Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking back on yet another AMAZING year!

So it's New Years Eve already. Why do the years seem to be flying by? Is it because bending ind moving faster all of a sudden or does it just seem faster because I am having so much fun...?
I like answer two best personally.
This year has been yet another year of crazy times, fun people, amazing climbing and loads of adventure!

Writing a long story recapping all the years highlights would take waaaaaaaay to lomng so instead I am going to abbreviate the year in a few paragraphs and then illustrate it with some photos at the end but you can easily go back over my year and read all the adventures again here on this blog if you feel like a trip down my memory lane :)
So, my year...

Well, it started by seeing in the New Year in Hampi, India then shortly after I left India and headed back to Yansguo, China where I started working at China Climb as a guide and developing new outdoor activities around Yangshuo. I went on trips to some fun places doing everything from climbing to white water rafting and saw some amazing places.
I started doing alot of new route development around Yangshuo and then in other places around China.
In the middle of the year I went on a crazy trip to Singapore to race up a massive building with a big group of other profesional climbers and assorted misfits from aaround the globe where we were celebrities and partied with the likes of Diana Ross haha.
Then it was a short 4 weeks in Australia visiting family and friends and going climbing at some of my old haunts which was great!
Then back to Yangshuo in mid summer for some climbing and swimming in the 38 degree heat.
Then as summer wore on we did a climbing festival in Luo Cheng, one in Guizhuo Provence (followed by 10 days of bolting new routes in a massive cave with a team from Petzl), then the Yangshuo Climbing Festival. I sort of became head route setter and MC for the bouldering comps around here which has been a blast!
Then in November my wonderful girl and I headed down to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam for 6 weeks of work, climbing, deep water soloing and general great times. Now I am back in Yangshuo working as a manager at my favourite bar, Bar 98, and going out climbing like crazy every day.
All in all another great year!

So looking back over the year what have I learned...?

I have been studying Mandarin Chinese and can now speak OK, read a little and even write a decent handful of characters so I have learned alot of a new language.
I have learned alot about the culture and people of this amazing country.
I have learned alot more about new route development and bolting new routes, building Via Ferrata and Zip Lines.
I have learned more about myself as a person than I ever knew before.

And what does the new year have in store so far?

Lots of training to try and send my project here in Yangshuo... a 65 metre overhanging stamina fest!
Trips to develop new areas around China including - Ice Climbing in Sichuan, Big Walls in Xin Jiang, Bouldering in Sichuan, Crack Climbing in Yunnan, developing more Sport Climbing in Guizhuo, maybe a return to Deep Water Solo in Vietnam plus loads of new development here around Yangshuo. Plus a few other surprises...
Also i have been sponsored for the next year by the good folk at Evolv... but more about that in the new year ;)

So yeah, it has been a great year and the next one is looking even better!
I freakin' love my life!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR KIDS!!! Have fun, be safe, climb hard, have adventures, say YES to more things, get psyched and as always... love what you do and who you do it with!

Lots of love!

Ps: here are the pics I promised, in no particular order, enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

So the holiday's are definitely upon us... the time for too much good food, too much nice wine and way too much chocolate and other desserts... good times!
I am off to a roast dinner with a great bunch of friends here over at Bar 98 so I will keep this one short...

Merry Christmas everyone! Have a great festive season and dont go too crazy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vietnam - Ha Long Bay

So after my last 6 weeks down in Vietnam I have decided to start doing a series of beta posts on areas I go to in order to help out in any way I can with any trips you might be planning to go on. So here it is, my first location beta post... look out for more coming soon enough! Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have and I will do my best to help you out.


The view from Ben Beo Harbour out into the bay at sunrise

Easy. You want to go to Cat Ba Island out in Ha Long Bay. You cand get there from either Hai Phong or Ha Long City. Through Hai Phong is definitely the easiest. Just get to Hanoi and follow these easy instructions from Hanoi to Cat Ba provided by Slo Pony Adventures -

There are plenty of options of hotels along the main strip of Cat Ba with prices ranging from a couple of US dollars a night to luxury resorts. The usual is about $7-8 USD or so. The Cat Ba Dream is a popular choice.

The is basically just one bolted crag on Cat Ba Island which is 'Butterfly Valley'. There is a little climbing in Ben Beo Harbour which is nice but access might not be easy soon due to some construction there.
Butterfly Valley is a great bolted crag with a surprising amount of routes from about 5.8 up to solid 5.13 with alot of the routes being in the 5.11 to 5.12 range.
You need to buy a pass to the crag each day from the Slo Pony Adventures office to go to Butterfly Valley. This pass costs $2.50 USD and the money goes to your National Park access fee and the bolting / rebolting fund. You can also have lunch prepared for you at the crag by the local farmers for a couple of dollars too which I highly recommend, the food is great! Just ask the Slo Pony guys about the lunch option when you get your park pass.
You also need to get to the crag. This isn't Tonsai. It is about a 25 minute motorbike ride from Cat Ba town to the crag on all tar roads. You can either hire a motor scooter, get a scooter taxi or get a mini bus taxi if there is enough people. All easy options.
There is also some bolted route climbing out on some of the islands like Moody's Beach, Tiger Beach, Saigon Wall, The Face, etc, etc. Check out the guidebook (available at the Slo Pony shop) and organise a boat out there!

Fred Vanden Bergh climbing at Tiger Beach

So let be honest. This is what drew you to Ha Long Bay in the forst place right? So let me be frank. This isn't supermarket cragging. You cant just kayak to the crag and hang on a beach all day. The bay is extensive with a maze of islands, the tides are big and the crags impossible to find on your own.
With that in mind you need to hire a big boat, a crew and a basket boat for the crag if you want to do your own thing. Not super cheap but affordable with a big enough group. If you want to come here to live on a boat and deep water solo everyday come here with a big group of friends and go crazy, just remember it takes a little organising and cash.
As a short trip option heading out on day trips of deep water soloing with Slo Pony Adventures is your best choice. They offer affordable day trips with deep water soloing, kayaking, etc and they provide the boats, chalk, guides to show you the routes, lunch onm the boat, etc, etc... definitely the choice if you don't have experience with DWS or you are travelling on your own.
Tides are also a concern in Ha Long and really effect the crags there due to water depth so look into the tide charts before you head out to Ha Long because you might turn up for a week only to find the tides are bad the whole time your there, which wouldn't be much fun. Just contact the Slo Pony guys ahead of time to ensure your trip coincides with good tides if you have your heart set on deep water soloing.
If you have a group or just plenty of cash and want to rent a private sleeper boat and a crew that knows DWS again just get in touch with the Slo Pony Adventures crew and talk to them about your best options.

Me Deep Water Soling at Fisherman's Way. Photo Courtesy of Simon Carter

Rent a kayak and explore the floating villages and kart islands, rent a motor scooter or mountain bike and explore the island, go hiking in the National Park and look for one of the the rarest monkeys in the world, the Cat Ba Langur ( ), eat amazing local food at one of the floating restaraunts, eat amazing western food at The Green Mango

Go to and contact he guys there for help with booking trips, renting boats, gear and any other info you might need on Ha Long Bay.

Donate to the bolting / rebolting fund at the Slo Pony Adventures shop... help with a few $ to bolt new routes and maintain the classics you climb while your there!

Now get out there and enjoy!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More pics from Onsight Photography

Here are a few more pics thanks to Simon Carter at Onsight Photography.. check him out!

Me on 'Streak Of Lightning' on Blue Streak Wall

Me sending 'Durakuto Han' 5.12b at Hawaii 5.0

The good times just keep rolling!!!

Things have continued to be amazing out here with days upon days of great deep water soling out in the bay and fun days of sport climbing on the island.
I just finished 5 straight days of DWS including a final mission for Simon and Monique before they headed home to Oz. It was great hanging out with some old friends from home  :)
Jen has headed back to Yangshuo already and I will be off on the 20th so time here is drawing to an end so now I'm off to climb out in Butterfly Valley then it's all guns blazing out at the Temple Amphitheatre to get more routes bolted before I leave!

Heres some more pics for you all, enjoy!!!

Fred enjoying the view on the way out into the bay

Katie on 'Le Mekong' at Le Mekong

Vu on the boat and Cassie swimming back after taking a plunge

Good times

Climbing at Tiger Beach

Sarah on Le Mekong

Me at Le Mekong

Fred climbing at Tiger Beach

Climbing on 'Balooning Around' at Le Mekong

And again

Monique Forestier climbing at Tiger Beach

Me at Le Mekong

Me again at Le Mekong

And again

Fresh crab for luch, oh yeah!