Monthly Archives: January 2016

Chong Phli – Hook, Line, Sinker

Yesterday I went to Chong Phli.  Not feeling particularly motivated but knew I needed to climb something.  So I warmed up on EFZ 6a+.  I wasn’t sure what to climb next but was feeling like I should push myself a little bit.  So I decided to try leading a route I had only climbed on top rope once several months ago.  I headed over to Hook, Line, Sinker 6b+.  I thought I was going to send but that idea was quickly dashed.  I had to rest in 3 or 4 spots to figure out beta.  But I got to the top then worked the route a couple more times on top rope.

Today I went back to Chong Phli.  I wanted to redpoint Hook, Line, Sinker.   So I started off the same as yesterday.  Then moved over to my goal for the day.  I started up and moved through all the parts that gave me trouble yesterday without too much trouble.  I even found easier beta when clipping the anchor.  I considered going home after this since I accomplished my goal for the day but decided I should climb Exfoliation 6a+.  I’ve never liked this route much.  The first half is ok but from the crux to the anchor never felt good to me.  But today I got up there and it wasn’t too bad.  I almost considered going for the 6c extension but I was feeling a little tired so I’ll save that for another day.

Climbing Grades Aren’t Sexist, but Climbing is

Feminism

Over the past few years I have become interested in learning a little bit about Feminism and other social justice issues.  Mostly be more aware of biases I might have, how to avoid acting on them, and to be a better person.  So when an article discussing sexism and climbing comes across my screen I usually pay attention and read it.  2015 had several articles of this nature.  More recently Fringe’s Folly wrote about sexism in climbing.  I thought all the articles were thought provoking and provided interesting points for discussion.  One article though I thought was incredibly stupid.  It coins the term “Dude Grade” which basically means the grade of a climb more accurately represents the difficulty of the climb for more men than women.

Ranting

The article goes on to suggest a color grading scale which represents a subjective range of difficulty.  This is silly because the YDS and V scale already represent a subjective range of difficulty.  One 5.10a could feel easy to a person and a different 5.10a could feel a lot harder to the same person.  I fail to see how a color scale which represents a broader range of difficulty solves anything.  Just because a person can climb “yellow” doesn’t mean they will be able to climb all “yellow” routes.

The “problem” the article discusses is not one of gender but instead the physiology of the climber.  More specifically their height.  The author’s friend who can send V10 but gets shut down on some V5’s not because the grading scales and guide books have historically been written by men.  Not because she is a woman.  But because she is short and trying to climb what is most likely a “reachy” route.  The guidebook should just say, the route will feel harder than graded for short people…

Based on my own experience there are some 6a’s I have had an extremely difficult time climbing even though I have by now red pointed 6c.  I’ve seen men easily send 6b and struggle on 6a.  Just today I saw a guy climb a 7a and need to rest on a 6a+.  The problem of getting stuck on routes far easier than your limit as far as I can tell applies to all climbers.  Not just women.  Not just short people.  It is incorrect to think that just because someone has done a few climbs (or a lot) at one grade level should mean they can do all climbs at or below that grade level.

Should we also coin the term “Fatshame Grade” to indicate an overhanging route will feel more difficult to someone with a few extra pounds?  “Chick Grade” to indicate any route that might feel easier to a woman.  Perhaps crimpy or slabby routes?  How far are we going to take this?  It’s absolutely ridiculous!

How to Approach Climbing Grades

Climbing grades should be taken with a grain of salt.  Grades are supposedly decided by a consensus but that consensus is never 100%.  Because of this they will always be subjective.  Don’t climb just for the numbers and leave your ego on the ground.

For myself I think for a climb at a certain grade, what’s the probability I’ll be able to onsight it?  Based on my ability today, that might look something like this: 7a or harder: 0%, 6c+: 5%, 6c: 10%, 6b+: 15%, 6b: 25%, 6a+: 50%, 6a: 75%, 5: 95%, 4 or easier: 99%  So if I’m getting ready to climb a new 6a, I’ll be pretty confident I can onsight it.  But if I don’t no big deal.  I’ll save the redpoint for another day.

Yoga

Time for a detour.  Yoga Asanas are sexist.  Yep.  I said it!  I’m pretty sure if I mentioned this in a yoga discussion forum I would be laughed at but I’m going to coin the term “Chick Asana”.  What is a Chick Asana?  It’s any yoga pose that favors the physiology and morphology of the female body.  This could be something like lotus pose, or wheel pose.  Pretty much any yoga pose that requires flexible hips, shoulders and spine is a Chick Asana.  Let me tell you, it can be frustrating to see a new student come to class and on their first time practicing yoga perform better than me who has now been practicing yoga nearly every day for over a year.

So yoga teachers, please stop teaching these asanas!   Think of how it makes your male and other less flexible students feel in class when they are not able to perform these poses.  To be safe, I suggest only teach sukhasana and savasana.

Another frustrating experience I recently had was with a guest ashtanga teacher at my usual place of practice.  In this session the teacher who happened to be male only assisted the cute (female) Thai yoga students and completely ignored this ugly white dude.  I also see similar behavior from female yoga teachers.  They most often assist the advanced students who usually happen to be skinny women and ignore or provide minimal assistance to the struggling students.

Why is Climbing Sexist?

Back to climbing.  Climbing itself isn’t sexist but sexism in society as a whole has always been a part of climbing.  In the early days of climbing the vast majority of climbers were men.  Perhaps due to what society considered to be acceptable activities for women.  Nowadays there are many more women climbers but the majority are still male.  The majority of new route developers are men.  When a man is climbing with a woman, it’s usually the man leading and the woman climbing on toprope.  Men tend to give horrible advice and beta to women.  I recall an instance in a climbing gym where I heard a guy giving advice to his female partner struggling on a 5.10 or 5.11 route.  He said something like “You’re climbing this like a 5.11.  Just climb it like a 5.8.”  Ridiculous.  Then there is the issue of how women are portrayed in climbing media.  Again, I suspect these and other problems are related to patriarchal issues of how men and women are socialized in today’s society.

But there are a lot of women crushing and climbing hard routes in this environment.  One of the best rock climbers in the world is a 5 foot tall 14 year old Japanese girl.  As more women come to the sport it won’t be long before they are climbing as hard or harder than the guys.  They continue to break down barriers and push the limits of what is possible.  It will be exciting to see what is achieved over the years.

Conclusing

Everybody is different and every body is different.  The rock doesn’t care if you are young, old, fat, skinny, weak, strong, male or female.  Climb something because it looks fun, looks like a good challenge, or inspires you in some way.  Don’t worry too much about the grades, check your ego, and just have fun.

 

 

 

 

Chong Phli – Breaking News!!!

It rained a lot last night.  Actually it rained a lot the last two evenings.  Thinking Chong Phli would most likely be a bit wet Anong and I got a slow start, ate breakfast, relaxed a bit, then headed to Chong Phli a little after 10am.  Sure enough, things were a bit damp but not too bad and the routes I wanted to do were climbable.

We warmed up with a couple laps on EFZ 6a+.  The starting holds were wet but up higher it was good.  Then, my objective for the day: Pill Box 6b+.  Last time I tried leading this it was a bit of a shit show, getting stuck at nearly every clip.  This time, I cruised up without much difficulty.  So, it is with great pleasure that today I announce what is likely the first ascent of Pill Box by an American 39 year old male with red hair from Seattle Washington that is 178cm tall, weighs 72kg, and has a dodgy left elbow.  Where was Climbing Magazine to cover this historic occasion?

In other news, it looks like there are some new routes at Chong Phli on the back side.  Most are in the 7a to 8a range which is too hard for me right now but there are a few 6c’s I should be able to do.  Maybe in a few weeks I will try them.

Bat Cave Birthday

On the 15th, Martin had a birthday party at Bat Cave as well as a Buddhist ceremony.  The day started early as Anong and I went to the temple to take a couple monks to Arawan Resort then to Bat Cave.   The morning was dedicated to the ceremony then exploring the cave and relaxing on the beach.

Around 1pm the sun was no longer shining on the wall so we got started climbing.

I warmed up on Pick Pockets 6a+ while Martin put up Mini Kingdom 6a.  Then I moved over to Tai don’t die 6b and got the redpoint without too much trouble.  After that it was time for Don’t kill Killer 6b+.  This was my first time leading it but after Koh Phi Phi I was feeling strong and was feeling pretty good about redpointing it.  The route starts with some big moves to the first two bolts.  Then some balancy moves on smallish but good feet up to a steeper section and then the crux.  I was feeling a little tired and started to panic a little at the crux trying to remember the beta.  Luckily it came back to me and I was able to fight my way through the crux.  Now on easier ground and a good rest, I knew the redpoint was not far away.  I thought about calling it a day but decided I might as well do the last climb at Bat Cave so I quickly climbed Mini Kingdom 6a.

Both Martin and I sent all the climbs at Bat Cave.  I guess that means we don’t have to go back anymore.  But I like the climbs there so I’m sure we’ll be back.  For now I think I’ll focus on some new routes (for me) at Chong Phli and Ton Sai.

Koh Phi Phi

On the 11th Anong and I travelled to Koh Phi Phi to visit a friend of mine and her husband who were visiting from America.  We woke up early and by 12:00 we were on the island checking into our hotel.

Koh Phi Phi is very beautiful.  It has recovered from the 2004 tsunami and is back bigger and “better” than before.  I say “better” because Phi Phi now suffers from mass tourism.  I didn’t really see any Thai culture here.  Just lots of tourists.  It could have been a tropical island anywhere.  If one wants to relax on the beach and party at night, Phi Phi would be a good place to go.  Phi Phi is also the most expensive place I’ve stayed at and I didn’t think it offered good value for money.  Even though this is kind of critical of Koh Phi Phi I did enjoy my time there because I got to see some friends and the climbing is also good.  Oh, one good thing about Koh Phi Phi.  There are no cars on the island!  So at least I didn’t have to worry about getting hit by a car like I constantly do in Krabi / Ao Nang.

So back to the first day.  Anong and I met my friends for lunch then we headed off to Tonsai Tower for some climbing.  I had heard the grades here were soft so I was curious to see what the style of climbing was like and what I could do.

First Day

  1. Trong Pai (Straight Ahead) 6a+, Relatively straightforward climbing with a cruxy move near the anchor.  Onsight.
  2. Seven Samurais 6b+, Did this one on top rope but I should had led it.  Easy climbing up to a roof which then has huge jugs to pull on to get over the roof then moderate climbing to the anchor.
  3. Scenic Bulimic 6a, Huge blocky holds up a slight overhang.  A little pumpy but easy.  Onsight.
  4. Gladiator 6c, A steep jug haul.  Big fun moves.  Just when I thought I couldn’t hang on anymore it eases up near the anchor.  Onsight.
  5. Sol y Sombra 6b+,  By now I was feeling tired and thought I’d lead a nice relaxing 6a+ by heading up Sud Jawt.  Well, 3/4 of the way up my friends informed me I was on a 6b+.  Oops.  But it was going well so far so I continued up and was going well until I got to the crux.  WTF.  Had to rest to figure it out then pulled on the sling to get past.  Oh well.
  6. Crisis?  What Crisis? 6b, By now very tired but climbed cleanly on top rope.  Fun climb up some tufas.

So, yeah.  The grades seem soft.  Or maybe I’m that good?  No, they’re soft.  But it feels good to lead 6b+ without too much trouble and even onsight a 6c for the first time!

Day 2

Warm up on Scenic Bulimic 6a again.  Still feels pumpy.  Then we get started on today’s objective.  Going Dutch 6c+, a 4 pitch climb.  The first pitch was great.  More steep climbing with lots of jugs and pockets.  I was following but climbed it clean.  The next two pitches had some awkward sections on them.  Beta was difficult to figure out though graded easier than the first pitch I thought they were actually harder.  The final pitch was easier but the rock quality not as nice.  But overall it was a really good climb.  I was an idiot and dropped my ATC from the top of the third pitch which meant some time wasted on the rappel.  Amazingly enough I was able to find it in some bushes when we got down.  The sun was going down by the time we made it back to the ground and beers on the beach after tasted really good.

Day 3

  1. Golden Copulation 6b, I had to climb it for the name but it also looked fun.  A two pitch climb that I climbed as a single pitch.  Easy down low and very fun climbing up higher.  50+ meters of rope is really heavy.  Onsight.
  2. Mr Viper, Mr. Pit Viper 6a,  Slightly overhanging climbing up huge blocky holds.  Onsight.
  3. Pirates of the Andaman 6c, Bouldery start then easier climbing to the first anchor.  Onsight.  Follow second pitch.  Starts off easy then some tough moves on pockets.  Onsight.
  4. Sud Jawt 6a+,  Decided I should actually climb this climb that I intended to a couple days ago.  Not a bad climb.  Onsight.

The climbing in Koh Phi Phi is pretty good, even with the aggressive monkeys.  I’ll post some pictures later.  The grades on a lot of the climbs are on the soft side. Onsighting two 6c’s as well as a 6b and top roping 6c+ cleanly has me feeling good about myself.  But some of the climbs are very weird and maybe it’s just figuring out the beta but I thought were full value.  I’m thinking of the 6b+ pitches of “Going Dutch” and the 6b+ Sol Y Sombra.  Overall a good trip that was lots of fun.

 

Tonsai – The Nest / Wild Kingdom

Anong and I met Martin yesterday morning for a day of climbing at Tonsai.  We went to The Nest / Wild Kingdom.  Warm up on Overstay 6b+.  Martin led it like a boss.  I was lazy and climbed on top rope.  Needed one take near the anchor but next time I will lead it.  Then we move one route to the left and try Mutual of Omaha 6c.  I continue my laziness and let Martin lead while I just climb on top rope.  This route has really fun moves.  Again I get it in one take and have to rest near the anchor.  Need to work on my endurance for these overhanging pumpy routes.

By now it’s time for lunch so we eat some food at the Thai restaurant near the wall.  The food was pretty good.  I had fried rice.

After lunch we head over to the left side of the wall and climb some easier routes.  I put up Banana Hammock 6a+.  For some reason I struggled a little more this time than the first time I climbed it but I got through the tricky part at the start and redpointed it.  Then, we head over to my nemesis from several months ago Caroline’s Last Day 6a.  I’ve redpointed 6b+ and 6c routes now but for some reason I can’t climb this 6a.  So Martin leads again.  Getting past the overhang feels a lot harder than 6a to me.  Similar to Mad Skills 6b at Chong Phli.  But I power through it then move up through the chimney-like tufas to the anchor.  Getting past my previous high point without any trouble.  So it was all mental.  I was thinking of leading it but decide to do one more lap on top rope and save the redpoint for another time.

Another Short Day at Chong Phli

Back at Chong Phli.  Feeling a little more motivated to climb.  Warm up on Exfoliation 6a+.  Used my new Evolv Shamans.  They are still tight and painful but they are starting to loosen up just a little bit.  They work great for this climb and give good power in the toes which is nice for the middle section where the holds turn small.  Climbed once on lead, once on toprope.

Today I set a goal to climb Pill Box 6b+.  As usual when it’s time to climb I start to get doubts and I was thinking of not doing it today.  But I knew if I didn’t I’d feel bad about myself so I forced myself to get on it knowing I will not progress if I don’t get out of my comfort zone from time to time.  So I started up.  It actually went worse than I expected.  I had to rest 3 or 4 times.  But I got to the top!  Then I climbed it two more times on top rope to work out the beta and climbed it well both times.  So it won’t be long before I can redpoint this one.

By this time, Anong and I were hungry so we packed up and had Khao Man Gai for lunch.  Notes for next time:

  1. Start earlier.
  2. Bring snacks.