Lots to tell

Yuji (Hirayama) arrived 3 nights ago from Japan to join Emily and I. We are all here for the Yangshuo Climbing Festival on Oct 29-31. It is the China’s largest climbing event and it is sponsored by Black Diamond and The North Face. There are competitions, clinics, presentations, and general sharing and celebrating of our sport. We are all very excited for the event. But first, a little climbing for ourselves…

Festival banner

Em and I just climbed 3 days, and Yuji for the latter 2 with us. It was fun, productive, and eventful. The first day, Em and I went back to Lei Pi Shan. It was Sunday, and there was a great group of people at the small crag. It was a simply enjoyable day of hanging out and climbing. Yuji arrived late this night, and we awoke and found him in the hotel, cheerful and excited as ever. We had previously agreed to forerun the festival competition boulder problems in the gymnasium that morning, so after breakfast we headed there. After a nice little session that went into the early afternoon, the plan was to rent motor scooters and go out to White Mountain, since we were getting a later start, and because it was an overcast day. This is where is gets interesting.

Lei Pi Shan

Lei Pi Shan

Yuji Hirayama

Yuji Hirayama

We had a friend help us negotiate for 2 scooters, Chinese style. This happens for basically every good that some one wants to acquire, and is really an argument that goes until one side concedes. It can get loud, it can get heated, and it can take a long time. Since people have been doing this for thousands of years here, they are pretty god damned resilient. I think that they view it as a battle where there is a very definite and winner and loser. Well, I think that we got the most pitiful and insufferable and stubborn woman in the whole fucking country. So, after about 30 min, our friend managed to get about 10% off the price. It was getting later, and we were anxious to climb, especially Yuji, as it was his first day, so we conceded. Though our Chinese friend that translated and negotiated was not happy about it. Just so you know, the scooters were like $10 each, so we saved a couple bucks for our 30 minutes… Renting them wasn’t gonna break the bank, but there is a practice here of overcharging foreigners for EVERYTHING. And, it is usually on the order or 2 to 3, sometimes 5 times more than a local. It is a pretty lame practice, and might even be racist. But, it is an accepted way here. After a couple photos, laughs, and instructions in Chinese we were nervously and dangerously on our way; Em and I and our 2 climbing packs on one scooter, and Yuji with his pack on another. I seriously think that this was the most dangerous thing that any of us have done in out lives, and I’ve done some stupid things and taken some unnecessary risks thus far in my life, but holy shit, I think that just sitting down on a scooter decreases your lifespan by 75% instantly.

Time to get rowdy

Time to get rowdy

But, I thought too soon, because the return trip would turn out to be FAR more dangerous…

After almost T-boning a huge dump truck on the way to the crag, because the guy just instantly decided to whip a slow-mo U-turn, and I was maybe going a little too fast, we were getting close to the crag. Two minutes from the wall, I couldn’t see Yuji in my rearview. We stopped and waited. Nothing. A little longer. Still nothing, so we turned around and found Yuji a couple hundred yards back down the road sitting on his scooter, smiling. The fucking thing UNBELIEVEABLY broke down. It took me about 3 seconds to figure out what to do. I whipped up my 9.4 BlueWater Dominator rope, and lassoed the 2 petrol fueled steeds together like a god damned proud American cowboy. So, yep, we towed Yuji and his broke ass scooter to the crag, but the last part of the approach is like a technical, turny, single-track trail, and it was intense and caused us to wreck once, crashing over sideways into a ditch of bushes. Mildly amused, we managed to make it safely to the crag, and were in good spirits. There were clouds in the sky, we had the crag to ourselves, and it was fantastic. Since we got the late start, we tried to climb as long as possible, but had in our minds to try and allow enough time so not to have to tow the scooter back in the dark. We failed.

At White Mtn

At White Mtn

Slowly and sketchily we made it back to town. It was gripping, and I could feel death riding closely the whole time; seriously, SERIOUSLY dangerous. There were just so many uncontrollable elements; pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, cars, vans, trucks, construction vehicles, tour buses. AND, it was DARK. AND, we were towing a moped with another moped with a climbing rope. AND, we were in China where there are NO real driving rules. Despite all of this, the whole day was comical and fun in a way. Yin and yang. I mean, it’s easy to see light side of life in good times, but to see the light in the darkness and in fear, it is a true test. Accept what you can, control what you can, then let go and roll the fucking dice.

We thought that we would surely be refunded our money, and had a friend meet us there upon our return to speak Chinese and work it out. We arrived to the “pissed off” lady to find her mood unimproved, and completely unconcerned with the problem or our safety, but bummed her scooter was broken and worried about the cost of repair. Thus, there was no way she was going to give us any money back, and she acted like we were at fault and like she wasn’t responsible for anything. After another 30 minutes of our time, she gave us back about $4. Whatthefuckever… To balance the day out properly though, we were invited to a global gathering of locals for a vegan potluck dinner. It was very special for us to be included. The meal was incredible and the people were so kind and genuine. There were so many different flavors; of food, but also of culture and ideas. We have made good friends here. I thank them.

Van to crag

Back of the van to the crag

The next day, yesterday, was not nearly as exciting, though the weather dramatically shifted to overcast and windy and cold. We again foreran some of the comp problems in the gym in the morning, and then we visited a new crag called Banyan Tree. It is a small wall with only a handful of routes, but usually in the sun most of the day, so we were lucky to enjoy it in the fine conditions. I love climbing with the wind. I feel an electricity in the movement of the air that makes me feel aware and engaged, light and strong. Though it was the 3rd day of climbing in a row, the wind helped me to forget my sore skin and muscles.

View from Banyan Tree crag

View from Banyan Tree crag

Today, it is cold and crisp, but we rest and relax and walk around town. Maybe buy a fake designer watch…if the price is right…

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