Good Morning Vietnam

Climbing in Vietnam’s spectacular Ha Long Bay
Words Monique Forestier, Photos Simon Carter

Lynn Hill and Todd Skinner bolted this line in the 90s. The sea gobbled up the stainless steel within a couple of years. After rebolting the line, Lee Cujes ascends Saigon Wall 7a. Photo: Simon Carter.
Legend has it that many centuries ago fearless dragons protected the people of northern Vietnam from invaders by spitting 2153 ungraded diamonds into the sea, thus creating a sheltered haven in the bay. Nowadays, the glistening emerald-green waters of Ha Long Bay are studded with these thousands of brilliant-cut limestone karst formations, each karst varying in quality and suitability for climbing. It’s no surprise that it is a spectacular tourist hot spot, and on many climbers’ ‘must visit’ list.

23 November 2010
Coming from a 24/7 culture can sometimes catch you unawares, when we arrived late in the evening at Hanoi’s airport everything was closed. Not having even one Viet Dong between us, I felt helpless and stupid, added to that was the fact that Simon and I were travelling with our two-year-old daughter, Coco – our situation seemed grim. Thankfully, the arrangements we had made through Slo Pony Adventures came good. We were met by a placard-holding man who whisked us off, settling us into our downtown Hanoi hotel before we could even register the traffic metamorphosis that had just occurred. Arriving in Vietnam is a rush of cold blood to the head, a full body awakening that leaves your eyes spinning in their sockets.

24 November 2010
After a deep but all too short slumber, our group assembles over an unimpressive breakfast distinctly lacking in crispy French baguettes and real coffee. Joining us are Australians, Sam and Lee Cujes, the dynamic husband and wife duo behind Upskill Climbing. They had been to Vietnam the year before, hosting their own training camp, and are now on the second last leg of a one-year round-the-world climbing odyssey. They are so psyched about being here that they literally talk the brass knobs off an ornamental monkey perched behind me. Audrey Sniezek from Seattle also joins us, a talented and highly motivated climber who has proven that dedication and hard work do pay off. Lastly, is Tamara Sepetauc, a self-proclaimed romantic who radiates warmth and is completely relaxed about her climbing.

You can read the rest of this story in ROCK no 86