Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Piling on the pounds in Yangshuo

It's May 11th and I've now been in Yangshuo since late March. 7-weeks ago when I arrived I was weak as a kitten, still recovering from the ugly affair of malaria in India. Hampi had sucked me dry. At the time of my arrival in Hong Kong on the 13th March I weighed 63kilos. At 6ft you can imagine the scrawny wreck that I appeared of the plane in Norman Fosters Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong was a welcomed return to order, familiar urban planning and some ease on my fear of the airborne malarial vermin mosquito's of India.

7-weeks later and I weight a more respectable 69kilos, I have a rather long beard and I generally cut a more healthy figure. My tick list is growing and the inspiration for this post was indeed my first 7b send. It feels like my grades are starting to shift in the right direction, after some considerable frustration in Hampi.

Climbs of particular note include Todd Skinners nameless 7b at Banyan Tree. I enjoyed the route immensely, achieving for perhaps only the second time whilst in China a state of relative calm and fluidity on the rock. I can't be sure what to call this state of mind, but its safe to say the feeling is similar to a trance. The moment of concentration and focus is so intense and single minded. By the time you reach the top, its hard to say exactly what happened at which point, but there's a sense that everything was controlled and perfectly executed within the comforts deep, controlled breaths. Its the feeling I enjoy most from climbing.

Another favorite was Devil Sticks, 7a+/b. The sequence of moves on this route were significantly more difficult than anything I found on the Skinners route. A relatively easy lower section with some long moves, leads to the crux. A series of small pinches along a rail, which you layback from sees you establish your feet before moving for the final hold a satisfyingly large finger pocket. The moves require alot of body tension and finger strength and as a result are quite energy sapping. The remained of the route is fairly steady, but quite pumpy. A great route. At the time my hardest send.

Yangshuo really is a great place. The landscape is something other worldly. Quite unique, but at the same time so expansive. I'm told there are some 200,000 karsts in China alone. Which isn't hard to believe, just try counting the number in one photo. But all this means huge amounts of development opportunities remain here. I hope to be bolting some new routes as part of my work for China Climb. More on this later.

Current favorite crags have to be Lei Pi Shan and White Mountain. All my current projects are here. Singularity at 7a+ is a tough route in the middle of Lei Pi Shans overhanging crag. Its difficult and sustained right from the start. The crux, which I have now moved through is a series of bad and awkward holds moving onto a flake which can be gastoned or undercut to establish on good jugs. The route remains sustained throughout though and climbing then becomes engaged in a tufa system. Resting on a superb knee bar at the start of the system, you then move left traversing across and up the tufa to make an awkward clip before reaching into the bowels of the tufa and manteling to the top out aorund the left. Its scary as hell and thus far remains on my wishlist.

White Mountain has a whole host of goodies. The crag resembles the large limestone face of Ceuse. A mix of grey, blue, orange rock, peppered with glorious features and pockets its a dream crag. At some 60-meters high and 200-meters long, the crag has much to offer climbers across the grade, 14 x 6s, 18 x 7s and 6 x 8s including Chris Sharma's testpiece Spicy Noodle at 9a+. Current projects include the powerful Yangshuo Hotel (7b) and I have one eye on The Pheonix (7b+).