So much for a climbing blog!
The intention was to give a weekly update when the mothership returned to Cat Ba to stock up on food. Dave’s excellent planning and the kind support from Asia Outdoors meant no return to mainland was required. Instead, we were able to stay out at sea for the entire trip, and explore a much bigger area. Fresh fish, squid and shellfish were bought off local fishermen – straight from their nets, and a resupply boat filled the kitchen each week. All this meant more climbing and less internet… I don’t think anyone missed it in the slightest.
I haven’t got round to updating this until now, mainly because I didn’t really think you would be at all interested in how good my November was, but since I’ve been back I’ve been given so much stick at the wall for bigging up this trip so much and then just, well, stopping – so I decided I should at least close it off. It’s only fair to do the hyped up preparation justice!
In short, we did 104 completely new routes from 5+ to 7c+. Most of these were on completely undeveloped crags, though we added a few to some existing crags too. Amongst the 104 routes there were two trad routes, ‘Westminster’ (E1 5a) and ‘The Gunpowder Plot’ (E1 4c) both first ascents on the first ascent of a sea stack we had named ‘Big Ben’ earlier in the trip – a real highlight of the trip. This is quite a significant addition to the list of recorded routes in the area, the guidebook only having around 200 routes recorded. It was great to learn that Asia Outdoors are midway through a new guidbook, this trip was timed perfectly to ensure our routes get recorded properly. For each crag we went to, we took topo shots, and have recorded as much information as possible about the venues to mean the guide is as good as it can be.
Me at the top of ‘Westminster’ – E1 5a FA on ‘Big Ben’. You can’t quite make out the cuts on my arms and legs, the rock was so sharp that falling without slicing your ropes never felt like an option. Photo credit: Dave Lucas, The Expedition Consultancy
Mike, Dan and Dave took some cracking shots with many front cover contenders! Due to my inadequate camera, severe lack of photography skills and pure good looks - I stepped in as lead model. Everyone is currently hard at work selecting the best of a great bunch of photos to compile and send around.
The team L-R: Ruth, Dan, Ewka, Dave, Mike, Alina, Me!, Vu (local climber) and Sam (spot the missing eyebrow). Photo credit: Mike Hutton
Ha Long Bay and the surrounding area is truly a DWS paradise, the seas are calm, waters warm and rock beautifully featured. This meant than other than repeating prebolted routes on ‘The Face’ we didn’t get around to bolting anything new. There is potential, lots of potential, but trust me, get out there and all you’ll want to do is DWS.
It was great to see the heights of the routes grow as confidence above the water improved, some of Sam’s routes were as high as 17 meters – what a hero! Man points were added when he lost a battle with a jelly fish, and cracked a rock on his face resulted in him being the only member of the team requiring first aid, other than the captain I guess – but that’s a tale for another time! All man points were lost when the first aid involved shaving his eye brow, giving him a very boyband-esque appearance, the picture above shows him sat – presumably waiting for a key change.
The crew included a captain, cook and boatman, they all did a great job in getting us to where we wanted to go, keeping us fed (very well) and also entertaining us with their chronic addiction to karaoke. The trip was a fantastic experience in an amazing part of the world with some incredible people. It was a tale of great expectations, all of which were exceeded.
Would I go back? What do you think?