With the help of Jiayao and Maming, we’ve also just put up some new climbing routes at the Flying Squirrel Crag. It now has a much more complete range of grades, from 5.8 to 5.12d.
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.
Shigu gets a highline!! Peter’s been back, and finished putting up the highline across the gully behind the house, close to the Flying Squirrel Crag. It’s hard to see on the pictures, but it’s about 50m high. Peter got the fa and then I practiced my barrel roll falling technique. I don’t know why it’s so much harder than walking a line in the park. Without a picture showing how cool I am, I was forced to shuffle out over the line and got one of me attempting the yoga peacock pose.
This week’s seen some action at the Flying Squirrel Crag, nestled in a stunning valley of walnut trees just 15 minutes walk from the house. Thanks Peter for 3 quality new lines.
Four Wise Cows – 6c+ (FA Peter Mortimer)
The Squirrel Fights Back – 7b (FA Peter Mortimer)
And an unsent line around 7c.
In our usual format Peter offered me chance of first ascent before showing me how it’s done. This crag now has seven routes from 6b+ to 7c.
This weekend we took a break from working on the house to go open a new crag straight up the hill behind us. I’ve had my eye on this rock ever since we arrived and it feels really good to have climbed it at last. It’s about 25 minutes walk up quite a steep hill but the path is good and it’s worth it for the views and the rock quality. It’s the first of four crags all in a line, with each one bigger, steeper and with crazier features than the last, and once developed this is where the best sports climbing is going to be. For the first line we chose the most obvious route straight up the middle, and almost topping out at 35m long. It starts off with an easy slab before getting into some tufas and an exposed position as you pull up through a gap in the tufas into the final crux. It’s probably around 6c / 5.11b but neither I nor Tom did it on our only attempts. We’d left the rope in from when we bolted it and we both made a lunge for it just below the anchor when the holds run out. It needs cleaning a little more at the top.
The other route we put up is a 33m 6a / 5.10b, and is probably the best route I’ve ever climbed in the grade. It follows a line of really big jug pockets on high quality rock before taking a slight deviation around a roof. You could try it straight but then it wouldn’t be 6a and for the small hard section it wouldn’t make sense. After the roof there are just two more bolts of easy climbing but it’s a little run out and feels really high. The position is so good you’d think the climb should be much harder. Tom went first and named it Socks Plant after a plant growing on the hillsides which smells like unwashed socks.
This week Eben Farnworth and I started work on a new crag. It’s on the big wall opposite The Cave, close to the village. Paths have already been established by goat herders and so access is really easy. There are a lot of obvious crack lines and so we decided to see if we could climb it only on traditional gear. Neither of us were brave enough for a ground up attempt and so we found an easier line (a bit loose and with lots of spiky bushes) from the back which topped out on the pillar, about 50m high. From there we bolted an anchor and abseiled down the face to have a better look. The gear placements all looked good so I spent a couple of hours cleaning soil out the cracks and knocking down loose rocks. I could see a woman down below washing clothes in the channel which runs along the hill and provides water for the village. There was one quite big rock (about the size of a TV before we had flat screens) to knock off and I needed to judge if it could hit anyone. She wasn’t in line and so off it went with a slight nudge. It hit the ground with a mighty crash and a shower of stones bounced down the hill. The woman looked up in fright and began running for cover before realising it was nowhere near.
The next day I was to make the first ascent. It’s quite a different feeling setting off up a rock which hasn’t been climbed. No chalk to show where the good holds are and always the feeling something might break. Once it gets a few more climbs it’ll probably be about 6a+ / 5.10b , but with the fear and uncertainty it felt a lot harder.
Eben got the FA on another line to the right and we finished cleaning up what was our access line for some beginner trad practice. Still a long way to go to get this place on the map but it’s all progress. There should be quite a few good trad lines here and a very different style to the crack climbs in Liming.
We had our first guests last week, my climbing friends from Kunming, bringing words of encouragement, advice, whiskey, some fruit trees, a drill and some bolts. I’d still been quite apprensive about the whole thing but having people here and all being supportive, it’s put me at ease and I’m confident it’ll work. Although I’d wanted to get more work done on the house by now, I think it’s been good to spend the time here and look at everything closely.
We got to work on the crag behind the house, clearing rubbish, flattening an area to put a slackline, making a path, rolling loose boulders down a hill and bolting four routes. It’s a beautiful little crag, nestled in a little valley with lots of walnut trees which will provide good summer shade. We named it the Flying Squirrel Crag after said animal made a spectacular leap from a hole after being disturbed by Peter’s drilling.