“Excuse me sir, you need to cook the fish before you eat it”
Fast forward 6 hours and my time in China with Roo was about to reach a dramatic conclusion. After a somewhat basic 10 days in Getu, we had decided to grab some food which stretched the palet a little further, unfortunately we stretched it too far. This culminated in a bowl of boiling chilli oil ‘soup’ which bubbled away in the middle of the table. Served with tofu, fish and greens the idea was to cook the ingredients yourself – but this information passed us by. I put some rice into a bowl and added some of the refreshing soup. I then added a piece of the mouth watering uncooked fish and tucked in. Fortunately, I only ate one piece of raw fish before the horrified waitress approached. However, this was still one piece of raw fish too many. I’ve had some pretty rough nights, but they have tended to be more fun than this and generally self induced. They also rarely feature being stood in my boxers cradling my last meal. A few days later I weighed in at 58kg – Caff, I hope your reading this.
The rest of my time in China so far had been much more pleasant. After a few days of climbing in HK, quite a unique experience given the hectic city life, we headed to Yangshou, which in many ways is just as hectic. Here, both the locals and visiting climbers mode of transport is a scooter. Based on the eye-widening driving we had experienced we were initially reluctant but eventually joined (and added to) the mayhem. After a few days I was driving with the same reckless abandon any self-respecting local drives with, honking away as I swerved around traffic.
Following a climbing: walking ratio of 1:1 in Tasmania, the new ratio of 100:1 landed me on a patch of good form and a number of 8b/+’s in a few goes as we explored Yangshou and then Getu. The weather was cold which I really enjoyed and the combination of a chill in the air and grey skies felt homely.
The draw to Getu had been the huge archway which the Petzl rocktrip had made famous a number of years ago. It was our luck that a few days before we arrived, climbing on said archway became banned. Not only was climbing banned but access into the national park was the equivalent of £15 a day. Climbing in the surrounding area was still good with enough to keep us busy for a week or so but it was a real shame not to climb on the arch. Interestingly, whilst climbing with ropes and a harness is banned, a number of locals are paid to entertain the tourists by soloing up and down a section of the cave. It stemmed from tradition but had been firmly commercialised and looked well sketch. I wondered how little they were being paid.
A year or so ago I had been doing lots of travelling with my good friends Henry, Jack and Liam Postlethwaite. Henry and Liam had visited China’s answer to Indian Creek – Liming – and no matter what we were doing, or not doing, they were able to reel off a little Liming anecdote “This dog shit reminds me of the dogs in Liming, the dog shit there is much better”. It was therefore very high on my list of places to go. Roo left and I teamed up with Gwen and headed for this crack paradise. Gwen is a great climber and will tell anyone who listens. I was excited for the next month, ready to have my ego battered and watch Gwen cruise up offwidths.
However, on my way to China I was hit with the news that Liam had taken his life. Months later losing one of my best friends still doesn’t seem real. Liam was the lad from Chorley, who did yoga, but you wouldn’t take the piss. He was caring to the same extent he was an incredibly gifted rock climber. He was focussed on his climbing but knew how to drink a pint. He wouldn’t want me going on and on…
Throughout my time in China Liam was very much in my thoughts, but particularly in Liming. We had shared many rope lengths together, some of these of a wider variety in preparation for our El Cap trip which never made it out of Canada. Therefore, whenever I struggled up a wide crack I imagined Liam at the bottom telling me I was soft – “c’mon lad”- and if I had a tricky day I wanted to get home and message him about it – “c’mon lad”. Before getting to Liming I also only really knew of two routes, because Liam frequently talked about them. These routes have similar names, which I would frequently confuse. This would have of course annoyed Liam.
The Lost World (5.11+) is an incredible line, whereby a crack ranging from fingers to chimney splits the cliff without fail. Liam had not talked down this route, and not one to overstate I was therefore a little nervous. Henry also said it was hard, but he gets excited by lazers. We began the day by failing to order breakfast correctly, so after a bowl of noodles and 4 fried eggs on top we set off. The first pitch is relatively normal by comparison with the rest of the route, so we soon arrived at the second pitch. Interestingly, this pitch features evidence of the locals having climbed to this point as there is a number of drilled holds. This idea is quite frankly terrifying but with a rope tied around me this pitch was okay, after a bit of squeezing at the start. Then came the money pitch, 45m of squeeze with a bolt at 8m and an untrustworthy chock at perhaps 25m. Liams comments on this pitch rattled around my head “I craned my neck back and up, almost gasping in horror at the sight above” ……so I switch it off and shuffled away. Whilst it never really feels like you will fall off, imagining the results of adopting the pencil position after a slip is both funny and mildly terrifying. With one more big pitch to go before a slabby finish we looked up at a huge chimney which opened up to about 8m in width further back. At this point the volume of chockstones has left a floor to walk around on and ponder where best to bridge up. Once pondered, I committed to some more scary shuffling which ended in a difficult transition from arete back to squeeze and then more lovely offwidth. Finishing this pitch, I was satisfied but mostly relieved. The route was everything I expected.
Another World (12d) is perhaps one of the most aesthetic lines in the valley, on a headwall with just space below. It begins with a crimpy traverse, and a foot cammed in the crack. Once you release this foot your committed and thrown straight into a tough thin hands section. I told myself that if I keep squeezing there is no reason to fall off. This seemed to work and even though there was a few 50:50 moments I made it to some bomber hands. It’s a steep route though, and bomber hands soon begin to feel less relaxing. What I like about cracks is that when you get a section of consistent size, there seems little reason to hang around – all the holds are the same. So, I pushed on and made it to the resting pod. Resting on a chicken wing I felt well knarly and considered the final little boulder problem. I spied an actual hold and a few moves later was boning down on this nugget of normality to victory bomber hands. A truly excellent route.
On my last day in China I found myself wandering the streets (innocently) of Shenzhen. Unlike Hong Kong, Shenzhen felt ghostly. Everywhere else in China, if you wanted food, you only had to look over your shoulder and there would be a little stall. This wasn’t the case in Shenzhen, but eventually I found a little food court and entered a nice-looking restaurant where I was seated outside. After some appetizers, I was asked to come inside. Before I knew what was happening, I was in a big room, filled with boiling pots of chilli oil. Hours before a flight it was a sick joke. I suddenly wasn’t looking forward to the pork dish I ordered. However, I was committed. I made sure to cook the raw pork and double check that none of the complimentary dishes needed cooking. The next 24 hours really was hanging in the balance, both for myself and the lucky person sitting next to me.
I am sure most readers will be disappointed to hear previous events were not repeated. That’s because an idiot never makes the same mistake twice.
China was brilliant. The beer at 2.5% is awful though- “pisswater that lad”.