In all the past years, climbing took me across the American West.
To the intimidating canyons, delicate towers and desert soils of Indian Creek and Arches National Park; the enormous sandy escarpments outside of Nevada's City of Sin; the crumbling, fear-inspiring spires and mudpiles of Sedona; the ancient lavaflows gone still at Devil's Tower, The Waterfall, Trout Creek, and Massacre Rocks; the weathered granite massifs variously standing tall or laying akimbo at Vedauwoo and Joshua Tree; the exposed ancient seabeds that make up so many of my favorite places: Wild Iris, Ten Sleep, Limekiln... Ahem. I was swept away on a tide of reminiscence there.
What I mean to say is, after a six-month sabbatical of living in my car ran on for nearly three years, it's good for me to go see new sights, even if it's while doing the same things I always do: going climbing with friends and a camera.
Squamish's verdant forests, sweeping mountain valleys and abundant water stand in strong contrast to all of my previous climbing destinations. A month's experience tells me that its climbing is as unrivalled as its vistas.
The climbing took place in unexpected places: above train tracks, over lumberyards, and - if we got high enough to break above the trees - gazing out across Howe Sound. All of this stands in stark contrast to the plains' grasses, stunted trees and sharp cactii of my usual haunts.
The Smoke Bluffs offered freesoloing literally behind others' backyards. It also had the comfiest toprope belay areas I've ever seen.
Fourteen pitches above the developing neighborhood, Megan and I stopped and wondered if we couldn't see Nate's house somewhere back in the trees...
Vowing to myself to return in a year, I crossed the border back into Washington the day after Canadian Thanksgiving. Two days' drive brought me to this view of the Tetons outside my last permanent residence, Jackson. The wind whipped and screamed that night, blowing over my tripod before I managed to put my camera on it. I ended up with numb fingers before I made it back into the van. A perfect welcome back home.
Another day and I surprised these two gentlemen in a rarely travelled location outside Vedauwoo.
After a week of saying hellos and goodbyes and preparing for it, my day of departure came. After spending three days driving from Vancouver to Wyoming, I boarded a plane straight back there. And then a second plane, but this one was bound for...
Hong Kong's City and Seas
Megan had planned out our week in SE Asia's financial center perfectly. She met me late at night when I flew in and took me to our AirBNB, and from there...
In a city-state with more people than live in a five hundred mile radius from my home (a population so large that there aren't as many people in an area a thousand times larger centered on Laramie), Megs and I went climbing.
We reached Lions Rock (above, left) the same way you might reach anything else in a city: a series of metros, a single taxi hire, and a good bit of walking.
The many tourists that met us at the top questioned our method of ascent, but we enjoyed the view the same.
We spent only a day as climbers. The rest we passed as tourists (joining a throng of others).
The latter half of our trip we escaped from the hustle-and-bustle of central Hong Kong by staying on Cheung Chau, an island separated from the aery sky scrapers by a forty minute ferry ride.
The expat-crafted pizza we ate on that small, isolated island was the last real pie we have had since crossing the Pacific.
Our room had a small balcony above a sandy beach. On one evening we decided to take the plunge into the murky sea, doing our best to keep it out of our mouths and noses.
The City Yangshuo (and its skies)
A day of public transit hell brought us across the border from Hong Kong to China and deep into its center: Yangshuo. It was our home for two months. Yeah, home. We knew the word applied when we came back from Li Ming and felt comfortable for the first time.
Another day not dying on a scooter in China
Audre and Wayne (Halloween)
The city's edge
White Mountain; one of our last nights in China
Alila resort during the offseason
Li Ming and the river that runs beside it
The view after our best day of climbing at The Guardian
From China to Vietnam.
Of Hanoi I have no pictures, but I'll never forget the bahn mi I enjoyed or the little girl that never gave back the two jokers from my deck of cards.
Catba Island took me back to the limestone cliffs in the Andaman Sea and my visit there with Ken four years ago.
It also had grasses - and cows! - here and there to help remind me of home.
From Vietnam Megan and I went to Singapore to pass Christmas with family.
Singapore was our chance to come up for (occidental) air. The city is uniquely Western in this Oriental hemisphere. I Christmas-presented us with a new rope after having to cut six more meters off of the one I bought only half a year ago, leaving it too short to be viable for the 35m climbs that await us in Thailand and Laos...
Tomorrow I return to Koh Yao Noi for the third time in my life. How does this strange little island keep calling me back?