Due to the great amount of interest and booking requests we have received for the November 2014 Vietnam DWS expedition, we have decided to open a 2nd trip! This will take place right after the first one, 23/11/2014 – 07/12/2014. Contact us now to secure your place on this exciting adventure.
* * *
Read here to become a member of next year’s Vietnam Expedition
After the success of the 2012 expedition we have decided to run regular trips to the Ha Long Bay area to climb as much as the skin on our fingers can take. Last year the team of 7 of us were able to establish a whopping 103 new routes in 2 weeks of climbing. We left feeling satisfied, but the area is vast and there is seemingly endless rock just waiting to be climbed. So we need your help in joining us to continue this project.
Cost: £890 (Conditions apply)
8th of November 2014 – 22nd of November 2014
By describing last years expedition hopefully you will get an understanding of what you could expect if you did decide to join us.
Obviously I will start with food, as after all food is king (perhaps only rivaled by local knowledge). We were cooked three meals a day, with at least 4 or 5 dishes per meal. The meals normally consisted of whatever the crew had caught or on the unsuccessful days what they had bought from passing fishermen, padded out by what was kept fresh on ice. Oriental fragrances of coconut, ginger, lemon grass and chilli would drift throughout the mother ship and spill out onto the waters around. The captain’s screams of ‘An Kum’ would scratch down the radio calling us back for food and we would stop climbing and climb back aboard the basket boat or kayaks and chug or paddle back to the ship. Plates of prawns, squid, fresh fish, fresh fruit, spring rolls, chicken, pork and veg would be spread waiting across the table.
Only after bellies were full would we talk of the morning heroics, splashdowns and near misses. Then proudly we would write up any new routes achieved and mark the crags position on the expedition charts. The only problem with being fed so well was that lunch was often followed by a civilized snooze on deck as food was digested and the ship gently rocked in the lapping waves. It would take a couple of cups of coffee to drag us out of sleep before we were once more gathered together, drying chalk bags, soggy climbing shoes and our bravery onto the basket boat so as to once more head of into the fray.
The area is a deep-water solo venue (deeping or psycobloc depending on where you are from). There are also some sport routes in the area, as well as some epic trad routes to be had. But the real gems are those solo lines above deep water.
San expertly operated our basket boat. On arrival to a new cliff we would do a sweep of the base of the cliff probing the depths of the water with 3m long bamboo poles checking the water was deep enough and there were no protruding rocks. Once satisfied the boat would become a frenzy of everyone scrabbling their shoes on so as to be the first to be ready and get their pick of the unclimbed lines. Those ready would direct San into their point of attack. San would maneuver the boat into the wall and would, once the climber was established on the rock, throw the boat into reverse and rev it out from under the climbers line of fall giving them an open splash zone to fall/jump into.
Now everything was down to the climber who would constantly weigh up what they were doing with the consequences of falling. The elation of making a move, holding the crimp or sticking the sloper was always translated into a heart thumping beat as you knew you were now even higher above the waiting water below. Move after move you would climb further and further away, higher and higher with the inevitable fall becoming longer and longer. The real danger came on easy ground where before you knew it you were 15m+ above the beckoning tide below. The worst scenario was when you were able to gain a rest half way up the climb. Whether this was wedged between the wall and a tufa of rock or your legs clamped around a tufa or standing on a ledge, the result was the same. You had time enough to look around you to realize how high above the water you were. It was much easier to handle if you were forced into continuing or simply running out of steam and dropping down to the sea below.
One last scan for jellyfish and then you jump. The air flows past you while you hold your breath, close your legs and mouth and bring your arms in tight. After a thumping sploosh and the realization that you are still in one piece you would float back to the surface with a broad smile across your face. This has to be one of the purest – whilst keeping relatively safe – form of climbing there is. Occasionally you didn’t make the next hand hold or your arm strength diminished before you got to the top making it harder to control your fall. These were the crowd pleasing drops that severely threatened “family making abilities”. Oohs and aahs would be heard from the basket boat as the spectators sympathised with the bruising and slapping you were currently receiving.
It is funny how when you ask what the highlight of the expedition was to me or other expedition members you may find it odd to be told that it wasn’t the climbing or the food, but it was a night swim off the side of the boat. I have swum in phosphorescence before but this was on a whole different level. Millions of glowing sparks blazed around your body sending green eerie trails deep into the water below you and bright stars into the surrounding area. Swim strokes created glowing wings and fiery webbed legs. Water trickled down skin with rivulets of dancing lights. Nothing could have prepared us for such a sight and nothing would ever leave me bored of watching this ever-changing light show.
As I have already mentioned the unclimbed potential here is seemingly limitless as towers, arches, caves, narrow inlets, hidden lagoons and looming prows reveal themselves at every turn of the boat. It is a fantastic feeling to be self-sufficient upon our mother ship with sea kayaks, and basket boat in tow, knowing we had all we needed to prowl these waterways waiting to pounce on any unclimbed possibility.