotten out to climb much at all. I've been climbing within my comfort zone since I arrived in YS about one month ago, filling in climbs at the bottom of my pyramid (11a/b) and progressing well. Now, most spaces are filled up and I need to start on the harder stuff. Yesterday, after flailing on an 11b I'd redpointed a few times before, I got on a TR on China White (12b) and got a good wake-up call for just how much more strength I'll have to bring to the game real soon! I haven't even tried to pull-down that hard since the spring as most of the stuff I've been climbing has been smaller face routes whereas China White has huge jugs, but BIG moves. I'm psyched to get on more stuff like it, I think I just decide on 3 or 4 12s to project at a few of the crags and get on them each time I climb there, even if it's just draw to draw; I can figure out the moves and get used to climbing more strongly.


Festival Projects o n Track

The Second annual Yangshuo Climbing Festival is scheduled to kick-off the Friday and the YAI crag sanitation projects are all on track for completion. Toilets at White Mountain and the Egg should be painted and in use in a few more days. We have gained a lot of positive momentum with the village communities through these projects and I hope we can keep it up with. Villagers have been expressing interest in joining us for some climbing and I'm trying to get some of the guiding companies to take them out.We'll probably have to put it off till after the festival.

We've got 4 more toilet projects in mind and, depending on how much money we collect in our membership drive, we will be looking into alternative, more eco-friendly designs. Any input from people with expertise or experience in this kind of thing would be greatly appreciated.


Chinese Guidebook Now Available

The Chinese translation of Paul Collis's Yangshuol guidebook, 阳朔攀岩指南,has been out for about one month now. Make sure you pick up a copy next time you are in town.


Toilet Project Updates

The YAI finally got its crag sanitation projects kicked-off, mostly using funds left over from last year's climbing festival. We have begun building permanent toilet facilities at the most popular crags and construction is now underway at White Mountain and the Egg. Structures should be done in time for this year's festival, Nov 13th-15th, and I am looking for people to help paint murals on the outside so they blend in with the environment.

These are some of the first projects we have done with local villagers and in addition to cleaning up the area around the crags, it has open a dialogue between villagers and climbers I hope we can build on. Just meeting with them we are able to discuss the possibilities of them opening up small food stands and even offering meals and accommodations in the villages. We will have to keep working in this direction if we want continued free access. Our next step will be to negotiate a contract with villagers to maintain and clean the toilets as well as cut back the brush along the path up to as well as at the base of the crags. You can join the YAI to help these efforts.

On another note, the weather has been great for climbing; unfortunately, I have been too busy with furnishing my apartment in Yangshuo, preparation for the climbing festival, getting the YAI up and running and handling these toilet projects to get much time in on the rocks.

The weather is cool in the early mornings and the sun warms thing nicely so conditions are perfect at White Mountain. Bring some warm clothes if you come down to climb for the rest of the year.


Great Wall in Fall

Five of us, Edwin, Melissa and Jessica from Oz, Claire, presently from Taz, and myself, climbed at the Great Wall last weekend. The weather was great and the skies just a bit hazy from farmers burning their fields after harvest. Even with the haze, the views were awesome, as usual. We met at 7:30 for breakfast, got in the van around 8:00 and started climbing just after 9:00. We were able to tick most of the moderate routes and Edwin led a new line on trad to retrieve some gear I had left on it two years ago. I still want to go back and bolt it along with a few others in the same area.

The only climb we did not get on was Paul's 11c (6c+) Blasphemy Crack as we ran out of daylight. We got back to Yangshuo after dark, tired from the long day. There is still a lot of untouched rock above the main ledge, which only covers less than 1/4 of the face. The fall days are comfortable but too short for much bolting new lines due to the travel and approach times required. Spring is the time development there and I've got a few projects ready for next year.

Photo is of Jessica and Claire from the Heather Terrace, about 100m off the deck.

Thumb Peak at Night

I've been wanting to climb Thumb Peak at night for a few years now and the weather and moon aligned perfectly last night for a nearly flawless moonlight ascent of the Happy New Year route. We got on the rock at about 8:30 and the wall was illuminated by a brilliant moon. Cool temps, no wind and great nightscape views were enjoyed for the 3-hour adventure, this allowed ample time to soak in the scenery. This one will become a classic and I'll make sure it gets mentioned in the next guide book.

Headlamps were needed even with the bright moonlight, mostly to confirm the footholds as handholds were clearly visible and the bolts easy to follow. The crux was half way up the 4th pitch were some of the footholds were difficult to judge. We climbed trailing a second rope in order to avoid the high hanging belay and to get off in two raps. Our planning seemed flawless until we were standing on the ground again trying to pull the ropes which got caught just below the middle belay ledge. We left the ropes and retrieved them this morning.

Reclimbing the lower two pitches this morning was not any easier than I remembered them from last night when I climbed slower but made sure every move was in balance. It was great practice. Some locals spotted us up on the crag and alerted the local police who met us at the bottom of the crag to ask if we needed help. We told them we were practicing rescue technique as most rescues happen at night. They seemed to accept this and left us alone.

Lower night-time temps will make a nighttime ascent less attractive till the spring. We were not the first to climb Thumb Peak at night: it has been simlu-climbed and also by at least two teams in the buff.