Sunday, December 31, 2006


I get a ride from Anastasia (great name or what???) who works at the Hostel, to the airport. Quite an enjoyable ride. The flight - well I will say one thing. The leg space was the smallest I have EVER experienced. Aeroflot is breaking some records on that one. Wow. But, no matter - the ride is short and it is time to transition.

I am getting in the groove now. I arrive at St. Petersburg and manage to 1. Borrow a phone from a local for a call. 2. Call Nord Hostel and determine room availability. 3.Negotiate a cab fare that is one quarter the asking price. Make my way quickly to the Hostel and check into a nice room, very centrally located.
Now I am starting to get this!

I had never heard back from another hostel I had a reservation at so I find another one that seems to be a much better location. I go with that, and it turns out to be a very wise decision. Follow your instincts.

I am speaking a little Russian now and my confidence is building. There are a few critical factors to smooth international travel transition points. Such as: Knowing some key phrases of the local language, like Hello, Hows it going? Please - I would like, How Much, That is Too Expensive, No, Speaking the name of your destination with confidence (you do this by asking someone else how to say it before you talk with the cabbies, is critical. Also, your body language, facial expressions and tone are also equally important. You must be confident, firm, and let those you are dealing with know you know what you are doing. When you are asked is this is your first time here, take a guess what your answer should be... NO! I came a few years ago and am happy to be back! Getting a bench mark for how much a cab ride SHOULD actually be before you begin negotiating is also key. Talk to a local, or do a little research with a hotel or busienss at your destination in advance via internet or phone.

You get these elements dialed, and you can negotiate as if you are a world traveller - now a floundering tourist.

St. Petersburg is beautiful. Much smaller, more European, and WAY more laid back than Moscow. Everything seems easier, safer and the people seem happier in general.

My first night out on the town, I find a random small restaurant called Beer Exchange. This is where the price of beer changes depending on how much of what type is being bought! Genius.

One of the locals speaks english and we have great conversation, drink some vodka (of course) and I have a delicious Russian sausage meal.

I wander around the Nevsky Prospect looking at some of the Cathedrals and statues. I really like the feel of St. Peterburg. The people are nice. They actually will stop and talk to you when you need to ask for directions. Some people are even smiling~ WHOA - culture shock!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Karma Bar

Well, my short nap turns out to be three hours long. I wake up at 11:45 PM and head out on the town at midnight. (Got to love the big cities!) Karma Bar is my location of choice. I figured the name itself is a good enough reason to go. I grab a car and got there no problems. The guy actually understands the word Karma and I manage to pronounce the street enough for him to understand. What a relief. Getting a car is a very interesting experience in an of itself - more on that later.
Unfortunately I miss the free dance lessons earlier in the night. The bar is dark. There is hip club music pumping. I make my way through the crowd and take my inaugural shot of Russian Vodka and drink the local brew....

Soon I am hanging with the locals and get to know some of the people. A few that actually speak english. I eventually loosen up a bit and goove to the tunes. I smile - a lot! Which of course is VERY un Russian - but I can't help it. THe night progresses and, as I had been told, there are people dancing on the bars and plenty of rabblerousing. There are a couple moments where I bump into guys and have a moment of "I hope this guy doesn't get agro" thoughts. I manage to keep my wits about me and keep the vodka shots to a minimum. I hear Snovum Godum for the first time - and realize that someone has told me Happy New Year in Russia. THAT I must remember as it will likely be a staple of what I am going to be saying in the next few days. The night progresses and I consider another spot, but it is 4:30 in the morning.

I am nervous about finding my way home and getting at car this late. I end up sharing a car with a couple nice girls who get a great cab fare, and are able to explain where it is that I am staying. Thank goodness. Because it is freezing out and dumping snow. And double thank goodness, because my hostel I am staying at is on a random side street that looks the same as every other street, and if you don't have an exact address and someone that knows how to get there... there is a good chance that you will never find the way.

I lay down for a few hours. Soon I am heading to St. Petersburg for New Years Eve!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Landing in Moscow

I managed to make it to MOSCOW! I nearly froze last night as I wandered around the city. People here just don't speak English. Imagine that? The vibe here is so different than Thailand, and it is just crazy. Talk about culture shock. I spent the majority of today looking for a historic banja house (bathhouse). I got lost when I diverted my attention from the terrible map I was using for a few moments. I asked over 30 people for directions and got nothing but NO and scowls. On the 31st, I found the bath house. How much failure does it take to achieve a desired end result? After about the 25th time, I started laughing each time and getting excited for the next rejection. I was starting to set a personal best!

So I finally got to the bathhouse. Good fun. Get naked and hit yourself with birch leaves. Steam so hot you think you might just pass out - and then cold plunge. Russian fun! I am solo so it will be an experience. Tonight I will head out to try out the nightclub scene. Should be interesting, I will let you know how it goes…

Chiang Mai

From the orphanage, I headed up to see Josh again in Chiang Mai. We worked on business development for the corporate team building in Thailand and spoke a lot about our visions for 2007. I went to the annual crag clean up day at Crazy Horse Buttress, where Josh has developed all the climbing routes there. I changed anchors and spent the day doing route maintenance to ensure a safe climbing environment for all of those that come and climb here. There were about 30 volunteers for the day from different parts of the world.

Christmas Day was spent, yes, you guessed it, climbing. I fired several classic link ups (multiple pitches combined into one long - long pitch). Incredible climbing. I liked it even more than the climbing down south because it is more technical and varied with the movements. We hung out with Jim Waugh, who is a bit of a climbing legend from the states. He was recently the coach of the Asian Climbing team and lives in Bangkok. We had great conversation and I got a great interview from him as well. One of the things he said toward the end was that what makes a climber great is when you can be as excited for your partner when they get the red point as when you do. Support those around you and make THAT be what your climbing experience is about. Facilitate the growth and development of others, and you will experience much success....

There is so much more to write about. Many more insights from the trip. I will post those a bit later. For now - time to rest!

Phi Phi and the Tsunami Funds

Ryan and Josh left on December 15th. Ryan headed back to the states for work and obligations. Josh headed home to Chiang Mai to manage his rock climbing business - Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures. I headed to Ko Phi Phi to investigate the impact of the tsunami and the donations that I had sent over a year and a half prior.

My quest was also to find the recipient of the remaining funds that I have. Because of all the confusion with government funding and questions about where the money was actually going, I had to get very specific and meet the people that were going to receive the rest of the tsunami money. Yes - I am shocked at how long it took to distribute the remaining funds. Traveling to Thailand, calling and setting up appointments from there was absolutely necessary to make sure the money was distributed properly.

The result? Duang Prejip Foundation out of Bangkok. I spoke with their organization representatives and they arranged a visit to an orphanage just north of Kao Lak. So, I caught a ferry to Phuket and was picked up by a few ladies and children for a van ride to the orphanage. When I arrived, 30 beautiful children, all of whom lost their parents in the tsunami, greeted me. We ate a delicious meal of rice, pork, cabbage and fish. This was a special treat for the kids because there is usually just one dish besides the rice. They had a few extra because I was there apparently. Just after dinner, I was surprised with Christmas Carols - in English - sung by the kids! I was blown away. Possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen, heard and felt!

So I got to know the ladies that take care of the children and hear their stories. Amazing stories of resilience, and love for each other. The remaining funds will go to creating a library of books for the kids to help them to read and learn. I will also provide toys and sports equipment for them to use. Including a bunch of initiative gear, along with instruction and training on how to use them. This will create long-term value for the children and this is a donation specifically for the children. The sports gear will remain and be used for a long time. I am soooo happy that I finally got the funds to where they belong. For anyone reading this that supported me in my cause - Thank you. The resources are being well taken care of and the money is going directly to the children impacted by the tsunami. My time there concluded with an interview with one of the women there. She had lost her husband, two children, parents and 5 other family members in the tsunami. Her message was so inspirational. A very brief slice and summary: Live life to the fullest every day - because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Ton Sai Interviews

I interviewed several people about self-actualization and realizing your potential. One of the highlights was Francois, a French guy that is 63 years old. He still onsights 7B (5.12+) - which means he climbs a new route he has not seen without falling. He is 63! He spoke about all that climbing has done for him and the transference between climbing and life. He is quite the inspiration and a model for me as to the physical and mental fitness that I will maintain through out my life.

One part of self-actualization is having a positive vision for your future. When you find people that you want to model your life after, find out what they have done so you can copy it! Visualize yourself being physically strong, fit and happy and that is what you will become... Your mind leads you to action, and it is the action that produces the results you desire....


On day 4 we went deep water soloing - what an incredible experience. This is free sport climbing above deep water. To get onto the rock, either you dive in and swim onto the rock, or you climb off a long tail boat and up onto cliffs - or onto a stalactite that is hanging down from above... the boat drifts away and you are on your own. When you fall (that's not IF), you end up in the water. The goal is typically to make it to a certain point on the rock and then jump off. Josh set the pace by going huge on the first cliff. He climbed WAY higher than anyone else did. He pulled a crux move about 50 feet over the water and swung onto a stalactite, and then dropped off. Amazing. Once again - Josh is the man! The whole boat cheered and we were off to the next set of cliffs... This set the tone for the day, and Ryan and I each had our moments of glory. I went quite large on the next cliff and ended up pulling a sequence of very difficult moves that were WAY high off the deck. When you are over 50 feet up, it actually looks more like 75 because, when you look down, you can see right through the water because it is so clear. Managing your state, staying focused, and remaining solid with your technique all the way through hitting the water is critical to staying safe.

Back in Thailand Again

This blogging is a new concept for me. Keeping up with various random internet connections has made thing a bit difficult.

Anyway - here is my summary of what had happened in Thailand over the last few weeks:

We cruised through Bangkok - to Krabi - and on to Ton Sai. Interestingly enough, we met two people on the way. One guy, Stefan, was standing in line behind us in Bangkok and offered to take some of our luggage as we were over the weight limit with gear. Another guy, Marcus, we met in Krabi and shared a cab to Ao Nang. Both seemingly random, and both of whom became great friends throughout our time. I ended up traveling on with Marcus after I left Josh and Ryan....

The focus of this portion of the trip: Sport Climbing - climb as hard and as much as your body will allow.

We arrived for the full moon party and all passed out at 9:00pm after exhausting travel. Over ten days, we had climbed hard and sent many routes. Falling was a very frequent thing. On my second day, I was climbing a hard 5.11 route that is a high profile climb - right in front of the Freedom Bar with lots of people watching - and took a 15-foot whipper while trying to clip the anchor at the top of the route. As expected, I let out a nice yell to attract lots of attention. Right after, I began taking sign ups for the “lets make this look much harder than it actually is club.” No one signed up...

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Climb - The SPIRIT of MOKWAI

We make it to the base and scramble around for a bit on the slab. The grant is solid, yet Josh and Ryan both have incidents where small knobs break off unsuspectingly. That doesn't exactly boost our confidence. The lower portion looks very do-able, and very fun. This will be a slab- friction climb.

It's the upper pitch - probably the third or fourth pitch, about 600 feet up, that looks like it will be hard. I suspect it will be steep, run out climbing. And of course, there are the monkeys to contend with.

After some debate as to whether we should just solo the climb or rope up, we decide to rope up. I will climb with Josh. Ryan will climb with John.

I head out first and it feels great to finally be moving on the rock. This is it. The culmination of all the planning, preparation, training, navigation, logistics, travel across the world, blood, sweat, and you name it... I am climbing in Cambodia on an unclimbed route for the first time.

i manage to sling a couple horns mid way through the first pitch. I keep climbing, getting into the groove, examining the rock, the holds and remembering to breathe.

"Twenty-Five Feet" Josh yells up to me.
I focus on a tree that I think I can sling for an anchor. The only problem is that it is more than 25 feet away...

I keep climbing and stay focused on my movement. There is no other choice.
The rope comes tight and Josh yells up. "That's Me"

I bellow back down - "Start climbing Josh - and DON"T FALL!"

We begin to simul climb (both climbers roped but moving in tandem together) and soon i am at the tree for my anchor. This was the best option for the situation at hand - and we make it work with the resources we have available.

I build my anchor and quickly transition. Soon josh is climbing. I look out over the Cambodian countryside, which is beautiful. The sun is hot, and I feel strong. All of our jungle training days in the heat days have paid off.

Josh climbs with speed and soon he makes it to the anchor.

We both film John and Ryan as they climb a similar line. I feel overwhelmed with happiness to be where i am on the planet.

They arrive at the anchor I have built and Ryan looks at me with a bit of question. "This is the anchor?"
Yes, Ryan - this is the anchor. It works. We're solid - no worries.

We transition through the belay ledge and Josh takes off toward on the next pitch. The climbing gets steeper now and Josh remains cool under pressure. The climbing is great. Granite rock, small holds, relatively easy, slabby, and probably in the 5.6 range for Josh's pitch. Again - fairly run out. The most important thing you can do when climbing a run out pitch is to stay calm.

I arrive at the belay ledge and congratulate Josh. "Nice work, guy!"
The four of us have a mini celebration as we look around at where we are. The landscape is absolutely mezmorizing.

I look up at the next pitch - and - realize that this will be the crux. It is my turn to lead again. Ryan will be leading for his team, with John.

The excitement is building and I am amped to be here with my friends.

"Hey, Ryan. Let's lead this climb together!"

Ryan looks back at me and replies, "If you promise not to get competitive and kick me off!" I am not sure what to make of the comment, and I figure some separation wouldn't be a bad idea. It's time to focus.

Without a word, I head out on to the direct face. This is what I perceive to be the pure line, right up the center of the steep slab I have been looking at. The vision of the route from the photos I have seen for months is now reality.

I take a deep breath as I move across the granite slab. I examine the face. it looks steep, and I think I might be able to place a cam a about 25 feet up. Focus. What do i have to work with? Live in the Zone. Feel it.

I climb upward and approach the flake. i slot my favotie cam - Old Yeller - behind the flake and give it a tug test. Seems solid. Sweet.

i lie back the flake and continue upward toward a horn on the far side, about fifteen feet up and diagonal from my cam placement. I quickly sling the horn and clip the mountain draw into the rope. The horn seems fairly solid. It is questionable whether it will hold a significant fall, but something in the 30 footer range should be alright. i should be able to find something up ahead.

I perch on top of the flake and examine the route. The wall looks blank. No protection in the immedate near future anyway. EHT climbing is reasonable. Lots of small holds. I step off of the security of the flake and move up on the rock. i move slowly and with very clear intent. Ten feet... twenty feett... the route continues to steepen. i look back at Josh at the belay ledge. Soon Josh will be out of site. He watches me intently and can sense the situation i am about to embrace. He calmly and confidently offers words of support. "Ya, Tim. You got it."

I look beyond Josh at the sweeting back drop. For the first time I feel a slight breeze. i whisper my climbing mantra to myself: "Let's get lucky."

I climb upward and out of site of Josh. I search for protection to place. Nothing.
I am alone now. I peer toward the horizon - scanning for monkeys - a run in with an angry monkey right now would be catastrophic. I choose my line and continue to move fluidly upward. Breathe. A quick analysis of my situation. The rope attached will keep me on the wall. The last sling i placed is about 50 feet below me. A fall right now would send me scraping 100 feet down this granite slab. I refuse to let death enter my mind. I am at the crux. I have the most difficult moves ahead of me.

My inner dialogue speaks. Be a warrior. Do not focus on what is NOT there (like big safe secure holds). Focus on where you are now, and what I can do with what i have.
The crux seems to be about 25 feet long - a link of about 6 moves. I know the climbing is not that hard. I think about 5.8 moves. I step through the first two moves and pause, perched on dimesized crimpers and friction foot holds. I look down - any thoughts of downclimbing have just been erased. I am fully committed. I take a long, slow, deep, breath. My awareness becomes crystal clear as I realize the situation i am in. I hear the words of so many people as I left on my trip. "Be safe." I hear the words of my mentors rolling through my mind. Visualize. Focus. Strong core. Be strong, Tim. Another Breath.

I visualize my move head. Rock off the right foot. High step with the left too the knob. Right hand side pull. Crimp the small hold with the left.... to the right foot smear and up to the knuckle sized left hand crimp. The goal - move through the sequence - solid feet - strong core and get to the left hand hold.

What Can I bring to this climb? Another breath. I begin the rocking movement to prepare for the crux sequence. Time stands still.

How did I get myself into this situation? This is why I came across the world - to be in a situation like I am in now. If it wasn't challenging then it wouldn't be worthwhile. Life is full of difficult situations. It is ovecoming these challenges that brings me strength. Here I am. BE HERE NOW.

The outcome - unknown. The challenge - very apparent. My body, Mind and Spirit focused. Do I have what it takes? No doubt. All of my years as a climber tells me yes - there is no doubt I will move through this sequence and complete this climb unharmed. That's assuming none of the holds break... Stay positive. Focused. Time to STEP UP.

Another breath.
I rock up and begin the sequence. High step...side the solid left hand... I move through it fluidly - just as I saw it in my mind. Another breath. I feel my heart pounding with excitement. I step through another 5 feet and I am there. I stand on solid holds and an enormous grin overwhelms me. I let out a primal scream as i reward my determination. Success!

I continue on and hear Joah yell out - "Rope 1-0!" Ten feet left. The rope comes tight just as i reach my anchor spot. Quite the run out!

"Off Belay!"

Soon josh is climbing and moves through the sequences just as I had. Josh yells out as he approaches the anchor. "Thin Climbing! Nice Lead!"

We celebrate and chill for a few minutes as we watch John and Ryan moves through the next pitch. The back drop is amazing and Ryan is perfectly silouetted against the Cambodia landscape. We snap photos as Ryan shows off his Bofangs.

Josh takes over and leads the final pitch in style.

The four of us join together unrope and solo the final pitch to the summit. We shout cheers of success and talk a long slow look at where we are. We have made it.

Self Actualization is foremost on my mind...

Is this self actualiztion? Does it occur only when you are challenged to find something deep inside you? Whatever it is - the feeling inside me is amazing.

A dream realized...

We all agree that the name of the climb is...



We head up through the jungle along a decent foot path. We pass past locall villagers burning the brush to clear a spot. We have been told about this - they are searching for diamonds.

we continue on and pass an incredible shrine. It looks like something out of Indiana Jones.

We continue up and soon the trail becomes a bushwack, and we break out the machete.
We start taking turns hacking a path. We are full on - hacking through the Cambodian jungle, making a clearing to go climb a big grante slab that has never been climbed before.

There is some debate about the "proper" ways to clear a jungle trail with the machete. Josh tends to like a well done, clear trail. Ryan wants just enough to get by. I like watching their different approaches and analyzing them. That's what consultants do, right? Ha!

We continue on - and suddently Josh screams in pain. (Yes - this is starting to become a recurring theme.) He has been stung by a wasp. Ouch!

He stays focused and only complains about the sting once - which is quite impressive, really.

More hacking... we continue to gain altitude. About 500 feet overall to get near the base.

Finally we find a clearing and sit down on a rock with a good view of the slab.

It looks beautiful. We look closely and see movement toward the upper reaches of the slab.

"Do you see that?"
"Is that what I think it is?"
"Uhhh... Do you think it's a tribe of jungle monkeys?"
"Ummm.... Riiight..."

Indeed - a tribe of about 10 jungle monkeys toward the far left side of the slab. not directly the line we would likely climb - but very close.

"Do you think they are agressive?"

"If I was in Railay - I would turn around right now."


Just as we are looking up and talking about the perils of climbing with monkeys on the route - i turn to the side and a huge WHITE OWL flis out of a tree next to us. We had not seen it and it was quite the shock.

I shout out, "WHOA! Hey Now - That's Good Luck Everybody. Good Luck! Yes!"

"Really I can't remember if it is or not but i seem to remember something about Native Americans and owls meaning something significant. So -- why not make it work for us?

We watch the monkeys further as they disappear over the top of the summit slab.

The slab looks very clean. Not too steep at the bottom, but definitely steep at the top. We figure somewhere in the 800-900 foot range - and probably about 5 pitches. The only problem is that there are really no main features to climb (Such as cracks). With no cracks and all slab climbing - it means there could be long distances between where we can pace protection, and possibly very dangerous.

Run Out - is the climbing term for when you have to go a long distance between when you can place gear. and that is what we are looking at - long runouts, with potentially very agressive monkeys hanging out where the most difficult part of the climb is.


Mokwai - Mokwai!!!

So there we are again. Communicating with Samoot and the moto drivers and he keeps saying "Mokwai, Mokwai!" Again I flash back to the Ghost signs, the stories, the legends and the the story of the mokwai.

We are looking up at the climb and anxious to get going. First we must get to the bottom of the ghost tales and what he is talking about.

You mean GHOST? We all try our different approach in figuring it out. I try jumping up and down (you know - like most ghosts do) and saying BOO!

Nothing. Well nothing except laughing at myself for this bizarre situation.

Samoot continues his hand waving and jumping up and down.

We are all thinking.... what about the context... being afraid at night... it triggers a thought.

Night time - what comes out at night? We open the Khmer book and flip through the pages frantically...

Mokwai, Mokwai!

And there it is... Mosquito? Yes - Mosquito.

"Mokito - Mokito!" More frantic hand waving and touching his arms...

- Ban Ban Ban Yes! Yes! Yes!

You're kidding me. We all stand there in disbelief as we realize what Samoot has been saying. The entire time he has been talking about wanting to get out of Dodge because of the mosquitos... We all laugh with each other.

This will be a topic of conversation for some time...


Friday December 1, 2006

We rise at 5 AM and are eating rice and chicken by 5:15. By 5:16 I am racing back to the guest house for the bathroom. My stomach is not in good shape today.

At 5:30 I head to the market for a few last supplies. Snacks for the day - and a critical tool - the MACHETE. We are learning the ways of Cambodian jungle travel. Ryan forgot his shoes last night so he heads to the market for a replacement pair. Somehow Ryan manages to find the ultra-cool sneakers - even in a Cambodia market in the middle of nowhere. The Bofangs. I think he gets the fashion award. That Hansel is sooo hot right now! (Obscure Zoolander reference)

We head off once again toward our objective. Josh reviews the plan with the drivers while Ryan and I are in the market.

We have a long moto ride today as we head to the other side of the mountain for a different approach for the climb. After several small stops and discussions with locals, we eventually get to a place where we think we should turn off. Sam Boa, the mountain with the granite slab, is clearly in the background. The excitement builds as we are realizing that we are headed in the right direction. If we can only get a side path toward the base!

The moto drivers have never been this way. There is some argument as to whether you can even drive down this particular path. We drive through someone's yard and find a tiny side trail. The moto drivers are making it happen.

We continue on and we are about a half mile or so from the base. It is perfect. I can't believe that there is a trail to where we are and we actually found it!

We have another long discussion about meeting later and our ridxe back out. Samoot is animated - as always. He has picked up that Josh is shooting photos for Mad Rock and keeps shouting over and over - MAADDD ROK! AAANNNNNGGRRRRLLLYYY ROK!

Josh tells them that we will be back some where between 5:30 and 7:30. I know that they understand that they will be back at 5:30. I am not sure they understand that we might be late. i ask josh to make sure and he say that he has clearly explained it.... And then Samoot bust into the whole Mokwai thing again...

Village, Volley Ball, and Grape Catching

Thursday 11/30/2006

Soon the awn breaks and we are up, on the motos and heading for the market. We grab a bottle of coke - which is filled with gasoline - and fill up on the way. The market is amazing. This is the central trading place for all good. Clothes and food - that's pretty much it. The noodles are the most delicious meals I have ever had. We all pound down a second serving - it is just amazing flavour.

We head out and grab a coffee at a local shop. We sit around and talk with about 15 locals. The eldest is in his mid fifties and speaks French. They are amazed at the video camera and the conversation is very cool. These people RARELY (as in once in a year maybe) see white people. They are all very nice and I have no fear of being attacked or anything like that. Our strengh of four very fit looking Americans helps with that.

We head off and soon we are at a monestary. We meet a monk and talk with him for an hour. I film and interview him about happiness and self actualization. He provides a very insightful Bhuddist perspective.

We travel up an enormous flight of stairs and check out a temple.

We have plans to head off when T suggest a volley ball game. Thus begins one of many volley ball games. T is very good - and very competitive. We play against the locals and lose every game. Apparantly this is what they do - every day.

After the first game - T makes John take a seat because he is not good enough. The games are heated and i give it my all - including many screams, dives and dancing celebrations when we score! There is a crowd of about 100 people watching us play. I am sure to give them a show...

Josh is in shock about the lack of team spirit that T has. He is WAY competetive.

We head out and John picks up his empty water bottle. "No. Leave Here" John won't leave his empty water bottle amidst all the other garbage laying around. We don't want to contribute to the continuation of all the trash. Cambodia is weird like that - there is no concept of garbage clean up or trash management. So we bring our garbage and move it somewhere else - where it probably will be thrown on the ground there.

We make it back for lunch and i am ready to sleep. We rest for 20 minutes and T offers to bring us "grape catching." I am looking forward to more of a nap. Ryan is motivated. "Come on Tim, when is the next time you will have a chance to go grape catching?"

I agree. i pull myself up and we all head off across the dirt road, behind some huts and toward the rice patties. We have our Kromars (Cambodian Head wraps) Cambodian Hats (the circular kind you see in pictures) and are ready to catch some grapes.

Soon we are walking through the patties and T shows us what we are looking for. CRABS

I walk into the rice pattie - the mud squishes in my toes as I step through 3 inches of mud water and squint my eyes looking for a crab. i am hoping I won't see a big snake. it is in the back of my mind, because I know there are snakes here. Big ones. We have talked abut it, but we have yet to see one. i am hoping that today won't be different.

It takes a while and I finally catch my crab. We all fill a big bucket half way with our contributions. Looks like dinner for the family. Josh takes some pretty incredible photos. We wrap up the afternoon looking at a giant bomb hole from the Viet Nam War, and snack on some potatoes made by the neighbor.

We say good bye to the family and head back to Ton Lope, where we will prepare for tomorrow - and finally - the climb.

What a rest day.

Sounds of Kwau Village

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

We agree to stay with T at his village house and take a rest day tomorrow. Friday will be our summit bid. We drive in the dark from our guesthouse about 30 minutes on the motos. Kwau is a VERY small village - one road. We arrive in the complete dark and are greeted by the family - wife, children, grandmother, and uncle.

There is a really weird music playing in the background. Think of the
weirdest combination of a string-fiddle-with a talking drum and
mono-tone Cambodian rap singer with a slinky in his mouth, all wrapped
into one.Apparently this music is because someone has died in the
village and it is for their send off. And maybe to ward off the ghosts
as they travel to theafter world. It makes for an eerie backdrop to the dark Cambodian village scene.

We have dinner by candle light. We each rice with chicken and fish. Each sich is in a bowl and you scoop and chow down. It is delicious. Ryan and I struggle to sit squat legged and are laughed at because "you sit like lady." Good one!

I am exhausted and soon we are shown to our beds. Josh and I share a bed
with a net to keep the bugs out. I pass out immediately.

I awake to sounds of a pig snorting. I slowly begin to open my ears to
the mixture of sounds. The musics is still playing for the death
ceremony. I can't believe that the "music" is still going. A rooster is

i get up, grab my mini recorder and head outside for an adventure to find the WC. i am greeted by a dog that begins to snarl at me and then bark. I stop and begin to whisper to the dog - "It's okay. You're not going to hurt me. I'm not going to have to hurt you. Good boy." Suddenly the grandmother appears from the closed gates of the
house doors and swishes the dog away.

I head to the back of the house and the pig is walking around snorting very loudly, and throws in an occasional squeal. The rooster crows. The dog barks again.
The music plays. I feel like I am in a low budget horror film, and I
shake my head in disbelief as to what might happen next...

Blazing Animals

Wednesday, November 29,2006

We continue our hike across the
Cambodian Countryside. The bush is so thick that at times we are
walking through neck deep grass. Uneven rocks and boulders make for
precarious walking and many drops and falls. Carrying the boulder pad
makes it difficult to navigate, yet saves my ass a few times when I

I am pouring sweat. The sun is blazing. I have this
feeling of seeing some jungle animal bursting into flames. I claw at my
legs in hope for somereprieve from the itching. We come to a mountain
top and overview our situation. Making it to the temple is not an
option. We decide to navigate through a valley and out to some houses
we see a couple miles away. This is our best option. John announces
that he is out of water. We are all running low. We still have a long
way to go.

I charge forward and we divide to find a reasonable
path into the valley. I am swatted by a pricker bush and suddenly there
is blood running down my face. The blood tastes particularly sweet. I
find a path and it works - we are making progress.

In the midst of the bush whack,
Josh's phone rings. I find it odd that he is receiving a phone call.
Time to sell some stock, Josh? It is T - our local contact who provided
the map and information. He invites us to dinner at his local village
house. Josh and I discuss and we want to relax tonight and avoid anycommitments, considering our circumstances. Josh, being Grengjai
(MORE ON THIS LATER), tells T thank you for the offer, (he does not say
no) and that we will talk soon and that we have no idea when we will be
out of the jungle...

We descend slowly through the jungle and eventually make it to a pathway that funnels us out of the mountains and toward open fields.

Duck farms, rice patties, and lots of cows along the way. And there it is - the road!

Just as we approach we see a group of children playing. Their
game is to run and jump over a string, which is held by two children.
The jumps are impressive actually and we give cheers and support as
they continue to raise the string, and watch each other jump. Ryan and
John put down a crash pad for them to land on, thinking theywould like that. But the children continue to run and jump - avoiding the crash pad landing. "That's like cheating." We surmise. Josh snaps many photos of the children jumping. I am rolling film.

the jumps they go over to a well and plunge in. It looks incredibly
refreshing, but it seems like it is not our place to jump in.

make it to the dirt road and there is a tiny snack shack a short walk
down. 7 up - with ice! Beautiful. we proceed to chug a bottle of 7 up,
and lots water. The ice is like a dream come true.

We stand and begin to walk down the road toward where we need to meet our moto
drivers. Just then a pick up truck stops and Josh exchanges with him
briefly. Next thing you know we are all in the back and tearing off
down the road. John comes very close to falling out about 10 seconds
into the ride.

We arrive at our meeting spot at 5:00 and our moto drivers are there.

We head home and soon I am taking one of the most desired cold showers of my entire life.

Jungle Cave

Wednesday 11/29/06

John and Josh stay at our first boulder area
and Ryan and I head out toward the next set of rocks. Very quickly I
realize that SHORTS were the wrong choice today. Who knows what I am
moving through and what is brushing on my legs. It is blazing hot and
the "short" hike to the next set of rocks turns into a 45 minute slog,bushwacking
through the bushes and prickers. We arrive and take a quick assessment
of where we are, and where we need to go. Ryan and I discuss the
reality of how long it will take to get to the temple, and that reality
is not so pretty.
Soon Josh and John arrive and we decide to
explore a cave nearby. We all cram ourselves into this 6 foot high, 2
foot wide opening and slot ourselves deep into the dark, cool cave. It
feels nice and the features are interesting.

"Hey - check that out - cool geckos on the wall up there."

"Ya - Sweet. Geckos are cool - how they can walk upside down and all."

"And what is that up there - ya - WAY up there?"

"Bats" Josh chimes in calmly.

As if - of course they are bats. We are in a dark cool cave, where bats would live.

"So, why are they moving around then?" I ask.

"Don't bats usually just hang there?"

Slowly my vision begins to focus and I realize that there are many bats. And they are all starting to move around.

"Maybe they are hearing us." John whispers from the front.

We all are staring intently at the motion that is building 35 feet above us.

"Ya - and maybe we should consider leaving their cave." I whisper.

Just as I utter the words an army of furry, fanged creatures
begin crawling - with their freakish faces and teeth - directly down at
us. There are lots of them. And it is weird - they are crawling upside
down with their faces toward us. As they move they begin to let out a
eerie squeak.

We see the movement all at once. The noise gets louder and suddenly I feel panic inside.

Simultaneously, we all let out screams of our own.

"Holy *%#!" "Ahhhh!" "Go, Go!" "What the?"

Four of us frantically push through the squeeze tunnel and head for daylight.

"AAAAHHHHH!!!!" Josh lets out a painful scream from behind me.

I have visions of a bat sinking his teeth into his neck. And of Josh turning into a vampire.

break out of the cave and I look back to see Josh holding his head as
he emerges. He smashed his head on the rock wall on the way out. Ryan,
our "mini-doctor" has a look and determines that there is a good chance
Josh will live.Although there is significant likelihood of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's okay - we'll have plenty of time to talk as we sweat our way through the Jungle...

Sunday, December 17, 2006


We step out of the guest house and to meet our moto drivers once again. We are greeted with smiles and the common hello - 'Sua Sudie.'

A horse and carriage passes by with big piles of fruit.
A moto drives by stacked with live chickens hung from the sides.
School children are dressed in blue and back uniforms and ride in a pack on bikes toward their local school.
Miscellaneous characters walk by on the way to the market.
In front of our guest house is a display for cell phones - yesterday it was diamonds.

It is 7:00 AM.

Our objective today is to locate the spot we found yesterday, start climbing the boulders, and navigate from our drop off point to the temple. Along the way we want to see if we can gain a perspective on our main objective. We are excited about the
unknown that today will bring.

I am amazed at the houses and lifestyle once again. A culture of sharing - community - and survival seems to be overwhelming. I giggle uncontrollably as we pass the scenic rice fields and again enter into palm tree filled villages. We swerve to avoid a large pig lumbering on the side of the road. Soon enough we are off the main road and motoring down a four foot wide pathway, dodging trees, bushes and cows along the way.

Then one, two, and a whole litter of boulders come into view. We are back at our spot.

We hop off the motos, confirm that we will meet our drivers at 5:00 at the base of the temple - and we head off into the jungle.

Soon enough we approach a very small jungle hut. An elderly man - the grand father comes out waving and smiling to us in welcoming gestures. He is eager to show us the beginning of his new structure. It is likened to a soccer goal, strapped with twine. This will be part of one of the houses. The feeling of this remote village in Cambodia is very hard to describe.

We continue on toward our first bouldering objective. We cut through the jungle and finally arrive on a big granite slab with 20-30 foot boulders - with perfect lines. We are all ecstatic and begin to "send" several of the routes. Everyone is amped, and John is climbing particularly strong. I fall a few times on a route - having the boulder pads are great. Josh reminds me of a few climbing techniques and body positioning strategies. I shift my approach - and eventually put the sequence together to complete the "boulder problem." I am reminded of how every climb is a lesson. A mental and physical challenge.

We stay at these boulders for several hours. We overlook the Cambodian countryside - and are climbing routes on these boulders that have never been climbed before.

Ghosts and Diamonds

SO.... What was Samoot Talking about? What is Moquai?
Why had he driven so fast? An attempt to escape the darkness?
He had written something in the sand in an attempt to explain. An indiscernible word, which John had understood to be.... GHOST.

We flash back to the breakfast at the market in Phenom Penh. The Bill Board... The movie about the Ghost Baby. It all makes sense. Everyone is afraid of ghosts...including Samoot... and they come out in the dark....

We continue on about the folklore about this mountain we seek to climb. "T" had told us of the rumors of Diamonds buried at the base of the mountain. Locals still go there in search for diamonds. And there is a good chance we will see some of them once we finally get to the mountain....

Ghosts...and Diamonds... How dis we get here? And what are we getting ourselves into????

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Why Ton Lope?

We arrive back at the guest well after dark. The evening at the market is filled with animated discussions about the possibility of the area for climbing.

What would it take to attract any significant number of climbers, or travellers, to this area to actually have an impact on the community? Who would want to come to this place anyway? This village has no mention in the lonely planet. No reason to come here.... I'll tell you who would want to come here - someone in search of a real adventure - where the culture and the experience is the primary factor.

A few descriptors:
Not a single person speaks English. We still have yet to see another white person. It is so hot I feel like a stick of butter melting throughout the day. My stomach has so many continuous issues that I am just accepting this part of the travel equation.

Yet deep down this feels like the perfect adventure, at the perfect time. The people here are absolutely amazing. I cannot help but smile. They laugh as we attempt to speak Khmer. We are making an honest effort - and they realize that. After one day you feel like you are being welcomed. We sit at our food stand and eat a papaya salad. Just when I thought I couldn't see Ryan sweat any more - enter Papaya salad.
Our mouths are on fire...and the internal heat is ridiculous...

Samoot Communication

We eventually stop at a junction where we see many boulders, and can view the temple off in the distance. This was the landmark we were shown by our contact in Pehnom Penh. We are amped, and want to hike to the temple from where we are to get a lay of the land and check out some boulders. We begin to communicate our plan to the drivers and are met with significant dissent. I role film and observe the interaction - and pay particular attention to the body language, facial expressions, tone, and pace of the communication. From what I understand, the guys think we are crazy for wanting to hike to the temple. It is about 4:00 and I guess that we have about 1.5 hours until the sun sets. All four are confident that we can make headway and just want to walk around. Josh does his best to describe what we want.

"NO, NO!" Samoot says. He is the driver that speaks the most english. Which is very little. He is highly animated. His pace and intensity increases.

Samoot waves his hands frantically over his head and shouts out "Mokwai! Mokwai!" "We go back. We go back." "Very Bad" He points at the sun and his actions are beginning to seem a bit crazed. His facial expressions begin to shift from concern to anger. He wants to leave - now.

Local villagers have now arrived and a small group stares at us and talks among themselves about this random group of farang (white foreigners).

I am filming what I can out of the exchange and we quickly gather together to discuss what we should do. After a few minutes, Ryan suggests that maybe we should not anger the only guys with motos on the first day. We all agree. Show some respect and go with the flow. This is not our land, and as much as we think we might know about travelling through this terrain - it is our first day. Also, we agree that the sun goes down much faster than it does in the US. Time seems to move quickly and we have about 1 hour before it is dark.

We load up on the motos and head off down the narrow, sand filled jungle side trail. We expect to return the way we came. Ironically, we continue down the
path, which brings us closer to the big wall. Funny - because had we know that we would have got back on the motos immediately. Along the path, we see random villagers
with machetes, old, young, male, female, more cows, and the scene just seems surreal.

We move through a clearing and Ryan, Josh and I stop. John and Samoot are nowhere
to be found. We scope out the wall with a good view for the first time. It is big - we think about 1000 feet. Yet it is still impossible to discern the quality of the rock, the steepness, and if it is protectable. Our excitment builds. We are standing in a rice patty in Cambodia looking at big grante slab, envisioning how we will climb it for the first time.

It is getting dark and we quickly take recon photos and are back on the bikes.

We meet up with John - and he has been waiting for us for several minutes. He tells us Samoot keeps talking about Mokwai - and how Samoot is scared stiff and went speeding down the tral in fear of the darkness - and the Mokwai. He wants to keep going - NOW. We are confused - and will hear Johns story later...

Friday, December 8, 2006

Closing in on the Big Wall

I sit backward on the moped as we bounce along the pothole filled dirt road. I am filming the scene and come close to falling off - straight under the wheel of Ryan's moto. My body is buzzing - the excitement - the adventure. Ryan and John are carrying our large boulder pads and I have to continue to laugh at the whole scene.

We are driving down a random dirt road, on mopeds, with 4 local Cambodians. We are in the middle of nowhere and going to where we think will get us closest to the route. The countryside is amazing. The houses are bamboo shacks - basically tree houses. Huge cows, pigs, chickens, and dogs all roam about.

We continue for a while and end up in some random village. Apparently we have taken a wrong turn. Within seconds we are surrounded by a swarm of children. Smiling, giggling, laughing and very curious. They have never seen people like us before.

I show them the video camera- and they go bonkers looking at themselves.

We turn around and get back on track - we think. Soon we turn off and are now on a very narrow side trail. The mopeds bog down in the sand, we jump on and off, we dodge locals swinging machetes, big cows, and a number of random farmers who look at us with disbelief. And then we see them: THE BOULDERS! Littered across the country side are big rocks - ready to be climbed. Our excitement builds each time we stop. "Did you SEE that?!" "Holy *&#^%" We are grinning from ear to ear with the the potential that this area is bringing for bouldering. (FYI: Bouldering is a form of climbing, using steep rocks that are typically about 15-30 feet in height.)

We continue on the dirt roads, trusting these guys know where we are going. We check in periodically to find our location on the map. The drivers do not read, nor do they understand the concept of our map.

Ryan asks, "Hey Tim, is this what you had in mind when we climbed the Jensen Direct 10 years ago? Is THIS what you thought this would lead us to?" We both smile and nod as if this IS the perfect culmination of our climbing. This is what climbing has brought us to. We still have yet to climb anything, yet the adventure is already a amazing.

I wonder how long it will take to get back to the guest house...and how long we have until sunset...

Ton Lope

The Cambodian country side flows by... Palm Trees, Rice Patties, Open Space, and then intermittent small villages. It all seems surreal.

After a few hours we begin to see rocks off in the distance. Big Rocks. A Lake - and Bong Lee points out the temple we had been shown by 'T' on the map. We see the giant slab that we have seen in photos. The wall we will climb is now within our view - and soon within our grasp.

We continue on and arrive at out village, Ton Lope. It consists of one main street over a few hundred yards. Horse and carriage trot by. There is one guest house - Tran Hout - and we take it. Josh speak Khmer and we are continually amazed that the communication takes place with smiles. There are definitely barriers - and again we are psyched Josh can, or at least thinks, that we bridge many of them.

There are no other white people - all natives.
No one speaks any English.
Every sight, sound, and sense is curious.
The heat is relentless.
Locals look at us with curiosity and bemusement.
Children walk around naked.
Fruit stands are plentiful.
Sweat continues to pour.

We locate the one moto bike rental option. The only was is to get ancient mopeds, with drivers. We meet Samoot - the one local moto drier that speaks "tic tic" a little English. We unload, check out the market, and head off on four mopeds, with our drivers, to locate our objective...

Bong Lee

We arrive to the taxi station. The crowds form and the offers begin to fly. The going rate is $25 for the drive. We get a connection and our driver appears - Bong Lee. A very chill, yet sage-like, Cambodian "driver". We jam all our climbing gear - including a full trad (traditional rock-climbing protection gear, like cams and slings) rack, two ropes, two boulder pads, our personal bags, the cameras, tripod... packed.

The inevitable traffic danger ensues. We are in the thick of it and Bong Lee puts it in reverse. CRUNCH. Traffic accident. Fender bender. We pull over and the other guy is irate. I mean screaming at the top of his lungs "You owe me money for scratching my bumper" kind of irate. The funny thing was the amount of other scratches he already had on his car. Every crevasse had a scratch on it. We start to get a bit on edge that this guy is going to just snap, but Bong Lee is very Kung Fu-Like. So, after much debate, Bong Lee coughs ask us to help him out with $10, he add in $5, and we are off.

He tells us he couldn't see because of the boulder pads blocking the rear view mirror!

Moped Madness

Okay - so the moped riding is a bit ridiculous - in a great way. 5 people on one. Small families. Tiny kids sitting on handlebars. Girls riding side saddle. Not uncommon to drive completely against traffic to get into the lane you want to go.

We walk out of the bar headed back to the guest house. Just ahead we see four mopeds, each with two to three people on it, bank into a hard turn. They proceed to gun it and the front runner runs an intersection into an oncoming car.

The car slams on the brakes, the moped swerves and barely avoids becoming a hood ornament. But the swerve is too much. The moped overcompensates, swerves out of control, and goes down. "Holy Sh*%$!" "WOW" "WHOA" "Do we have some serious injuries going or what?"

We begin to jog and rapidly approach and, just as we near, they jump back up, brush themselves off, and are off again - speeding recklessly.

Breakfast Ghost Side Note

We have a favorite spot we have gone to twice. We have fun talking Khmer with the girls and eating killer food. Across our street-side seating is a huge billboard. The advertising is for a crazy ghost movie. We all comment and wonder what the deal is with the fascination with ghosts. Josh tells us, "They're all afraid of ghosts here."
We talk to a few people and get an affirmative - they are DEFINITELY afraid of ghosts.

The Killing Fields

Before I arrived in Cambodia I searched for what it could possibly mean. C-A-M-B-O-D-I-A: Jungle - Hot - Asia - Viet Nam - Pol Pot - Genocide - The Killing Fields.

We arrive at the Genocide Museum, which is one long U-shaped building, with torture rooms and prisoner cells. We are in downtown Pehnom Penh. I proceed to go through a very eye opening experience. The estimates indicate that more than 2 million people were murdered under Pol Pot's regime. This was about a third of their total population. And all for the quest for a Utopian, Communist society. All of the educated were singled out and killed, along with their families and anyone they had any relations with. To stay alive, you had to be either a factory worker or a farmer.

I walk down the hallway and look at the photographs of those that were tortured and killed. I wonder how one is born into a certain position in life. Who we are, and why?

We watch an incredible documentary and gain more insight into the horror.

They pulled out fingernails of prisoners. They dunked them until near drowning, and then hanged them. They kept prisoners shackled together, connected to long iron bars.

Did you know that the leaders of of the Khmer Rouge still have yet to be tried? The politics is driven by corruption.

We depart the museum and I am approached by a man with one leg begging for money. Another man approaches Ryan. He face is so horribly disfigured that it is painful to look at him. My heart sinks with blessing toward these people.

We travel to the Killing Fields. Our dialogue has become very philosophical. We are deep into contemplating the place we are in, and the thick history.

We see the locations of the mass murders and how it all went down. Stories are told by our tour guide, who is still afraid to have anything recorded. The place feels eerie.

"Pol Pot Bad Man. VERY bad Man."

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Pehnom Penh Street Fight

The morning of day two begins with a Sun Rise Run on the Mekong River Front. There were small clusters of people doing "Asian Aerobics" to seemingly cheesy Cambodian Dance Music. Geanie - you would be impressed :0). The running feels good - as we continue on, an ENORMOUS elephant walks down the center of the main street. We keep running and I find it odd that something like this seems somewhat normal.

We finish up our run and stop for fresh coconut. The elderly woman takes a machete and proceeds to chop the top off the coconut, put a straw in it, and we begin to sip what Ryan and I are convinced to be the Bottomless Coconut. So much juice it is just silly. We stand there sipping and out of now where, we observe our next scene:

Three Cambodian kids, about 16 years old, all on one moped, come to a screeching halt right next to us. One on the back is shouting in Khmer and pointing toward us. We look at him curiously as he approaches with a glare in his eye. Almost immediately we realize he is approaching another younger boy near us. The shouting increases with pace and volume and the boy charges. One punch, another punch... the boy is thrown back as he is rocked in the face; yet he does not retaliate... Another running punch... Ryan, Josh and I stand, staring with intrigue as the beating continues just a few feet away... More screaming and pointing and the aggressor hops back on his moped and is gone. It is 7 AM and the beginning of our first full day in Phenom Penh...