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DWS First Ascents - Vietnam

The limestone islands of Ha Long Bay have become firmly established as a must-visit global destination for DWS. But back in 2003, when we first tried to research the climbing potential of the ‘James Bond Island’ territory, all we could find were a handful of sport routes from an American team. Our suspicion that this area would lend itself to DWS proved to be something of an understatement. We spent a fortnight touring around on a boat and picking off some of the most enticing DWS lines we’d ever seen. The main crags we developed were Fisherman’s Way (Daube), Handem (Pyramid Cave), Hangdu (Archway) Yenngua, Cathedral Rock

Reference: Ha Long Bay Climbing – Asia Outdoors & Luca Di Giorgi, 2016.

New routes recorded by Neil Gresham, Tim Emmett, Seb Grieve & Grant Farquhar 11.03

 
 Napalm Morning 7b, Daube. First ascent in 2003

Napalm Morning 7b, Daube. First ascent in 2003

1. Daube (Saigon Wall)

 

GPS coordinates: 20, 45”, 17.10 N / 107, 7’39.32” E

 

This idyllic steep face lies in a hidden lagoon and is one of the best crags in the region. A 30-degree continuously overhanging grey wall is split with distinctive deep, undulating cracks. The right hand side of the crag is lower and steeply under-cut.

Guidebook quote: ‘The crag’s few lines are all fantastic ….unique and highly entertaining climbing.’ - Ha Long Bay climbing, Luca De Giorgi 2016

 

 Returning to climb Napalm Morning 7b in 2014. 

Returning to climb Napalm Morning 7b in 2014. 

1)    Charlie don’t surf, 5c (Grant Farquhar)

2)    Rough guide to Vietnam, 7a+ (Seb Grieve) 

3)    Napalm morning, 7b (Neil Gresham)

4)    Good morning Vietnam, 7a+ (Tim Emmett)

5)    Apocalypse now, 7a (Neil Gresham)

6)    Never get out of the boat, 6c (Grant Farquhar)

7)    Platoon, 7a+ (Neil Gresham)

Two minor routes were climbed on the righthand side: Boat people, 7a (Tim Emmett) and  On the right, 7a+ (Neil Gresham)

 Halong Nights 7a+, Handem, Halong Bay.

Halong Nights 7a+, Handem, Halong Bay.

2) Handem (Pyramid Cave)

 

GPS coordinates: 20, 47’, 32.44 N / 107, 7’, 3.27” E

 

This clean-cut, triangular cave drips with large stalactites has a ‘swim-through’ channel at its base that is revealed enticingly at low tide. The routes finish from a jump-off point, just down and right from the apex.

Guidebook quote: ‘worth the boat ride if only for Halong Nights ….An amazing climb.’ - Ha Long Bay climbing, Luca De Giorgi 2016

 

 

DWS First ascents - Vietnam cntd...

 

 
 Halong Nights 7a+. First ascent in 2003.  Photo: Gresham collection.

Halong Nights 7a+. First ascent in 2003.

Photo: Gresham collection.

1)  White powder, green light, 7b+ (Tim Emmett)

2)  Ha Long nights, 7a+ (Neil Gresham)

3) Blood bath 7b+ (Neil Gresham)

Bloodbath was climbed in Jan 2014 during a return trip – start just right of Halong Nights and pull right into a steep lay-back corner. Follow this to finish in the obvious hole below the capping roofs. A leftwards finish along the sloping ramp may be possible.

 Hi Chi Minh 7c+, Hangdu, Halong Bay, Vietnam.  Photo: Gresham collection.

Hi Chi Minh 7c+, Hangdu, Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Photo: Gresham collection.

3. Hangdu (Archway)

 

GPS coordinates: 20, 47’, 50.38” N / 107, 8’8.61” E

An impressive through-cave, which now has routes on the flanks of both entrances, though we just climbed on one side.

1)    Burgundy, 7b (Seb Grieve) – a short groove left of Ho Chi Minh.

2)    Ho Chi Minh, 7c+ (Neil Gresham)

Start on the left-hand-side of the arch and make hard moves out to gain a ‘bat-hang’, leg-jam rest in the prominent horizontal break. Burly moves lead rightwards from here past an obvious stalactite to the lip. 

 Rocking the Cat Ba 7b+. Yenngua. First ascent in 2003.  Photo: Gresham collection.

Rocking the Cat Ba 7b+. Yenngua. First ascent in 2003.

Photo: Gresham collection.

4. Yenngua

 

The imposing ‘elephant shaped’ crag, which features a very steep wall that hangs above an archway. Start by pulling up a knotted fisherman’s rope, which may be attached to a spike in the centre of the under-side. Be wary of tourist speedboats racing below the arch.

1)    Nietzche had it, 7c (Tim Emmett)

2)    Rockin the Cat Ba 7b+ (Neil Gresham)

  The obvious crack is really hard at the top. 

 

DWS First Ascents - Vietnam cntd...

 

 
 Tarantula 7b, Cathedral Rock. First ascent in 2003.  Photo: Gresham collection

Tarantula 7b, Cathedral Rock. First ascent in 2003.

Photo: Gresham collection

5. Cathedral Rock

 

GPS coordinates: 20, 51’, 38.90” N / 107, 3’16.19” E

 

This excellent sport-style crag, which is located near to Ha Long City. The wall is gently overhanging, steeply undercut at the base and offers immaculate climbing on pockets and tufas. The names of routes 2 and 3 reflect an encounter I had with an angry poisonous spider that was guarding a crucial pocket. Check access restrictions as it has been banned at times.

 

 Arachnophobia 7b, Cathedral Rock. First ascent in 2003.  Photo: Gresham collection.

Arachnophobia 7b, Cathedral Rock. First ascent in 2003.

Photo: Gresham collection.

1)    ZarathustRA, 7c (Tim Emmett)

2)    Arachnophobia, 7b (Neil Gresham)

3)    Tarantula, 7b (Neil Gresham)

4)    Tug boat, 7a (Neil Gresham)

5)    Quiet American, 6b+ (Grant Farquhar)

6)    Eyeless in Cat Ba, 6c (Grant Farquhar)

7)    Golden Triangle, 7a (Seb Grieve)

 Jubilant Vietnam team 2003: Seb Grieve, Grant Farquhar & Tim Emmett. Photo: Gresham collection.

Jubilant Vietnam team 2003: Seb Grieve, Grant Farquhar & Tim Emmett. Photo: Gresham collection.

For more information on the DWS routes in Halong Bay, see the guidebook: 'Halong Bay Climbing', Luca Di Giorgi and Asia Outdoors 2016

 

DWS First Ascents - Oman

It was Seb Grieve’s idea to check out the DWS potential of the Musandam coastline in Oman and he rounded up a team, consisting of Tim Emmett, Mike Robertson, Grant Farquhar, Read Macadam, local expert Toby Foord-Kelcey and myself. We flew out to Dubai in April 2011 and drove over to the bustling port of Dibba, where we collected our pre-booked 5-star, luxury cruiser (well not quite but it was a definite step up from the boats in Vietnam). We spent a memorable week, touring around the basalt cliffs between Limah and Habylayn, highlights of which were swimming with dolphins and learning to free-dive, but the climbing itself was relatively underwhelming. The rock is generally pretty soft and sun-baked, however two cliffs stood out: Gen’s Cave and Big Wall Bay. We finished the trip at another area called Bandar Jissah, which is also worthwhile, although we were unlucky with conditions.

Reference: Dibba Coast DWS Update, Toby Foord-Kelcey, Red Armada Publishing 2011

 
 Generation X 7b+, Gen's Cave, Dibba, First ascent in 2011.  Photo: Gresham collection.

Generation X 7b+, Gen's Cave, Dibba, First ascent in 2011.

Photo: Gresham collection.

GEN’S CAVE

Gen’s cave lies close to the port of Dibba (approx. 10 minutes by boat). It is perhaps the best crag that we found in the region and a good option for a short day’s climbing.

 

Generation X, 7b+ S1  Gen’s Cave, Diba. 25.04.11

‘The Stunning Central line out from the Cave’ - Toby Foord-Kelcey, Dibba Coast DWS update, 2011.

Generation X starts from a jug on the lip of the cave entrance, which should be accessible at most tides. This leads easily to a ledge at 5m and then through the bulge above with difficulty. Finish slightly leftwards onto a ramp, which leads to an exciting exit onto the upper slab. Thanks to Toby Foord-Kelcey for showing us this crag and congrats to him for making a swift repeat of this route. 

 One Liner 7a+, Big Wall Bay, Dibba. First ascent in 2011.  Photo: Gresham collection.

One Liner 7a+, Big Wall Bay, Dibba. First ascent in 2011.

Photo: Gresham collection.

BIG WALL BAY

 Alongside Gen’s cave, this was the best DWS crag we found on our 2011 trip, with quality routes across a range of grades and climbing styles. The bay is easy to find, being directly below the tallest cliff on the entire coastline. The rock is notably solid as a result of being polished by the multiple cascade lines that drain down the giant face above. With a fast boat, this crag is just about viable for a day-trip from Dibba. The central prow is a world class DWS - Partheon Slots 8a (1st ascent Read Macadam)

 

One Liner 7a+ S0,  Big Wall Bay Left-hand, Dibba. 21.4.11

To the left of the main central prow is a horizontal roof approximately 5m above sea level. The obvious and enticing horizontal rail leads to a tricky encounter at the lip. Reaching the start of the route may be awkward at low tide.

 Tim Emmett making the second ascent of Dreaming of Trevallen 6c, Big Wall Bay, Dibba in 2011.  Photo: Gresham collection.

Tim Emmett making the second ascent of Dreaming of Trevallen 6c, Big Wall Bay, Dibba in 2011.

Photo: Gresham collection.

Dreaming of Trevallen 6c S0   Big Wall Bay Right-hand, Dibba. 23.4.11

 

 ‘Very fine wall climbing’ - Toby Foord-Kelcey, Dibba Coast DWS update, 2011.

 

This route starts just left of an overhanging arête and climbs an enticing orangey-grey wall. At half height, traverse rightwards along some thin horizontal cracks then ascend the obvious flake crack to a rightwards exit along a juggy hand-rail, whilst reminiscing of Pembroke.