Keller unsuccessfully tries to sum up Ethan and his trip to China. I read once that words often shape the realities they are meant to describe. I think that's why it's so hard to put into writing experiences that really challenge us, scare us, and motivate us. We can only see and understand things through the filter of language, and often we lack the vocabularies to describe things that inherently make no sense to us. Ethan and I decided that I should write one last blog describing and summarizing our trip to Yangshuo, China. How am I doing so far?
Let's start somewhere else. There are hundreds of climbing destinations in the US or Europe that offer spectacular hard routes. They're easy to get to, offer convenient accommodations, and are overflowing with people just like us. Climbing at those places is relaxing and fun. Ethan and I chose to go to China instead. We got food poisoning, watched dogs die, stared down water buffalo, and got physically accosted by park rangers. As we learned from other travelers in Yangshuo, this is pretty much par for the course. So why travel to China in the first place?
As it turns out, the world is a really big place. Big enough that we can live our lives in one little sector and never realize that the rules that govern our sector don't apply in other sectors. Sometimes being in China feels like watching things fall up... For example:
When we first climbed the thousands of ancient stone steps up to Moon Hill, a huge freestanding arch at the top of a mountain, we were confronted by a large official-looking sign that asked foreign tourists to please put their trash into the proper receptacles. Below the sign, there were three different cans for trash, recyclable plastic, and glass. I remember being impressed by how organized and thoughtful this process was for a public park in China. Then I happened to walk behind the trash cans and look down, to see a perfectly straight line of garbage that stretches down the hillside, out of site of all but the most observant. Every morning, the park rangers hike up to these three trash cans and empty them down the backside of the mountain.
Another example: When we visited the central market, we were disturbed to watch dogs being beaten, electrocuted, and slaughtered right in front of us. We continued walking, and 100 yards away I couldn't help but notice a beautifully groomed lab in a couture down jacket, being doted upon by its owner and several small children.
I bring up these experiences because I'm looking for a new vocabulary to describe something that still doesn't make sense to me. China is a country full of strange contradiction, being pulled in two directions by a rush toward Western consumerism and Eastern traditionalism. Yangshuo is surrounded by some of the most beautiful, hard limestone walls in the world, but in retrospect that's not what sets this place apart. China made my world bigger. Today, I'm more grateful for the things that we need and get in the US, and more suspicious of the things that we don't need and get anyway. Maybe that's it. Going to China is about making your world bigger...
Anyway, Ethan and I downgraded several of the routes that we climbed on our trip. However, we would like to propose a tentative grade for China of 5.14c. A sustained and exhausting living situation lead to a desperate crux bout of sickness and rain, followed by a thank-god section of good temps and triumphant sending. It's a mega-classic if you have the endurance to clip the chains.
Here's a video of our last day. Thanks again to Five Ten and Blue Water Ropes for getting us there.