A blog about climbing full time on the road.

matthewandcassie's items Go to matthewandcassie's photostream

Monday, November 26, 2012

south island

We took a break from climbing to travel around the south island for a few weeks. And, like everyone says, it is a beautiful and amazing place! It's been a while since we posted since we've been having so much fun traveling around and seeing all there is to see.

steak, bacon, and mushroom pie. boy will we miss these.

We've been abroad for almost eight months now and as amazing as New Zealand is, we have to admit that we're experiencing a bit of travel fatigue. As luxurious as we thought we were being when we rented our van,  living out of a small van for four months straight can get a little old. (luxurious compared to living out of a tent, but small compared to our VW van at home). The continual search for toothpaste, food, nightly routine of smashing sandflies against the windows (at this point I am looking forward to going back to the mosquitoes in Thailand after living with these annoying little guys for two months!), sitting out the rain, etc has started to ware on us a bit. I know we're not going to get any sympathy with this comment either, but after seeing so many beautiful and new places, our motivation to do one of the amazing overnight treks here or even to hike a few kilometers to a nice view point has waned a bit. So, with the abroad portion of our trip nearing an end, we've decided to "splurge" a bit by staying in more expensive campsites with indoor cooking facilities, booking a few tours, and sometimes, even though we're in an amazing place and the weather is beautiful, just sitting inside surfing the net a bit.

So, with that being said, we still have seen and done some amazing things while we've been traveling around.

royal albatross
Royal Albatross
We started by heading to the south of Castle Hill to Mt Cook which at 12,316 ft is quite an impressive site to behold. It has glaciers all around it, and a glacial lake with icebergs floating in it. The park is excellent and we had perfect views for our hike to the glacial lake. We even got to hike across some suspension bridges that were being replaced by newer ones. Always fun to know that the bridge you're walking is currently being replaced...
mount cook
Mt Cook, and us.
petrified tree near the Catlins
After Mt Cook we headed to the East coast to the Otago peninsula to see the rare Yellow Eyed penguins, and other wildlife such as albatross and fur seals. We continued south to and west through the Catlins, and ended up in Te Anau where we pretty much sat around for a day and rested. We went on a tour to a glowworm cave which was some epic Indiana Jones kinda stuff. The cave was amazing with a roaring river coming through it and huge waterfalls. It was so loud the tour group leader had to shout and even then it was hard to hear. It climaxed with a very slow moving section of the river in which a small boat was navigated through the river to a grotto with glowworms hanging from the ceiling. I must say it was one of the best experiences of either of our lives. The river noise became dead silent and the tour group respectively obeyed the no talking request. This made it a pitch black, silent boat ride through an underground cave while looking up and seeing small green specks shining from the ceiling. Those were the night sky of stars and yet they were glowworms patiently waiting for a meal by attracting insects with their glow. Spectacular tour and one of the highlights of the trip.

Cassie on the glowworm tour


yellow eyed penguin
yellow eyed penguin
otago coast
beach sunset

For Matthew's birthday, we were planning on going to Milford Sound. This looked a little doubtful though since when we arrived in Te Anau, the road to Milford was closed due to a rock slide and they didn't know when it would be opened again. After a few days in Te Anau, we decided to a least drive as far down the Milford Road as we could in hopes that the road would open. The drive was amazing in itself, but luckily the road crews were able to get the road open and we made it into the sound. Really it's a fiord, since it was glacial carved, but the name has stuck. We booked a tour through the sound which also included a stop at an underwater viewing area. The conditions in Milford sound allow sea life which is typically found only in deeper ocean water to occur in much shallower water. They built an underwater viewing area about 6 stories below the surface to view all the fish and corals there. This was one of the coolest things we did since it was like being inside the biggest aquarium you can imagine. We saw all kinds of corals, starfish, anemones  and fish, I even saw a manta ray which apparently is quite rare (like one a year is seen). On the surface in the boat, we were able to see fur seals, penguins (fiordland crested which is the second most rare penguin), and waterfalls. It was a bit cloudy, so we couldn't see all the surrounding mountains, but it was quite spectacular and again, worth the money for the guided tour.

Milford Sound (really a fjord)
birthday dinner. simple and excellent.
fjord viewing building. a floating underwater building.
fur seal
fur seal

Haast Pass
mirror lake
We left Milford Sound and started to make our way up the West Coast to see the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers. The west coast is notoriously rainy, but we lucked out and had some beautiful weather. We'd seen and heard about New Zealand's whitebait fishing and fritters and had heard the west coast was the place to do this. These are some native fish in New Zealand, all called whitebait, but actually one of 6 or so different species of galaxiids. These fish spawn in fresh water, the larvae drift out to the ocean then after 6-9 months then come back upstream to spawn. They are netted as they are coming back upstream,  once caught, they are fried up whole with a bit of egg into a fritter. It was quite tasty. These might be the first fish we've eaten whole.

whitefish batter

the final product. yum!

We visited the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers which were impressive, but since we've seen a number of glaciers before in Alaska, we really enjoyed hiking through the rainforest even more. After visiting the glaciers, we headed up to the small coast town of Okarito. We spent an afternoon on a really cool rocky beach there then the next morning rented kayaks to tour around the Okarito Lagoon. We rented from Okarito Nature Tours who were amazing. They gave us great info on when the best time to go would be, lots on info on the birds and wildlife we'd see, and were great people to talk with before and after. If you're on the West Coast, check this place out. It's a 3000 hectare lagoon which is home to more than 70 birds and has views of the mountains. We saw the white heron and royal spoonbills as well as numerous smaller birds. We could kayak up into some small streams which went into the forest as well. It was a great way to spend the morning!

you may be hit by either white or black rocks...

curled fern

rainforest. just a mile from the glacier!

Royal Spoonbill
After Okarito, we made our way back to Castle Hill where we are now. We just have a few more days in New Zealand, then off to Thailand for two weeks. We're really looking forward to staying in hotels and bungalows rather than the van and eating curries and other good food that someone else will cook for us. We're planning on doing a two night snorkeling tour near Khao Lak which we're pretty excited about. It'll be our first overnight snorkeling tour. Haven't slept on a boat in quite a while so it should be interesting.

Also many of the pictures here were taken by Cassie who has been taking a lot of shots lately. She's getting quite the eye!

We're starting to really look forward to seeing the fam back in Ohio for Christmas. Can't wait!!!

amazing waterfall

another amazing waterfall. we are actually getting quite tired of waterfalls now...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Castle Hill Update

We've been climbing at Castle Hill for 3 weeks now and might finally be starting to get the hang of this smeary limestone thing. We've also been meeting up with friends we made earlier on the trip and making some new ones which has been a lot of fun! Castle Hill is a popular destination, so we've been meeting a lot of other climbers which has been great, but it's also big enough that it always feels quite quiet and peaceful.

Shaun sticking it on Thrust v6

Ben reaching with everything on Outcast v8

Luke holding the swing on The Air Below v6

Shaun and Lauren who we met in Australia came out for a couple weeks. We had a great time hanging out with them and their kids and getting to know some other friends of theirs, Luke, Brett, and Joseph, who they met out here last year. As an added bonus, they were staying in a house in Castle Hill Village (between the campsite and the boulders) and they've all let us take advantage of some of their house conveniences. Thanks for all the showers!! Everyone we were with has had very successful trips with many projects going down so it has been incredibly fun to spend the day watching others climb and send.

jake and annie
Annie and Jake

Matt and Shaun climb really well together so they both were able to get some great climbs done. They both have different styles and come up with beta for each other. Matt has climbed a few of his projects. He was most excited about a v8 at Flock Hill called Mobius. He stumbled upon this problem the first day we went up and tried it each time. Flock Hill is privately owned and closes for lambing season on the 1st of November. We went up on the last day of the season with Matt getting over a cold he'd had for a few days, so he didn't have very high expectations. We had a great day showing a bunch of other traveling climbers we'd met around the area and some of the climbs we liked. At the end of the day, Matt and Ben (a really strong Kiwi climber we met here) who was also really sick at the time, tried Mobius with some important new beta. After a few tries, both of them climbed it in great style. It was Ben's last day of a month long trip at Castle Hill (ending a full year trip of buldering) and Matt's last chance at that climb, so was a great way to end the season! Matt has also gotten a bunch of other problems finished such as Thrust v6, Tuppi Master v6, One move Boulder v6, and The Remedy v6. Cassie has gotten Supernatural v5 and Snatch v5. She's been sick for almost a week and is finally feeling better so more is sure to go down soon.

Mobius - The Sequence

Bumping to the left hand sloping mono

hitting the sloping mono
matching on the slopers using a heel-toe cam
bumping the left hand back under the roof to allow the heeltoe cam to come out and control the swing

controlling the swing
trying to match

campusing to the sloper
campusing to the jug

hitting the jug, now just throw a heel up and mantle

We have a couple more weeks of climbing, then plan to travel around the south island for a bit. The weather quickly changed from snow storms every few days to really hot, so we're trying to find things in the shade and have taken to lazing about in the afternoons waiting for things to cool off. Both of us have a number of projects we'd like to get done before we leave, so hopefully we'll have a bit of luck and good conditions.

orifice fish
Cassie cruising Orifice Fish v3 

Joseph coming super close to sticking the dyno on Lock and Load v4
Lock and Load v4 - photo note: wrong beta, must be both hands leading with the right. going with the left is a good way to scrape your right arm.

Lauren on The Tonic v3

Monday, October 15, 2012

It hurts to laugh: Our first week at Castle Hill New Zealand.

Kaikoura coastline
Kaikoura coastline

We've been in New Zealand two weeks now. The first week we drove from Auckland down to Christchurch. The weather was quite rainy mixed with some sun. Every time we decided to just drive because the weather was bad it would clear up and every time we tried to do something touristy it started raining. This culminated with us waiting in Christchurch for two days in the rain while it snowed at our destination: Castle Hill. We still saw some magnificent scenery such as the famous Mt Doom from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We also enjoyed a nice hike around Kaikoura and saw baby seals. We hiked in a redwood (not native) forest that was small potatoes compared to Muir Woods, but was very pretty nonetheless.

thermal pool
hotsprings in a redwood forest

waiting for a ride
unusual hitchhiker

Mt Ngauruhoe
Mt Doom. Stupid electrical lines. i'll be removing you in photoshop later...

Read here if you want to know why we bought $2000 plane tickets to Singapore with no intention of going there....
While in Christchurch we took care of getting our plane tickets to Singapore refunded. This little story goes like this: We arrived at the Melbourne airport with every intention of going to New Zealand. As we checked in the front desk clerk asked us for our flight information showing our flight leaving New Zealand (nothing unexpected so far most countries want to see your itinerary). She looks it over and says "ah I see you have a 12 hour lay over in Sydney Australia on the flight from Auckland-Sydney-Bangkok Thailand. This is over the maximum 8 hour layover. You need a transit visa" We agree that this is true. She asks us for our transit visa that will allow us to stay in Sydney for this time period. Now, we knew we needed a transit visa for this leg of the trip, but we couldn't get a transit visa while in Australia (dont ask me why, you just cant) and assumed we could do it in Auckland NZ. She says "well I can't let you leave for new Zealand unless you have a visa for this layover in Australia" and so we say "we need to be in new Zealand to get a transit visa for Australia" and she says "well we can't let you go without one". Obviously we are freaked that we can't get to new Zealand and we can't leave Australia. True example of a catch 22. So she offers a solution: "if you buy two fully refundable tickets out of new Zealand to a country you don't need a visa for we can let you into new Zealand. can you put $2000 on your credit cards right now? we say "sure, we can do that" and so we get two one-way tickets to Singapore. And so they let us into New Zealand where we spend $50 get our transit visas for Australia and cancel our tickets to Singapore. All told we spend about $200. We didn't intend to, but at least we made it. Phew that was a close one. Crazy bureaucracy.

Now on to the climbing. We arrived to see snow all over the boulders our first day. In fact, they had only opened Porters Pass 5 minutes before we went up. So, with no hope of climbing we went and camped at craigeburn (the climbers camp) the next day we went to the boulders and proceeded to get schooled on every possible grade. We fell off of v0s and found impossible v2s. It was humbling and even though we knew it was coming it still stung our egos. I was wondering if my ambition to do a v6 here might be a bit optimistic.

Ocean v6
Cassie palms and smears trying to get up Ocean v6

Cassie on a v3 at Spittle Hill
a pockety v3 at Spittle Hill
Snail v4
after 20 minutes of confusion Matthew finally figures out how to get up Snail v4

Our second day went a bit better than the first and a few v3s fell though they still felt really really hard. I was so sore that it hurt to sit up, and even walk. We were sore in places we didn't realize we had muscles. Now that might not seem surprising, but remember we're been bouldering for 4 months now. You'd think we were in shape? Not for this style apparently.
Castle Hill is world renewed limestone bouldering. In fact, its one of the few limestone bouldering areas in the world and is by far the most famous. It gets much notoriety for being quite slick rock with very technical climbing. Small feet and slopey hands are common making for many falls from simply slipping rather than from fatigue. So far, we definitely see how people consider this area difficult, but maybe thanks to this area being such a late entry into our trip we've got more outdoor climbing skills to help out our technique. Many of the climbs we have done at first seem impossible with basically no hands or feet to get off the ground with, but once your start learning how to press and smear they go from impossible to possible in a few minutes. Much laughter is often present with the first few tries as well as saying things like "this is impossible", "there's no holds", "i don't understand this thing". Usually that gives way to sending, but sometime we can't find the beta and frustration occurs with much swearing. For example Cassie did a heinous v4 mantle that I still haven't done. It's just one move, throw your leg up on the rock and press it out but wow does it feel hard.

reflection on water
Quantum field

Terms that need explaining
(from Wikipedia)

Mantel: A move used to surmount a ledge or feature in the rock in the absence of any useful holds directly above. It involves pushing down on a ledge or feature instead of pulling down.

 Beached Whale: A not very graceful way to Mantle up onto a ledge involving flopping your belly onto it and squirming up onto the ledge. Example: Matthew's Technique. Pictures coming shortly...

 Our third day things actually started to go well and even more climbs around v3 were completed such as the at first confounding "left buttock" v3 and "snail" v4 also Matthew sent "Misfit" v6 which is so far the hardest climb we've done. Yesterday we spent our first day at Flock Hill. Flock Hill is a 45min walk each way up hill (feels like each way) given the long approach many of the climbs are much less polished from climber traffic and are therefore more fun to climb. We did a bunch of good things there and found some projects to go back to such as "Mobius" v8 and "Captain Nemo" v8 as well as many others. It's a beautiful location and we had a wonderful day. Well that about wraps it up from here. As usual we'll post more when some climbs go down which will hopefully be soon.

the view from flock hill
the view from Flock Hill

flock hill
Flock Hill - Cassie enjoys superb limestone huecos

i'll take a jug please
i'll take a jug please. Matt highstepping on a slab at Flock Hill.