Exploring Vietnam Part 3 – Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta

Day 8 – Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon

The final leg of our journey was spent traveling around Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the Mekong Delta.

We were met at the airport at around 11am by our third and final tour guide, Zhou (pronounced Chow). Zhou was a dainty thing, she was only around 4″10 in height yet had the personality and a charisma about her that was larger than life – she was also very well spoken in the English tongue.

Ho Chi Minh, SaigonDriving into Ho Chi Minh from the airport it was clear to see the vast differences between North and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh city was densely populated and very built up, one of the most notable giants of the skyline is the Bitexco Financial Tower that had its own helipad and resembles the Gherkin in London. We were also warned that the weather in Ho Chi Minh city is temperamental at best and it can go from very sunny, to localised tropical rainstorms in a matter of minutes.

Central Post Office - Ho Chi Minh, SaigonBefore checking into our hotel Zhou took us for food in a small local restaurant. Whilst eating, we got to experience the weather of Ho Chi Minh first hand as the skies opened up and the ensuing rain flooded the streets of the city.

Once we had finished our food and the rain had subsided, Zhou took us on a tour of Ho Chi Minh. Firstly we headed straight to the Independence Palace, formerly the US Embassy during the Vietnamese War. We spent an hour looking at the palace and was given a glimpse into the political history of the building – the building is famed as the site of a dramatic finish to the Vietnam War where tanks crashed through the main gate on the morning of April 30, 1975.

Vietnamese WarAfter visiting the Independence Palace we made our way to the War Remnants Museum. Driving to the War Remnants Museum we were told by Zhou on the coach that we shouldn’t talk about the war or communism within the museums walls and that any questions we had should be saved until afterwards. The Museum really opened my eyes to how brutal the Vietnamese war actually was and how big the death toll was in comparison to the war in Iraq – It’s astonishing how evil mankind can be and how evil the human race remains.

Upon our journey to the hotel we stopped briefly at the more miniature scale Notre Dame and had a look around the Central Post Office. The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh city is possibly one of the grandest post office’s in the world and was built by the French in the early 20th century.

We finally arrived at the Duxton hotel around 6pm and  were shown to our rooms. Located right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, the Duxton Hotel is a luxury 4 star hotel and appeared to be used mainly by businessmen visiting the city.

Day 9 – My-Tho and the Mekong Delta

Day 9 was an early start and we headed to Coconut Island situated in the Mekong Delta. The Islands in the Mekong Delta are a world away from the mainland of Ho Chi Minh and have between 500 to 2000 inhabitants on each island.Dragon Island (Con Tan Long), Phoenix Island (Con Phung), Tortoise Island (Con Quy) and Unicorn Island (Con Thoi Son), where you find fruit orchards, bee farms or coconut candy production.

Mekong Delta - VietnamOn the Coconut Island we were given the opportunity to see how coconut candy was made and how the entire coconut is used in its production, right down to the husk of the coconut being used as fuel for the stoves. Whilst on the island we also tried shots of Rice Whisky that contained snake and scorpion as well as the sweets themselves, there was also the chance to hold a python that Richard and myself jumped at, hesitantly.

After seeing the Coconut Sweet manufacturing plant we took a horse and cart ride through the small village before light refreshments and music with the locals. The locals make all of their money from tourism on the Island and so they perform a short selection of songs for their guests.

Mekong Delta - VietnamMaking our way back to the boat we took a trip through the narrow estuaries on the locals’ wooden work boats. It was a brilliant way to see some more of the island and see how everything growing so abundantly in this fertile land is used for something.

Day 10 - Cu Chi Tunnels

Our final day of the holiday and our last early start. We were up and leaving our hotel for the Cu hi tunnels come 7am. The Cu Chi tunnels were one of the most fascinating sights I had the pleasure of visiting in Vietnam. They were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and it was clear to see how they helped to counter the growing American military effort.

Zhou took us on a tour of the are and we had the opportunity to take a first hand tour down the tunnels as well as explore the remnants of an american tank that had lain unmoved since it was damaged on a land mine during the war.

Clare, Richard and myself ended the tour of the tunnels at the firing range where we each bought 10 bullets and had a go of the infamous AK47.

Mekong Delta - VietnamVietnam was an incredible experience, It was a once in a lifetime trip and it’s really made me think how much of the world Clare and Myself still need to see and will aim at seeing as we grow old together – I can’t recommend it highly enough and although initially prices may seem expensive it’s worth every penny.

 

Exploring Vietnam Part 2 – Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An

Day 5 – Hue

We arrived in Hue at around 9pm (Day 4) and was greeted by our next tour guide, Minh. Minh was the Vietnamese twin of Michael McIntyre and insisted that we call him Mr. Michael.

During our time in Hue we stayed in the Muong Thanh Hue Hotel. The hotel, although boasting incredible views of the Perfume as probably the least favorite of hotels during our tour of the country, there were a few instances of cockroaches in rooms and the kitchen was under staffed meaning we had a 2 hour wait for the wrong pizza when it came to food.

After a good nights sleep we were up early, destined for The Citadel.

The weather in Hue was much different than that in Hanoi and on the first day the temperatures climbed to a massive 40°C.

Imperial City Hue

The Citadel is home to the the Imperial City as well as the imperial enclosure known as the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was strictly for the Nguyễn imperial family.

Imperial City Bullet HolesThe Citadel was vast and had countless bullet holes and plenty of evidence of the Vietnam/American War. Minh took us through each area of the Citadel and explained what life would have been like during the time of the Nguyễn dynasty, including that of the several hundred concubines belonging to Emperor Gia Lon.

After the Citadel we drove on to our next destination, Thien Mu Pagoda. The Thien Mu Pagoda has several storeys and is the tallest religious building in Vietnam – it is situated on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue

Our tour guide Minh explained to us that during the 1960′s this pagoda became a hotbed for anti-government protests. In a defying act against the Diem regime, Thich Quang Duc burned himself in downtown Saigon. The car that took him to Saigon is on exhibition in the Thien Mu Pagoda and it was fascinating to see, as somebody who has always been haunted by the image of the Self Immolation. Monk burning himself car, Vietnam

That evening we went for food at Ancient Hue Restaurant. The Ancient Hue restaurant was set back away from the town and was in an incredibly beautiful setting.  By now I was beginning to get a little bored of the same Vietnamese set menus of spring rolls and rice and Clare has even decided to go down the vegetarian option for the rest of the tour, but Ancient Hue surely rekindled my own food affair, it was beaaautiful!

Day 6 – Hoi An and Da Nang

Day 6 was another early start, we began our 4 hour journey down to Hoi An at around 8am.

Minh broke the coach journey up into 2, 2 hour blocks. After the first 2 hours had passed we stopped shortly before the Hai Van Pass for drinks and had some time to take some photos of the incredible views available.

The Hai Van Pass is a mountain pass and is the natural border between North and South Vietnam. It is more commonly remembered for its appearance in the Top Gear Vietnam special. hai van pass

In Da Nang we stopped to visit Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture, the sculptures are taken from My Son and show just how talented the Cham were with what little technology they had.

Shortly after our visit to the museum we grabbed lunch before completing the final leg of our journey to Hoi An.

anantara hotel hoi anWe arrived in Hoi An around 2pm at our 4th hotel, the Anantara. The Anantara was by far the most incredible hotel of the tour. The hotel had a pool and pool bar and was set 5 metres back from the stunning perfume river.

After we settled into our room Minh took us on a walking tour of Hoi An, visiting the local market, Tan Ky Old House, Fukien Assembly Hall and the 400 year-old Japanese covered bridge.

Day 7 – Hoi An

Day 7 was our free day. Clare, Richard and Myself stayed around the pool all day drinking beers and soaking up the sun, it was a welcome break from the constant travelling and gave us all time to recoup before the final leg of our Vietnam tour. Later that day Clare and myself took the hotels free bikes out for a ride around the City, again a welcome break where we could travel at our own pace with no set sights or destinations in mind.

Exploring Vietnam Part 1 – Hanoi and Halong Bay

Day 1 – Hanoi

After a 12 hour flight from Gatwick we were met by our first tour guide at Hanoi airport, Leo.

Leo was a 31 year old local who would escort us around North Vietnam, he was character full of charisma and charm and a great ambassador for both Kuoni and Vietnam as a country.

Sunway Hotel VietnamThe first hotel we stayed in during our Vietnam trip was the Sunway hotel, 10 minutes from the Old French Quarter in Hanoi.

The hotel was much more than I expected, very grandiose and it was built opposite traditional Hanoi homes, there was stark contrast between either side of the street.

After checking our bags in we had a few drinks in the Hotel lounge before heading out into Hanoi for some traditional Vietnamese lunch. Lunch usually consisted of spring rolls, plenty of rices and a main of either beef, chicken or fish.

Whenever I go on a holiday I always try my best to learn the native language, lunch was a good place to start and I asked Leo how to say some of the common phrases such as Hello (Xin chào), Thank you (Cảm ơn) and Goodbye (tạm biệt).

Hanoi Water PuppetsLater that evening Leo took our group down to the Old French Quarter to watch the famed Hanoi water puppet show. The show was a brilliant introduction to the Vietnamese culture and boasted incredibly imagined references to Vietnamese folklore. (Read more about the Water puppets over on Wikipedia). 

We finished the day with a lecture in a nearby hotel on the history of Vietnam right through to present day – by this time most of the group were in a sleep limbo, myself included.

 Day 2 – Hanoi

The first morning in Vietnam introduced us to their typical breakfast meal, we started the day at around 7am and I had beef and stir fried noodles followed by a more traditional selection of fruits, bread and yoghurt.

Rickshaw in HanoiAt around 8 am we took the short coach drive into The Old French Quarter and hired a Rickshaw each in order to see the best sights in the Capital.

Unlike in the UK, It’s common practice to leave a tip – even if you were unhappy with the service you received. Clare and I both tipped our Rickshaw drivers 20,000VND, the equivalent of ~50p only to have the drivers look very displeased and follow us until we could double the tip and offer them an extra 20,000VND.

Following on from our Cyclo ride around the City we headed out to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

I must admit, before Vietnam I was very naive and unaware of the countries rich political history and had very little idea of who Ho Chi Minh actually was.

ho chi minh mausoleumThe Mausoleum was almost something out of a Russian Revolution movie, vast amounts of space surrounding a colossal, elevated building. Leo was very knowledgeable on his countries history and gave us much information on Ho Chi Minh and the political struggles and wars the Country has faced over the years.

After arriving back at the Sunway Hotel we were given a couple of hours free time, we decided to use this time wisely and went for a massage in the Spa followed by some local beers in the lounge!
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

In the evening we were given the chance to explore the capital and find our own place to eat, we took a walk down to the Hoan Kiem Lake and had some food at a local outdoor cafe.

Day 3 – Halong Bay

We set off from Hanoi on the third day at around 7am, headed toward Halong Bay.

Halong Bay is a Unesco world heritage site and has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember so as you can imagine, I was like a child on Christmas Eve!

Upon the drive to Halong Bay we were greeted to the rural side of Vietnam and Leo had the driver stop along the way to show us the rice paddies and workers as well as the water buffalo. rice paddy Vietnam

Our itinerary stated that we would be spending our third night on board a cruise, our cruise was with a company called Emeraud. We set sail at around 10.30am destined for the islands of which there are 1,969 islands of various sizes.

Upon approaching the islands the excitement was growing, not the kind of excitement you get from knowing you’re about to get from a present or something but just an overwhelming sense of awe, It’s hard to put into words just how amazing Halong Bay really is – it boasts the kind of beauty that makes you wonder how the world can be at war or how anything can ever be negative again.

Halong bay is mostly limestone and would be any climbers dream, I can’t count the number of times we sailed passed an islet and I didn’t look out for lines, the entire area is beckoning to be climbed.

We sailed to Sung Sot Cave, an incredibly vast and open air cave that was used by the French during their colonization of the country.

After taking a guided tour throughout the cave we headed back to the Emeraud. We set sail to a small secluded area where we had the option of hiring a kayak each for approximately £15, something both Clare and myself jumped at!

Halong bay hanoiWe paddled around the islands for about half an hour before returning to the cruise to do a spot of swimming, the water was incredibly warm and I’ll never forget the feeling of sheer happiness and wellbeing as I and Clare were floating on by in one of the wonders of the world.

We awoke in the morning to a somewhat flooded room, we mistakenly turned off the air con in our room which caused the humidity to produce condensation and rain down on us throughout the night.

 Day 4 – Halong Bay/Hanoi

We sailed back to port for 9am where we then began our journey back into Hanoi to catch our flight to Hue. During our journey back to Hanoi, Leo took us to a small, non tourist market where our group were alien to the locals.

The experience of the local market was incredible, the smells and sights will stay with me for a lifetime even if for all the wrong reasons! The locals likened Clare to a criminal with her tattoos whilst I was asked to hold their babies and wave at the locals as my beard represented a strong personality, a romantic western Man!

For lunch we headed to another non tourist area, as far as I can recall it was a small buddhist community where we ate lunch in a grand communal hall built in the early 1600′s entirely from Mahogany.

On arrival we noticed children playing football outside. It wasn’t long before Gary (fellow traveller in our group), Richard (Clare’s Brother) and myself headed outside to challenge them to a game! England vs. Vietnam!

Football in Hanoi

The children we’re amazing as was the experience – they we’re over the moon and so excited to play football with westerners or Tay Tay as they liked to call us. After the game we made the last leg of our journey to Hanoi Airport before departing for Hue, I’ll post part 2 of the holiday as soon as possible…

 

Travelling through Vietnam

This Tuesday I’ll be jetting off to Vietnam with Clare and her family, It will be the first time I’ve ever ventured outside of Europe and to say I’m excited is an understatement!

We’re travelling with Kuoni in a party of 6 and will be touring the entire east coast visiting Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Buon Ma Thuot, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho.

I don’t really know what to expect but what I do know is ill be quiet on the blogging front until my return!

Regarding climbing, Clare and myself got down to our local bouldering gym tonight and had a good strong climb, I’ve now logged all of the v4′s and Clare got her very first v4 that even some of the more seasoned climbers were struggling with!

A new direction for Climbreview.co.uk

I first created Climbreview.co.uk to be a hive of information regarding the world of climbing. I wanted to post product reviews, video posts and also log my own personal accomplishments as well as friends climbing accomplishments – you could say I’d hoped for Climbreview.co.uk to become an established brand.

The past few months made it pretty clear to me however, that Climbreview.co.uk works best as my personal blog, a blog where I discuss my own thoughts and opinions on the climbing world as well as a record of my accomplishments and experiences to date.

There are plenty of well established, well written and well informed blogs around and we’re fortunate enough to be part of a thriving community where advice is easily attainable – some of the blogs I’d recommend are…

For those who have visited Climbreview.co.uk before you may have noticed the redesign. The old style was again to coincide with my initial hopes and ideas for the website, a well structured magazine look, where articles were vying for attention - my new design focuses solely on the content.

Climbing at the Roaches in the Peak District

Earlier this week I received a text from my Brother Chris about how he’s been given a week off work and how we was keen to get home and tick off some climbs together.

Chris is an outdoor instructor and is currently also in his consolidation period for the SPA Award. With this in mind I couldn’t think of any better time to venture further into the Peak District and take a look at some of the more challenging and longer routes (I’ve exhausted Windgather!).

After about an hour and a half drive we finally parked up at the crag (we got lost and ended up at Renshaw – looks very difficult might I add…). The Roaches looks absolutely incredible from the road and somewhat daunting! Don’t let the parking fool you, when we arrived there was nowhere to park yet the crag itself although fairly busy still had a huge number of free climbs, single and multi pitch.

After a short walk through grazing land we arrived at the The Don Whillans Hut -if you’ve ever been climbing or walking at the Roaches, you’ll probably have seen the Don Whillans Hut, a stunning club hut owned by the BMC carved into the very rock itself.

Walking to the crag you will see a number of huge boulder just dotted around, it’s like a climbing mecca and according to the ‘Peak Districting : Climbing’ guide this could be one of the best gritstone crags in the UK.

Lower Tier the Roaches

Lower Tier – The Roaches

The first crag you reach is the aptly named, Lower Tier. The lower tier provides plenty of short, fun climbing with a range of lower grades and really introduces you to the rock.

As we arrived at the foot of the climbs in the Chalkstorm Area there were a few climbersalready on routes so Chris and I decided I would get warmed up on Prow Corner VD. The route is host to a range of nice bridging moves, and plenty of (optional) jamming practice as well as smears. Prow Corner is vastly protected and is a really enjoyable climb, my only recommendation however is take cams! The belay of Prow Corner is very tricky and if not for the help of a local Mountain Instructor named Chris who lent me 2 cams I’d have really struggled to build an anchor I’d have been 100% happy with.

After seconding my Brother Chris up the route we headed back down to the face where he lead Prow Cracks, another VD with brilliant smearing and optional hand jamming. Chris had been out of climbing for and it was good to see him tick of his first route with relative ease.

Lower Tier Roaches

Next up was Sifta’s Quid, a sparsely protected crack line graded at HS 4b. It was myself that lead climbed this route and what an enjoyable climb it was! The climb has plenty of jamming and smearing and is a route that requires 100% trust in your feet. I only managed to get 1 nut in early on so I guess the route could have been a solo but never the less one of the better routes I ticked on the day.

Chris then finished our time at the Lower Tier by ticking off HVD, Captain Lethargy. Before making his ascent he let me know he was going to place plenty of gear here to really get some practice in, he eventually settled with 2 pieces…

The Upper Tier

By now the sun was really shining down on us and lighting up the Peak District Moorland beneath us, it’s an incredible view and I’d recommend the area as a walk to anybody interested in the outdoors and nature.

The Upper Tier was a lot busier than the lower, naturally so as it has plenty more routes; a lot of which as pushing 30 metre multi pitches. In the ‘Peak District : Climbing’ logbook we spotted a route known as Maud’s Garden that was marked as a VDiff multi pitch climb (We later found out that it’s actually a S 4a***). We both decided to go for the route before making our way home, the first pitch was lead climbed by Chris, the first pitch has lovely moves up the bold initial slab that are soon rewarded with the arrival of decent gear.

After building his anchor I then began my climb, we we’re doing our first multi pitch climb together! 

The Roaches Upper Tier, Multi Pitch Belay

After arriving at the belay and beginning the second pitch the climbing  just gets better and better. A tricky move onto the headwall leads to an exposed and juggy finale – Best climb of the day and definitely worth 3 stars!

 

SPA Training in Capel Curig

Last weekend (12/07/14) I completed my SPA Training with Paul Poole Mountaineering based in Snowdonia National Park.

The weekend was a huge success in terms of what I learnt and a thorough insight into what is required as an SPA holder.

Saturday

The day begin at 9am in Moel Siabod Cafe in Capel Curig. There were 4 of us on the SPA Training course and before we began Paul introduced himself to the group and asked a bit about each of us in order to break the ice a little.

Paul explained thoroughly what he had planned for the first day and we promptly headed for the crag to get started (I think the crag was called Craig Caseg Fraith Isaf) and is overlooking the London Mountaineering Club Hut.

At the crag, Paul has us all place our climbing racks on the floor and explained to us the importance of checking your gear and explained what to look for in damaged gear and when to throw out knackered pieces.

Once we had all geared up we were taught how to build a bottom rope system using minimal amount of rigging (static) rope and best practices. I’d only ever read the way to do this in the Mountain Leader Training Handbook (Rock Climbing Essential Skills and Techniques) but it was really good to see a different way of building this system and trying it out for real.

Bottom Rope - SPA Training

After learning how to setup a bottom rope we swiftly moved onto building a releasable abseil. The releasable abseil required the most amount of work, incorporating the double figure of 8 or bunny ears knot as well as the tying off of Italian hitch’s – though it’s worth mentioning how simple this process actually is despite how daunting it looks the first time you come across it as a beginner.

Phil - Releasable AbseilNext up we were taught to lower a climber from a top rope. I’ve always been quite nervous when trusting my anchors when lowering Paul however I managed to place 2 really bomber pieces of gear including a sling around a large chockstone.

At the end of the day, (and just before the rain came in!) we headed out to Beacon Climbing Centre in Caernarfon where Paul gave us some good ideas for games when working with groups at the indoor wall and gave us a thorough explanation of the range of belay devices available and a few pointers on  technique. 

After the Training for the day had finished, Phil (another Trainee on the course) and myself stayed behind to get some climbs in. Despite the 10 hour day with little food I managed to tick off a very steep overhanging 5+, a 6a and 6c as well as a number of v3/4 boulder problems which was a brilliant way to end the day.

SPA Training - Beacon Climbing Centre

 Sunday

After a torrid nights sleep we met again at Moel Siabod Cafe for 9am.

Paul brought a long some examples of knackered old gear as well as stress tested karabiners to show us how they break under different loads which was cool to see and very interesting.

After a quick breakfast (Bacon bap and Latte!) we headed out to one of the most incredible pieces of rock I’ve ever seen. The crag was called Craig y Tonnau and was this beautiful wavey piece of sedimentary rock.

Upon the approach to the rock Paul explained to us the importance of respecting the environment and obeying the wishes of land owners.

 

Craig y TonnauAt the bottom of the rock we discussed ways to build anchors and how to best to utilise the amount of available rope.

At the top of the crag we paired up and built ourselves an anchor in order to practice personal abseils as well as tying off our belay plate (escape the system). I must say escaping the system was one of my more daunting challenges despite its simplicity.

SPA Training

Afterwards Paul gave us the chance to climb the face of which Phil and I jumped to the chance and led modest VDiff and HS routes respectively. Paul followed us up each route assessing and commenting on our gear placement which was really helpful.The climb itself was super fun and deservedly worthy of its 2 stars in the Ogwen Valley logbook. SPA Training

We finished the day with some discussions and practical examples of problem solving when working with beginners, such as how to deal with trapped hair in a belay device, to novices going off route.

I can’t thank Paul highly enough for his teaching over the weekend and  would highly recommend him to anybody considering the award.

Climbing at Windgather Rocks

Windgather Rocks is a gritstone crag in the Peak District and is notoriously beginner friendly.

Today Clare and I visited the crag for the first time with the aim of completing the ‘BMC beginner routes‘ ticklist over on UK Climbing.

Windgather Rocks is about an hours drive from Runcorn and we arrived at the crag at around 11pm – it was busy!

Due to the easy and fun climbing at Windgather Rocks it’s a hotspot for outdoor adventure groups and those new to the sport.

Anchor Building - Windgather RocksAfter having a good look around the crag (and finding the only free wall!) we geared up and tackled the  Face Route 1 that is graded as a Diff on the UKClimbing site, though isn’t recognised in the “Peak District : Climbing” guidebook by John Coefield and Jon Barton. The route was super easy, almost like climbing a ladder but it did give me a chance to teach Clare as well as focus on our gear placements and anchor building. Windgather Rocks has plenty of gear placements to build your anchors from and as our placements felt really bomb proof coupled with the ease of the route we settled with only 2 pieces of gear to belay from.

After a quick climb the crag started to get really busy and we headed off into Whaley Bridge town for some food.

We plan on heading back to the crag tomorrow morning, hopeful of completing the ticklist!

New gear, new month

Its been a while since my last update and quite a bit has happened!

Shopping

At the beginning of June, Clare and I paid out for quite a few new bits of gear and equipment. Firstly, it was about time we both got some new shoes, my Edelrid Typhoon had developed holes on the tip of each toe box as well as a funky smell, a smell I can only (presumably) associate with roadkill. We each decided on the 5.10 Anasazi VCS. Before buying the shoe I’d heard lots of stories about the heel cup being too big and having too much dead space etc but I’d also heard plenty of stories on their edging performance and quality of the Stealth Onyxx rubber. We both tried the shoe on, along with the La Sportiva Solution and a few more well known models. I decided to go with the Anasazi for a number of personal reasons. When I climb, I dont climb many steep problems and so I wasn’t looking for anything too aggressive, in fact I was looking for something that would allow me to smear well and give the most friction outdoors. Regarding the heel and its dead space, It isn’t so bad – not much more so than my previous shoes. I also don’t tend too heel hook that often when climbing.

Our next big purchase was a new 50 metre, 9mm Edelrid rope, previously we’d been borrowing a rope from a friend and with my forthcoming SPA training it made sense to commit to buying my own, we also picked up new helmets each – the Petzl Elios.

Lastly I ordered a set of DMM 1-11 wallnuts through my Brother who can get them at a trade price. I also picked up a set of nuts and CAMP Excentrics from eBay that I  restringed to add to our collection.

Climbing

I’ve managed to get quite a bit of climbing in since my last post also. Scott, Christine, Clare and I got out to the Boardroom in Chester a good couple of times where I finally managed to stick a 6b+ on the Psicbloc as well as flashing my first 6c lead on the very steep, overhanging wall which I was over the moon with.

Harmers Wood Bouldering

I also managed to take a few trips out to Harmers Wood and Llandulas Cave just of the A55 for some outdoor action with a climber I met through my site named Alex. Alex is a brilliant climber himself and has tons of experience so it’s great to climb with somebody who can offer advice on my technique and also give me the courage to try harder routes and push my own grade.

The mental game of climbing

When I first started climbing (almost 20 months ago now) the standout weakness of mine was my mental game.  The first route my brother Chris had me try was a f4 on top rope in a local gym. Halfway up I recall panicking about the breaking point of the rope, the strength of the anchor and whether or not my brother could hold my weight should I fall.

Thankfully 20 months on, I came through that period and I’m now climbing every other day focusing on my strength, my technique and my training – I’m also now working towards my single pitch award for personal gratification.

Today out shopping, Clare and I bought a new 50m rope and got ourselves a new helmet each. As soon as we arrived home we quickly ate food and headed to our local crag, Frogsmouth Quarry in Runcorn that is a 5 minute walk from our home.

Clare was determined to log her first lead climb at the local crag after ticking of her first at Castle Inn 2 weeks prior. I decided it would be best for her to try Green Slab (f4) on the Green Slab wall. The route is short and good for a warm up, the main issue however is the vast amount of sand deposited on the route from above. Clare got 2 clips up and decided it wasn’t to be her day and lowered back down.

In hindsight this seemed to set the agenda for this evenings climb, how hard it is to complete a route when your mind isn’t willing.

After climbing the route myself we headed over to the Cosmo wall to try Zest Direct which is a f6b+. Zest is a route I’ve done hundreds of times, It’s gotten to the stage where I’d use zest as a warmup route to get the blood flowing and my head in the game only tonight I was a non starter.

2 clips up on the route and I became paralysed by fear, for those who have climbed zest will be familiar with the ledge 2 clips up. It’s about 1 foot deep and all that is required is for you to mantle up on it and stand up before clipping your next draw – only I couldn’t bring myself to make the move.

Climbing is a very mental game, If I don’t make the move on my first couple of attempts my mental state worsens and I have to lower off and try again another day. Zest is well within my capabilities and muscle/movement memory itself should allow me to send the route each and every go in theory, but as the old adage goes “Your Body Can’t Go Where the Mind Has Not Already Gone”.

How do you cope with your mental game?

© 2014 Liam Gallagher