Day 4 (Ice Climbing Day 2): Joo Ern
The day began with a wretched alarm that rang 30 minutes earlier than the agreed upon time. The room with Loo Jun Wen (21), Mao and myself all woke up and started packing our bags for the day and putting on them cumbersome snow boots. This was followed by a quick check on Mervin who was running a high fever since the day before, a temperature check revealed that he was still running a high fever in the 38+ degrees Celsius region. This was accompanied by symptoms of resting heart rates exceeding 100, a low oxygen level of 66% and migraines of various magnitudes that were shared by different members in the team. We proceeded to the canteen for breakfast which consisted of porridge, peanuts, salted preserved vegetables and a cube of fermented soy paste…and man tous which were untouched this round after being served as breakfast and lunch the previous day. During the meal, it was decided that Mervin shall stay back to rest for the very realistic consideration that he might die if he starts climbing mountains in subzero temperatures and Vivian would accompany him so that he might have a more pleasant recovery. This turned out to be extremely advantageous as Vivian herself was to begin facing the most difficult time in the month that day.
Anyhow, the rest of the team proceeded to go for the ice climb, Jun Wen and I packed the food for lunch which was a high in carbohydrate feast of man tous and snacks of the wang wang variety. We then loaded onto the buses at 10a.m. sharp after some equipment sorting. Most of the trip was spent meditating to the techno tribal music by my favorite driver with his golden 4WD, silver ring piercings and thin bronze sunglasses, while the rest of the time was spent looking at the amazing scenery that surrounded us. In case the other writers did not include this in their diaries, the trip to the climbing sites the past two days have been a refreshing reintroduction to the beauty of mother nature. Ancient trees growing out of frozen lakes, grasslands with jet black yaks and sheep, towering mountains that carry dense forests and waterfalls housing giant eagles and tiny sparrows. The pictures will explain themselves.
At the top of our “Jumaar”-ing session! A rewarding scenary!
With the whole team!
After reaching the base of Eagle’s Beak Mountain (named so because it resembled an eagle facing the sky asking for food), we took a mandatory toilet break which involved everyone dispersing across the yak turd-ridden frozen tundra to find a tree to piss under cover. The team then regrouped for a brief which basically noted that the waterfall we will be climbing today will be much easier to reach than the day before. The expert climbers from China and the IJ team then went on ahead to start setting up anchors onto the frozen waterfall. This has got to be one of the most dangerous jobs I have ever seen performed live: climbing a vertical sheet of ice with a bag of screws to drill into the ice so that rope can be secured along it to belay the newbies that were to climb it later on. And so, while they were securing those anchors, the rest of the group slowly progressed up the mountain with a 20 minute hike though rock, earth and a little snow. Afterwhich we stopped for a bit to put on the harness and crampons, which actually serves as a great warm up given the fine movements and exertion required for tightening lots of…stuff to be tightened or life would be short. We then reached the waterfall and started the jummar-ing. This was a process whereby a climber secures himself to a rope lined along the path which he/she is to take using an ascender which allows forward movement along said rope which preventing any backsliding. Videos will explain this much more clearly.
Finally after all the preparation, we found ourselves facing a 50m high waterfall, about 20m of it was anchored and lined with rope. Some of the people further ahead in the line had already started climbing the ice and it looked pretty hard. I went ahead and joined the next batch to climb while the rest of the team had lunch because I had been feeling really nauseous since the day we reached the 3.5km altitude mark and could not force myself to eat mantous or anything else for that matter. This meant that within 15 minutes I was allowed to start hacking away at a giant block of ice with my crampons and ice axes. It was as fun as I imagined it to be, and the video seen below will best explain how enjoyable it really is.
Everyone’s first time scaling the water ice!
1, 2, 3, 4 step by step anchoring our crampons and ice axes.
Mao making good use of the wonderful backdrop!
Of course Yuxin too!
Edwin too, but he didnt know it haha!
Basically we were taught two ways to ascend the waterfall. Either the X -method which most of us used, or the triangle method which was used by more experienced climbers. Each of these methods describe the way the body of the person climbing looks like from the back and you can search them up if you’re interested. We had three paths to take take that day, all of which had varying difficulties. I tried all three and will proceed to describe each one individually.
Here are the rough outlines of the three routes: left route = easy, middle route = icicles + convex ice formations = hard, right route = vertical ascent = intermediate. Describing the climbs would be boring so we took some videos. Events of note: I forgot I was wearing non-waterproof gloves to climb the middle route on the first try. Although the waterfall was supposedly a frozen one, it was still really wet as there was water flowing under certain parts of the ice. This resulted in the loss of function of all 10 of my fingers 3/4 of the way up, I was basically gripping the axes with my palms while on an ice bulge. Which is pretty much like hugging a giant snowball and trying to get on top of it. Desperate crampon bashing and the X-method allowed me to get over it though. Jun Wen also got a taste of shredding pants with crampons that day, which was supposed to be a common occurence.
With a backdrop so scenic, its hard not to stick around and admire!
Jun Wen as he lost grip on his crampons, scrambling up not giving up!
Back down after a full day of climbing!
The team climbed the various routes for the rest of the day, completing quite a few of them. And everyone descended the mountain safely to enjoy a brilliant dinner which had an awesome ginger and pepper heavy beef soup, I particularly loved it because it managed to stop my migraine for 15 minutes.
TLDR: due to the sub-zero temperatures I only took a shower after 4 days, it was great.
Hoping that there won’t be any missing fingers or permanent brain damage amongst the team members,