Tag Archives: rockclimbing

Rock climbing in Bolivia

Sucre – climbing with new friends in Bolivia

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Carlos and Ingrid

We desperately wanted to go climbing in Bolivia as we had not managed to do any climbing at all in Peru. When we were in Peru the catastrophic floods and landslides made it impossible to reach many climbing areas and unsafe to climb in many places. It had been 4 months since our last outdoor climb in Cat Ba Vietnam and we were itching to get back on the rock. At the same time I was wondering if I still would have enough climbing fitness in me to really enjoy it.

 

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Beautiful Ha Long bay Vietnam back in December 2016.

Once we got to Sucre from Potosi and started looking at things to do there, we immediately realised that there is plenty of rock climbing in the Sucre area. Happy days! There are 2 main climbing companies that operate in Sucre and through a friend of climbing friend that met in Lima 2 months earlier, I got in touch with Carlos at ClimbingSucre to se if he could help us out.

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Climbing at base camp Lima

By the time Carlos and I got talking we only had 2 days left in Sucre before our flight to Santa Cruz. Luckily Carlos offered to take us out climbing that same afternoon so that we could fit 2 climbing sessions in before leaving. Perfect! With such a long time since our last climb, to fully enjoy it we would need a proper warmup session before trying any harder climbs. We agreed on 2 half days of climbing at BS1000 and headed off out to Sica Sica crag just a few hours later.

Rock climbing at Sica Sica Crag, Bolivia

With only a handful of climbs in the last year in China, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand x 2, and Vietnam. Ingrid and I were lacking our usual climbing strength, especially in our fingers so we were both hoping to  enjoy climbing some lower grades than usual.

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View over Sucre from Sica Sica crag

Carlos met us at our hostel and a taxi buddy of his picked us all up and drove 10min to the crag at the edge of town. How amazing to have such a big wall to climb right on your door step at almost walking distance from the centre of Sucre. No wonder foreigners have settled here to run climbing businesses.

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Bolivia, Sucre, Sica Sica crag set in a tranquil eucalyptus forest

Getting back on the rock after 4 months break

Ingrid was soo excited she was almost hyper. She was skipping along the steep path up the 20 min ascent from the road to the crag and singing non stop. We soon arrived at the gorgeous crag and enjoyed the great view over Sucre right behind us. The 25m wall has a steep path up one side, perfect for setting up top ropes. Carlos went to set up the ropes, while Ingrid and I got our gear out.

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Ready to climb

As he came back down he was keen to point out that there are a lot of unsafe routes set up by amateurs in Bolivia. 2 routes he pointed out on this wall were set up with unsafe bolts and unless you come here with a guide, you would not know this and perhaps have an accident as a result.  Bolts and drills are hard to come by in Bolivia, and although climb Bolivia pay for some of the routes there guys set up, Carlos also explained he and other climbers have invested a lot of money in bolting routes and buying gear that is more expensive in Bolivia than in most European countries.

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Sore toes

I was not looking forward to unwrapping our smelly shoes that had been hiding in layers of plastic bags in the bottom of Ingrid backpack for months. Happy to find that they were ok and good to use…my feet however were not as pleased. I got another little bag out with what i thought was chalk, only to discover it was a bag of pasta! What a plonker, a days climbing without chalk as Carlos had not brought his either! At least the crag was in the shade so we would hopefully not be climbing too hard or sweating enough to really need it…

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Lovely routes on the Sica Sica crag

We started easy on a couple of 4s on the giant slab and were happy to find that the technique was still in us. We were also pleased to start the 2 days of climbing on a slab as it meant more leg power and less reliance on our weak fingers and arms. Most of the climbs were along flakes and cracks and friction on this sharp sandstone was good all they way. We continued climbing through the 5bs and 5cs  and finished on a couple of lovely long 6as. What a lovely afternoon of climbing.

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Ingrid on top rope at Sica Sica crag Bolivia

Lead climbing on Garcilazo Crag, Bolivia

Day 2 we headed off at 8 and had only a 15 drive to Garcilazo crag. The driver who’s car was running on something other than petrol was struggling to get the car up the hill to our drops off point, but eventually we made it.

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Tricky approach to the Garcilazo crag in Bolivia

Once there I could not see the crag anywhere…turns out that we were on top of it and the approach was s steep scramble down a slippery hill to the impressive wall of exposed sandstone. Luckily Ingrid is like little mountain goat these days so we managed to get there safely in the end. The Garcilazo crag is a high quality vertical sandstone with long cracks, some tough crimpers and a distinct lack of foot holds.

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Typical route on Garcilazo crag in Bolivia

It is south facing so in summer, this shady spot provides great protection form the sun, but as this is winter it was very cold in the shade so I was glad we had brought our hats and puffers. Yann (one of Ingrid climbing coaches back in London) says cold is good for friction said Ingrid with a smile.

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No hanging about, I has asked to lead and that is what I got. I set up the first 5a route and Ingrid second it after me. We were both really suffering with cold fingers, especially the 1st third of every route. It was total agony and  sharp rock on our cold weak fingers made for an uncomfortable start.

Fingers apart, I felt really confident leading this route as it had many options for hands and feet. As the crag is approached from the top, all the ropes can be cleaned from the top as we were leaving, meaning could spend more time climbing and less time cleaning routes.

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Excited and happy to be lead climbing again
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Ingrid working her way up this 6a+

We moved on to top a few other routes of the same line and started to feel the pain building up in our relatively weak finders and feet after months of no climbing. I loved this crag, such a perfectly clean and sharp vertical rock towering up above you and a great mix of comfortable and hared moves. There are also many different routes to climb in a great range of grades from 4 all the way up to 7b+.

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Having a rest before topping out on this long crack

The first few moves on all the route were quite reachy and hard so Ingrid opted to second me while I led. Even I struggled to get the first 2 clips in on all routes and was secretly pleased she opted out of leading today. With more recent climbs in the bags I’m sure she could have led these routes with confidence, but lack of regular climbing does quickly take your top performance and climbing confidence out of you.

 

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Sore fingers after 2 days of climbing

After 4 leads and 2 top ropes my feet were absolutely killing me and Ingrid was getting hungry. Time to head back into Sucre to meet up with Scott and Paul who had been out to se the dinosaur footprints and park.

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Over 5000 dinosaur foot print on this wall
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Having fun in the dinosaur park

 

 

Rock climbing on amazing Railay beach

Opting for a cheaper stay in Ao Nang

The main reason we went to Krabi in Thailand was so that Ingrid and I could do some longed after rock climbing. We opted to stay on the cheaper mainland area in Ao Nang where we could also afford a place with a pool and got a bonus pingpong table at the same time. From Ao Nang the crags at Railway and Tonsai Railay beach is just  a quick boat ride away.

Choosing a guide to climb with in Railay

There are many climbing companies operating in the area to choose from, some are better than others…. For me the most important thing when choosing who too climb all the way through this trip is safety, official certification and insurance policies as Ingrid is very young. Prices for climbing range from 2000 Thb for a 1/2 day in a group of 4-8 to 4000 for 1/2 day with a private guide and 6000 for a full day with a private guide.

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You can rent just the gear and climb on your own, but with limited time to climb, I prefer to hook up with a guide who can show us the best routes and help us set up ropes and to clean the routes. That way we usually get to climb more and I get the trusted belay I need to do some serious climbing myself.

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We booked 2 x 1/2 days climbing with Real Rocks on Railway beach with a private guide. We paid an additional 500 Thb for Paul and Scott come along in the shuttle and boat so that they could hang out at the beach for the day while Ingrid and I climbed.

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Getting to the 123 crag at and Railay beach

img_8425The Real Rock shuttle picked us up at 7.30 and did the rounds collecting people, then a 20min  boat ride from Krabi Town to Railey beach. Once at the climbing shop the boys went off exploring while we met our guide Wan and got kitted out with ropes, quick draws, slings and helmets.

To get warmed up we started off with some gentle top ropes on the 123 crag. This is the really big crag often used for beginner classes so it was quite crowded through the day. The good thing about this crag is that it had a range of routes suitable for both me and Ingrid. It was also in the shade all day, perfect for climbing in the hot weather here.

Our last outdoor climb climb was over 2 months ago in Yangshuo China so we were feeling a bit rusty to start off with. I was worried about how much my hands and feet would be able to take as well and so with 2 days climbing planned wanted to make sure i left them in a good place for some harder climbing tomorrow.

Ingrid lead climbing at 123 crag Railay

The sand and sea keeps the friction on the rock pretty good with lots of little pockets for your hands and feet. Most of the routes are straight up with little overhang or slabs. A couple of top ropes to start and them I was leading Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde remembering how much I love lead climbing. Ingrid started leading indoors a few months back and now wanted to give it a go on this wall. Wan was great supporting her, giving her the right routes to lead and the confidence to do it.

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As in many situations, in sport or with school I find that Ingrid respond much better to coaching from an outsider than me telling her what to do. In Yangshuo I was amazed at the confidence and grit she showed when being pushed by Alex and Karst climber.

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The same happened here with Wan, and as she was one of the best and most experienced climbers on the crag that day, surrounded by beginner climbers, she pushed her on that bit harder as well. Ingrid lead 3 routes starting with Little Monkey, finishing  and topped 3 while I led 5 and topped 1. The last route was a 25m+ 6a hat she simply took in her stride.(cannot remember which one.

The landscape here is too beautiful, its such a privilege to just be here let along climb. Ingrid is already planning her own climbing trips for when she is  older and can go on her own with her buddies. Seriously need to come back for some more climbing as well.

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We climbed from 9.30-1 then went to the other side of the island for a cooling swim afterwards. Definitely something I recommend. Boat back at 5.30, shuttle just after 6 and back at the hotel for 6.30

Day 2 Climbing Diamond Cave

Day 2to was just Ingrid and me, the boys opted to stay at home. Wan took us to Diamond cave crag which was less busy and offered some shorter but more technical and very enjoyable climbs. The 1st hour here was totally exposed and we were sweating profusely during our first climbs. Slightly higher grades, Ingrid opted not to led, but I lead all day finishing on a couple of great 6bs.

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The other great thing about this place is the amazing coffee right at the bottom of crag where Highland Rock climbers have their “office”.img_5016

A hot latte never tasted so good as it did that day. I am excited watching Ingrid climb today, full of confidence and with fantastic technique. My favourite was watching her conquer the overhang on KFC and  effortlessly out climbing top young men on the routes next to her. We were buzzing after 2 days of real rock and eager to plan our next climb in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks later.

Deep Water Soloing in Cat Ba, Vietnam – Best mum and daughter day ever

Ingrid 8, goes Deep Water Soloing – her one and only Christmas wish come true

We planned to stay in Cat Ba for a week over Christmas to give Ingrid her a very special Deep Water Solo climb for her Christmas present.

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Ingrid getting all set for her deep water solo Christmas gift

We hooked up the the AsiaOutdoors team as soon as we arrived on Cat Ba and booked in 2 days of climbing with a friendly discount that Rich the GM had promised us while climbing together in Chiang Mai a few weeks earlier.

Getting ready to climb our first ever deep water solo climb.

We arrived on Cat Ba quite late on the 20th and headed straight out to climb early on the 21st as this was the day with the highest tide for the duration of our stay here.

AsiaOutdoors run all sorts of outdoor activities here, mainly kayaking, climbing and hiking. The bus that took us to the harbour was full of people going out for the day doing different activities. We all got on a AsiaOutdoors junk boat where we would later be having lunch as well.

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ON the boat with AsiaOutdoors

On our Deep Water Solo boat was Rob, an AsiaOutdoors guide originally from NZ, Ash & Lilo, Ingrid and me. The grey morning skies were not looking too inviting and I was worried about the temperature of the water but I needn’t have worried.

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Feeling nervous as we head out to the crag

By the time got got to our 1st crag, Hawaii 5-0 the sun was starting to break through and our spirits excitement levels were running high.

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Sun shining as we approached our 1st Crag Hawaii 5-0

I was feeling excited and nervous not sure how Ingrid would react once we actually started climbing. AsiaOutdoors had never taken anyone under the age of 15 Deep Water Soloing before so Rob briefed us all on safety, especially for Ingrid to make sure we would all be able to help if needed.

AsiaOutdoors use local boatsmen to manage the climbing boats and they are very skilled at getting in and out close to the rock. This helped a lot in making us feel safe as well.

First climb on Hawaii 5-0

Ingrid was looking so nervous and I was trying to put on a brave face for her but I was a bit worried about what we had let ourselves in for. What is she freaks out on the wall, there is no option but to jump into the water…. Ash want first  followed by Ingrid then me.

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Ingrid getting onto the wall Hawaii 5-0 for her first climb

1st climb was a 6a+ traverse,  long, slightly overhanging but with good hand  holds along the main flake and with some sketchy feet. The climbing was not too hard but the nerves of knowing we would have to jump into the water below was making us tense and tired. I managed half the traverse before I took the leap into the water. Only 4 m up but still felt like a really big jump and it took forever to get back up to the surface again.

Ingrid was next, I was more scared for her then for myself. She got the first couple of holds then started to look down at the water freaking out, I want to come down! a few minutes hesitation and then into the water she want. She looked really upset when she surfaced again and the same happen on the next climb again. On climb 3 we set a goal of reaching a land mark 1/3 along the traverse and she decided not to look down. Once out of the starting blocks she just kept going and going and almost finished the whole route.

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Happy about our climbs getting ready for the next ones

Epic 12m climb & jump off 3 Brothers Crag

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Ash, Lilo, Rob, Ingrid and me having a blast on the DWS boat

Next crag, 3 Brothers offered more of a range of climbs but with all routes vertical we had to jump from much higher heights to get back down again. We had all overcome our nerves by now and started enjoying climbing up. I was surprised to find that wet climbing shoes did not slip too much but Im glad I wasn’t using my own. Ingrid did 4 routes here ranging from 4c to 6a and did not hesitate climbing or jumping into the water. The last 2 climbs and jumps were over 12m high!!

I loved the feeling of climbing without gear and the thrill of falling into the deep blue water and Ingrid was having such a great time. The least enjoyable part was sitting on the little boat between climbs a bit cold with the constant engine noise and rocking.

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The beautiful spot where 3 Brothers Crag is

The last climb was epic as Ingrid and I climbed side by side and jumped into the water together from 12 up! After almost 4 hours of climbing we headed back to the junk boat and had an amazing lunch together with all the other climbers and kayakers.

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What a day! What a girl! Cant wait to climb some more!