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30 June 2009

We will be visiting Vietnam in Jan 2010 and would like to visit Quy Nhon. Could you please advise the best way to travel from Nha Trang to Quy Nhon...Detail
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Climbing in China and south east Asia - Laos

PART THREE

Southern Laos is a climbing hotspot in waiting. Craggy limestone mountains soar up from the plains, while just a few hundred metres from the road, cliff faces potted with holds and potential lines flashed past us as we travelled towards our next climbing destination. Someone with a bit of patience, time and a lot of bolts could turn this place into one of the premier climbing destinations of the world.

We stumbled across this amazing place by chance. A wrong turn took us 100km further south than we intended, through the empty and rugged Phou Hi Poun.

Getting back on route, sadly, was not fun. The road we needed to take turned rapidly into a dusty, pot-holed track, that shook the truck, rattled all those inside and loosened nuts and screws that held it together. The driver, Pete, had been doing some repairs on the springs before we left Vientienne, and now on this bone-rattling road, he was concerned that the wheels might come loose without the proper tools to tighten them. The wheel nuts also started to loosen under the battering they took. After an uncomfortable bush camp overnight, we eventually reached a small town with a mechanic and asked them to help us tighten up all the loosening bits. Meanwhile the rest of the town gathered round in wonder at the group of westerners who had just rolled into town in a large red truck to cook some breakfast.

The climbing area we were headed for was Khammouan – an awe-inspiring overhanging system of cliffs and caves that rise up hundreds of metres to a jagged limestone ridge that runs alone one side of a wide flat valley. On the opposite side, another limestone ridge runs off into the distance where it seems to meet its neighbour.

The climbing here is hard. Very hard. There are few climbs below 6b and only a couple below 6c. The only routes easier than that were solos that could then have a top rope set up for beginners. The rock itself was a thing of beauty. Tufas seem to tangle with other tufas, with the routes springing out of the caves along them. A small group of us began on the easiest route at the crag, a tough 6b up a corner. It felt more like traditional climbing in the UK than limestone sport climbing. The pumpy set of moves out of the corner onto the face above claimed a few victims, including Alice’s T-shirt, which she ripped in three separate places on different attempts at moving out of the small cave and into the sun that dappled the face above.

I found more interest in the bouldering in this location. The low caves, with stone rails on the walls and low hanging tufas dangling from the ceiling, made it an exciting place to explore without a rope. Pete, Sam and myself worked a new boulder problem we christened “the Splitter” on account of two members of our group splitting the seams of their trousers while attempting it. The problem itself involved a physical start on strange pocketed rock, needing a heel hook to over come it, before more strenuous moves to get onto a rail that ran along the cave to some more tufas.

Sadly, this was our last destination in Laos, before we headed to the border and crossed into Cambodia.