5 MOVIES TO GET PSYCHED ABOUT CLIMBING

If you want to stay psyched about a particular topic then you have got to be exposed to it.  Take climbing. 

Many of us climbers can’t get out to the crag more than once or twice a week and the responsibilities we have in the meantime tend to take the limelight.  To keep motivated when away from the crag I like to get a good dosage of climbing flicks each week.  Watching the pros do what they love—taking risks and exceeding their physical and mental expectations—is what gets me excited about my own development as a climber.  Unfortunately, the best climbing films are often expensive and YouTube searches result in either amateur GoPro montages or shirtless, beanie wearing boulderers repeating “Come on, brah.”

 Still, there are many great [free] climbing films out there if you know what you’re looking for.  And so, I present to you here five short [free] films to get you itching to get outdoors.     

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1.      VIEWER’S CHOICE

PETZL ROC TRIP CHINA

A modern classic.  I have not met a single climber who hasn’t seen this Roc Trip.  Petzl has come a long way since their original Roc Trips and this imaginative work with Baraka Films has set a precedent in climbing cinematography yet to be matched (even by Petzl themselves).

2.     THE BREATHTAKER

DESERT ICE

After meeting and climbing with a full time ice climbing guide from Hokkaido, I became fascinated with the skills and courage it took to become proficient in the sport.  This was one of the first films I watched on ice climbing.  I admire these climbers’ adventurousness and daring in attempting uncharted climbs in an unlikely region. 

3.     THE STORY

DON WHILLANS’ LAST CLIMB

British climbers have grit—even in old age.  Don Whillans, the epitome of old school British climbing, is little known but the man had an impressive alpine career from Annapurna to South America.  This film is not about that, though.  Instead, this film documents Whillans’ climb of Cemetery Gates, an old trad favorite which turned out to be his last climb before his death.    

4.     THE STANDARD

AUGMENTIUM

This is your classic Man vs. Wall climbing film.  It is simple at heart but one cannot deny the man his vision.  The story behind the climb’s name is one for the books and the production value is second to none. Besides…Tasmania!    

5.     THE ORIGINAL

MOUNTAIN OF STORMS

We’ve all ogled over 180° SOUTH but have we all seen the adventure that gave it its birth?  Mountain of Storms documents the original journey of Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), Doug Tompkins (founder of NorthFace), and Dick Dorworth as they vagabond south from California to Patagonia in a busted van to climb Cerro Fitz Roy.  A classic adventure film that, in my opinion, has not been matched by today’s adventure storytelling. 

Pt. 1 http://bit.ly/1yzkz4R

Pt. 2 http://bit.ly/14NR86V

Pt. 3 http://bit.ly/1xTDiLK

Pt. 4 http://bit.ly/1ya9Vnq

Pt. 5 http://bit.ly/1BSPLkj

Pt. 6 http://bit.ly/1AHecj7

Access Issues

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to score a ride out to Long Dong (thereby avoiding the inconsistent buses and the drawn out train rides to Keelung) then you may have seen these dark, sandstone outcrops along Route 3. 

For months, these rock faces have drawn my gaze.  I often wondered why no one else had mentioned them. Why hadn’t any other climbers asked whether they were climbable? 

So began the Google Maps obsession on this area.  Piecing together street views and posts on Chinese language blogs, I compiled an assortment of pictures and a general topography of the area.

Yet, the best way to get a feel for the place was by going in person. I teamed up with my friend Hiroshi and we set out to see about entry points and top access. 

On the road to the first area we had a look at a stretch of 15 meter tall boulders, Dog Alley.  Despite some great off widths and some nice crack lines, we didn’t think the area would amount to much more than a few boulder problems, very hard problems, too.

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Across from Dog Alley was the first area called Pigeon Coop Wall, aptly named for the pigeon coop at the bottom of the rock faces.  Now, pigeon coops may sound strange to most but in Taiwan pigeon racing is akin to horse racing in the west (I wonder if there has been a pigeon Secretariat) with a lot more shady gambling attached.  The gambling aspect may have been the reason we were greeted with heavy suspicion and asked to leave when we asked who the owner of the land was.  We didn’t stick around to object.

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Directly behind Pigeon Coop Wall is yet another set of walls formed in a horseshoe shape.  Most of the walls are heavily vegetated but a few stick out and from faraway look climbable.  Access to this area is also problematic.  Hiroshi and I entered through some locked gates to a now defunct temple, called the ‘Temple of the Eighteen Gurus’ (or something close).

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We hopped the side fence, climbed back in and crossed a suspension bridge set amid some beautiful scenery. A short walk brought us to the base of the temple.  Though we were told it has been out of use for years, we saw obvious signs habitation (clean shoes, recently used water bottles, working electricity).  Behind the Temple we found an old metal staircase that sure enough led to the base of the rock faces we saw from the road (We’ll call this Guru Wall).  The entrance seems promising but the quality of the rock is questionable.  Besides some intense cleaning, the rock looks very bald from up close.  No 5.10s here.

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Still, we turned back to look at top access.

Across the bridge, over the fences and past the Pigeon Coop Wall we stepped onto the Nanggang trail, an easy hiking path connecting Nanggang with Elephant Mountain in Xinyi.  Only a few hundred meters into the trail we spotted a shoot off that led uphill towards the rock faces.  A short 15 minutes up, we came across two blazed paths.  We hiked each and found that they are municipal trails leading to power converters.  This may be good news, however.  So much of the trail has been blazed that only a hundred meters of bushwhacking remains to the tops of the rock faces.  This is great info to have if development is ever to come to these walls. 

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At the end of the day this is what we discovered.  Without a doubt, the Pigeon Coop Wall and the tower next to it have the greatest potential for climbing. The problem is that these faces are on private property and access right now seems to be denied (they wouldn’t even let us touch the wall).  Guru wall is also located on private property it seems but it’s likely abandoned.  I’m not sure yet if that is to the advantage of climbing development (we are going to investigate whether the “Eighteen Gurus” society still operates or not).  Lastly, we found that top access, though still sketchy, is absolutely possible as a result of the trails blazed for powerline maintenance.

I guess one more thing. This is about the rock itself.  The rock is a compressed sandstone, very durable, at least when you clean away the top layers of weak rock and thick dirt.  The issue then is not its strength but the lack of holds.  With the exception of a few walls (mostly around the Pigeon Coop area) there don’t seem to be many features. This is especially true near the bottom of the rock faces where the rock is more compressed. 

I have plans to take a further look at the Guru Wall and may look around Dog Alley for some bouldering. 

 

Kaohsiung Climbing Trip

Three days, three climbing areas. Skyline, Monkey Mountain and A / C Wall.

Kao’Hsiung, Taiwan.