Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vietnam-Cat Ba-Ha Long Bay-Tiger Beach PART 2 (Day 55)

Multi pitch on Slo Pony Wall time!
Screw Loose 5.10c goes from the big dark cave above the water to the high dark cave “4 pitches” i.e. about 80 meters.  To get to the multipitch route we had to take a kayak again which after the Ao Nang Tower mess I thought I might never do again.  Oh well, hope we don’t go for another swim.
We got over to the base of the climb in the cave and there was a little rock with about a foot of water on it we could stand on.  Anja flaked the rope into the boat and I climbed to the first bolt in my crocs and hung on it to put my shoes on.  The I climbed another one or two bolts up an belayed from a bolt and a tread I made and brought Anja up.  She climbed all the way to there in her crocs.
Since we were already 1/4-1/2 way up the first pitch I told Anja to look at linking the second pitch in so of course she did and only had to back clean the bolt on the first pitch anchor.

The second pitch was amazing!  As I climbed from the first bolt anchor we traverse out left and up until the to the top of the “cave” where the walls came in and met and then I chimneyed a little and came out the top of the cave.  AMAZING!
These two pictures where pretty much the view from mid way in the second pitch.  Looking forward it is only about as wide as body width and looking down I could see the kayak between my legs while standing on both sides of the wall.
Urs took this picture you can see me in green jacket just come out of the cave while Anja belays from above.  At the top I clipped the anchors and lowered back to the top of the third pitch to belay Anja.
At the top Anja stopped and took these pictures of the view.
Anja lowered off the top pitch down to the belay with me.
And grabbed a couple pictures of us then it was time to rappel down.
Since I didn’t want to get into any rappelling issues, we decided to use every available anchor.
Getting back to the anchor at the top of the first pitch took some difficult backclipping but I got it done.
At the first pitch anchor one more rap to go lets hope the rope doesn’t get soaked.  I hung from our improved boat anchor and Anja stood on the little ledge of rock and we manage to only get the last 5 meters of rope wet.
Into the kayak to paddle over to Tiger Beach where Urs and the sweds were waiting to get picked up.
Surprisingly the junk boat pulled all the way up to the beach and we were able to walk straight onto it.
The trip back through the bay was nice end to the day.
On the boat we had made friends with the other climbers; Tony & Max from the SF Bay area (although Max had been telecommuting from Bishop, CA) and Adam & Carla from Seattle.  We went to Bamboo where this guy was giving massages at the table.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vietnam-Cat Ba-Ha Long Bay-Moody Beach PART 1 (Day 55)

In the morning we headed out on the boat.  It was pretty awesome as it ended up being 9 independent climbers (i.e. self guided) and only one SloPony client which was cool to be out on the bay with other climbers verses a bunch of gumbies. 
Out on the bay we passed lots of floating fishing villages.  Our goal for the day climbing was the new 4 pitch 6b Screw Loose on Tiger Beach.  The SloPony guys recommended we climb on Moody Beach in the morning and then Tiger Beach in the afternoon to give the multi-pitch more time.
To get off the big boat and onto the beach we took a little basket boat.
Moody Beach has 6 climbs currently: 5.7, 2 5.8, 5.9, 6a, and 6b.  We wanted to climb them all as they were short so I started with Khong Co Gi the 5.7.
Anja then wanted to get on Barefoot Vietnamese 6b with a great looking roof.  It was really sharp hold on the roof but super good.
I got on led too on the right there.
I onsited it without too much grunting or crying about how sharp the holds were.
We then climbed Mao De 5.8 to the left quick.
Then we headed over to the right side of the beach and did Do it for Billie Joel 5.8 on the right and
Routine Heaven 6a in the middle.

Anja on the 6th climb of the morning the 5.8 on the left.
Our new friend Urs on lead on the 6a.
We then headed back to the boat and had lunch with Urs and two swedish climbers.  Part 2 of the day to come.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vietnam-Cat Ba Island-Raining (Day 54)

We had schedule to go out into Ha Long Bay on a climb boat the night before but when we woke up it was sprinkling.


This was the view from our room.  You can see the wet pavement.  We went over and talked to the guys from SloPony and we said we wanted to push to another day which they were cool with.


We headed back to the room and set Anja up to work.  Just as she was getting working the power went out.  When I looked out the window lots of people where standing in front of the hotel looking up and left; that can’t be good so we headed outside to check it out.


A hotel about 6 down had a fire on the roof.  Luckily, these hotels were all concrete so I was less than concerned but we grabbed our valuables and electronics and went for a walk.


It was funny some of the restaurants here were almost aquariums with so many different fish and sea creatures.  This one had a little tub in the front with octopus. 


That night we ended up back at SloPony at the Good Bar for dinner.


While we were waiting for dinner I went down and talked to Slo about rescheduling the ferry.  Man that guy and chew your ear off.  We were excited that the weather sounded better tomorrow and we’d be out in Ha Long Bay what we had come here for.  The bad news was deep water soloing was a no go; 1. because it was so cold and 2. Slo said the tides were too long and you needed at least like a 2.5 m tide in for the water to be deep enough and to get on problems.  A critical note for anyone of thinking of making the trip to Vietnam to Ha Long Bay.  I’d check the tide charts and go when it is warmer.  It is all good though as there is enough roped climbing to keep us busy for our short stay of 7 days.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vietnam-Fly to Hanoi; bus to Cat Ba (Day 53)

It was going to be a long day.  Our flight was at 8:20 am so we were up at 4:15 am.


We caught a cab at 4:45 am.


We got to the airport at 5:30 am.  We got checked in and the big moment with immigration for the overstay was to come.  We waited in line and Anja went up first.  They asked for the rest of her party and I went up.  We were then sent to a little both with two police officers.  “Do you know you overstay?”  “Yes, we are sorry”  “4 days overstay 2,000 baht”  They gave us each receipt and stamped our passport with the overstay and departure stamps.  The overstay stamp is pretty much illegible so I don’t think it will cause us any problems in future countries.  Anja asked “can we still come back in the future”  “Yes, no problem.”  I was happy to have that over and we were off to our flight.

We caught the flight and landed in Vietnam.  Sadly, our friend Jim had been set to join us in Vietnam but he had broken his ankle shortly before the trip and backed out at the last minute when he knew it wasn’t going to be better.  After over a hour waiting for our bags we were looking for a cab and figuring out how much a dong was.  Roughly 20,000 dong to the dollar so I took out 6,000,000 dong.  Wow that was a lot of zeros on the ATM screen.  It’s moments like this I’m glad my ATM card only allows for $300 at a time.  After getting harassed by pushy taxi drivers for a ride for 400,000 dong we went outside and easily got a cab for 300,000 dong to the bus station.  He took us straight to the bus station and dropped us right where we wanted.  It was 10:45 am and buses leave at 11:10 and 1:10 got to hurry.


We found a both for the tour company the guidebook recommended and got tickets.  The bus left from the back.  In the back there were tons of buses but all the Vietnamese men would say “Cat Ba” (which was where we were headed) and pointed a bunch of white people.  Ah, no confusion here I quickly figured the only place white people go through this bus station is Cat Ba Island.  We boarded the bus and were off.

The bus took us to a little tourist office where we waited for 30 minutes when another bus came and took us to the pier.  At the pier we boarded a motorboat ferry.


The ferry ride was about 30 minutes and at the far pier a bus was waiting.  This bus took us weaving around Cat Ba Island coast to Cat Ba Town.  I’d booked two nights at Duc Tuan’s guesthouse which worked out perfect as it was about a half block down from where the bus dropped us off.  So did you get that; taxi, customs, taxi, bus, bus, ferry, and bus.  That’s a busy day.


After getting situated in our hotel room we headed over to SloPony climbing guide service to check in about the scene.  The guys over there were really nice and we booked a day of beach climbing from a boat for $22 each.  Anja also got in a long discussion about Vermont with Slo after seeing his helmet above.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vietnam Expectations

In the 1990’s video Todd Skinner, Lynn Hill, and friends had filmed a climbing trip tiled “Climb International.”  Much of our travels are following in these legendary climbers footsteps.  Of most note they visited Thailand (Ton Sai/Railay), Vietnam (Ha Long Bay), and China (Yangshuo).  From the pictures in this movie and subsequent climber movies like Dosage III we are excited to experience Ha Long Bay.  In addition, so many friends have spoken very highly of Vietnam’s people and food.  I for one love Chicken Vermicelli (Bun Ga) which I used to get at lunch with my friend Madison at a spot where I was always the only Caucasian in the restaurant.
We hope it will be warm enough to do some deep water soloing and get in three days of roped climbing on the beach and at Butterfly Valley.

Last, the description of getting to Butterfly Valley requires riding a motorbike as it is 16 km away from Cat Ba Town.  Riding these bikes is supposed to be very easy in Cat Ba Town but neither Anja or I have ever ridden these bikes.  We are hopeful that traffic is reasonable for us to learn to ride them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thailand a look back

WE STILL LOVE THIALAND!!!  It was a great month in Thailand.  It was a very different trip than our trip in 2007, this trip we climbed a lot more multi-pitch routes which was really fun.  Over all I was much stronger than in 2007 while Anja wasn’t quite as powerful as she had climbed in 2007 but I believe had much more endurance which allowed us to climb all the multi-pitch routes we did.  Highlights for me were Oyster Blade on Phi Phi, Big Wave on Ton Sai, and onsiting 6b for the first time.  Of course spending time with Dov and Ram.  We both wish we could have gotten a little stronger to be able to climb Heart of Darkness 6c+ (5 pitches) and Lord of the Thai’s 7b (5 pitches).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thailand-Bangkok- Weekend Market (Day 52)

We had a great night’s sleep with no loud reggae music and then got up for an awesome included breakfast.  We had 3 tasks for the day: go to the weekend market for flower beads, ship stuff home, and buy more pharmaceuticals for our other travels.


We hit the streets to head to the market.  As dumb luck would have it we made a wrong turn and wondered past the post office.  They told us they closed at noon but another one across from Big C closed at 5 pm.  We were set with our timeline; it was about 10:30 am.


We got out to the weekend market on the Skyrail and walked down to the market below the trees in bloom.  The market was way bigger than I remembered and really packed with people.  It was going to be rough to find what Anja was after but after about an hour of looking we found the bead shops and found one with flower bead.


Anja got 13 flowers for 500 baht.  Time to look for more we found a second shop with some but they wanted crazy prices and none were nice colorful big flowers so we moved on.


At another shop we sorted through there bulk bin and found a few nice small flowers and some cool leaf beads.  We dug through for a while and 1:30 rolled around and it was time to go.  Anja had found some more beads and again really enjoyed begin at the weekend market.

We rushed back to the hotel and packed up the tailored clothes, guidebooks, and some other stuff to lighten our luggage load.  We checked at the front desk and the post office we wanted was across from the Big C I knew by where we had stayed in 2007.  We rushed off to there on the skyrail, we missed it at first but Anja found someone who told us it was north of the skyrail and we hurried over.  It was 3:30 pm and I’d read they will sometimes not take international shipments after 3 pm but no problem.  THEY WERE AWESOME!  They helped us packup the stuff, box it, label it, and send it out.  It was 1,900 baht and would take about 4 month by sea.

We were then off to find a pharmacy.  I wasn’t convinced I’d kicked the giardia so I wanted another round and we found a pharmacy in the Big C and loaded up.  It was 4 pm and our tasks were complete so we headed back to the hotel for some dinner and happy hour and went to bed early.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thailand-Railay-Fly to BKK (Day 51)

It was time to depart from Diamond Private Resort, Anja took one last conference call from the patio and we were headed out at noon to catch the 4:15 pm Ao Nang bus to the airport.


We settled up our bill and put our luggage on the trolley for the ride down to the beach.


After lunch at Yam Yam we walked over to Railay West.  It looked like a long wait for the longtail so Anja setup for a nap on the beach.  She got about an hour in and we were off.  We had to make another stop at the tailor but the jacket still wasn’t right.  It was only 1:30 pm so we told them they could try during the next 2.5 hours.


Since we had nothing to do we wondered into a massage parlor.  I got a hair cut and beard trimming from a lady boy and Anja got a message and manicure and pedicure.  Back to the tailor and they had failed on the suit jacket, it was still too tight so we didn’t pay for it.  We’d hoped to have them ship everything for us to the US but they said 3,500 baht ($120). No way we’ll take it to Bangkok and try.


Off on the public bus.  While on the bus I noticed the couple we had seen climbing on Wee Sad the day before boarded.  In the airport everything went great until going through security they scanned my bag full of rock gear (harnesses, quickdraws, cams, nuts, belay devices, and a rope).  “You have a rope, you can’t carry that on, must check.”  “WHAT? Why?”  “I don’t know must check.”  Our first scam in Thailand we were going to have to check our climbing rope.  Ridiculous, luckily I’d paid for extra weight so it was no problem.  Inside security we saw the climber couple gain and I laughed and point; “They took your rope too!  Haha.”  “yeah it is stupid, we had to pay 500 baht because we had a carry-on only ticket”  “Scammed.”  We then ended up talking with them for a while about travels and California as they were from the Bay area.


In Bangkok we saw them again at baggage claim and I was laughing so hard seeing there checked rope bag come around the carrousel.  We were talking about the cost of shipping stuff home when they said “Shipping stuff international is expensive.  Our friend Jamie from Peru” I burst out laughing so hard.  Jamie is a good friend of Adam and Yumi (See Adam and Yumi’s wedding post).  We had a good laugh about the connection and parted ways as they were headed home.

We went down and caught a cab to our hotel in Bangkok.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thailand-Railay-Muay Thai Wall (Day 50)

We woke up and were officially breaking Thai law because we were overstaying our 30 day Visa.  We would overstay by 4 days.  We had read this would result in a 2,000 baht ($66) each fine (500 baht each per day).  We could have done a visa run for 1,100 baht leaving at 8 am and returning at 7 pm so we decided to risk it and not spend 8 hours in a van driving to Malaysia.  We had read at the Bangkok airport paying the fine would be simple but that we didn’t want to have a run in with the police while overstaying.

It was our last day of climbing in Thailand and there was one climb Anja had done in 2007 she wanted to try again.


We headed over to 123 Wall.


To warmup before we got on Mauy Thai so we got on Make a way 6B.  Behind us was a couple getting on Wee Sad the awesome 6a+ hanging down to the beach.  (We’d see them again)  I got the onsite of the 6b maybe my first 6b onsite ever.


Anja climbing the first bolt.


Anja high near the crux.


When we finished a short 5.8 was open to our right called King Cobra so we hoped on it quick.


I led it, then Anja led it and cleaned it.  As she lead seriously almost every bolt she climbed a Thai guide would walk by with like 4 clients.


By the time Anja got down the 4 people behind us when she started had turned to this.


The classic strenuous Muay Thai 6b+ did not have a line of guided climbers so it was time to jump on it.  I liked the looks of it so I tried the lead first…no go.  Anja tried to no more great success.  I tried again still no go.  Then Anja headed up and went for it.  It was a really tough move to a right hand pinch and she stuck it and clipped the bolt.  She knew she had it from there.


I top roped it and enjoyed the rest sitting on the stalactite.


At the bases happy with our last climb in Thailand.


After climbing we headed over to the tailor AGAIN.  Some of Anja’s stuff still wasn’t right so we pinned everything the way I would want it and told them we would be back tomorrow before we fly out.  Last chance or we don’t pay for it.


The longtail ride back to Railay with Thaiwand Wall in the background.


We got dinner at the indian place next door and packed up or room.  So sad to leave Railay.