I am standing at a bus stop, it’s raining and it’s cold, but I can’t stop grinning, which confuses the 50 or so little old Chinese ladies standing with me. I just can’t stop thinking about the route we climbed 2 days ago.
Five pitches (24; 30; 28; 27; 30) of some of the wildest, hardest, most exhilarating climbing I have done. Rewind…..
Things were not looking to be in our favor. I woke up at 4am and it was storming outside, I gave up on trying to sleep as I knew that at 6am the fireworks would begin. Literally.
Every morning the neighbors light about 100 firecrackers as part of a funeral ceremony that is taking place in town. The coffin is being held in the grocery store next to our guesthouse. The problem with the weather is that in order to access the crag you need to go by boat and if the river rises too high the boatmen refuse to do the crossing.
My friend Ryan and I decided to try this multi pitch we had heard about, we were told it goes at about grade 22 and heads through the roof of the big arch, seemed a bit easy given the size of the arch, but we were going to try anyway.
Eventually we convince a boatman to take us, but this took time due to the swollen river so our early start was moved to a 12pm start. The one good thing is that nobody else has made it across the river, we have the entire mountain to ourselves, a very rare thing.
We start to focus on the climb, sort our gear, discuss who gets what pitches (though we have no idea what is in store for us). We then realize we have almost no food with us and limited water. Great planning.
We set off regardless, as this shouldn’t take long. After pitch 1 we realize that the grade we were given is not so accurate, it went at about 24. I led this pitch, which is really cool climbing, after a technical start you end up laying back on a crack for about 25m, nothing too challenging, just fun.
Pitch 2 is the wake up call. This is also my pitch. Well, our illusions of soft grades are out the window. This is a 40m long pitch going at grade 30. But it is also some of the best climbing around. You start off on a crimpy section and move into some small tufas, a traverse to the left brings you to a blank section that requires a decent dyno onto a small horn which is soon followed by another dyno onto a crumbly tufa, a quick match with the left hand and you are solid once again.
The exposure is great as the world cuts away beneath you when you dyno, we have now entered the steep stuff. The rest of the pitch is a series of sustained climbing with at least 4 crux sections, each a different style (thin crimps, powerful tufa moves, technical traverses), each great climbing. I am super stoked to clip the anchors (needless to say, I didn’t red point this pitch). Ryan follows, swears a lot, grunts a bit and makes it up to the stance.
We are both psyched.
Ryan’s lead next, though he’s a bit dubious as the previous pitch took the wind out his sails. He sets off and gets the first few clips in but reaches a point where he can go no further.
My turn. I grunt my way through, he’d missed a jug, and move up some great sustained super-steep climbing, rest a few times and make it to a good stance (there’s a belay seat up there-the coolest chair in the world).
The view is amazing, miles and miles of limestone hills covered in jungle and the long winding river.
Pitch 4 is mine as well, Ryan is not his usual beast self today. This is a super pitch, you move diagonally left through a sea of tufas. It is as if there is a waterfall that has turned to stone behind you. I navigate through this maze of tufas, real 3 dimensional climbing, the exposure weighs down on you, tugging at your consciousness. A back step into what should be open air and land your foot on a tufa, twist, lay back, pull, move on. Repeat.
Now the angle of the wall is really starting to sap our energy. A tufa I grab blows, I fly off into open space and a while later you can hear the rock crashing into the jungle below. I pull back up and keep moving, I reach behind me for a side pull with the right, I’m almost horizontal, as I match with the left hand my feet cut loose and for an instant I hang high above the jungle, swinging about. I manage to get my feet back on and fight my way to the finish.
This pitch is like a street fight (the enjoyable kind), I arrive at the stance tired, bleeding and happy. Another great belay chair made out of bamboo awaits me.
By this point, 6 hours later, we are both hungry and thirsty. We consider backing off as our arms are trashed, we are physically and mentally exhausted and food and beer seems like such a good option. This climb just gets steeper and steeper the higher you go, making the final pitch the steepest and hardest, not an encouraging prospect.
We decide that the shitty Chinese beer we’ll drink later will taste so much better if we top out, so I head off on the final pitch.
Given the angle, it is difficult to judge how long the pitch is and difficult to grade. From the stance we reckon maybe 10-15m, a short final section.
Not! It is about 30m of brutal climbing. It is just too steep given what has already been climbed. I hang at many bolts, the individual moves are awesome but I am just too tired to link anything. At best 2 bolts at a time. I want to cry, I want to quit, I honestly doubt my ability to finish the final 4 clips. On top of this, to move from the second last bolt to the last bolt requires a diagonal dyno.
F#!k, this is just not fair.
I hang there, with nothing left in my arms, wondering what to do. As I dangle about, twisting in the wind, I take a look around for a while and then realize how cool it is to be alive, how few people will ever get this view and that I just need to toughen up and do the move. I stick the dyno, pull through the last moves, make my way to the top and clip in.
Nothing will ever beat the feeling of accomplishing something that you believe is beyond your abilities. We didn’t red point the route but who cares.
The shitty Chinese beer tasted great.
Climbing in Getu-logistics and information
The small town of Getu (very small town) has been the focus of the Petzl Rock Trip 2011, hence the recent development of sport climbing there. The area is littered with big limestone walls and caves, full of climbing and adventure.
The downside is that, so far, not much route info is available. Mostly by word-of-mouth. I’m told that route descriptions etc will be posted online soon. So far 250 routes (15 crags) have been bolted in the area, a fair amount of good lines in the grade 18-25 range and many hard lines (grades range from 18-35). The rock is a little dusty still but I’m sure after the Petzl tour (26 October) it’ll have been cleaned up a bit.
You can get there by heading to Guiyang (capital of Guizhou province) and getting a bus or mini van to Getu, a 3 hour drive. Nobody can speak English, well, some can say “Hello” but that’s it.
It is dirt cheap, but don’t expect much. The 4 days cost us R150 p/p in total-food, beer and accommodation. The town is basically one road, 2 water buffalo and a few crumby guest houses (3 in total).
A few more places are being built and there’s a hotel that is sort of finished (even has a climbing wall). The hotel costs about R220 a night for a 2 sleeper, this is pretty expensive for China and the guests (4 climbers from Beijing) complained about the lack of running water.
No ATM’s or any other such luxuries, just a couple of small shops selling beer, Baijiu (a local clear alcohol, 52%) and water. Not many snacks etc so come prepared.
No coffee, no milk. Though there is a cow that wanders around….
The weather consists of a summer monsoon season (SA winter period) so the best time to go is autumn through to spring. Bring your down jacket. We had some problems accessing crags because of heavy rains and flooded rivers (we went at the start of the monsoon season), you should always be able to climb in the shade (caves allow for these luxuries) but it can get hot and humid towards summer.