A Three Week Vertical Vacation on the Vietnamese Coast
As our boat left the Harbor out of Ha Long City, my friend, Greg Troutman and I got our first glimpse at the cliffs we traveled halfway across the world to climb. Dark and ominous they rose out of the ocean with a menacing white tint, piercing the horizon. Ha Long Bay, located off the northwest coast of Vietnam is an awe-inspiring site for those who are lucky enough to see it. With thousands of white, limestone cliffs jumping out of the ocean it is fast becoming the next climbing Mecca. Erik Ferjensik and Onslo Carrington saw the potential in this sleepy little fishing village three years ago and started a climbing/adventure business based out of Cat Ba Island. Casually located on the outskirts of Ha Long Bay, Slo Pony Adventures has been paving the way for climbers ever since they opened for business over three years ago.
Since then Erik and Onslo have pioneered hundreds of climbs, thousands if you add the deep water soloing routes, but both Eric and Onslo are quick to admit that they haven’t even come close to scratching the surface. Ha Long Bay is a climbers dream; a labyrinth of stone hovering, gracefully over the ocean with hundreds of cliffs ripe for the picking; the best part, all you need is a boat and a pair of shoes. Compared to Vietnams close neighbor, Thailand, Ha Long Bay is a breath of fresh air. For the three weeks we spent in the area climbing we only saw a handful of climbers, but there were plenty of spectators. Fisherman and Vietnamese tourists watched in wonder as we climbed out of our perfectly good boats and onto the stark white faces. Their wonder turned into bewilderment when we got to a high point and tossed ourselves into the ocean.
There is something for every type of climber, from the burly trad climber to scrawny newbie Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island have something for every level of climber. There’s the sport crag at Butterfly Valley located on Cat Ba Island and only a short motorbike ride away from Slo Pony Head Quarters, which holds climbs ranging from 5.7 all the way up to 5.13. If you’re looking to be ocean side than you can catch a boat and head out to Tiger Beach, which has something for everybody. There’s the moderates which stay in the shade till noon and are perfectly located only a hundred yards from the only bar in the area. Once the sun lights up the bar side of the island, grab a kayak and head across the channel to Monty beach to where you can take in some of the easier sport climbs. If you’re looking for a bigger rush than hang a left in the channel and head towards the imposing Hawaii Five-0 Wall where you can lose yourself in bulbous tufas and gnarled pockets all while contemplating the big plunge which awaits when your arms fail, or you choose to make the leap back towards the ocean.
To get more information about the area and find out logistics on getting there, go to www.slopony.com. You can shoot them an email and the guys there will be more than helpful in giving you ideas of what type of trip to plan and what time of year to come. Slo Pony also can customize Deep Water Soling trips for you out into Ha Long Bay. You can get you and your friends a nice cruising boat, stocked with food, beer and water and spend as many days as you want exploring the vast array of cliffs which await you.