Author: Pyn

The Ultimate Climbing Guide for Cat Ba, Vietnam

The Ultimate Climbing Guide for Cat Ba, Vietnam

Guest blog by Sakari Cajanus

Why Come to Cat Ba

Cat Ba is the most developed sport climbing destination in Vietnam. Judging by the sheer amount of routes it pales in comparison to other popular climbing destinations in South-East Asia, but the quality of the rock as well as the variety of routes in the four crags on the island can be favourably compared to any destination.

Being less popular than many other destinations, the around 100 routes on the main island see less traffic and are for the most part not yet polished. Also out in the bay there are some bolted climbs accessible by boat. Check the current state of bolts before climbing! They are steel expansion bolts in seaside conditions. For a full day of adventure you can combine climbing with checking out some caves and lagoons — consult the guidebook, locals or Google Maps (use the satellite images!) for possibilities.

Apart from the sport climbing, there are possibilities for DWS, both on day trips with one of the companies (Asia Outdoors, Cat Ba Climbing)  on the island, or for the adventurous, by booking a boat on your own. If you decide to do it this way, knowing the locations of the crags and a bit of Vietnamese is helpful.

For rest day activities, you are the beautiful scenery  of Lan Ha and Ha Long bay, for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and swimming. The proximity of the sea and the scenery sets it apart from other climbing locations of South East Asia, and with the multitude of islands there is more to explore than, for example, in Tonsai. The beaches on the main island can be crowded with Vietnamese, so it might be advisable to get off the island and explore the bay instead.

Cat Ba Climbing
Sunset on the way back to Ben Beo Harbour after a day of climbing

When to Go

The climbing is available year-round, with the best season for sport climbing being from late October to March. After that, the temperature start to rise, and for the summer months of June to August the rainy season might affect your climbing plans. The rain usually comes in showers and most of the walls are protected from the rain to an extent, but combined with the high temperatures, it is not the best time for sport climbing.

Conversely, the coldest months of the year from December to March might be less enjoyable for the deep water solo, but throughout the rest of the year warm temperatures make falling in something to look forward to! The deep water solo walls are for the most part overhanging enough that they stay dry during rain, though some tufas might be wet.

How to Get There

Most people reach Cat Ba by booking a combination of buses & ferries directly from Hanoi. This usually includes a pick-up in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, and drop-off at your accommodation on Cat Ba — the price of the full bus and ferry combination is not much more than paying for the bus and ferry separately, so for convenience that combination can’t usually be beat.

The other options include either flying or taking a train to  the nearest city in mainland Vietnam, Hai Phong, and then taking a ferry over to Cat Ba. The ferries leave from Ben Binh pier in Hai Phong. Depending on which ferry you take, you might end up directly at the main strip in Cat Ba town, or in Cai Vieng where you get on a bus to reach the Cat Ba town.

The new bridge from Hai Phong City to Cat Hai reduces the travel time from Hanoi to Cat Ba to around 3 hours, making it a good destination even for a weekend trip.

It is also possible to reach Cat Ba from the North through Ha Long City, by getting to the island of Tuan Chau first and getting a ferry to Giai Luan in northern Cat Ba.

How Good is the Climbing?

Cat ba climbing
Climber coming out of the cave on Enter The Dragon (8a+)

While Cat Ba can’t compete with other destinations in easy access or the number of routes, the routes are varied and on good quality rock. Most of the climbing is face climbing, and you have slightly different styles at different crags.

Most of the climbing on Cat Ba itself is 6A and up, so for very beginners there is a bit less to climb. If you decide to book a climbing trip or independent climbing on Moody Beach out in the bay, there are 5 routes from 4+ to 6A with a 6B+ thrown in the mix for beginner climbers.

Most climbers end up staying from a couple of days to a week, as there might not be that many climbs to do at your level. Combining sport climbing with deep water solo is a way to find more things to climb if you would like to stay longer.

For day-trip adventures, it is possible to go check out some of the climbs in the bay: For the multipitch on left side of Tiger Beach as well as Pirate’s Belly it’s best to go through Asia Outdoors both for status of the bolts and access, and for getting out to the Face it is often easiest to go through them as well.

Climbing Cat Ba
Sakari cleaning Nightrider (7a+) in the bay.

Are the Bolts Safe?

The bolts are both stainless steel expansion bolts as well as glue-ins. Butterfly Valley is maintained by Asia Outdoors, and the bolts there should be checked and safe to climb on. The climbs in the Cave and Ben Beo might see less traffic and maintenance, but should generally be fine. The Farm/Hidden valley is maintained by Cat Ba Climbing, and the state of the bolting can be checked with them. Not all the climbs in the Hidden Valley were necessarily all bolted with climbing-rated hardware to begin with.

Out in the Bay, Moody Beach is maintained by Asia Outdoors as they run their own trips on this beach. The rest of the climbs, such as the multi-pitch, Pirate’s Belly and the climbs on The Face might still have the original bolts, the quality of which is not guaranteed and should be checked before climbing.

Bolts can be found elsewhere in the bay as well, but as they were done by the original expeditions they should not be climbed before re-bolting.

In general, Cat Ba and Lan Ha bay doesn’t seem to have the same problem with stainless steel bolts as Tonsai in Thailand has, but there is an effort to switch from expansion bolts to glue-ins as the climbs are being re-bolted.

Accommodation

Most people stay in Cat Ba town, which has several reasonably priced hotels and hostels to choose from. In principle, 3 of the crags are within walking distance of the town (10 minutes to half an hour), but most people end up renting motorbikes and one is needed to reach the biggest crag of Butterfly Valley, anyway.

Chalk, Gear & Guides

Chalk and climbing gear is not available for sale on Cat Ba, and climbers are advised to stock up in Hanoi, Saigon or elsewhere before arriving. On the flipside, bring chalk and you are sure to make some new friends! Renting climbing gear is possible through Asia Outdoors, and possibly through Cat Ba climbing as well. Guidebooks are sold by Asia Outdoors. Almost all of the climbing can be done with a 60 meter rope, with only one or two of the harder climbs requiring a 70 meter one.

Power & Wi-Fi

Cat Ba town has very good Wi-Fi coverage, with most of the passwords being the usual ranging from 12345678 to 66668888. There can be occasional power outages, but usually quite short in duration.

At the crags themselves, there is no Wi-Fi but mobile data and mobile connections in general should work.

Food & Water

Water can be purchased in bottles in the shops and restaurants, but environmentally conscious can also find water refill available at Asia Outdoors shop and possibly elsewhere as well. Near Ben Beo harbour there are a few cafes and shops to buy water, coffee and snacks, but climbers heading to the Cave or Hidden Valley should stock up in advance.

In Butterly Valley, drinks are available for sale, and you can order a family-style lunch in advance and have it ready for you at agreed-upon time. Vegetarian option is available (  in Vietnamese), but vegans might have a hard time in avoiding eggs (không trứng, pronounced more or less khong chung, is how you would ask for no egg).

For early starters, you can hit the market on the west side of town after taking right turn off the seaside main strip, in 100 meters or so on the left. Things seem to be opening up at 5 AM, with sticky rice, sandwiches (bánh mì) and fruit available for sale.

Keo Lac, literally translating to peanut candy, and Vietnamese energy bar rectangles in vacuum plastic are most popular snacks in addition to fruit, as well as the ubiquitous Snickers from both supermarkets and from street vendors.

Things You Need to Know

– Many countries get around 15 days visa-free, but visa on arrival is also a possibility for 1 or 3 months. For these, you will need to get your visa approval letter beforehand! There are several reputable companies online.

– There are ATMs on Cat Ba (two, actually), but they might sometimes run out of money. Supposedly you can take money out at the bank as well (bring passport!)

Favourite Climbs

Butterfly Valley:

6A+ Mother Butterfly. A long, scenic climb: A bit harder for some due to exposure, but all the more beautiful for the same reason!

6B+ Elephant Man. Good climbing in juggy pockets, surprisingly challenging balancy crux, and a few powerful moves at the top. Classic.

6C+ Miyagi Box Maker. Bouldery start, but the real challenge comes after, moving on the face with decent pockets and sloping feet.

7C+ Monarch.

Ben Beo:

7A+ Egyptian Submission Position. Committing and balancy slab on minimal holds in the start, and the end is no joke either!

7B Animal. Face climbing. As good as it gets.

Deep Water Solo:

6C+ Vairghy Bootifol in Three Brothers.

7A+ in the Pyramid Cave.

7C+ Streak of Lightning.

Cat Ba Climbing
DWS route
Out in the bay:

License to Climb (7A+) and Nightrider (7B) on the Face.

What to Do on Rest Days

Getting out of town is advisable — on the main island you can hit one of the beaches, or for more active recovery you can do one of the hikes in the National Park or a guided one in Butterfly valley. The main attraction of Cat Ba (for non-climbers anyway) is the Lan Ha Bay, and it is definitely worth seeing for climbers as well. To see the most, it is a good idea to book a trip of kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. It is possible to rent out a kayak out from Ben Beo harbour as well, but booking a trip means taking a boat out first, and you get to see more, and perhaps more interesting locations, further out in the bay.

Maybe name the two major companies for trips, tips and guides here or elsewhere in a separate paragraph

It’s beautiful scenery might not be an asset compared to other destinations in SEA but could be mentioned not only for the rest days

Sakari Cajanus

Sakari first left Finland to work on Cat Ba as a kayaking and climbing guide, and since then has travelled back to South East Asia through Sweden, Israel, Azerbaijan and Iran. His last job in Finland was working with data analysis and software development, and it remains to be seen what he does next.

Guide to Highlining in Tonsai, Thailand

Guide to Highlining in Tonsai, Thailand

Guide to Highlining in Tonsai 

by Chris Wallace

12814062 1128934837136868 9106444804677775169 n

Intro

Welcome to Tonsai Bay, from first glance to last day (always tomorrow), this place will enchant you. The idyllic beaches, relaxed vibe and strong community will make any visit feel like coming home. Over the last few decades, climbers have flocked here for the incredibly featured limestone that shields it from the world, it’s become well known destination for anyone looking to escape the cold (it averages 28 degrees +) or reality with its abundance of otherworldly substance 😉

All types of vertical adventure are possible so if you’re ready for some serious bush bashing, you can enjoy to tranquil moments of peace soaring above dense jungle and blue ocean, then descend back down, walk 100m to the closest bar and enjoy a cheap meal and a beer while picking cactus out of your hair.

Disclaimer / Expected Skills

If you wish to enjoy a long pleasant life, free from injury or misfortune, it is NOT recommended that you highline, or even slackline for that matter. If however you completely choose to ignore this advice and slackline regardless, there are some things you should know…

Tonsai Bay, although a sport climbing paradise, is unfortunately not the same for highlines. Although the amount of gaps and epic lines available could fill a lifetime, it would be a very dangerous life indeed. Rigging highlines here is far from easy, it is expected that anyone who wishes to do so has extensive experience in their home country on expedition style trips where rational decision making, teamwork and suffering are all part of the package. It is expected that climbing, especially ropeless scrambling are very familiar concepts and that self rescue is using limited gear practiced thoroughly. There has never been a helicopter rescue in Tonsai and it is not expected that one would be brought in for a poor highliner, no matter how good your insurance. If self rescuing is beyond your capabilities, only other international sport climbers can save you, the local thai guides are skilled, but they are by no means a capable rescue service.

Highlines in Tonsai are a far far way away from the simple “Drive in, walk around” access of the  Fruit Bowl, creative taglining, exposed hanging belays and independent on-the-fly decision making are all qualities needed to stay alive here.

At the end of the day, once you’ve battled, bleed, swore and sweated profusely under the harsh sun, the memories created and friendships formed will be so much more worth it.

If the information before makes you scared but ALSO a little bit excited, tonasi will be every bit as good as you imagine.

Getting there

Fly into Krabi international Airport.

From here you must make your way to Ao Nang, there are a couple options. The bus/shuttle service leaves direct from the airport regularly (less than 1 hr between service). It is the cheapest option (besides hitch hiking, a difficult endeavour) and the recommended way for the dirtbag slacker.
Alternatively private taxi’s can be taken at a premium (about 500bht), this is the fastest and easiest. These are also available to take directly from the airport.

Tickets for either must be bought inside the terminal (it has signs for railay peninsula and photos of the idyllic beaches)

From Ao Nang, there is a longtail boat service that runs whenever there are enough people to fill a boat (100-200 bht each), or each person pays enough to make a full fare. In high season, the spots fill up quick and wait times are small, but late at night or in low season, expect to hang around for a while, or fork out the extra bhart.

Accommodation

There is a whole range of options available here from super budget to super luxury. Rates vary greatly between seasons too, in high season (Nov – Feb) prices are usually 3x the low season rates what is quoted here is for high season.

It’s possible to book online now for some places, however within 20min of getting off the boat, you can almost always find a place to stay.

  • Most expensive in Tonsai are around 1500bht per night however for the same price even better accommodation is available in railay, the beach next door, these units are generally airtight and free from bugs and mozzies and mostly come with aircon, wifi and 24hr power.
  • The next step down still comes with private room and bathroom, but usually only a small fan and mozzie net over the bed. Power is also only available from late afternoon to early morning. Green valley is an expensive example of this option and goes for around 800 bht per night but walking further up the hill into the jungle you can find the same options for about 500bht per night at Passok, Jungle Hut, Andaman and more. Most of these have spotty wifi and queen mattresses.
  • To reduce the rate again by another couple hundred bht, shared bathrooms and/or share rooms are available.
  •  The cheapest accommodation that will enable access to a shower and power outlets is sleeping above Saubi Bar for 50Bht per night, this is noisey and byo mat/hammock and mozzie netting. There is also nowhere secure to keep possessions, although they are unlikely to be taken, bungalows are robbed every now and again, so above the bar is even more at risk!
  • It is definitely possible to spend the night on the beach or in the trees just behind it, however it is not advised to do for any longer than it takes to find available accommodation (only 1-2 days max). Locals are not a fan of human waste being buried, nor would you be of the cats that also bury theirs all over the beach. Tonsai is a small community with an economy that depends on the climbers, the accommodation is generally really great quality for a comparatively small fee, Help them out and help Tonasi stay the paradise it is!

Recommended Gear

The style of rigging here is mostly natural with the odd bolted anchor around. It’s worth consulting the lines bellow and planning accordingly. At the end of the day it’s using minimal gear creatively that will get lines rigged.

  • Up to 70m of webbing with sewn ends
  • A couple weblocks and leash (Alu or Ti rings)
  • 1, 2 and 3m spansets,  worth bringing doubles, especially of the 2m
  • 20-30m of static rap/jug rope
  • Sections of 8mm static rope,  6, 8, 10 and 12m are good
  • Sections of beefier 10mm static rope, 8 and 10m (more the better)
  • A couple of stainless bow shackles
  • A 50-60m dynamic rope and draws, can double as a backup line.
  • Alpine draws for trad access
  • Tagline about 60m long
  • Rope protection, the rock is knife blade sharp, bring lots of this!
  • Aluminum biners (for backups), try avoid steel, it will start rusting within a week
  • Personal highline gear, E.g. harness,  roller, tensioning system
  • Gri Gri, ascender, prussics, other self rescue/ basic access items

If you’re going as a team or as two people,  it’s worth bringing a few extra items

  • Backup webbing, as some spots are quite low and a rope backup is not very effective
  • More spansets / anchor material, inc rope pro
  • Another 20-30m static rap/jug line
  • Another tagline (it’s easy to get it caught and lost in the dense jungle)
  • 11mm static to add/replace fixed lines

Map

This is a rough map of where spots are, until this guide is properly updated, consult the climbing guidebook for much more detailed info on how to get to particular spots that are mentioned in here. Climbing guides can be found by asking a climber to look at theirs or sometimes there is one at Mamas Coffee Shop.

Tonasi Map

The details of the bars and accommodation in this map are NOT accurate, most of them have moved!

(1) Railay Peninsula

IMG 54572

Grischa Rulle on Perseverance Jun/Jul 2011. Photo by Preston Bruce Alden

Perseverance – 35m Long, 40ish m High, 70 ish m Exposure

Who/When: Grischa Rulle (95%), Preston Bruce Alden (5%), 2011

FA: Grischa Rulle, Jun/Jul 2011

Anchors: Tonsai Side – Main – Natural horns/ rock features to sling, 2-3m Spansets

– Backup – Same as main, more 2-3m Spansets

Thaiwand Tower – Main – 2x Ti Ring Bolts

– Backup – Natural slings / threads in the rock? Maybe no backup?

Home to the first Highline of the Tonasi area and also home to a couple run ins with tourists and authority, Beautiful rigs and stunning exposure, but also not the place to leave a line up for many days anymore. There is a 35ish meter here and a longer one done by the gibbon team apparently?
This is the story and beta for the 35m, a well worth read and epic especially considering the slackline gear of the day… http://slacklineproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/thailine.html

Also a video provides good beta; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXQh7PJy4X4&feature=youtu.be

(2) Dums Kitchen

See main cover image on page one for a photo of this line

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself – 32m Long, 40m High, 110m + Exposure

Who/When: Chris Wallace, Marvin Bruns, Sam Stiegemeier, Feb 2016

FA: Chris Wallace, March 2017

Anchors:

RHS (Ocean Side) – Main – Short sharp horn, needs 2m spanset

– Backup – Same as main or use small tree or another horn/sling

LHS (Climb Side) – Main – Tall sharp horn, needs 1m spanset

– Backup – Same as main or use the tyrollean/rap anchor

Remarks: The highest exposure highline in Tonsai/Railay with awesome aproach (don’t all of them though) and El natural. Annoyingly about 1.5m off level but not that noticeable on the 32m length.

Access: Make your way to Dums Kitchen and up the BASE trail, the difficulty of the “trail” is up to 5b free solo with death a very real consequence if you fall. Surprisingly it is actually one of the easier approaches to a highline in tonsai, requiring no belaying. Climbing times from freedom bar to summit vary depending on how hot/cold it is and how quickly you free solo with a highline rig but is generally around 35-45min. Has been done in sub 16min by BASE jumpers with a 10+kg rig!

CAUTION: DO NOT climb if it has rained and is not yet dry, the “track” leads up a water course and becomes extremely slippery and dangerous in the wet.

To access Climb Side anchor

At the notch in the “trail” (about 30m from the summit) climb the RHS spur, leading diagonally up and to the right (about 5C climbing with threads slingable for protection), after about 15m of cleanish rock, the cliff becomes more slabby and full of cactus, crawl your way to the top and find the tyrollean/rap anchor. As of March 2017 there was a 3mm cord left linking the two summits and it was possible to pull a 70m rope around through the tyrollean anchor to be able to roll across to the other side, this avoided the need to climb, do not however rely on this being there.

To access Ocean Side anchor

Continue following the yellowed rock on the BASE “trail” up the LHS spur and about 3m (vertically) from the summit, turn around and you will see the highline gap.

Screen Shot 2017 11 08 at 9.01.19 PM

(3) Monkey World

15994377 1446284908716371 1301567293914913630 o

Luke Sarantos on Sung Lao – Photo credit to Sarah Gmeiner

Sung Lao – 37m Long, 40m+ High, 80m Exposure

Who/When: Luke Sarantos, Gino Laginzo, Maxi Montree, Sarah Gmeiner, 2016

FA: Luke Sarantos? Jan 2017

Anchors: Bong Cave – Main – Big pillar wrap, about 4-6m of spanset needed

– Backup – Same as main (or other smaller pillars possible to equalise)

The Nest – Main – 2 Ti Bolts in pullout (needs about 6m of static)

– Backup – 2 Ti Bolts in pullout about 1/2m above

Remarks: Very nice direct height and all round beautifully scary line. The 6a-b approach makes for a nice all round adventure while still remaining relatively easy to get to from the ground. It is in the shade from around 2-3:00pm onwards.

Approach: From Passok / Jungle Hut Head to the corner of the street and uphill into the jungle.

Bong Cave: Keep heading up and left for Monkey World approach. There are two climbs to pick from here, a 6a or a 6b (Chunky Monkey or Curious George), both excellent 2 pitch routes that end at the bong cave. Once inside, there is a 10m unprotected airy traverse to a small hole, crawl though this slinging the huge pillar on the right for your anchor.

The Nest / Wild Kingdom Side: From the street head up the same as bong cave approach, but veer to the right from about 3/4 of the way up the approach. The route here is Bubble Boy (6b+) With 5-6m of even harder unprotected climbing after the lower offs to get to the highline bolts. As of 2017 there is a fixed line to help aid this section, remain on belay when jugging this though!

(4) Catwall

Screen Shot 2017 11 23 at 8.03.55 PM

Maxi Montree on Catwall Midline – Unknown photographer

Catwall Midline – 15m Long, 10m High

Who/When: Luke Sarantos, Shane Yates, 2012/13?

FA:

Anchors: Ledge Side – Main – Using at least 30m of static equalise the two glue in U bolts

closest to the ocean

– Backup – Equalise the remainder of the bolts (about 30m static also)

Pillar Side – Main – Wrap the huge pillar with 6m worth of spanset

– Backup – Either, wrap same pillar, go of bolts up to to the right or sling

thread above bolts

Remarks: Take loads of rope pro, especially for the ledge side. Be respectful of climbers, as the bolts are there for them, Since this rig involves cross loading almost every bolt it is important to use lots of them and a nylon webbing is a must. Watch out for the no fall zone too!
All round cool beginner line, and probably the quickest and easiest to access, worth rigging as a warm up to other lines here as it is also the easiest to rig too. In summer it goes into sun around 9:00am and back into shade around 3:00pm. Be there on time to rig (not tonsai time) otherwise the climbers will claim all the bolts first.

Approach: From the Legacy side of the beach, walk less than 100m up the concrete path and take a left at the first major tree. Follow the fixed lines up the steep dirt path, at the clearing head left (facing cliff) for the tensioning side, and right to the static pillar side. Both sides require dangerous climbing on old fixed lines (about 10m high). 14947471 1327152477315102 1090663026296156834 n

(5) Fire – Melting Wall

17855392 10155232838239540 2389051267065926397 o

Benny on Burnt Offerings and Chris Wallace on “SWWTB” – Photo Credit to Claire Xian, 2017

Smoking Weed With The Bees – 58m Long, 20-30m High, 60m Exposure

Who/When: Chris Wallace, Chiko Shah, Pyn Chin, French Dude, March 2017

FA: Chris Wallace, March 2017

Anchors: Stalactite  – Main – Girth hitch the pillar on top of the stalactite, 3-4m spanset

– Backup – Same bomber pillar.

Cave Side – Main – Sling 2 pillars with rope or spanset, (3m spanset)

– Backup – Sling 1-2 more pillars (2m rope for close, 8m rope for far pillar)

Remarks: The masterpoint on the cave side must be extended far beyond just slinging the pillars, save a 2-3m spanset for this as it must rub on the rock every time someone enters/exits/whippers on the line. Its possible to rig the line more level by moving the cave anchor about 10m higher onto a small stubby stalactite (7a climb) and moving the melting wall anchor up another few meters, in this case, the easiest anchor to access becomes the melting wall (big stalactite) side. If rigged from the cave, the easiest access to the line is via the 6b+ climb. It can be worth fixing a static line to the bolts on this and using it as a via ferrata. It is an unpopular climb and does not see much traffic, however, be mindful of climbers wishing to climb there and don’t leave it too long.

Access: Probably one of the easiest/fastest lines in tonsai to access, perfect for early morning or cruisy afternoon practice. It takes about 3min to walk from the beach to the base of the climbs.

Cave Side: Walk to fire wall (where Burnt Offerings is) and climb the hard 6b+ (hard start, easy middle, hard end) and after clipping the anchors, traverse 5m right on easy but exposed climbing into the cave.

Stalactite Side: Walk further on the track through the jungle to melting wall and climb the slick 6a or 6b (both 2 pitches). From the anchors traverse left into the dirty slippery underneath of the stalactite with possible thread protection and mantle up onto the top. Fix a rope to rap/jug on.23698468 1743995195630826 1269489923 o

(6) Shadow Wall

Sinner Team – 15m Long, 10m High

Who/When: Originally rigged by the Sinner Team and top roped with hooks though the back as the safety “leash” in 2014/15.

FA: Does it really matter when the first falls involved hooks though your skin?

Anchors: RHS (FV) – Main – Dodgy but sizable tree (at least you’re slinging the base of it) (2m)

– Backup – Threads in rock behind tree

LHS (FV) – Main – 2m up thinner but healthy tree (1m spanset)

– Backup – Same as main

Remarks: Probably the easiest to rig midline in tonsai, and the perfect way to introduce someone into slacklining at heights. The rigging is straightforward and simple but still has its dangers. Rock fall does happen here, a bucket size chunk fell 50m and narrowly missed someone’s head in 2017. Also inspect both trees very thoroughly before trusting them, just because it was fine last time doesn’t mean it always will be!
If you’re not feeling tonsai tummy, this should help you out 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6usNLseyzMA

Forbidden spots

  • Any of the islands, they are national parks, climbing or adventuring of any kind is banned and now enforced there.
  • The small clearing with a hut on it that is found by turning off the Tonsai-Railay jungle track, is private property and is also not allowed, a rope jump was rigged here in 2016 and resulting in $1000’s worth of equipment taken, until the generous help of toffee helped get it back.

Waterlines

There are some waterlines in the area, at least one is bolted. Be aware of tides however as some spots can only be rigged at high tide, the rock is very sharp here and waterlining is not usually an easy affair. Renting a kayak is usually the best option to gain access to the rocks.

Longlines

The beach is home to many hidden deadman anchors, good luck finding them, the best is probably to dig your own and build an a frame. There is a long beachline option that doesn’t require deadman anchors, it goes at about 130m long, from the most seaward point of rock (the bit that you have to wade past to get to dums kitchen when the tide is high) over to a huge boulder at the staircase leading to Railay.

The easier option for rigging longlines is in between the palm trees just in from the beach, make sure to clean up the ground really really well though, there is lots of broken glass!

Additional Notes

article 0 16AA08DF000005DC 574 964x629

In 2012 Hayley Ashburn did this naked free solo in a spot called Mai Leung

article 0 16AA08E3000005DC 838 964x667

Another unknown Thai Line

article 0 16AA08CE000005DC 869 964x1184

Hayley Ashburn on another unknown thai line.

article 0 16AA08D2000005DC 360 964x1049

Hayley Ashburn, Stalactite line in Koh Yao Noi, Phuket

Driving, Camping & Trekking – South Island, New Zealand

Driving, Camping & Trekking – South Island, New Zealand

We were very happy that Theres and Walter, Silvia’s parents joined us for three weeks, travelling through the South Island, New Zealand.

Guest Blog Spot by Theres Arnold-Curiger

Please click here for the orginial blog post in German.

After arriving in Singapore for two days, we arrived in sunny but cool Christchurch on the South Island. Pyn and Silvia picked us up at the airport and off we went over the mountains towards Kaikoura. Thanks to our comfortable camping gear, we slept the first night, with the sea and surf in the background, a wonderful start.

New Zealand’s sheep are not a cliché. There are 30 million sheep and only 4.7 million inhabitants. Sheep, cows and deer – everywhere over and over again. The slopes are full of yellow ghosts like bushes, looking great. Typical are the single-lane bridges, there are no motorways and roads wind around the hills.

A “must do” whale watching with a private plane brings us immediately into holiday mood. In a fishing hamlet we enjoyed fine seafood and then finished off with a beer tasting at Pyn’s friends brewery. In the bright Hanmer Springs, we made our first hike on Mt. Isobel (1319 m) in wonderful weather with an impressive view, dinner afterwards tasted all the better.

From Marahau the water taxi took us – on a sightseeing tour to the “Big Apple”, in secluded bays, seals watching – to Totaranui, the starting point for our first Great Walk, the three-day Able Tasman Coast Track. Whoever thinks, such a coastal walk is only flat, is mistaken. It goes up and down in the rainforest and over sandy beaches. The sea is cheesy blue and often we are the only people around. Every now and then the track passed through a bay meaning we had to cross at low tide which was fun. The walk over the shells giving a free foot massage! Unforgettable remains the camping on the sandbank, where we were encouraged to search for mussels.

Along the coast at Fox River we collected a lot of mussels – an excellent dinner mmh! Another highlight was the fireflies in the cave at Punakaiki. Despite the rain, we made a tour of the huge pancakes rock. The town of Greymouth lived up to its name, so we drove straight through. Of course, we were not allowed to miss the world-famous Franz Josef Glacier, which reaches down to 425 m. The hot baths after this hike in the rain went down really well.

 

Different walks with some seemingly unreal landscapes were just fantastic. After driving along the Wanaka and Hawea-Lake, almost all alone, we ended the day with a delicious meal (butter-tender lamb shoulder) in the best ambience. Some tracks were still closed due to snow, so we tackled the Isthmus Peak, this panoramic view – unbelievable!

An alternative route for the Routeborn track (as it was closed due to bad weather) was the four-day Greenstone track to the same hut. The name was not in vain, we had never seen such green stones anywhere before. The second day of rain, wind and swamp over fallen trees, through ice-cold river, challenged us. In the Kellar Hut we were able to dry things on the stove. In the sun and on good roads we conquered the longest stage over the Mc Kellar Saddle for Cellar Hut. We were about twelve people in the unkempt huts. It was not so far to the car the next day.

After a rest day, an early daylight start and travelling continued from Lumsden to Milford Sound, where it seemed to almost always rain. The highway winds up a long valley, past granite walls and suddenly you are in front of the single-lane Homer Tunnel (built in 1954, 1.2 km long). The sun was shining, the Milford Sound cruise under waterfalls and seeing dolphins and seals in the fjord was really phenomenal!

Then we drove across to the east coast to Dunedin among other things the steepest residential street in the world with 35% gradient. At dusk, we were tracking a colony of small penguins. Further North of the east coast we marvelled in Moreaki the old boulders, big stone balls, the structure reminded us of turtles. Through a fisherman we got to know another delicacy, whitebait are little fishes. These fried together in scrambled eggs were heavenly. On the Banks Peninsula, we collected mussels one last time, strolled through the French-tinged Akaroa before we checked in to Christchurch in a top-rated AirBnB.

Walks through the city reminded us everywhere of the strong earthquake of 2011. There are still many shops in containers. Over 900 buildings were demolished. Everywhere is built, roads rehabilitated, made pretty. With unforgettable experiences we said goodbye to Pyn and Silvia; our perfect tour guides. On our Singapore stopover we met with relatives (Loretzae) and enjoyed a nice dinner before we flew back home.

 

 

 

Riding through Tavan Bogd, Altai Mountains Diary

Riding through Tavan Bogd, Altai Mountains Diary

Riding through Tavan Bogd, Altai Mountains Diary

This is our mostly unedited diary of 28 days unguided riding in Tavan Bogd with our own animals which purchased in Sagsai. The highlights are in red and the accompanying blog post, video and photos are here.

Day 0

  • Spent the day with Khannas family (Khannas is the horseman who we bought the animals off)
  • Shoed the horses
  • Helped herd the cows and caught the calfs.
  • Collected animals named the two horses, Gobi and Cosmo and the camel Floppy. Dog was already called Actus.

Day 1

  • Lost dog, horse boy took stake out at night and not put it back in properly, had to gallop 15 mins to go get it back from original family.
  • Khannas tries to get more $ out of us and asks us to rent another camel = NO
  • Riding smooth

Day 2

  • Khannas horse gone in the morning because used stake on dog
  • Pyn let dog loose and ran off while loading camel – dog came back just when we thought we’d lost it
  • Khannas came back on motorbike & boy
  • Pyn’s bday – girlfriend forgot birthday and had to be reminded
  • Horse boy walking with camel & dog
  • Drunk men got out of passing truck, truck revs spooked camel and started kicking and almost kicked dog multiple times. Pyn saved dog
  • Camp by river
  • Boy annoying and had to be watched in case he stole stuff, snickers etc.

Day 3

  • Got up at 6:30 am
  • Spoon stolen / swapped by horseman / boy
  • Put Vaseline on gobi open wound
  • Cosmo bleeding above foot
  • Khannas leaves
  • Herd of yak chased camel & dog – camel tried to kick dog again
  • Got milk & yoghurt from next ger , butter, cheese, cream
  • Ride 4 hours
  • Lots of birds along river, ducks, falcons, seagulls? Ravens/crows
  • Lots of nomads moving herds back to town away from mountains, seen trucks with gers on moving back to town for winter.

Day 4

  • getting ready and packing camel takes 4 hours,
  • Invited for lunch at next Ger, (100m)
  • Inspected gobi cut – said it was fine and loosened girth
  • Pyn tried to get on Cosmo, saddle not on properly because family loosened it, Cosmo spooked started kicking and kicked off the saddle and ran away. Gobi also broke away and ran after Cosmo up the hill. All the family watching. Pyn ran after horses. Silvia went after Floppy and Actus who also ran off in a different direction. Family, brother and friend went after on motorbike and helped get horses back. Fixed saddle. This all happened a minute after Pyn said “lets go before we embarrass ourselves”.
  • Silvia scared of dogs while approaching Ger – got off wrong side of horse, spooked the horse and got rope burns on hands. Pyn had to catch Gobi.
  • struggling to find good grass again. Found camp spot between two ger camps.
  • kids came had to be watched and tried to ‘steal’ woolly hat. Silvia didn’t cook beetroot properly (raw) and tried to serve it to kids. Dinner was at 9:30 under the stars.
  • Ripped a whole in outer tent fixed with duct tape

Day 5

  • getting ready takes 3.5 hours
  • Cosmo bleeding badly – take to next ger camp and they also said ok.
  • went over pass and arrived at lake at 2ish,
  • put camel on island as no food, both walked through the lake.
  • Not the best campsite so had to move horses a lot for feeding and watering
  • Actus starting to behave and understand ‘come’ and ‘sit’ and less likely to run away,
  • Weather still very good
  • First night feel ‘alone’
  • Still very little grass and no ger camps around lake.

Day 6

  • Rest day by Khar Nurr Lake
  • Lots of families moving stuff on truck back to winter home
  • Pyn lost Cosmo, it ran away up the valley. As soon as took the hobbles off it bolted. With peg and long leash. Dragging Pyn until couldn’t hold on anymore. Tried to follow it but delayed as had to saddle Gobi then borrowed a motorbike from ger and spent 30 mins looking for it. Everybody said saw it galloping down the valley. LOST HORSE.
  • No phone reception can’t call for help
  • Camel island, camel destroyed tree
  • Silvia hypothermic after going to camel island and washing hair
  • Pyn got camel back in wind and no sun no hypothermia.
  • Good weather still, warm at night
  • Trying to decide buy new horse or not
  • Actus behaving very well

Day 7

  • Pyn walking first, silvia on horse
  • Actus off leash, started chasing marmots and ran up a big hill. Refused to come down and waited at top for Pyn to get him, back on leash now. Watching us and just sitting there. Punished and tied back on to camel
  • Collected wood and left lake. Over pass and down onto another river. Lots of gers. Bought more milk and butter
  • Camped between two gers and were visited by many. One guy wanted to buy Cosmo and Actus
  • Local offered sheep in exchange for spare saddle.
  • Tried to cook fried potatoes & carrots but too many people came and had to give alot of the food away.
  • Silvia served raw potatoes like the beetroot to guests

Day 8

  • Rest day
  • Pyn wakes early, takes Actus off leash, moves camel, Actus sees dog across the river and chases it and almost drowns crossing the river.
  • Pyn saddles horse and goes after, finds him eating dead baby goat further down the river.
  • Pyn visits ger and Actus gets nipped by the dog he chased before. Silvia joins for breakfast in ger.
  • Try and fail to buy new horse.
  • Check out their eagle.
  • Pyn rides horse bareback back across the river
  • Do training with actus.
  • Actus very good at protecting and barking
  • Very hot.
  • Pyn help catch foals for ger.
  • Constantly disturbed by locals
  • Had to share food again, silvia cooked risotto.
  • Guy brought a tiny fish and we burnt it badly, he invited us to his ger for breakfast the next day

Day 9

  • Packing up and breakfast getting faster, 2hrs
  • Went to visit the guy,
  • Crossed river, realised with only one horse its difficult to cross rivers as one always gets wet and Silvia refuses to ride two on the horse.
  • Very pleasant, no dramas
  • Nice meandering river, lots of ‘S’ bends.
  • Actus on leash all day
  • Found a quiet secluded spot for camp and had a very nice evening undisturbed.
  • Beautiful sunset and can see the snow capped mountains in the distance.

Day 10

  • Actus well behaved all day.
  • Left beautiful spot, following the river. Not many gers, did 4hrs roughly, taking our time.
  • Still trying to buy a horse but everyone wants 1 million
  • Got phone reception but no 4g in tavan bogd
  • Went skinny dipping off the peninsular.
  • Camping in private area.
  • Bought more milk & yogurt
  • Disturbed just as about to eat as usual, shared food, they spotted the hot chocolate and asked for some
  • Boy looked through all gallery photos on iPhone and tablet
  • First bit of rain setting up tent
  • Lots of grass for camel & horse
  • Arrived at khurgen nurr/lake
  • Very beautiful scenery all around.
  • Went to sleep at 3am as watched whole 3 rd series of LINE OF DUTY, amazing

Day 11

  • Weather turned on us after 3 hours but made good progress on road. Rain, and snow higher up
  • we setup tent near 2 gers, constantly interrupted. No wood anywhere.
  • Generally colder as getting closer to the the mountains and the wind is blowing down from the mountains
  • Silvia had breakdown in morning, crying over her cuts.
  • Very quick packing up
  • Camel very tired today
  • Actus very well behaved all day. Trying to feed her lots.
  • Things getting expensive as no small change. Only 20,000 notes left
  • Started line of duty season 4, first two episodes.
  • Given ALOT of milk and cheese and butter from all the gers. Like 7 litres of milk
  • Decided not to buy another horse and to sell the saddle after we hear back from khannas.
  • Rain stopped in the evening, sunset and clouds were amazing.
  • Lucky as rain and thunder scared off most of the locals from visiting us. Only one boy stayed for dinner. He didn’t like it.

Day 12

  • Good mileage day. Followed path, stopped end of lake
  • Weather started very Cloudy dark changed to sunny but still brisk
  • Reached end of lake
  • Camp away from gers, next to nice river
  • Another camel island
  • Actus well behaved all day
  • Lots of wood at campsite

Day 13

  • Rest day
  • Actus disappeared but came back 5 mins later when called – very good
  • Met our first tourist
  • Just about to eat lunch and then locals arrive, lol
  • Camped by the river
  • Camel on island to eat
  • Didn’t do anything .

Day 14

  • Silvia fell into river while brushing teeth. Very funny but hurt her leg not badly
  • Started up khoton lake.
  • Missed the ranger permit station
  • Met two more tourists kiwis
  • Pyn lost buff
  • Camp in small woods
  • Almost full moon
  • Can’t tighten back girth strap on horse. It bent down to eat and saddle flew off the front.
  • Horse tries to bite when tighten

Day 15

  • Nice Drone shot morning
  • Met two groups of army guys. Checked permits, no problems
  • Gers seem more use to tourists asking for money and pain killers
  • Sold Kazak saddle for 55,000 to a boy and his mum
  • Camel already very tired
  • Silvia not scared of dogs anymore didn’t run away from a big group of dogs
  • Actus disciplined for running off to play with some dogs
  • Camped at end of khoton lake, just before military check point
  • Considering going to glacier if animals make it.
  • IPhone out of battery, can’t fly Drone, cable not working. Done not registers on tablet
  • Only covered 12k today. Need to do much more

Day 16

  • Went military check point, took along time but no problems
  • Camel has deep puncture wound on its neck, won’t stop bleeding. Must have been from tree while eating
  • Silvia walked through the river with only socks. V cold
  • Horse is still trying to bite when then girth and also lifting back legs sometimes
  • Changing landscape. Marshy land. Traversed around a hill and entered the valley to glacier. Valley,
  • very stony and lots of trees
  • Getting colder, rain came in, got tent up just in case
  • Found good camping spot,
  • Approached by 6 hongkys, invited for dinner, very nice.
    • BBQ sheep, +2 courses + alot of food for Actus and bones
    • Hongkys gave us iphone cable
    • Fire material +toilet paper +plastic bag + hot chocolate
  • Water from river is milky, possibly from clay
  • Pyn threw up at night, probably from raw sheep meat.
  • Hongkys guides Said 1 more day through bear valley and then the next day mountain, can’t cross if there is snow at the top. 4 days in total to the glacier.

Day 17

  • Silvia brought camel to the Hongkys guide to inspect the camel wound. Discussed it for a while and then got it to sit down, pushed it over and then Sat on it. Got a stick and dug around in the wound. Dug out a load of worms inside the wound. Camel vomited all over the guide. Sprayed the wound with deworming spray.
  • Advised not to go to the glacier with the camel in such a state, said come with us and they will look at the camel toe in the evening as could be a problem with that as well.
  • Left the valley back to the top of Khoton lake. On the opposite side to the way we came.
  • Started raining in the afternoon, high winds
  • Camped with the Hongkys again and the guide inspected the camel foot, was going to puncture it because thought it was an abscess but found it was a previously broken toe, an old wound.
  • Advised not to have rest days here because food is not good for animals.
  • Pyn had diarrhoea probably related to vomiting.
  • Horse still tired and therefore biting if saddle tight and lifting back legs if we want it to move faster.
  • According to honkies guide this is because horse tired

Day 18

  • GOT ready in 2 hours and on the road by 9:10 am. Hongkys last day and their vans came yesterday evening.
  • When sun rose weather turned nice, otherwise cold and wet before.
  • 5 th day moving and camel tired and so was horse so loaded rucksacks onto horse. Girth still slipping, so also dangerous to rideher.
  • Walked 6.5 hours, complete length of the lake to bridge. All animals v.Tired when arrived
  • Horse pain in the ass and have to pull along.
  • Seems lonely as perks up when sees other horses
  • Hongkys guide said meet us at the bridge and he would show us a good place to camp with good food for both camel and horse.
  • Met him at bridge, camping spot is not that nice, lots of dogs around and
  • Was planning resting two days now will probably only rest one day.
  • Concerned about whether enough time to get BACK TO tsengal to sell animals.
  • Went to bed at 8pm v. Tired.
  • Actus broke leash, barking at the other dogs. Let her run away and she came back in an hour and
  • slept untied by the tent.
  • Lost water filter

Day 19 & 20 – rest day

  • Silvia bought more milk & bread for 10000 turik. Tomorrow we try trading with goods again instead of money.
  • No phone signal here so can’t phone Bek about animals.
  • Moved camel to island as it wasn’t eating the grass.
  • Weather good but windy as exposed spot
  • Fucking dogs kept us awake barking all night
  • Very cold, frost on tent in morning
  • Dogs weed on tent and plastic

Day 21

  • Riding horse, load everything else on camel
  • Leaving khurgan nur and entering valley to tsengal
  • Pyn guided into wrong valley, lucky though as meet the hongkys horse man again at his house, gave us milk & bread
  • Long day, made good ground
  • 5 dogs followed us from the bridge when we camped and two were still following us at the end of the day, attracted to Actus. Think she had sexy time last night off the leash.
  • Had phone signal, txt bek, reconfirmed he would buy the animals. Will give actus to hannas, doesn’t really want him for himself. Very happy about the news but now committed to bringing the animals back to tsengal.
  • Camped near gers, shown ground water well.
  • Cooked very fast and efficiently as not much light left. Did cooking in front of family. Very nice then watching us.
  • Helped boy into his bareback horse as too short to get on

Day 22

  • Fast start, left at 912
  • Joined the river to tsengel
  • Pyn flew Drone, battery was too cold and crashed. Spent almost two hours looking for it. Lucky didn’t rain. GPS located it in the end. Two rotors broken have to see if it still works. Both very relieved when we found it. After one hour of searching.
  • Valley very brown and yellow, autumn. Beautiful
  • Afternoon started to get windy and bad weather chasing. Found a great camping spot, food for everyone. Put up tent in rain at 4 ish.
  • Pyn went to get milk & bread. Best bread we’ve had do far.
  • Reckon two more days to tsengal.
  • Both looking forward to getting rid of horse & camel
  • Saw a mine and now power lines.

Day 23 & 24

  • Rest day after gale force winds at night, had to move tent to more sheltered area
  • Cold day, rainy
  • Took picture with eagle
  • Wild Horses tried to mount Gobi
  • Prepared more fire starters
  • Found out there is no access to tsengal from this side of river. Frustrated about that, have to go back 4 hours to the bridge and cross to other side. Put the alarm for early morning at 6.30. Wind starts and a crazy windy night with not much sleep. Had to setup wind shelter with the containers.

Day 25

  • Pyn goes out first into the ice cold and then silvia. Leaving already 8.10 but it is painfully cold.
  • Against wind and animals resist hard to go upriver. 8km take us 3h30.
  • Then dog stays back and pyn goes get him. She must be in heat.
  • Then walk very long and meet german couple with truck. Paulchen.
  • Then plan to sleep at a ger late and meet guy from khoton lake again. Incredible. But he ‘touches’ pyn and his dad ‘touches’ silvia. Very annoying. Sleep there but give a lot, also give away Actus and have to pay 16k

Day 26

  • No more dog
  • Very warm
  • Into tsengel
  • Takes long to find only guesthouse and it has no shower or running water. But hairdresser is family who helped recover Horse the first time. Incredible. We give him the axe. Great coincidence.
  • Wash hair at hairdresser.
  • And we wait for eltai (brother beck) but he does not come
  • Go to bed but hotel locked up and toilet outside, wee out of first floor window and into glass

Day 27

  • Sell horse and camel for 1150,000, saddle for 90k and canisters for 20k.
  • Rest gave away as gifts.
  • Then car to sagsai
Buying Horses in Mongolia

Buying Horses in Mongolia

Unguided Horse Riding in Tavan Bogd National Park + Diary

This trip really was everything you can imagine it was. Every day we had severe highs and lows. The highs were as simple as all six of us cruising along in the sunshine and camping under the Milkyway. But when it was bad it was really bad, vomiting camels, escaping horses, drunk locals, horny dogs, injured animals, crashed drones and broken gear this trip had it all.

Looking back, purchasing and travelling with animals is a whole new experience and a great one at that. It is definitely one we will be doing again next year.

It all started on a sunny beach in Tonsai, Thailand. We were once again revisiting our favorite Thai climbing spot and chatting with other climbers about future plans when our now good friend Tamar planted the idea of buying horses in Mongolia. When I say planted, it was probably more stole/borrowed the idea from her.

The next couple of months while we were climbing throughout Asia we researched and planned our trip deciding on the Altai Mountains in West Mongolia as our starting point. Silvia was getting more and more excited about the prospect of travelling with animals and Pyn just wanted to buy a dog.

Olgii sits just outside Tavan Bogd the National Park within which the Altai Mountains are situated and it was here that our trip really started. We had already bought all our horse tack and some food in Ulaanbaatar the capital as there was no such market in Olgii. We transported about 80kgs of gear on the 40 hour bumpy bus from Ulaanbaatar to Olgii. The next step was to buy the animals, purchase a bit more food and get the permits.

After talking to almost all the travel agencies in Olgii we hit gold with a guy who would take us to buy the horses but also commit to buying them back off us when we had finished. The trade for the horses and camel went off without a hitch, although the animals were a bit skinny they seemed relatively calm and responsive while riding. We named our two horses Cosmo and Gobi, our camel Floppy and our dog Aktus.

Two days later we joined the horseman at his summer ‘house’ and started our epic journey.

Now I could continue about the whole month and go into detail about the many near disasters and the emotional rollercoaster we went on nearly everyday but so much happened that honestly my vocabulary and linguistic abilities wouldn’t be able to do it justice and so much would have to be left out.

Instead I’ve linked to our mostly unedited diary, a bit of bulking out here and there for context and the best bits highlighted in red. Click here to read the diary. Hope you enjoy.

Horse Trekking through Khoridol Saridag to Khovsgol Lake, North Mongolia

Horse Trekking through Khoridol Saridag to Khovsgol Lake, North Mongolia

Mongolia – The Land of Blue Sky

After hitch hiking across the China, Mongolia border we caught an overnight train arriving in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia refreshed and ready for adventure.

Mongolia was on both our bucket lists and was also the first country on this trip that neither of us had been before which made it more exciting. As an extra bonus, my brother, Yuin and his girlfriend Dawn were arriving from the UK and would be spending the next three weeks exploring with us.

We were quickly impressed by how modern Ulaanbaatar was and surprised that the selection of foods in the supermarket was actual superior to what we found in China.

In case you weren’t aware, Silvia and I were living in Singapore and have climbed and travelled overland through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China and now Mongolia which has taken about four months. This slow method of travelling has been really interesting watching the faces of the people change across such a large mass of land. Now here in Mongolia we were seeing the fusion of Chinese and Mongolian but also blue eyed locals with Turkish heritage.

The other changing aspect was the food. Especially in the less touristy areas you could see the cross over of the way food was cooked, with dumplings and buns we know from China and bread and jam or cabbage with sheep meat from Eastern Europe.

As Yuin and Dawn were visiting we wanted to pack in as much as possible so had booked two tours with a recommended guide called Urnaa who had recently set up her own guiding company, Wind Horse Tours.

The plan was to go North and complete a loop by horse through the Khoridol Saridag mountains, over a pass and back along Khovsgol Nuur, the largest fresh water lake in Mongolia. The whole trip would take 12 days and Urnaa reassured us that we would be well looked after as she was sending a translator, two horsemen and her brother!

The only one of us with any real riding experience was Dawn, the rest of us were keen but a bit wary as we had read that Mongolian horses, although small, can easily be spooked and also like to run. Our other concern was saddle sores from so many days consecutive riding.

Mongolian has a rich history with their horses and they considered a national treasure. They are extremely hardy and live outside all year round, grazing and searching for their own food. The Mongolians drink their milk and eat the meat, so they are really looked at as a working animal rather than a pet. 

After a 15 hr bumpy bus ride from Ulaanbaatar we arrived at the horse man’s house on the Southern tip of Khosvgol Nuur and were quickly introduced to our horses. We were happy that they all looked very healthy and strong! As two of the mares had recently given birth, their two foals would be joining us on the trek. We were taught that the horses respond to ‘Ousk’ for stop and ‘Choo’ for go and not with pressure from the heels like in the UK.

The first day we started climbing through the hills and forests which was great until after midday when the heavens opened and everybody got soaked. Horseriding in the rain isn’t pleasant and we took turns over lunch to dry ourselves over the fire.

Luckily after a few hours the rain passed and the blue skies returned. Mongolia was living up to its nickname and we were fortunate that this was the only rain during the whole trek.

Overall the trek was incredible, watching the scenery change through the mountains and then skirting along the edge of the lake for the final few days. Often we followed dried up river beds and paths through the forest and the horses were incredibly sure footed over any terrain. 

As the days passed on, the personalities of the horses became clear, Silvia and Dawn had horses that loved to run and Yuin and I had lazier horses that liked to eat everything and anything.

We had an amazing time, camping and cooking over open fires and catching up with Yuin and Dawn. To add to all this, the night skies were incredible, completely clear and full of stars. The saddle sores weren’t too bad and Khovsgol Lake was immense. 

Sorry for all the photos below, we got a bit snap happy.

Simatai – The Great Wall & More

Simatai – The Great Wall & More

So since sending our climbing gear to New Zealand we started to really travel and do your standard touristy things.

These days it’s a lot easier to travel in China with apps like CTrip and Pleco; combine this with the new high speed train network and the country doesn’t feel as big as it really is.

After leaving Xiamen we crossed the country to Shanghai and were both immediately shut down with flu knocking us out for 3 days. We’re pretty sure this is due to being stranded during the flood in Yangshuo, where we were trapped without electricity and water for 4 days.

We didn’t get out much but Pyn managed to catch the wedding market, which is held in a park and parents advertise their kids and look for prospective match making. An unusual approach but with there being 33.59 million more men than women in China, I guess an innovative approach is required.

We also picked up our three month travel anniversary present (any excuse), a DJI Spark, a small portable drone to add some grandeur to our videos. So stay tuned for some awesome footage.

Fast forwarding, we trained to Beijing to get our visas for Mongolia and were hit by cough inducing smog. Due to the Naadam festival in Mongolia the embassy was closed, so we had to spend longer in Beijing than we wanted. We made good use of the time, eating, cutting videos, planning Mongolia and visiting the Great Wall at Simatai.

In total we spent 5 weeks in China, 3 weeks climbing, another week being ill and on trains so only one week travelling. China is so big that you would need at least 6 months to scratch the surface. The little we did see was impressive, however it’s more difficult to go somewhere that doesn’t have hordes of local tourists and also hasn’t been redesigned to accommodate thousands of people everyday. We look forward to spending a month in West China in September and going further off the tourist trails.

Our exit from China was uneventful and long as usual, catching a bus to the Mongolian border and then hitchhiking across the border.

Fujian – UNESCO Tulous

Fujian – UNESCO Tulous

Climbing vs Travelling

For the last 3 months Silvia and I have revisited our favourite climbing spots and explored new ones with an ever growing family of climbers that have been travelling in the same direction.

Our first stage goal has always been to travel overland from Singapore to Mongolia and after we left Yangshuo we sent our climbing gear to New Zealand and replaced it with a tent, sleeping bags and a stove.

Climbing allows us to stay in an area for a good amount of time and really make it feel like home, however this doesn’t always equate to immersing yourself in the culture. Trying to send everyday doesn’t leave much time for seeing the local sites but you do get to see remote crags surrounded by nature and without any tourists.

The tradeoff is difficult and so begins the next stage in our journey without any climbing gear and focusing on travelling and being a tourist.

Next stop Fujian and the Unesco World Heritage Tulous an amazing set of structures. Continue with our adventure below.

Yangshuo Baby!

Yangshuo Baby!

We rejoined our Tonsai & Thakhek climbing family in the climbing mecca of Yangshuo, still in China. A picturesque tourist town in Guangxi with a McDonalds and Starbucks, it was a vast contrast to the sleepy farming village of Getu – video here.

We stayed in Yangshuo for three weeks and battled rain, stairs, floods and hard sends. Check it out below.

Enter The Motherland – Getu, China

Enter The Motherland – Getu, China

Why we came to Getu

We are mixing things up a bit and starting with the video! For more description and photos continue below.

For the first time in this trip we ventured into territories unknown. Pyn had unsuccessfully attempted to get into China about four years ago (it was on a whim and he didn’t have a visa) using the same route overland via Laos. (He did however manage to illegally swim to China across the border river from NE Vietnam later the same year, but that’s a different story)

This time we had played the stupid China visa roulette game and waited for two weeks in Chiang Mai to get the precious visa stamp. Both of us have independently travelled throughout South East Asia and therefore the last 3 months has been a lot of revisiting our favourite spots. South China was going to be a completely new adventure.

Without much planning we lucked out and boarded a sleeper bus going directly from Pak Nam Noy, Laos, through the Boten border to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, China.

Our sleeper bus from Laos to China

Our final destination would be the climbing mecca of Getu, which has been immortalised by the Petzl RocTrip of 2011. This would involve three more buses, a train and a bit of hitch hiking – in total about 36 hours of non stop travelling. The joys of travelling overland, although it did mean a good catch up on sleep.

We really didn’t know what to expect in Getu, there are a few blog posts and obviously the Petzl video, so when we arrived we managed to drive straight through the village without realising it. It was low season and the whole village main street was like a ghost town with only the farming locals going around their business.

Communication was interesting as they assumed Pyn could speak Chinese but actually Silvia can speak more words. Another slight concern was that none of the ATM’s we had tried on the journey would take any of our Singapore, Swiss or UK cards.

The view from the front of the arch

The main attraction of Getu for tourists and climbers is the Getu Arch also known as the Great Arch, a limestone cave going through the rock, standing at 50m high, 70m wide and 140m in length it’s massive! On top of that there’s another cave below it with a river running through it.

My lens wasn’t wide enough so heres somebody elses photo

For climbers it’s a bit off the beaten track and harder to get to than other China destinations like Yangshuo. When we arrived we realised we were the only climbers there. Luckily joining the party the next day was Amit an Israeli friend who we had climbed with in Thakhek and Tonsai. Two French girls also arrived and it was just the five of us climbing together for the whole week.

Pyn almost onsighting a 7a+
The five of us and our Chinese fan club

The approach to the cave involved crossing a river by boat and over 1,000 steps to get to the main cave. Of course Pyn forgot the harnesses in the hostel so had to climb the steps twice.

The view out of the front

Photos can’t do the cave justice but it was incredible ……….. the size, the scale and the fact you can climb up to 9b in the cave.

The view out of the back
The evening sun coming in.

We spent six days in and around the Getu Arch with only three of those climbing as we were constantly battling against the wet weather. The short time we did have there was amazing and we were grateful for having the opportunity to experience a true climbing Mecca.

Getu is a very rural area and the farming landscape and local karst hills are breath taking but Silvia wanted a Starbucks! (only joking). We really needed cash desperately and so we made a mad 12 hour dash with Amit to Yangshuo to join our Thakhek/Tonsai/Chiang Mai climbing crew.

Reunited with Amit

 

Top