As the official beginning of Petz RocTrip neared, the great arch remained on Tuesday, October 24, the venue of choice for most of the Petzl Team athletes. A cluster of routes ranging from 8b (5.13d) to 9a (5.14d) on the left-hand side of the arch drew the most attention. Here, Sasha DiGiulian, Nina Caprez, Jon Cardwell, Dave Graham, Chris Sharma, Emily Harrington, Enzo Oddo, and others took turns working out the technical moves on slopey, rice bowl-shaped holds.
At the same time a few dozen climbers from around the world explored the massive covered climbing wonderland of the arch, which is big enough to contain routes with many different styles and lengths. Locals from the surrounding villages came to watch. At one point, two men carried a woman seated in a bamboo chair up the nearly 1400 limestone-block steps so she could observe the goings on.
A boat crossing northwest of basecamp is the only means of accessing the path to the Great Arch. Local villagers often load their motorcycles onto the small, low craft there, which is guided by a lone pilot with a long bamboo pole for steering and propulsion. Most of the other crags around Getu: Oliver's Crag, Banyang's Cave, Fish Crag… lie down Getu's main road in the opposite direction. The route to Banyang's Cave follows a long path though a small village of rustic houses. Villagers here are very friendly to visitors, and may just invite you in for for a meal as you walk past. At this time of year, the terraced fields all around Getu are full of bundles of rice straw with pointed tops that look like tiny thatch-roofed huts. In the fields, farmers can be seen driving their cattle or walking beside water buffalo pulling plows through the black soil.
Wednesday, October 25
Climbers arrived en masse, and after registering, they were invited for an equipment inspection and safety check (knots, installation of a top rope, etc). After completing the check, their guide book was officially stamped with the seal of the event and they received their access passes. The safety check was conducted by experienced climbers who volunteered for the event. Matt (Kentucky USA), Gary (NY USA), Duncan (Australia), Rachel (Winnipeg Canada) and Jake (Seattle USA) concluded that most the climbers had good technique. They were impressed that there were so many different techniques throughout around the world.
As they were going through registration, we were able to meet some RocTrippers:
Bobo, 25 years old from GuangZhou works for an outdoor company but has only climbed since last May. She travelled alone but had plans to join a group of friends. When asked why she climbs her clear answer was "to challenge my fears"! She came here to discover a new area and meet other climbers. She has never climbed outside of China and plans to organize a trip to Thailand later this year.
Elaine, 30, is from Hong Kong, and has climbed for 5 years. She came over with a small group of friends after hearing about the event in her hometown bouldering gym. They didn't want to miss this unique opportunity to see top level athletes from the team and meet climbers from all around the world.
As the afternoon passed local officials, dancers and singers went through a full rehearsal of the approaching opening ceremony.
That day, Petzl Team athletes managed to send a few hard routes.
- Nina Caprez sent an 8b+ (5.14a) in the Great Arch called "Powder Finger"
- Steve McClure onsighted an 8b (5.13d) called "Bip Bip et Coyote" at Banyang's Cave.
On Thursday morning, Petzl RocTrip China's elaborate opening ceremony took place at the climber's basecamp. A RocTrip banner in English and Chinese served as a backdrop to the large stage flanked by jumbo video screens on either side. Red helium balloons on long red tethers floated all around the area. The local governments bused in uniformed police officers to attend the event, and several officials stood up, joined by an interpreter, to deliver speeches in which they thanked everyone involved and predicted an excellent and successful RocTrip. This was followed by music and an ornately costumed dance performances highlighting the rich culture of the Miao-Buyi minority. No other RocTrip has had quite such a beginning.
Although heavy rain fell on the valley the whole day, the day was saved for many climbers thanks to the unique shelter that the big arch offers. Unfortunatly, the climbing clinics were cancelled due to the weather. Climbing area volunteers were present at each climbing area to check on safety of the climbers.
Leon and Lior from Israel were climbing in Yangshuo when they heard about a call for volunteers for the RocTrip. As experienced climbers, they were very useful to help manage safety at the climbing areas. In return, they were offered food, board and goodies during their stay in Getu. On the way they attended another climbing event in "Bijie". Their role became important when they had to advise beginners who were making some rather serious mistakes, such as threading two ropes through the same anchor and a top rope set up using only one quickdraw. As always, everyday safety at the crag relies on knowledge, training, experience, concentration and communication.
Taking advantage of the dry conditions under the arch, an up-and-coming young French climber, Matthieu Bouilloux, smoothly sent an 8c+ (5.14c) called Polvo Tecnico, which Mickäel Fuselier climbed earlier on the trip. A hundred meters above the ground, Dani Andrada, is still working out the difficult moves on his route.
Crowds of attendees from around the world now fill Getu's hotels, guesthouses, campgrounds and school dormatory. Friday morning, the clearing skies brought excitement. The numerous climbers spread out in all areas of the valley for a hard day of cranking. RocTrip China is officially underway!