Once again our crew from Chiang Mai ventured north into Yunnan province of China in search of giant sandstone walls. This time round Mario, Ooan, Ethan, and myself set off, and with some larger cams than last year to boot.
We cut it a bit close catching the train from Kunming to Lijiang, with only 3 seats and standing ticket available we boarded with 5 minutes to spare, long enough in fact to buy two six-packs of Chinas finest weak beer. After sitting down, Ethan was promptly projectile vomitted on in close quarters. Mario also made friends with a Chinese guy in probably the swankiest jacket I had ever seen, who kept pointing to a picture of Fred Becky saying that he knew him and was good friends with old Fred. Other than the train ride the trip to Liming went smooth. The ladies at the park entrance even waived the 100 RMB park fee because we were “professional climbers,” their words not ours ha!
Prior to the trip Ethan had only a handful of trad climbing experiences, primarily in Yosemite, however I could sense his unbridled energy and enthusiasm for the experience to come. The first day out we walked up to a 5.9, and said “ok man, your lead.” After a few jitters he was cruising and never looked back the whole trip. In fact every day kept getting better and better.
We visited all the area classics the first week, and capped it off with climbing Souls Awakening, 5.10c/d, 5 pitches. The low point for me was scrapping and scumming my way up a bird shit filled off-width, not sure if the shit made the shoes stick better or worse….Though the route tops out on Dinner Wall, the last pitch looked like 5.5 choss / veg scrambling, so we decided stay safe and head down. This was an amazing climb, definitely a must do if your in Liming.
|departure from CNX|
|Ethans' first lead in China, Screaming at the Moon 5.9|
|down on red stone street with Dinner wall in the background|
|group selfie with Mei and Ethan|
The Faraway Hostel ended up being a prime spot to meet all the old friends from last year and further afield. It was good to connect with Mike Dobie again and still see the passion he has for development in the valley and the rest of China. During our stay Logan Barber also sent The Honeycomb Dome, 5.14? Watching the video of the FA was amazing, and inspiring. Even our good friend Mei stopped in for a few days.
Though we climbed a ton of pitches and routes, the main highlight for me was climbing Back to the Primitive, 5.11, Grade III. Every pitch had its own unique character that made the climb 5 stars. Ethan even had time to take a piss on lead before on-sighting pitch 4! For me the 6th traverse pitch was the money. After a 10m unprotected chimney climb, where you are literally inside the mountain, it changed to good hands, then to some sort of strange technical horizontal climbing to a good ledge. We topped out around 4 pm and took in the views before taking a mosquito infested gully down to town.
|pitch 3 of Souls Awakening|
|rappelling Souls Awakening|
|Ethan crushing Wind of the Valley 5.10+|
|topping out on Back to the Primitive 5.11+|
|afternoon up at the Guardian Wall|
|Faraway Hostels resident canine |
|catching a glimpse of Mario up on Back to the Primitive|
|the crew below Akum-Ra, one of the best climbs in Liming|
Ethan and I had been scheming to head north to Shangri-la for a few days at the end of the trip to just check out a different part of Yunnan. Our dreams were a bit crushed when all reports indicated that Shangri-La is kind of blah and lame. We reset our sights on Tiger Leaping Gorge and then finally set our gaze on Haba Shan Snow Mountain (5390m). By all accounts this peak was totally doable in our time frame and there were rental places in Haba Village for axes, crampons, etc. Stoke was high! The next day we caught the bus to Lijiang and then to Tiger Leaping Gorge. We luckily were able to catch a ride with “Z” and his girlfriend through the gorge, and ended up in Haba the following day.
After some searching we came upon a younger guy in Haba that runs cycling trips and guides Haba. Promptly we packed up all our gear and hired him to take us to the basecamp at 4100m. It had been awhile since I was at altitude, and was huffing a bit until around 3500m. The basecamp was super legit, with a number of stone buildings, bunk rooms, and even a few staff. There was one other group up there from Beijing, they wished us luck before we went to bed.
Our alpine start went well and we gained elevation steadily. There are a series of granite slabs and moraines before hitting the snow proper. The weather was definitely a concern, as it was constantly foggy and the summit was always out of view. After 4 hours we got to 5100m, where after judging the conditions we decided to turn back….but it was still the highest either of us had ever climbed, and we felt great.
The hike down was a poignant indicator that we had been pushing our bodies non-stop for 3 weeks. Drunk with fatigue we made it back to town in good style. Unfortunately we had little money left, and had to barter for room, board, and even transport the next day……true dirtbag style. Arriving in Lijiang the next day we had exactly 0 RMB haha.
|basecamp at 4100m|
|frost covered slap scrambles|
|Ethan loving life|
|descending into the mid morning|
|selfie at 5100m where we turned back|
|met this random guy from Beijing who was headed up the next day|
We reconnected with Mario and Ooan at the Lijiang train station (they had stayed in Liming), and caught our train back to Kunming. Many brews and food helped reminisce the experience before we made our way back to the warmth of Thailand.