The rain finally stopped after 4 days straight and we took advantage of the warm and dry conditions and got after it at White Mountain. On Thursday I managed the FA of the Dumpling project! Dubbed ‘The Dumpling of All Evil’ after the VRG classic The Route of All Evil, this line was bolted and almost sent by Sharma last year, and Chris was gracious enough to leave it as an open project. Even though it only took me three days, I think it’s in the 9a range, judging by how much harder it is than the other routes on the cliff and how freakin’ hard it felt when I first tried it.
I think the reason I was able to do it so fast is that it has a really bouldery crux at about half height, then the upper cruxes are more technical and fingery and more on your feet with a decent rest in between. Once I was able to bust through the bottom crux, which came as a bit of a pleasant surprise, I only fell once on the last crux when a thumb catch broke. I’d say the climbing on the route is my style- lots of big moves between pinches and incut crimps, and I like the angle a lot.
After the heavy rain, which lasted about 4 days, the cool wind came and it went from cold and wet to cold and dry in Yangshuo. Thursday morning was frosty in town. 40 degrees with a wind chill. But when we arrived at White Mountain, it was pretty warm. There was still a nice cold breeze though, and it was dry! So dry that the skin on my fingers started cracking. I could tell that the top of the dumpling had been wet after the rain, but by the time I warmed up and got on it, the holds felt as grippy as could be. My first try was just to go up, re-familiarize myself with the beta after 4 days off of it, and get a good warm up. I actually found new beta and basically new holds to use that made the last crux quite a bit easier.
We were trying to figure out if the conditions were good enough to give sending burns and decided that even though it was warm and the sun was baking the wall, that the breeze offered up enough relief and it was so dry that it might not matter that it was a little warm. Plus, the forecast called for the temps to rise significantly over the weekend. Being my pessimistic self, I did say to Keller before I left the ground for my second attempt “I’m not going to be able to do that first crux from the ground today. I need the conditions to be perfect.” Then despite my own negativity, I tried my hardest and fought through the first crux form the ground. Ha! I copped a quick shake ten feet higher, then sprinted through the second crux and to the second rest. I made it almost all the way through the third and final crux when a pebble/crozley thumb catch on the newly discovered left hand tufa pinch broke off while I was hiking my feet to do the final stab into the right hand pocket! Aghhhh! I made it soooo high up the wall!!! I had one more try before the light would vanish…
Once I know a route intimately, once I know every inch of the wall, the way every hold feels under my finger tips, the way every move and every micro move between every move feels, once I know every pebble and divot and crack on the wall and how they all look, I can just turn off my brain, lock into auto pilot, and climb. Once I achieve this level of intimacy with a route, the only thing left is to focus on trying to climb so controlled and relaxed that the hardest sections and moves on a route feel easy. I guess this is how I determine how hard a route is for me- how long it takes to send once I’ve completely dialed in the moves.
This is how I felt on my third attempt. The first crux felt easier than it ever had, even easier than it had felt from the dog. I executed the second crux and made it to the rest and clipped the long draw that would be my last before the twenty foot run out through the final crux. I thought to myself as I rested, that “I could do this right now. I easily have enough energy, I know these moves, I WILL do this. Why wouldn’t I?” I executed the moves without any try hard screams, and I soon found myself past the crux, shaking out on the jugs on the dirty tufa. The sun dipped behind the mountains just after I clipped the anchors and Keller and I exchanged some victory yells. It felt great, and sort of surreal to have finished the route after building it up in my head as this near impossible climb. I enjoyed the sunset all alone at the top of the wall for a moment and soaked in the view before lowering. You have to savor the moment for a long as possible because all too often the elation and relief of a hard send evaporates and is replaced with goals of another project (or plans for another trip… if you’re me
Keller (editors note: who is awesome) came agonizingly close to sending China Climb (8c) three times on Thursday, getting two moves higher with each attempt, until on his third try of the day, with perfect conditions (just after my send of the Dumpling), he fell on the very last move of the climb… utter heart break. When we went back yesterday (at 6am!) and hiked out to WM basically in the dark. We warmed up during a pink sunrise and conditions were perfect. We were blessed with cloud cover that lasted only for two attempts for Keller. The clouds vanished just after Keller’s second attempt but it didn’t matter– Keller had sliced his left index finger so deep on a sharp crimp that it would take days to heal… Keller leaves tomorrow without a send of China Climb, but having ticked all the other routes he wanted to do, he’s not too bothered. He really wanted the send, but his resolve to go home and get stronger for harder and better projects far outweigh his frustrations of failure. It’s been awesome to climb with him on this trip. His psyche is contagious and his encouragement is beyond enthusiastic. Having a strong climbing partner that is as psyched (or more psyched than) you are is pretty important.
Yesterday, after a really long day in the sun bolting and belaying, I went up the dumpling to retrieve my draws and a couple friendly and capable Aussie guys- Lee Cujes and John O’Brien from Queensland– snapped some photos of my cramping, bloated, dehydrated, sunburned carcass flailing up the route… fortunately a few of the pics turned out pretty nicely.
Lat night I was dead tired, and yawning my ass off, until I was in the lobby of our hotel, the Rock Abond inn, and I started hearing noises that sounded like gunshots. I remembered that the streets of Yangshuo were crowded with tourists because it was the start of the ‘fisherman’s festival’, a holiday they created to have an excuse to have an Armageddon style fireworks display, and realized that it was fireworks. I grabbed a Tsing Tao beer at a corner market for 4 yuan and joined the throngs. We watched the fireworks for about an hour until their conclusion. Either I’ve never been that close to fireworks before, or the fireworks in China are much louder than in the States because I could feel the reverberations from the blasts in my chest every time one went off. They were so loud and close that they made me blink and cringe every time one went off… I was dead tired again an hour later but somehow ended up at the bar. We played pool, drank some more beer (I had a hot coco actually) and we had a firecracker fight in the street. I also had my first taste of some homemade Baijo (spelling?), which is a local, homemade rice alcohol, thanks to bartender Derek, that I quite enjoyed! In all, a 20-hour day. Good times, though I’m a feeling a little tired today.
I started bolting a new project yesterday at white mountain. It looks like it’s going to be pretty damn hard, but just in one section. It’s a little bit of a bummer because the crux is so much harder than the rest of the climb… it’s like a V11 crux on a route that might otherwise be 13+… but we’ll see. Gonna finish bolting it tomorrow and maybe give some burns. I have two more days before I leave China. It’s been a really fun trip. A bit of a roller coaster, but the ups and downs are all part of it.
I will miss this place with all of beautiful Karst towers and farmland, all of it’s smiley faces, all of it’s amazing limestone walls, it’s cheap and delicious food, all of it’s insane traffic, all of it’s craziness. The direct start to the dumpling, the Necessary Dumpling is still an open project. I tried it once but it’s like V12 crimps and conditions need to be colder. C’mon Adam Ondra! Get out here! Just don’t eat the BBQ from the street vendors.
I think I’ll call the route I did Spicy Dumpling, since it branches off Spicy Noodle, and not many people will understand the reference of the original name. Plus, there’s a place in Yangshuo that sells trays of ten delicious dumplings for about 50 cents, and they’re great with the hot sauce… makes sense right? I’ve eaten 25 in one sitting, and could probably put away 30… mmm, I’m getting hungry. Time to go get a late lunch!