Monday, April 6, 2015

Alpine Mentors Pacific Northwest - Canadian Rockies

Alpine Mentors Pacific Northwest had its second and third sessions in the Canadian Rockies this winter.  The first session was primarily waterfall ice climbing with some mixed routes thrown in and the second session was mostly alpine climbing up at the Columbia Icefields with a few frozen waterfalls thrown in.  Overall the group was able to do routes like; The Sorcerer, Hydrophobia, Professor Falls, Louise Falls, Coire Dubh Integrale, Murchison Falls, My Daddy's a Psycho, Polar Circus, North Face of Athabasca, and the Issac route on Athabasca.

North Face of Athabasca
On the North Face

Alex Ford leading the rock band


Laurel Fan in the finishing ice gully

Laurel Fan descending the summit ridge

On the descent


Laurel Fan beneath the Pencil on Polar Circus

Laurel Fan leading on Polar Circus

Alex Ford leading on Polar Circus

Andy Dahlen leading My Daddy's a Psycho

L to R AlexFord, Laurel Fan, Ryan Cupp, Jim Elzinga, and Andy Dahlen assessing conditions

Laurel Fan leading Issac route on Athabasca
Many thanks to the Mentors who helped out.
  • Seth Timpano
  • Rob Smith
  • Raphael Slawinski
  • Jim Elzinga
  • Robert Rogoz
  • Wayne Wallace

Friday, November 21, 2014

Climbing at Yangshuo

After leaving Wenzhou and the International Outdoor Film Festival in Nanzi River.  Our hosts flew Rufus, Andy, and I to Guilin for three days of climbing at Yangshuo. This region is characterized by Karst towers formed over geologic time from the dissolution of limestone by the rain.  This area would be considered a mature karst landscape because a large amount of bedrock has been removed by this process leaving behind the large towers that are great for climbing.

Karst pinnacles in Yangshuo
Yangshuo is about an hours drive from the airport in Guilin and seems to be the center for climbing on the karst towers. 

Rufus Lusk walking to the "Egg"
Rufus and I arrived at Yangshuo a day before Andy and our host Amanda (her English name).  I was recovering from a hand injury sustained while crack climbing a few weeks previous so I was limited in what I could do.

Rufus leading with Cindi (English name) while Andy Parkin belays me
There was a vibrant Chinese climbing community here with gear shops and guides who took newcomers to their favorite crags.

Chinese climbers cragging scene
It seems like even small towns in China are full of lots of people and Yangshuo was no exception.  It was a busy place with a thriving tourist economy.  But you didn't have to go far outside of town to encounter farming communities whose growing techniques looked like they had not changed in a very long time.

Downtown Yangshuo
I remained surprised that I didn't see any abject poverty anywhere on this trip similar to other developing or emerging economies.  I never saw a panhandler or beggar.  I don't know if poor people were removed from tourist areas or if things were managed so there was enough to go around.  People seemed well dressed and there was a lot of new construction.

Not everyone drives a car - - yet
Our last evening in Yangshou we went to the shop where they have fish in tanks that eat the dead skin off of your feet.  It felt weird and ticklish at first but then I sat there for about an hour and the fish removed only a fraction of the dead skin on my feet.  I think I would need a special 24 hour rate to get most of it removed.

Amanda advising Andy on dead skin eating fish
I'd like to thank all our Chinese hosts, especially Amanda Lu.  We had a great time at a great event and that was mostly due to the superb organization of it all.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Walk for Love, Adventure Race, and Floating the Nanzi River

This is a continuation of my recent post on the mountain film festival in China.  Part of the International Outdoor Film Festival in Nanzi River was a charity event called The Walk for Love.  I understood the money was raised to somehow improve water quality.  They certainly need it as many of the waterways I observed were choked with algae.

My son Jed and me at the start for the Walk of Love
There were about 3000 participants in the Walk for Love, which by Chinese standards is small.  But the level of enthusiasm was high.

The walkers would be protected from the forces of evil
I was impressed by the level of affluence exhibited by the participants.  The last time I was in a major Chinese urban area was 1990.  Back then everyone seemed poor and they were all wearing Mao suits.

Henry Iddon from the Kendal festival in the UK and his friends

The Walk for Love started at a campground and I was impressed by the expensive equipment displayed by these Chinese car campers.

The event was well organized with several aid stations and lots of volunteers.

A young helper at an aid station
The locals were pretty excited about having foreign guests and everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us.

Jed and some of the Walkers for Love
In addition to The Walk for Love, the event had an Adventure Race. It was a 24 hour event that started with a run, then cycling, and finishing with a float down the Nanzi river.

Start of the Adventure Race

Our hosts took us on a float trip on the Nanzi River on the last day and we had a chance to see some of the adventure racers in their home made rafts.

Adventure racers with collapsing raft
Before boarding our raft the sign said people with mental disease, heart disease, hypertension, dementia, and drunk tourists couldn't participate.

Sign before boarding bamboo raft
I've always been amazed at the different types of bathroom facilities around the world.  One of the common differences between what we use in the US and much of the rest of the world is the prevalence of squat toilets.  At the bathroom before we boarded our bamboo rafts, there were universal language signs on the stalls indicating if it was a sit toilet or a squat toilet.

Sign on bathroom stall for a squat toilet
The raft we boarded was pretty rickety and once underway with everyone on board the deck was submerged about six inches.  It didn't matter if it fell apart.  We were wearing life jackets, the river was relatively flat, and the shore was never far away.

Boarding the raft
The drivers float the river by poling through the shallow sections.  When it gets deeper they lower a prop attached to a shaft from a small engine and motor along.  After we were dropped off downstream the drivers motor and pull their rafts back upstream to the starting point.

Our driver

On the river
The food in China is quite different from a lot of other countries I've visited and what we have in Chinese restaurants in the US is very Americanized.  At different times we were served bowls of fish heads, chicken heads, chicken feet, small snails where you suck the insides out, pork fat, and small crabs with the guts included.  But for the most part we were served some very excellent food.

Jed contemplating what he was about to eat


Monday, November 10, 2014

Kendal Film Festival in China

In early October, the climbing and post production teams for the film The Old Breed were invited to Wenzhou China for the International Outdoor Film Festival in Nanzi River. Mark Richey and Freddie Wilkinson could not attend, but Rufus Lusk and I decided to go.  My son Jed also came along with me.

The film festival was on October 24th and we received a rock star reception. We walked up the stairs into the theatre on a gold carpet bordered by red velvet banisters as dozens of Chinese took pictures of us.  It's the closest I'll ever come to being chased by paparazzi.

File Festival Theatre
Inside the theatre we were welcomed by a myriad of festival staff, volunteers, and attendees.

Film Festival ticket collectors
  Jed was pleased that they were handing out free beer.

After the film festival, we got a quick tour of parts of the town as we rode back to our hotel in bicycle rickshaws.

Being an avid golfer, Jed wanted to play a round somewhere on his trip to China so our driver took us up to the Wenzhou Orient Golf and Country Club.

Jed golfing at an exclusive country in Wenzhou
It was a very nice course, but no one was playing when we were there.  They charged us about $220 USD to play (it cost me $60 to just ride around in the cart).  I don't think this was a special rate for foreigners.  It was an exclusive club and there are a lot of very wealthy Chinese who can afford this kind of recreation.  With a population of 1.36 billion, the top 1% of their earners amounts to 13.6 million people.

Jed and his caddy
They assigned a Chinese caddy/cart driver to us whose English name was Kevin. 

Hazards in the rough
Kevin was impressed with Jed's game and asked if he would teach him to golf.

Driving across the ravine
On the next day, Saturday, the festival continued with the Walk for Love, the subject of my next post.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Alpine Mentors Pacific Northwest - Squamish Session

Alpine Mentors (AM) is a national program organized by Steve and Eva House, and Alpine Mentors Pacific Northwest (AMPNW) is regional version of the national program run by a partnership between Alpine Mentors and the American Alpine Club. The program consists of small groups of young alpinists who train and climb with mentors with the aim of achieving climbs perceived to be beyond their reach. AMPNW will operate on a two-year cycle where mentors help the group organize trips that advance their climbing skills with an eye towards being able to complete technical routes in the high mountains. Along the way AMPNW will help connect the group with different mentors from the areas where we climb. 
AMPNW accepted applications for its first two year cycle in the spring of 2014 and the four participants were chosen by late summer. The four participants are:
  • Ryan Cupp
  • Andy Dahlen
  • Alex Ford
  • Jon Rhoderick
The first session was in Squamish in late September. Mentors who helped included:
  •  Perry Beckham
  • Jim Donini
  • Colin Haley
  • Sarah Hart
  • Bob Rogoz
  • Kate Rutherford
  • Steve Swenson
  • Wayne Wallace
We ended up on smaller crags the days after it rained because they were the quickest to dry out.

Alex Ford on Crime of the Century 5.11c
Perry sent us out to the Sheriff's Badge one day because the wall above overhangs enough that we didn't get wet if it rained.

Jon Roderick on Daily Planet 5.12a
Alex nearly sent it!

Alex Ford on Daily Planet 5.12a

We tried to get out on long multi-pitch routes when the weather allowed.  Cruel Shoes-Grand Wall is a great combo.

Jon Rhoderick - Perry's Layback pitch on the Grand Wall 5.11a
The third pitch of Cruel Shoes just above this traverse was wet.  Jon did a few moves of aid and some other shenanigans to get back on dry rock.

Steve Swenson following Jon Rhoderick and Andy Dahlen on Cruel Shoes
Climbing multi-pitch routes in the Bulletheads.

Wayne Wallace mentoring on Kimmo Gold
Getting on some of the classics to work on efficiency.

Colin Haley mentoring on Rock On
Cragging under the overhangs on a rainy day.

Kate Rutherford at Nightmare Rock
We had a great time climbing together even thought the weather was not that great some of the time. 

Jon Rhoderick, Alex Ford, and Ryan Cupp and Mentor Jim Donini