An entire year has gone by since my last blog post.
On January 12th last year we celebrated the birth of our baby boy, 张炘如 – aka Ashley Greenbank – and our lives were changed forever.
It’s hard for me to sum up everything that happened since. Learning to be parents without any help, and trying to keep a business going has been difficult to say the least. Lucky for us, we got the most cooperative and loving little boy anyone could hope to have, and I’m looking forward to all the adventures we’ll have together in this wonderful place. My new year’s resolution is now to try and get this blog going again.
After another few months of back breaking work, we’ve just finished the first stage of renovating our second courtyard. The house will mostly be used by ourselves and our friends, but it also has a big garden with some mature walnut trees where we can put up slacklines and make a badminton and volleyball court. The garden will be free for everyone to enjoy. Having lived in a room right above the dorms, with no windows, and no insulation for nearly two years, it’ll be nice to have our own space. A big thank you all the volunteers who helped us this year. It wouldn’t have been possible without you.
In August we said good bye to Wangcai. She was only around 10 but she’d had a hard life. Until we found her, she’d spent all her time chained up, neglected and malnourished. The change in her final year after such a harrowing time was truly remarkable. She never completely learned to trust people, but it was clear she was happy. She could sit patiently as we ate our dinner, and would gently take bones and other scraps from your hand. She even started following us on our evening walks. Her passing away from a sudden sickness was completely unexpected.
Shortly after a friend’s dog gave birth to five adorable puppies. This was also a surprise as no one even new she was pregnant until she went into labour in the back of the car. We initially said we would like one of the litter, but they couldn’t find owners for all the others and so now we have two lovely, naughty, shoe eating puppies causing mischief and mayhem in the house.
It’s rainy time and this year has been particularly wet. The river is raging, and the valley is green and lush. We’ve been joined by a few families from Lijiang and Kunming for our first summer camp. It was quite an action packed few days with hiking, climbing, fishing, mushroom hunting, slacklining, juggling, basket making, and house building with bamboo and mud.
Summer’s here kids! We’ve had a busy few months trying to finish a few things on the house. The final job was making the railings and steps for the barn rooms. We’ve now got all of our licences, and we’re very happy to announce that we’re finally officially open.
Happy new year from sunny Shigu!
What a December we’ve had!! It started off with a surprise visit from a roofing gang. It was a surprise because we hadn’t agreed on the price, and then they just showed up at 8 o’clock in the morning saying they could do it if they started that day. A big thank you to our guests who put up with the dust and disturbance. The roof comes complete with a strange cat whose bum faces into the courtyard. Apparently it can poo money and make us rich!
For Christmas we enjoyed the winter sunshine down by the river with a day of BBQ and climbing. I think we all did more eating and lazing about in the sun than actual climbing, but was a perfect way to spend Christmas.
And, the most important news (for climbers anyway) is that, thanks to Laelia Jaelle and Peter Mortimer, we now have a new multipitch right behind the house. It took 4 days of bolting, two days of cleaning, and two days of attempts to free the route. The 8 pitch 7a+ is somewhere between 150 and 160m long, with really varied climbing. A path running along the top of the cliff brings you all the way home.
It’s been a busy few weeks with guests from the USA, Columbia, Germany, France, Belgium, Beijing and Chongqing.
The month got off to good start when Santa brought me an early Christmas present – a mighty Bosch hammer drill – which I’ve been putting to good use on the crag behind us. There are now 6 lines there including a quality 6c (5.11b) slab climb called ‘shark attack’. It’s south facing and a great place to soak up some winter sun.
The Cave has also seen the FA of a new route – 吃饱了 “I’m full”, going at 7c+.Well done Sylvain Audibert and thanks Marcos Costa for bolting it.
And to cap it off the village got together to celebrate a baby’s one month party. Here, as in many rural areas of China, they still follow the tradition that after birth the mother must stay inside with the baby for a whole month. No one except the family can see them and fearing that she’s weakened from birth, the mother can’t shower. After a month has passed, a pig is slaughtered and the whole village joins them for two days of feasting and eating.
I was out on the motorbike last week when I spotted a large rock on the horizon. Large rocks aren’t exactly unusual around here, but the shape and colour was very different to the limestone in our valley, and not like the sandstone of Liming either.
I showed a poor quality photo I’d snapped to a guest Eric from Canada, and he seemed excited to get a closer look. Together with Ling and Ying we set off for a day’s potential bush whacking to see if we could get to the base. On arriving in the closest village our excitement grew. The houses were clearly made of granite, and small granite boulders were scattered around the fields. Setting off up steep wooded valleys our target quickly disappeared. The paths we were on kept ending abruptly and we were forced to backtrack several times. When we saw the rock again we found we’d almost looped around the side of it. A final traverse across a slippery hillside and we arrived. Stained with lichen and covered in moss it certainly didn’t look like granite, but a freshly broken piece revealed that it surely is.
On the return walk we also found a wide track, good enough to get a motorbike or 4×4 up, which goes to a house just 15 minutes from the base, making access extremely easy. I have enough to get on with in this valley for now, but if anyone wants we could talk to the people in this house and could probably arrange a base for people to get some first ascents up this incredible looking rock. The granite looked to extend to the north and south of there and I’m now fairly sure that the spikes of rock on the horizon looking up our valley are also granite.
Ling just got her first first ascent and named the route 感恩 meaning ‘gratitude’. Now the rainy season is over and the house is almost finished we’ll be devoting a lot more time to developing new routes. This was the first to go up on the wall overlooking the house just 20 minutes walk away. It’s a great wall for beginners, and there’ll be some nice easy multipitches with amazing views down the valley.