April 5, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #1 – Kota Kinabalu

5th April 2009

Kota Kinabalu

We’ve arrived and are starting the logistic arrangements for three weeks of life on a jungle big wall. Should prove quite the test of all our abilities in having six of us sharing the precipitous environment!

Must say I’m very glad for the collective experience of our team, I landed last night after a very quick home turn around following Patagonian time; awoke on the plane feeling a tad disorientated wondering where I was heading on a couple of occasions.

Apparently it rains every day here in Malaysia, luckily hasn’t just yet but undoubtedly I’ll start the cycle having documented such? Feels very hot n’ humid which I think makes for a tougher transition for the team members fresh from winter, time in the summer hemisphere for me will hopefully have me more acclimatised.

Acquisition of food, water bottles and fuel is the order of the day.

Kevin Thaw

April 8, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #2 – “Enter Mt. Kinabalu”

We left the city and spent the afternoon watching clouds rip across Mt Kinabalu from the National Park head quarters. A gracious day as far as the locale is concerned being as though it didn’t rain. Unfortunately we had many logistic hurdles before climbing can be engaged. As far as remote expedition climbing goes, especially in cases of new exploration, making it to the base of the objective with all your gear is the biggest crux. Today the team has briefly split with Renan taking the rear guard to ensure our final loads are picked up by the porters while the rest of us hike to Easy Valley and try to recon the journey beyond. Thanks for checking it…stay tuned for more dispatches from our 13,000ft camp on Kinabalu’s summit.

April 12, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #3 – “Basecamp”

The team made it up 6000ft vertical through six ecologic zones to base camp on a high ridge of Mt. Kinabalu. Although flat sleeping spots are non-exsistant and there is only a small pool of collected rain water, it is one the most awe inspiring, above the clouds camps we have ever experienced. We also got a look at our first ascent objective and are blown away by it’s size, steepness and beauty!

April 12, 2009

A Borneo Easter Sunday

Our first real rain day! Not bad really being only 5 degrees from the center of the sun's orbit in a region renown for 'rain every day'. Feels far from tropical in our 12500ft base camp, thermals and gore-tex have been de rigor, specially today.

Our base camp is at the head of Easy Valley, two tents and a portaledge perched on a ridge above said valley toward the North and the main trail up to Mt Kinabalu below, to the south and our original access route. Flat ground is a rare commodity as thick brush takes all the pockets of soil leaving us a couple of flat-ish rock terraces.

The route has been progressing well all the necessary trinkets and tools have been hiked and rappelled down to the base plus we have five pitches climbed thus far. Being such a large team it has been easier to divide and conquer. Conrad & I ferried loads the first day while Mark & Alex began the steep quest. Yesterday was our turn on the precipitous granite and today (third climbing day) has us wondering their progress. As per sod's law (Murphy's in the US) the weather held while Jimmy, Mark & Alex rappelled into the valley then the clouds cut loose soaking everything. Could be a very interesting day or perhaps the seriously steep nature of the cliff will protect their progress. Yesterday Conrad experienced some rain while engaging his lead but I only heard it from the safety of the belay station. The climbing was moderate aid climbing, nothing too death defying, hard placements/moves yet sufficiently interspersed with good gear. Following today's team's effort the plan is to commit to the wall with portaledges & all necessary accouterments to live on the vertical plane.

April 13, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #4 :The Climb Begins”

The team starts the wall! Mark and Alex on day 1 and Conrad and Kevin on day 2 push up the big-wall. Also Jimmy gets some high-angle photography and Alex bags a first summit free-solo.

This is the lo-res version due to lack of solar power for the satellite modem and laptop. Thanks for watching & best regards from our rainy ridge-top camp. ~reo

April 16, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #5 – “Daily Commute”

From our basecamp high above the route morning routine involves
dropping a similar distance into the valley then climbing up the
opposite side. After coffee, of course, the team rappels 1200ft to
begin a jumar to the high point and press the route further. Thus far
we have seven pitches fixed: All overhanging with the ropes dangling
far from the cliff. Back down at the end of the day then up the ropes
back to camp has been the routine. Tomorrow (April 16th) we’re heading
up to commit to life on the vertical plane and stay en route until
concluded. Hauling all necessary food, water, portaledges and
necessities for an estimated four days of precipitous living! We’re all
psyched and ready for the transition.

April 20, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #6 – “Free As Can Be”

The commute from base-camp on the ridge is over: the team commits to the wall. Life in the vertical world is based out of two hanging portaledges. Kevin and Conrad push the line higher into virgin terrain as Alex, Mark & Jimmy drop below to free climb pitches previously aid climbed. Alex shows how free climbing on first ascents, climbing without pulling on any mechanical devices, is a bold progressive climbing style.

The rain has been torrential with only a small solar window each morning, so video size remains small. Best, reo

April 21, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #7 – “The Storm”

Conrad and I left the portaledge camp and headed up ropes fixed above the dangling home the previous day by Mark & Alex. The breakfast pitch fell to Conrad on this day. Looked like a straight forward corner crack, I couldn't really tell or see much of his progress from my hanging belay that was tucked neatly under an overhang. Expletives precluded large blocks, suitcase sized chunks spun passed my protected stance offering a gauge of our altitude with the time the crash took to audibly rebound. As if the blocky loose nature wasn't enough the temperature began to drop & the radically overhanging nature of our cliff began to fail in it's protective aspect from precipitation. I wondered if Conrad had his shell layer as I dug through the haul bag for every available layer. Many items later I was still engaged in belay aerobics to stay warm, blocks occasionally rained from above and the rope kept moving upward. Upon completion of my cleaning the pitch both of us were, excuse the expression, 'pissed wet through'! The storm was picking up momentum so I declined to take the line further and we retreated to camp. Alex & Mark had dropped down to work on free-climbing a lower pitch and were already in their ledge. We thought they had landed dry and were relaxing in their shelter, they were of course drenched but thought we'd made it down dry. The storm had reduced our communication to walkie-talkies even though there was merely six feet between us!

Borneo Video Dispatch #7 – "The Storm" from Renan Ozturk on Typepad.

April 23, 2009

Borneo Video Dispatch #8 – “The Summit”

The team tops out the wall and tags the summit. Thanks for checking the posts from the field out here in the Borneo alpine! ~reo