"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for October, 2012

Maine Bound

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When you finally go back to your old home, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood.
-Sam Ewing

 

Upon return to the the US I had brief couple days with my dad as our paths crossed in Boston I headed for Maine and what I was sure was going to be a great time climbing in Maine.

Psyched to continue slacklining as soon as I got home I bought 80 feet of webbing before I even made it back to Maine.  I arrived home to my new crash pad waiting on my bed, but my big plans of spending time at Shagg crag and bouldering around Bangor quickly began to fade.  My perpetual problem climbing in Maine is finding partners.  Despite knowing several people who climb, I have a hard time finding people psyched on the weekends and nearly impossible during the week.

Maybe it’s this thing I hear about called “Real Life” that gets in the way and takes up time.  For me though, with no job, no girlfriend, and friends in Maine that hang out with dwindling by the year, I just wanted to get out and climb every day.  Instead it ended up being slacklining that my friends really took to and soon we were slacklining several times a weeks when they weren’t working.

(Tyler was great at spectacularly launching himself off the slackline)

Within a week of being home I managed to find a partner on Mountain Project who was psyched to meet up at Shagg for a few days of climbing.  I took off, ready to test the strength I had gained in Thailand against a notoriously hard crag.  Unfortunately things didn’t go great.

We met up and started climbing.  I discovered that he wasn’t really up to leading hard routes and considering the climbing starts off, with the exception of a few warm-ups, at 5.12 that mean I was ropegunning and putting up top ropes for him.  I didn’t mind though, it got me the belayer I’d been looking for.  After warming up I tried “It Ain’t Pretty Being Easy” (5.12a).  It’s a stellar rig; quite pumpy and hard to read.  It didn’t go down on the onsight, but I was confident I could do it in a few tries.  Those next tries never came because with a few minutes it began to rain.

Of our planned two and a half days at Shagg we got in a couple hours before it began to rain.  Hoping for the best I figured we could try some routes on the most overhanging section and maybe it would clear off soon.  I got on “Shaggin Wagon” (5.12a), but after getting pumped off a couple times I made it to the last few meters of the climb only to find soaking wet crimps.  I clipped the anchors and accepted that I would not be on that again today.  That left exactly zero routes completely dry.

Still unwilling to admit defeat I did a few more laps on the first 90% of “The Great Escape” since it was one of the only dry sections of rock.  The rain hadn’t stopped for the last couple hours so we eventually slogged back to the cars.  We set up camp, hoping that it would be better weather the next day.  In the morning everything was still soaked and the weather predicted lots of rain in the afternoon so I headed for home, stopping to boulder a little bit on the way.

I managed to work in some more climbing when I picked up Ian at the airport and headed to Rumney on the way home.  Unfortunately I had nearly the same luck there as at Shagg.  We got in a couple climbs, but were limited to routes that stay dry in the rain (ie overhanging).  I didn’t mind too much, but when Ian tried to top rope “Orangahang” (5.12a/b) it didn’t go so well.  I guess 12a is a bit hard for your fifth time climbing, but I figured would get by his natural aptitude for everything athletic.  He made valient, but awkward attempts to start out the climb which eventually ended without getting 10 feet off the deck. Foiled by the rain again we decided to head to Portland to hang out with a friend on our way home rather than set up tents in the rain.

Despite my climbing plans falling flat, Maine was a good time.  I spent a day riding on the carriage trails of Acadia National Park  and eating popovers at Jordan Pond House with my mom and brother.  I hung out and slacklined with friends.  I did all kinds of activities that have been replaced by climbing and remembered that I like to do them.  On rest days.

(Just my usual bike ride)

I continued trying to find climbing partners, but once a week at the gym and bouldering alone just wasn’t cutting it for me.  I made it out bouldering a time or two and even put up some new problems (both problems below were new ones I did).  All my plans to climb were thwarted by the “Real World” or weather.  I found out that the wedding in August that I had based all my plans around had been moved up and limited to family only.  With no reason to stay in Maine and every reason to get out, I split as fast as I could pack my car.  I was bound for better weather, better climbing, and the hopes of finding partners.

 


Goodbye Thai

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Hemlock:  We’ll make it.

Meier:  I don’t think so, but we shall continue with style.

-The Eiger Sanction

 

Mid April in Tonsai came and it meant two things.  First, that I had to head for the boarder again for another visa run.  Second, that it was hotter than hell in August.  No joke, I had to start wearing wrist bands because without them my chalkbag just became a puddle of sweat and on more than one occasion I witnessed I stream of sweat squeezed out of Sam’s harness when weighted.  As for the visa, it was quite a pain to deal with.  My departure and visa managed to leave a two day gap so even if I made a visa run I would have to do it all over again just to get the extra two days.  After lots of debating and thoughts of going to China or Laos I decided that it made the most sense for me to stay in Tonsai.  Booking the flight turned out to be more of a hassle than expected.  Every time I tried to book a cheap flight my bank would freeze my debit card, then to get it reactivated I had to call during business hours which was impossible to do from Tonsai.  Eventually I had my brother book my flight, and borrowed cash in time to book my 23 hour bus to Singapore where I hung out for 23 hours before flying back to Krabi.  The two days of travel and limbo were rough, but gave me just enough time to not be illegal when I left.

(Me on Orange Juice, 7b+)

As I reached the top of Banana Ship sirens wailed.  I was getting so close to sending, but fell at the last hard move.  I had no idea why this obnoxious sound had started and just wanted it to go away before my next try, I was sure it was going down.  After a minute of Thai on the loudspeaker it switched to English, telling us that there was a large earth quake off shore and a tsunami was likely.  I was lowered down the route and we headed for higher ground.  Below I could see the people running around on East Railay and moving to higher ground.  We waited.  We waited.  The other people around anxiously talked about waiting longer or trying to get back to Tonsai.  I thought about getting back on Banana Ship.  Apparently my addiction and willingness to take risks is that bad.  Even if there was a tsunami, I figured being a on route could only be good, it’s not like we were anywhere near water level anyway.  Eventually I could see Thai people meandering around in East Railay so I decided, despite the warning still in effect, that it couldn’t be that likely or imminent.  Since I couldn’t find anyone willing to belay I headed back to Tonsai.  Along the way I found herds of tourists gathered on higher areas.  It was especially amusing seeing the group that formed at the top of the jungle trail between Railay and Tonsai.  They looked like a bunch of Y2k nuts thrown onto Survivor.  I think I even spotted some canned food they brought with them.  The tsunami never came, but the next day I did send Banana Ship.

The rest of life was a whirlwind of fun times.  I learned to slackline and got into the habit of spending lots of my rest days, lunch times, and evenings slacklining at Sawadee.  I saw a barrel monkeys, at least 50 or 60 of them, run down the trail 6ft behind me while I belayed.  I swam on chemiluminescent plankton, poached pools in Railay, slacklined over the water, and danced until 6am.  I visited a cave and saw the thousands of wooden penises given as offering to Phranang (Princess Goddess) for good luck on the water (pictures below).  I watched my friends Sam, Theo, Jonas, and Nolan take the top spots in the climbing competition, stayed up until sunrise, watched many fire shows, burned my lip on a flaming shot, and hung out with Kat and Maura while they broke the pancake eating record.  Oh, and buckets.  Many buckets.  I climbed too, sending Orange Juice and Banana Ship (both 7b+) which are definitely two of the best routes I’ve ever been on.  I managed to go deep water soloing on one of my last days there and better yet, I didn’t get charged.  I even got Tyrolean Air (7c), my hardest send.  Tonsai was interesting because some people stay for a couple days, some for half the year, and other for anything in between.  It seemed like everyone I hung out with was leaving in a couple weeks, but it didn’t stop me from making some great friends.  Even now, months later, I keep in touch with many Tonsai folks and hung out with several as I traveled and climbed across the US this summer.  Whether it was someone I hung out with for months or someone I only hung out with for a day and really connected with, I had a great time with everyone and met lots of great people.  Thanks for making Tonsai amazing!


Tonsai Life

The road goes on forever and the party never ends

-Robert Earl Keen

 

I found out the great thing about my unplanned Thailand trip is that my visa on arrival only lasted 30 days.  That meant I needed to either leave or make a visa run.  My initial plan had been a month in Tonsai then some time in Laos and Chang Mai, but Tonsai was just too good.  I talked to a bunch of people and from what I could gather I just wouldn’t be able to do the same kind of climbing or find partners as easily in those places.  I decided I would at least put off the decision for another couple weeks by making a visa run.  Luckily for me I had a couple friends, Jonas and Martin, who were going to do the same.  Thankfully Jonas was in Tonsai for his eighth year and knew the ins and outs. We got up early to catch the first longtail to Ao Nang, found this tourist passed out with a pile of Chang bottles, and rented a car to drive down to the boarder.

We put down our deposit of 10000 baht (about $325) and headed off.  I’d just like to mention that $325 was considered to be able equal to the value of the car and it was a bit much if anything.  It looked like miniture version of the old, small, boxy suzuki SUVs.  We squeezed in with one person having to sit sideways behind the front seats.  We bobbed down the road bouncing all over the place on the lack of suspension.  It quickly became clear that Jonas had serious experience in Thailand; his driving was almost as crazy as the locals.  In some unknown town where nobody spoke any English Jonas managed to order us some fried rice for lunch and we continued on our way.  Countryside, small cities, bamboo huts, bulls in the back of small tucks, and even an elephant on a flat bed truck zipped past as we headed south.  Shortly before the boarder the limestone cliffs began appearing again and we slowed to rubberneck the virgin faces and talk about what looked climbable.  We weaved our way through traffic, around dogs, and made it almost to the boarder sweaty and stiff from the tiny cramped car.  Several hundred yards before the Malaysia boarder was a street market so we couldn’t drive further.  We parked and walked the last bit to the boarder, handed our passports to the officer, walked around the building to the window on the other side, picked up our passports, and back to the car.  We were legal for another 15 days.  We turned around and headed all the way back to Tonsai.

 (Onsighting Wake and Bake, 7a+)

A few days later a friend and I went to The Keep.  We did a few great climbs and realized the tide was out.  Why not go to Low Tide wall?  We thought it was perfect timing to get in a couple pitches before the time came in and it got dark.  Turns out we were wrong.  We watched the tide come in a bit, but didn’t realize how much of our trail back was being flooded until we turned the corner to head back.  Looked like we would be waist deep the entire walk back to East Railay.  We took about 12 steps then it got dark too.  The only headlamp we had was Terri’s very dim one.  To top it off, my ultra-thin flip flops were falling apart and impossible to walk with in the water.  With the tide out its usually a 15 minute jaunt back to East Railay then monkey trail (up and over a small rocky hill between Tonsai and Railay) is the only obstacle back to Tonsai.  Barefoot, in the dark, at high tide…we slogged through the sharp coral and rocks and didn’t make it back for two and a half hours.  With sliced toes and sore feet I went directly to get some food I’d been wishing I had all day.

 

(I loved this spot.  It reminds me of Jurassic Park)

(Monitor Lizard)

 


The Best Day of Climbing

Climbing is like sex, when its good its good, and when its bad… its still pretty good.

-Unknown

 

Thanks to the diagnosis of an intoxicated Korean doctor, some Spanish friends with extra cephlexin, and several days of rest I finally began getting better.  It was more than just my ability to function without pain, my checked backpack unexpectedly arrived, and I began meeting a bunch of great people.  Finally able to walk without pain up to my knee I got down to climbing.  Life became a blur of constant climbing: roll out of the bungalow, breakfast at Chicken Mamas Restaurant, climb all day, dinner at Chicken Mamas, hang out at Sawadee, sleep, and repeat.

(Exploring the lagoon)

(Notice the Thai guy in the tree.  He wore a climbing harness to solo up the 50ft tree, then just uses his rope to lower the coconuts before soloing back down the tree)

(Chicken Mamas!)

Within a couple weeks I even started sending.  It was a great feeling and really one that was new to me.  To line up projects and actually begin knocking them off was something that I had never really done before.  Then, on it happened…The best climbing day of my life.

Previously the best climbing day of my life was one of my last days in Smith Rock when I finally sent Heinous Cling (5.12a), which was my first 12 in the US, after working it for a while then went and crushed Panic Attack (5.12a) on my first real attempt (not quite an onsight since I tried it a couple weeks earlier on TR at the end of the day), and to top it off the hot water in the showers finally got turned back on.  It was a great day.

March 23rd though, was something else all together.  In the morning I sent Tiger Queen (7b/5.12b)  which I had been working on for a while, then we headed over to Cat wall in the afternoon where I sent Kitty Porn (7b+/5.12c) my first ever 12c, then gave April Fools (7b/5.12b) a try and sent it too.  My first ever 12c, and two 12b’s (only had done one or two before too) in one day!  All of a sudden I felt like I didn’t know why I had ever NOT been climbing 5.12, it wasn’t all that bad after all.

Oh yeah, and I cut my hair into a mohawk…