Monday, 16 January 2012

Postcards from Paradise - Ban Nam None

Finally I find the way... With the rope bag between my legs, and my backpack on my front, I can take a “comfy” position lay flat out of the wind, as I gun my little 50cc moped, full throttle towards the unknown. The ease and tranquillity of Green Climbers home has been left behind; we are in search of adventure in the East.

The road is long...

After 150km and 3 hours aboard my “hair-dryer”, my ass is numb, but spirits high as we enter the incredible cavern of Kong Lor. A 7km long watercave, navigated in almost pitch black with a tiny longtail boat is an experience in itself – the incredible stalactites in a central chamber being the icing on the cake. We leave the cave at just before nightfall with a new friend. Our guide from the cave offered for us to sleep at his house and eat dinner with his family, which was quite a humbling and eye opening experience.

The next morning we are back on our bikes in search of the small climbing area we had come all this way for. Ban Name None was opened a few years ago by a small team from France, who over a few weeks opened three new cliffs with around 30 routes up to 8b. Arriving at the base of the cliff was surprisingly easy, as the thick jungle we had expected had been recently cut back by the local villages – we could drive our bikes directly to the cliff!

The reason for our good fortune turned out to be the local government, whom have recently decided to make the area an Eco-Park. Climbing is one of the many activities they hope to offer to attract tourists, and work is well underway to make the area as accessible and safe as possible. Its a good plan, and one I hope works – the next step will be to convince the villages to stop stealing the hangers off the first and second bolts, all of which are currently missing.

Wow! Not so ugly... Photo - James Pearson

Steep routes on giant tuffas is the order of the day. Some of the rock is very sharp, and almost all of it is dirty due to lack of visitors. We would often have to aid the routes first with a big sweeping brush to clean off the spider webs, but after this little bit of effort, we were left with great routes with not a polished hold in sight.

James Pearson on the incredible tufas of Ca Baille Dur. Photo - Caroline Ciavaldini

The best routes to seek out are Ca Baille Dur - a perfect 7b on glorious jugs and collo’s, and Gross Slame, 8b - one of the rare routes to breach the blank rock between the lines of Tufa (this one was even more memorable as I Flashed it, perhaps making the first ascent in the process?). The rock continues for several hundred meters in either direction, with mega-impressive features just waiting to be climbed. With time and motivation invested from the right people, this area could become something really special...

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