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.
Back in Shigu again and after the false starts it’s really time to get cracking on the shower. It’s surprisingly difficult to find skilled casual workers here – anyone who can actually build something (not even that well) seems to be permanently busy and doesn’t want just the odd day’s work. They just want to be payed to do the whole job and also get their friends involved. This being the case I’ve no choice but to get on with it myself. Luckily my friend Tom was able to give me a hand for a day and we made a good start on the wall. Like me, he’d laboured for people doing walls and could mix a good mortar but had never actually built a wall.
Unfortunately, the sand we got looked like it had been dug out of the first bend of the Yangtze River just down the road. It was full of small round pebbles and much more annoyingly lots of pea sized stones which made trying to lay the blocks flat almost impossible. After a late start we managed to get five rows of blocks down, and despite the problems with the sand it’s actually quite level. Certainly not the worst block wall in the valley.