Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

A 90 degree shift in in temperature

February 7, 2012

So I have returned from the terrible, muggy heat of Thailand, to the worst cold that Europe has seen in half a century apparently. Since the day I returned (about a week ago), the temperature has been dropping. One night it was minus 18 degrees Celsius. For the record, that is cold. It’s also the first time I’ve seen snow in the Benelux countries. It was really nice at first, but I’ll take a warm day over any snow for sure. I’ve been visiting with friends and trying to find times that work with everyone’s schedule to say goodbye. I have had such a great time seeing everyone that I don’t know why I waited so long to come back. I have a feeling that I’ll be back here very soon…

Monkey World

January 23, 2012

Today five of us decided to climb “Curious George” – a two pitch climb with great views and serious exposure (the first pitch starts about 100 ft off the ground, accessed by a scramble/trail). The route tops out into a cave about 300′ up the side of a cliff. The cliff is called Monkey World due to the local inhabitants. Nitsan and Boi climbed this route a week ago, and had an interesting experience. They carabinered their bags to e safety lines at the base of the route, and when they rappelled down, the monkeys opened all their bags, unclipped all their extra gear, and began throwing their things off the cliff into the jungle below. They took Nitsan’s camera out of the case, threw the camera, threw the case containing her memory card, and ate their lunch. The joke around Tonsai was that if you climb here, you need three people at all times: one to climb, one to belay, and one person with sticks to fight off the monkeys. We left everything we didn’t need for the climb at the bungalows and wore our harnesses up to the cliff to avoid the same fate.

Climbing with five people on multipitch is never fun. Three of the five had also never climbed multipitch before as well. This made for a really long day on the wall. Emmi and Tanya (Finland) understood the concepts of the belay stations and I walked them through what to do, step by step. They went up first and waited for us at the top. Darlene lead the two pitches, followed by Bernardo, who was new to the concept, and I followed third. The reason it is so slow and tiring to climb with three on multipitch is because we used two ropes, with Bernardo attached to both in the middle. The belay station was crowded and we spent a lot of our time dealing with rope management issues (that is a lot of rope to deal with!). We ended up at the top, all five of us, inside the cave. From the top, we tied the two ropes together and rappelled to the ground. There was a pair coming up behind us, and unfortunately when we lowered our ropes down, one of the ropes passed behind the couple’s ropes. I went down first, and had to deal with unclipping and reclipping all of their draws for half of the rappel. Annoying, but only the first person on rappel had to worry about it.

The route lived up to its hype, and was one of my favorite climbs on Tonsai. We also did not experience any crazy monkeys the whole day. I was prepared at the bottom, however, while I was waiting for the others to rappel, with two sticks. I think the monkeys saw my crazy eyes and decided to stay away. Given all the mishaps on rappel, having five people, and teaching three new climbers how to multipitch climb, I’d say our six hour round trip was a success. But after five and a half hours hanging from belay stations, my back feels like we had a two pitch epic.

Pictures to follow, I have to get the pics from Darlene…

Humanality

January 22, 2012

Hampus, Noah, Darlene and Matt headed up the picturesque, flagship climb of Tonsai today. It’s been almost a month in the making (neither Hampus or Noah had done any multipitch climbing before a couple weeks ago). They decided to go up in two teams: Hampus and Noah would go first, and Darlene and Matt would follow, they would meet at the top, tie their ropes together and all rappel off. Things went very smoothly, and they all made it. Check out the pics of everyone completing the crux move of stepping off the wall and out onto a hanging stalagtite. It’s a beautiful climb, four pitches of varied climbing styles up to a cave almost 400 ft above the beach!

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Accidents will happen…

January 16, 2012

Today’s climbing was ended a bit abruptly by an injured Japanese climber at The Nest. This might be a bit graphic, but it’s important to point out what can happen when climbing. Tetsuo was climbing a 25 meter single pitch, he clipped the draw to the bolt and was getting tired. He decided to grab the draw with his right hand and hang from the draw to clip the rope. They call it rock climbing for a reason, not “QuickDraw climbing”. You should NEVER grab the draw, here is why: a QuickDraw is a carabiner linked to another carabiner with webbing in between. One carabiner clips the bolt, the other you clip your rope into. He decided to grab the webbing between the carabiners, and when he did, he fell. He fell at a rate that was too fast for his brain to realize and he was still holding the QuickDraw. His hand slipped down the webbing, and squeezed the carabiner gate open, leaving a blunt hook that went through the side of his hand. As he fell, the carabiner went about 3 cm into his hand, and ripped out as he fell. His belay partner lowered him to the ground, where he sat there, covered in blood, watching blood squirt from his hand. Everyone on the ground just sat there looking at him. Two Finnish girls wrapped his hand in climbing tape, but it was cutting off the circulation in his fingers. I think I had the only proper first aid kit on all of Tonsai. I went over to help, and disinfected the wound and added some clotting gauze and got the poor guy wrapped up. He was so happy to be wrapped up. He ended up taking the boat to Phuket. He returned later that day to thank everyone and showed off his five stitches he received. The accident didn’t just ruin his climbing day, ours was over as well. It’s hard to want to lead overhanging tufa pitches after seeing a carabiner go through someone’s hand. No more first aid kit either :(. Lesson reinforced, never grab the QuickDraw…

An ode to infection…

January 15, 2012

So, it’s worth noting that in tropical climates small cuts and mosquito bites do not heal. In fact, with outstanding hygiene and disinfecting, you’re lucky if you can keep a wound at the same level of infection as it is currently. My beautiful blisters from my sandals (we hike all day in flip flops, I’m getting quite agile in them) have been, and will hopefully be the same red, enflamed spots that they have been. The flip side of this is what happened to the guy staying at the bungalow next to me. He had a mosquito bite on hit ankle. Sounds harmless. It became infected, his ankle swelled to the size of a large melon, and he could barely walk. I gave him my prescription of Cipro and told him to seriously clean it out. I saw him two days later on the beach walking and he was really upbeat and said the swelling had gone down. The next day, I saw him at his bungalow taking pictures of his foot. It was worse than ever. The infection had spread up to his calf muscle and looked awful. He said he was going to the doctor in Ao Nang. At was the last time I saw him. The guy he was staying with told me when he went to the doctor in Ao Nang, the doctor told him it was serious enough to kill him or maybe have to amputate the leg below the knee. He had to take the boat to Phuket (this was the Tonsai inside joke about serious injuries. The nearest real hospital is two hours from Tonsai on Phuket). When he arrived in Phuket, they had to do surgery immediately on his ankle and give him a serious antibiotic drip to try to knock down the infection. He will be fine, but had kind of a shitty vacation if you ask me. “What did you do on your vacation?”, “Oh, almost lost my leg and had to experience some awesome third world surgery…” Not my idea of a good trip. Moral of the story, wash your cuts, even a mosquito bite can seriously wreck your day…

Our little climbing community

January 8, 2012

It’s been a few days since arriving on Tonsai, and the climbing community is amazing! Everyone is here for the same reason, and looking to climb. I’m rooming with a Swedish guy named Hampus, and we’ve found a group of about 10 climbers that are all climbing at about the same grade. Every morning we meet for breakfast and decide where we want to spend the day (every crag is within 25 minutes walking anyways). This place is definitely not your average sport crag. The people here are so nice and supportive to everyone. I haven’t met an asshole yet! Our climbing group consists of: Matt and Darlene (a couple from Oakland), Hampus (the Swedish refrigerator sized muscle man), Noah (the sweetest hippie I’ve ever met from Idaho), Nitsan (from Israel), Emmi and Tanya (from Finland), Boi (from Catalonia), and Bernardo (a Brazilian Buddhist). Some are new climbers, some have been climbing for a long time. One great thing about Hampus, being a new climber, is that he hasn’t taken a lead fall yet, so he’s willing to climb things at his limit with absolutely no fear. Seeing Hampus take his first lead fall is definitely on my checklist of things to see this trip. To watch him muscle up the wall is about the least graceful thing you can ever watch, but he succeeds at it every time. Noah on the other hand, is a graceful ballet dancer climbing at the same level. It’s a great thing to watch the two different styles achieve the same results…

Dino

January 5, 2012

After a long 24 hours underway, I finally arrived on Tonsai Beach. Like usual, things didn’t go according to plan…

When I arrived at Krabi Airport, I grabbed the shuttle to Krabi Town where I planned on staying for the night (my plane landed at 6:30 pm). On the bus, I heard a couple of people saying they were headed directly to Tonsai. I asked them if they thought that was a good idea, and if there would still be rooms available. According to all the climbing guidebooks, all the rooms are usually booked up in the morning, and your only alternative is to sleep on the beach. Carrying 40 kilos (yup, do the math – it’s 2.2 pounds to a kilo) of stuff and sleeping on a beach in Dengue Fever country was not in my plans. One of the bus people assured me it would be fine…at night…during the high travel season. So I took the bus to the pier at Ao Nang and grabbed a long tail boat to Tonsai.

On the boat I met the strangest Italian, Dino. At first he seemed normal, a little difficult to understand, but normal. We got to the beach and found every bungalow full. There was one upscale resort place that had one room left, but for a ridiculous rate. So we continued along the path being told that the places were full the entire way. We ran into Shawn, a Canadian resembling Ronnie from the Jersey Shore, and he was in the same predicament, so he joined us in our quest for shelter. We ended up going back to the last room available on all of Tonsai and paying way too much for the room. The three of us agreed to share the price which made it much more reasonable. Next came the logistical question, which two people were going to share a bed? The beds weren’t big to begin with, so we decided to settle it like mature adults…by going to the bar and getting drunk enough to forget about the problem at hand and hoping it solves itself.

At the bar, Shawn and I realized Dino was really weird. What we initially thought was a language barrier was soon proved to be Dino’s complete lack of ability to communicate in any language. I think that if Dino was in Italy, other Italians wouldn’t know what the hell he was talking about. For example, at a restaurant with a very extensive menu (and pictures!), he ordered French toast. When it came, he didn’t know what it was. This was just the beginning of the Dino experience. At the bar, he was drinking with us, and then he disappeared. He returned two hours later, but after a half an hour of trying to figure out where the hell he went, we all gave up. Another instance was when he was talking to the bartender about going to one of the neighboring islands in the morning. The bartender offered to arrange his ticket for him (likely for the commission). Dino shook his head and repeated the name of the island. They bartender explains that the boat leaves at 10:30 in the morning, Dino repeats the name of the island. They guy asks him again if he wants him to buy the ticket, Again Dino repeats the name of the island. British comedies don’t contain this much awkward conversation…

Dino ended up being the first to crash and headed back to the room around 1:30 in the morning. That left Shawn and I to discuss the Dino situation. There is a weird, unintelligible, mumbling man in our room.

Like I said before, at the bar we planned on solving the who’s sharing a bed scenario. Several hours later, we had a solution. Neither Shawn, nor I wanted to share a bed with Dino. We decided to share the bed (Shawn and I), but we quickly realized that we were both much bigger than Dino. So it only made sense for one of us to bite the bullet and crawl into bed with Dino. At 4:00 am Shawn (not being as stubborn as me) crawled into the other bed. The last thing I remember was Shawn saying he could imaging both of us being murdered in our sleep…

Dino woke up the next morning and left for the boat. Shawn and I took long showers and tried to cleanse ourselves of the Dino experience. I can honestly say that he was the weirdest little man I’ve ever shared a roof with.

Because we arrived by boat after dark, I could see the outline of the cliffs surrounding Tonsai, but this is what I woke up to this morning (the scale is lost on these photos but these cliffs are massive!).

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Onward to the limestone outcroppings on the Andaman Sea!

January 3, 2012

Happy 2012! Many thanks to all the different hosts in Belgium and the Netherlands! I had a fantastic Christmas Eve in Rekem, A great Christmas Day in Maasmechelen, and a great time in Genk, Hasselt, and Utrecht, and wonderful New Year’s Eve in Maastricht! Unfortunately visiting friends and host families makes for less than exciting blog posts. So to sum it up, I had a mind blowing time visiting with people very special to me that I haven’t seen in over a decade. It’s crazy to see what has changed, and even crazier to see the things that will never change. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to include me in your holiday season!

I fly tomorrow from Amsterdam to Krabi, Thailand (via Vienna and Bangkok). I am super excited to be a dirtbag rock climber on the beach for a while. Don’t worry, I’ve already researched the closest hospital. Besides, I have two ankles anyway, and one still works :).

Meanwhile, enjoy a couple pictures of Utrecht! The first is the tower of the cathedral known as De Dom.

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The second was too stereotypically Dutch to not post (posted with all irony intended, not at all indicative of the culture of the Netherlands!) – a “coffee shop” with a bunch of bicycles in front of it. I have to give the Dutch credit, I’ve never seen a more committed country of bicyclists in my life. The busses were empty, but lots of bicyclists where riding home in hail and 35mph gusts of wind today. So maybe the bicycles are indicative of Dutch culture, but please don’t think all of the people of the Netherlands are getting their Cheech and Chong on…

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Pre-GFTB visited countries…

March 2, 2010

So many trips, so many stories, all before the blog. Eventually I’ll get around to documenting all those experiences…