100 Days of Climbing Success!
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
57Trip End May 2010
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Lindsey expressing her jubilance on the top of Thumb peak. Lindsey swapped leads with Ben on this route--a new goal for her on multi-pitch climbs! Thumb Peak is one of the only areas in Yangshuo that has multi-pitch sport routes yet, so we chose this climb to get some great views of the farmlands and karsts.
We also met some locals on the climb. The guy on the right was preparing to try a 5.14 at Lei Pi Shan area a couple days later. Quite the feat! We shared rappels with these guys and noticed that his rope had seen a few core shots and was just plain worn out. We talked to him about it, and reminded him that it's not worth it to cimb on gear that has passed its due date, but climbing gear is a huge expense for locals. Mammut, please give this guy a rope!!! I'm sure he'll be in the Yangshuo climbing festival this November with those like Yugi, so if you can't do it sooner, that would be great time and way to get some local advertising and keep a strong, inspiring climber safe.
A couple more pics from this spectacular climb:
Lindsey traversing the first pitch
Ben goofing around
A cave and ruin entrance at the base of the climb. We were surprised to find many of the climbing crags have ruins--entrances, stairways, and shelters--built from stone.
Thumb Peak, as well as the Wine Bottle crags and Butterfly cave, are centered around the flats where people take off and land hot air balloons. Butterfly cave is shown on the left; if you look hard at the bottom of the crag, you will see a giant butterfly, giving the crag its name.
The butterfly and cave more up close. There are climbs on either side of the butterfly, if you wish to make yourself a part of the tourist attraction.
Now that we've reached this goal, we're ready to move on to new goals, like climbing harder. We started this on our 101st day of climbing by heading up to the famous Moon Hill, the site where Dosage V showed strong climbers making tenuous body positions between stalactites over a dramatic limestone arch. Of course, this climb was way over our heads at 5.14a, so we instead climbed Artemus (5.11a) and Apollo (5.12a). We're hoping to attempt 5.12's more frequently to improve our strength and technique, opening up even more classic climbs in popular climbing areas.
Captain Dork - Moon Hill in the background
The upper section of Apollo
Ben leading up the 5.12a
While at Moon Hill, and at other crags, we bumped into the Hot Rock group. Hot Rock is a group of 15-25, predominantly composed of Brits but has sprinkles of others like Aussies or Mexicans or even Americans sometimes, who cram themselves into an old beater truck for anywhere between two months to a year to join a pre-set tour around mainly Asia and Africa, climbing whatever they can get their hands on along the way. That is if they can get out of bed early enough and ward off last night's libations. They are a cheerful, adventurous, and need I say hilarious group to get mixed up in.
We certainly did get mixed up with these guys and gals. They had a special "Trash and Tarts" night, which means the guys all dress up like women and meet at a local bar. Lindsey hasn't had an opportunity to wear her nice dress yet, so we figured, why not give Ben and opportunity to do so?
So, that night, Lindsey fit Ben into her black dress, decorated him with light makeup, and the two of us set out on the town to find this bar, Bar 98. Ben was on quite a display, turning heads wherever he went. What made things more awkward was we were having trouble finding this bar, so we had to walk into several restaurants and bars along the way to ask directions. People starred, murmered, giggled, and whistled.
When we got to the bar, finally, few of the Hot Rock crew were actually dressed up. We learned they had brought their flashy feminine clothing to the bar to dress up in it there! But Ben inspired the boys and they flitted about dressing each other. The outcome? See for yourself:
I don't know how we continue to find these smart, young goofballs wherever we go, but man is it fun!
Zebra-striped pants? How did they hold onto those from the 80's?
Maybe the guys had too much fun being "pretty?"
Great times, Mate!!
About and Around Yangshuo
Yangshuo is a vibrant town that is small in size, but is packed with people. Like many towns and cities in China, it is pretty dense. The town really has three main streets and is about the size of Jackson Hole, WY. Except Jackson only has about 9,000 residents, most of which live outside of town, and Yangshuo has about 300,000. It is compact, so it's very easy to get around, to feel serenity, or to join the crowds buying crafts or sitting in one of the many cookie-cutter restaurants catering to tourists. But the back streets you still find locals, sitting in alleyways at small tables eating steamed buns for 1 yuan (about $ 0.20 USD) a piece. In the mornings, if you're on a particular street away from the tourists, you can see all the parents driving their children to school on their electric motorbikes.
The people from Yangshuo are very energetic and hard working. Many of the youth came from smaller surrounding towns to take advantage of the recent tourism, holding two or more jobs. You may talk to one outside a cafe or pizzeria during the day and see them again at night standing outside their second job, a tourism office.
Yangshuo is a very convenient town to be based out of for us climbers. If you stay out of the touristy area, you can find cheap accommodations (our roomy double cost 50 yuan or $7.50USD a night), good, inexpensive food (meat and veggie stirfry with anything you want to put in it for 10 yuan or about $1.50USD per dish), and unlimited transportation to the crags by bicycle (10 yuan/day). With our bikes, we had the freedom to travel to nearly all the crags quickly along flat roads that gave way to spiritual limestone karsts. If you eat out in the touristy areas, prices go up significantly, but sometimes you just need a pizza and beer!!
This mode of transportation allowed us to explore side villages, roads with unknown destinations, and enriched our experience with the locals, all of whom were very excited to help us find our way to crags to "pa yan," (climb in Mandarin).
The one challenge we found with riding our bikes was getting used to the traffic laws. Frankly, they eluded us. The only rule to the road we could figure out was that whoever is first, has the right of way, and that you were allowed to put yourself out in front at any costs. So many times, we were surprised by the people joining the main roads from side streets without looking at oncoming traffic or deliberately trying to beat you by pulling out in front of you. Of course, then you have to slam your breaks and pass them anyway. Bikes, motorbikes, old communist vehicles, cars, vans and buses all share the same two-lane roads, but they make the lanes arbitrary, especially when passing each other. It is not uncommon to see a bus passing a motorcyclist passing an old truck, which is passing a bicyclist, all while uncoming traffic is sharing the same stretch of road. You may even see a motorcyclist stop in the middle of a busy street to have a smoke, but miraculously, everyone finds their way around him at once. We tried our best to blend in and avoided any accidents.
Of course, climbing isn't all Yangshuo has to offer. Indeed, many tourists come here from all over the world for many reasons unrelated to climbing. We took advantage in town to expand our skills. Ben worked on improving his Mandarin by taking one-on-one classes at night with a local teacher out of his home (at 40 yuan an hour, $6USD) and he practised what he learned with just about everyone that would talk to him around town.
We also took a cooking class, where we learned how to make...
pork and veggie steamed dumplings,
Sichuan-style gung pao chicken,
and spicy green beans.
It turned out amazing, and yes, we'll have you over for dinner one night when we get back to try it. :)
Perhaps the best part of the experience was the trip to the local market. Panda, our English-speaking instructor from Cloud 9 Restaurant (who also works as a chef at one of the restaurants at night), took us around the market to explain what all the food was.
Just one section of the busy market in the morning
Eels, frogs, snails and fish are all kept alive so you have the freshest of ingredients. Can I get five frogs please? Oye.
Freshly skinned chicken. In China--the insides, like the guts, brain and intestines--are the most expensive parts. We also saw dog, yes the rumours are true, but we weren't allowed to photograph the carcasses. Only the locals buy dog, supposedly.
Just some of the plethora of fresh produce. Here, you see the spicy red chillies used in Sichuan dishes, and the purple eggplants are skinnier than those you find in North America. They also have a bitter melon, which is a spiney green melon shaped like a fat cucumber. We can certainly attest to the bitterness of this fruit!
What many tourists do that come to this part of China is float down the Li River on a bamboo raft. We experienced this on our rest day following our 100th day of climbing. What a great way to relax!
There are many ways to enjoy river rafting. Some take bamboo rafts from Guilin to Yangshuo; others ride the "rapids" (not all that rapid if you're from North America) from south of Yangshuo along the Yulong River. We took a local bus to Yangdi, about 2/3 the way to Guilin, and enjoyed a relaxing three-hour ride to Xingping on the Li River.
No matter where you go along the river, views will be serene and gorgeous (not to mention very encouraging as a climber!), but prices can very wildly. For those that want everything taken care of, you can purchase an excursion from Yangshuo or Guilin at just about any tourist agency or hostel, but there's no bartering; you'll have to accept the 150 yuan/person ($22USD) going rate. Not bad, but we took the bus to Yangdi and negotiated at the docks down from 150 yuan a person to 50.
Regardless of how you booked your trip, you are sure to accosted by people selling the bamboo excursions wherever you go. Many of them get your attention by shouting,
"Hello!" with a strong accent on the "o," followed by,
If they don't think you understand, or if they think there's a chance you didn't hear them the first time, they try repeating the two words that someome must have taught them as the only two English words they need to know to make money selling these trips. This time, with more viggor,
"Hello! Hello! Bamboo! Hello, bamboo! You low bamboo?!"
Yes, I KNOW bamboo. Some would carry around a laminated 8X10 photo, which they would frantically tap at to make you look. It was always the same laminated ad with the same picture of two attractive blond girls in their bikinis on a bamboo raft. Well of course I want bamboo now!
So we got over all of the hype of being peddled for bamboo; we even forgave the lady that took the bus all the way to Yangdi with us just to make the sale, pushing her laminated 8X10" in our faces the whole way there. As soon as our stoic driver pushed off the dock, we left it all behind. Now THIS is what is feels like to be on vacation!
Sharing the river with all other types of watercraft...
The water was warm and shallow; you could see the bright green blades of long grass flowing with the current just below the water's surface. A young couple was sharing their vows on a grassy platform alongside the river, the bride in a classic Cinderella dress, like a cloud of white. Each bend presented larger and more impressive cliffs. Since our guide didn't speak English, we just guessed at the mountains from our map.
"I bet this one is Grandpa Watching Apple," we'd speculate. Either the English translation was wrong or the Chinese must think our peak names are rather boring.
Lindsey with White Tiger Snoring in the background. :)
Each day, the town of Yangshuo transformed as they prepared for the 60th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China, during which most of China goes on holiday--for how long, we still can't figure out. It also happens to occur during the Mid Autumn Festival, which is when everyone celebrates by the giving and eating of "moon cakes." More on this splendid yet troubling holiday in our next entry!
Flags and baloons decorate the streets
More pictures can be found on our Yangshuo trip here:
Where I stayed
Yahgshuo International Youth Hostal