the adventure continues:- fear of success is worse than success itself…you must fail to succeed!

So today I sent my first 7a+ for the year 2016. This is not only a very exciting thing, but also a very emotional thing. I worked the route over a couple of afternoons while climbing with Miss K and a few “good humans” at Crazy Horse Buttress in the Mae On province 40 minutes or so out of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Recently I have had the pleasure of climbing with a very motivating and I guess I would say spiritual man from Quebec, Canada. Mario is stout and powerful man who states “I am sixty!” He has been climbing for a very long time and to quote some of my mates back home “he has the strength of ten men, because his heart is pure”. We met in Koh Yao Noi climbing and have now been through Thakhek, Laos and now climbed at Crazy Horse together.

Mario told me about this route called “Are You Courageous?” A stunning 25 metre route that is on a beautiful orange and grey limestone face at Heart Wall. He had started to project it and had spent a day on it prior to our arrival. His motivation was infectious and he was so hell bent on sending this route and was fighting all the way. I loved it! It was inspiring.

It wasn’t until Mario had sent the route and  left Mae On that I decided to give it a shot and make it “a project” as such for my trip here. I don’t know what changed in me but my fighting spirit had come back and I was into it. I thought I have two days of climbing left at best before I leave and this was the route for me.

Attempt one saw me flailing around putting the draws on the route and working the crux a little and figuring out what to do. Attempt two did not go so well at all, I fell off and stuffed up a move lower down that I didn’t quite have wired yet. I went home happy but I knew I had a fight on my hands.

Keeping in mind that I was more scared of failure and success than I was of falling off the route.

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Are You Courageous 7a+ Heart Wall, Crazy Horse Buttress.

After a good rest day I warmed up on a couple of easy routes at The Furnace sector and then we headed up the hill to indulge my climbing insanity. The walk in the heat was difficult. I think it was about 32 degrees and a little humid as it had rained the night before. I tied in and off I went putting the draws back on the beast. It didn’t go well at all and I thought “What am I doing?”

I rested for about 45 minutes and then tried again. I stuffed up the first crux and decided to figure it out and the low off back to earth and rest again. I jumped back on the route again and as I started up the face I felt solid and strong. Pulling into the left hand mono undercling was the scariest thing but I placed my finger and pulled on and locked my elbow off hard. I pulled up to the big right hand pocket and then I was through. Best decision ever!!

The rest of the route was still solid climbing with a strong 6c+ finish attached just for good measure. I clipped the anchors with a very loud WHOOOOOO!!!! Tears began to well as my fear of failure was again crushed and exhilaration was the replacement. It is a strange and complex issue that I confront each time I try a new hard route, but the battle is ongoing in the mind and the rock helps me fight the fear……..be it of failure or success.

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the adventure continues:- fear of success is worse than success itself…you must fail to succeed!

So today I sent my first 7a+ for the year 2016. This is not only a very exciting thing, but also a very emotional thing. I worked the route over a couple of afternoons while I was climbing with Miss K and a few “good humans” at Crazy Horse Buttress in the Mae On province 40 minutes or so out of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Recently I have had the pleasure of climbing with a very motivating and I guess I would say spiritual man from Quebec, Canada. Mario is stout and powerful man who proudly states “I am sixty!” He has been climbing for a very long time and to quote some of my mates back home “he has the strength of ten men, because his heart is pure”. We met in Koh Yao Noi climbing and have now been through Thakhek, Laos and now climbed at Crazy Horse together.

Mario told me about this route called “Are You Courageous?” A stunning 25 metre route that is on a beautiful orange and grey limestone face at Heart Wall. He had started to project it and had spent a day on it prior to our arrival. His motivation was infectious and he was so hell bent on sending this route and was fighting all the way. I loved it! It was inspiring.

It wasn’t until Mario had sent the route left that I decided to give it a shot and make it “a project” as such for my trip here. I don’t know what changed in me but my fighting spirit had come back and I was into it. I thought I have two days of climbing left at best before I leave and this was the route for me.

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Are You Courageous 7a+ Heart Wall, Crazy Horse Buttress.

Attempt one saw me flailing around putting the draws on the route and working the crux a little and figuring out what to do. Attempt two did not go so well at all, I fell off and stuffed up a move lower down that I didn’t quite have wired yet. I went home happy but I knew I had a fight on my hands.

Keeping in mind that I was more scared of failure and success than I was of falling off the route.

After a good rest day I warmed up on a couple of easy routes at The Furnace sector and then we headed up the hill to indulge my climbing insanity. The walk in the heat was difficult. I think it was about 32 degrees and a little humid as it had rained the night before. I tied in and off I went putting the draws back on the beast. It didn’t go well at all and I thought “What am I doing?”

I rested for about 45 minutes and then tried again. I stuffed up the first crux and decided to figure it out and the low off back to earth and rest again. I jumped back on the route again and as I started up the face I felt solid and strong. Pulling into the left hand mono undercling was the scariest thing but I placed my finger and pulled on and locked my elbow off hard. I pulled up to the big right hand pocket and then I was through. Best decision ever!!

The rest of the route was still solid climbing with a strong 6c+ finish attached just for good measure. I clipped the anchors with a very loud WHOOOOOO!!!! Tears began to well as my fear of failure was again crushed and exhilaration was the replacement. It is a strange and complex issue that I confront each time I try a new hard route, but the battle is ongoing in the mind and the rock helps me fight the fear……..be it of failure or success.

the adventure continues:- the first “us” day, a brand new way and our fav cafe……..yay!!

Its hard to remember what you do sometimes when you’re travelling the world rock climbing and exploring cultures. It can be a little bit of a blur at times. This crag, that crag, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia you get the drift of what I am saying.

Miss K and I were talking about how we are always with people, other people. Friends, acquaintances, people at the crag, there is always someone around. Now please don’t think I am complaining about this. We do love it and meeting people is one of the highlights of travelling, but you need time to yourself and time for just “us” two too!

So while we were on our way to Chiang Mai we discussed not having “rest days” anymore, but having “us” days. This was Miss K’s idea and a sensational one at that. I agreed immediately and thought why not include climb one day, then an “us” day?! Rotate…..day on, day off. We get to recover and do the other things we like to do as well.

Here we are embarking on a new style of enjoying ourselves as a couple, but also being able to enjoy ourselves, our time together and our time climbing. Keep in mind that while you are at home experiencing the daily grind of work, home, kids, pets etc etc……… you aren’t out climbing everyday……unless you are a professional athlete and even then you’re resting days matter.

Remember we are travelling! Yes unfortunately our lives are fantastic. We understand that, but we also are in each others pockets 24/7. This creates its own set of problems that need to be rectified and resolved.

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Dairy Farming in Thailands north country…..Mae On Province.

Today was our first “us” day. It started out with our regular rice soup and we headed out for a ride through the local dairy farms just to get out and about in the sun for a while. We checked out a few places and decided we needed to swim. Unfortunately there is no river, no creek, no pool anywhere around us that we could find. then we saw the “Resort”. We pulled in and there it was……..cool, calm, wet bliss and all we needed to do was bribe them to let us swim. They wanted 250 baht per person…….we said “Thank you” and left.

On the way home we decided to stop at a cafe that Miss K had spotted the day before. Its name……Addicted to Kaffiene. We stopped in and ordered two Americano’s (long black of those who live in Australia). The proprietors name was Ryan and he had lived and trained as a barista in Australia during his college years. He recommended the Chiang Mai blend and we said “Fine mate”. This was without doubt the best coffee I have had in Thailand. It was absolutely stunning.

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Ryan working his magic!

Thanks Ryan for the samples and for doing something great for the locals and the tourists alike. We will be back!

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Best coffee in Thailand

We headed back home to our bungalow and on the way we grabbed a bottle of Mount Clare BIN 5. We I am pretty sure “BIN 5” was where they got it from too! “Chateau Neuf de Merde” is what I chose to rename it……I thought it appropriate given its flavour and the crappy nutty tones and palette. Miss K and I laughed about it and enjoyed sitting chatting together listening to some tunes and watch the night sky settle in.

Cheers everyone! 🙂

the adventure continues:- eating humble pie, seeing a friends success….just goes to show we all need to reset……

Its not very often I come back from the crag feeling really demoralised and dejected, but today was one of those days. It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t put together a sequence cleanly and I couldn’t get up things that I would normally on-sight. It was as though my power had been completely zapped from my body………..effectively……..”Elvis had left the building!”

We rested yesterday, having an “Us” day to relax and have a look around the Mae On district where we are staying and it was really relaxing and super good to just hang out together. This morning I woke and felt pretty good. After a good breakfast and a couple of coffee’s, we headed up to Heart Wall. This is by far the best crag at Crazy Horse.

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Miss K at the base of “Together” 6a+….her nemesis .

Today I had my sights set on sending a couple of routes that I wanted to try. I decided to warm up on the first pitch of a 6a+ and then a 6b+ to get some blood pumping before attempting one of my projects. The 6a+ was a bit of a shocker as the first route always is for me. The 6b+……well I should have just laid down and gone to sleep for the rest of the day. Couldn’t find the holds, couldn’t read the sequence……everything just seemed hard…..I was fatigued and needed to stop.

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The author getting his butt kicked on the crux of “Decide” 6c+……….

The thing that made the day special was my new found climbing buddy Mario (who is 60 years old) sent his 7a+ (24) project. Not sure how many times he tried it, doesn’t really matter…..but he sent it and it was wonderful to see. He had been working on it for a few days and finally it went. Another special moment was Miss K leading a 36 metre 6a+ beast that had been playing on her mind. It was not an easy thing. It had been bothering her for a few weeks, since we were last here.

The best thing was that the crew we were with was great and we were all shouting out support for each other. It is important to remember that sometimes its not about the climbing, not every day is a performance day and sometimes you just get spanked on things when you least expect it. It is good to eat humble pie from time to time. Even the hardest climbers get their butt kicked at times and they keep getting back up and down it all again.

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The Crazy Horse Climbing Crew………The French-Canadian Quarter.

Today I was hoping to have some success and to send a couple of my projects, but instead I got my butt handed to me! It became apparent it was more important to watch my friends and partner succeed. Tomorrow is another day, the rock is here to stay and I will continue to fight and grow. For me it is onwards and upwards despite high gravity days.

As my incredible sensei used to say to me……….Persevere Craig……..Persevere!!!!

the adventure continues:- its not just the climbing that makes Thakhek, Laos truly special…….

Karine and my days normally start with a word….. “Cafe?” The response is always the same “Oui mon coeur! Merci.” That’s my signal to make coffee. It is important to have good coffee and we now have this down to a fine art. We take our purchased ground beans with us. We don’t have to carry anything else either. I have created a very easy coffee maker out of paper towels and a 1.5 litre water bottle. Works a charm…….. 🙂

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Pork soup for breakfast with rice and coriander…..

Every morning we awoke at about 6:30am. God knows why when we aren’t going climbing everyday. We rest every third day. This gave us ample opportunity to wander around the place we were located and find some truly amazing things.

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Mario and Miss K in the village centre……
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Home for a family in the local village
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A local farms hay shed………
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I don’t know where to start with what this is at all…….

On our rest days we got on our “trusty” scooter and headed out. Some days we would just go into the main street and have a local breakfast, some days we would go off the beaten track and find a place to swim and ride through a local village. These were the days that you really saw what was happening in this beautiful place.

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A very cute local………..photo courtesy of Miss K.

Waiting for the right time of day was sometimes the catch. if it was too bright you would not get the stunning scenery photos that you were looking for. Its best to let the photos tell this story.

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Miss K deep in the serenity of the lake beside Buddha Cave, Thakhek, Laos
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Thanks for the photo Miss K…………..how’s the serenity?

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did taking them 🙂

the adventure continues:- I guess its just a matter of when…..but we all have to move on…..

Today was our last day on rock and I would not be back here for a very long time. There was a couple routes that I wanted to try and send before I left, but in the grand scheme of things I was not particularly worried if I didn’t get them clean. I just simply wanted to try hard and have a good go at them. One was called “The Sound of Music” and the other was called “Nid Toi Nid Noi”. Both routes were 7a (23). I had tried the latter  route a couple of days before and fallen at the crux a little disappointed, but happy with where I got to.

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The author pulling into the crux of Nid Toi Nid Noi…..Thakhek, Laos.

Karine and I warmed up in the Elephant sector on some cruisy routes or so we were to believe. The 5b was really more 5a and the 6b felt like a 6c. God the latter route was a battle of epic proportions for the both of us. We fought our way up this short bouldery shit of a thing and both had long moments of profanity as we descended back to earth frustrated and perplexed.

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Karine pulling the most technical move of the day….the hold is still about 30cm above her hand…..and she nailed it!

We then walked over to the wall where “Sound of Music” is to find our friends Mario and Maurice already attempting the route. Maurice had put the draws on the route as he had sent it a few days prior and Mario was just lowering off from his first attempt. Karine and I were yelling support from across the crag when we saw Mario at the crux. He tried and then fell, got back on and then finished the route. “It’ll go next time Mario!” we said.

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Mario in beast mode on his red-point send of “The Sound of Music”…..

The boys said “Tie in Craig and have a go!” I looked up and thought “Ok! I’ll give it a shot!” I tied in and sat down to put my shoes on and surveyed the route. There was a woman on the 6c beside us and I thought it a good idea to let her get through the next four bolts before I pulled on. She was now out of the fall zone on our route and I stepped up and pulled on. Lets go I thought to myself.

This route is steep on good holds and I climbed fast. Arriving at the rest near the crux rather quickly, quicker than I expected. I settled in to a semi-comfortable position and managed to get a no hands rest. Shaking out for a couple of minutes and then pulling on to check out where the crux was going to take me. Reaching around to feel my way through I managed to hit the crux hold quickly and thought “MOVE!!”. I pulled around the face and found the footer I needed to push me through the mantle move to the anchors up a little slab. I had flashed the route…….STOKED!

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Milking everything I could out of the no hands knee bar and toe hook on my flash send of “The Sound of Music” just below the crux sequence….

Everyone climbed well throughout our stay here and there was a level of improvement that was very noticeable in all of us. Karine and Ingrid definitely tied for the  “Most Improved Climber Award” (The MICA) and the boys battled well and we all have the scars to prove we tried. Mario strained a foot ligament in a fall, clipping the lip of a ledge. Maurice had no skin left on his fingers, Ingrid strained her knee slightly and Karine fell and banged her tibia (shin) on a tufa. I have more scratches than you’d get in a cat fight.

Despite all of the pain, scratches, bruises and strains, we’ve had an awesome trip here and all ticked some great routes. The climbing here is truly wonderful. The rock is varied and the routes are long and well bolted. We met a great bunch of people and cheered and jeered as they all tried super hard to send.

Oh and trying to slack-line over the river at the Green Climbers BBQ at Tha Falang was awesome fun too.

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Maurice slack-lining across Tha Farlang…………..
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Hanging out with the Green Climbing Crew at Tha Farlang

Gotta love the climbing community………..see you all in Chiang Mai next week guys!

the adventure continues:- its good to work hard and work through the mental injuries sustained through life………

The Green Climbers is a pretty amazing little oasis in the middle of Nowhere, Laos. It is incredibly well set up an at the moment is fully booked. I have run into several people I have met before and it gives a level of comfort whilst travelling to know that others are on the same sort of journey to some extent. Others are just travelling dirtbags who just go out and crush every route they try.

At the moment there are three or four French guys here and they have flashed every route up to 7c in the big roof cave (a feature very unique in Thakhek and anywhere else come to think of it). There are some truly amazing humans on this little planet and watching some of them do what they love and do it so fabulously well is a great and inspiring gift. They are truly powerful both mentally and physically.

Today we climbed at a little sector called the Tree Lounge. All the routes were super cruisy, very vertical and most of all fun. Karine and I ticked half the crag in about two and a half hours and then we moved around the corner to Spielhölle. I had decided to step up my game a little and try to move through my self-sabotaging ways and get on something that was beyond me at the point in time. It was called Straight Flush, a steep and what looked like a very bouldery 7b+ (26). I needed to kick my arse into gear and start to try again.

Karine had already been trying super hard and succeeding well. She is climbing beautifully at the moment and it is great to seeker progressing at such a rate. Her technique is growing on a daily basis and she is mentally very strong and solid. She just simply decides to try something and goes for it. A great attitude indeed. I on the other hand struggle with all sorts of self-doubt, fear of success, fear of failure and so on. It is a fight sometimes even before I leave the ground.

I tied in and put on my shoes, looking up I felt very calm and motivated: it happens more often than not. Karine checked my knot and I checked the Gri gri (belay device) and we kissed. As I stepped up on to the rock I felt a sense of calm take over me and my focus was directed on one single objective, get the first bolt clipped. I was climbing a very nice and very smooth limestone slab. It was all there but very thin indeed.

As I moved up through the slab I could feel my heart starting to race as the moves became successively harder and the rock steepened. I was climbing very smoothly and I felt strong. My feet were pushing me onward and I was not wasting energy. As I pulled up to clip the fifth bolt I realised that I was two bolts from the top and hadn’t entered the crux yet. Feeling a little pumped I tried to rest and recovered a little.

Survey the last three metres of the route was a good mental recovery for me. I had a very long move to a 2cm deep two finger pocket, feet up and throw to a wide tufa pinch, drop knee into an undercling and then another pinch. I was now approaching the hardest moves I have ever had to make on rock (probably a V6 boulder problem) . I took several breathes and pulled up into the pocket. The strain and tension on my body was huge and I simply couldn’t hold on…………….I sang out “take!” and boom, off I came into space and my attempt to on-sight the route was over……I knew I couldn’t on-sight it in the first place, but you gotta try right?!………RIGHT!!!

After several minutes of stuffing around trying to figure out what to do I got the next quickdraw on and pulled into the final sequence. This alone was another 7a+/7b (24/25) section and I was smoked. It took me a good three attempts to get though the sequence and clip the anchors. Super hard, super bouldery and so much fun…….but it was so worth it.

After a good half hour rest Maurice and I went around and got on a route called Nid Toi Nid Noi 7a (23) in the big roof cave. 27 metres of steep overhanging fun. I fell off that at the crux too, but felt really good about my efforts on both routes. Sometimes its very true……….What doesn’t kill you definitely makes you stronger.

Its good to work hard and work through the mental injuries sustained through life – as it will only lead you to being all you can be.

Laugh loud, love long and climb hard! 🙂