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Talk to anyone about trekking in the Central Asia region, and the list goes on and on. In particular, one of the most raved about treks in the Pamir-Alay area has been crowned the title of “Asian Patagonia”. It got its name from the stark resemblance to the majestic beauty of the South American Patagonia, which offers hikers the alpine meadows, endless valleys, high ragged peaks, and white snowy landscapes with glaciers surrounding the peaks of Sabakh (5823m) and Aksu (5365m). With anticipation, we drove to Uzgarysh village, and met up with our hosts. We were showered with typical Kyrgyz hospitality, served traditional home-baked bread known as Lepeshka with constant topping up of tea and coffee.

After a hearty breakfast with our host, we are ready to embark on our journey! Blessed with great weather and clear blue skies, we followed the trail by a massive river called the Laily-Mazar Canyon,?and the sunrays flicker like glitter on the river surface.?

Even the cows and horses were out and about to bask in the sun.

That’s where we are heading towards! The majestic peak that appears right before our eyes.

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. “- Dorothea Lange. There is always time to stop for a photo to capture that beautiful moment.

Curious adventurists we are, we decided to do a quick detour to the other side of the river bank to see what this captivating land offers!

Marching on!?

I was beguiled by the beauty of this place. As the sun sets, the?sky was ablaze with the rich and bold colours of the setting sun. As night falls, the moon rises and the sky changed to a purple tint. We fell asleep in the tent listening to the sound of rapids from the canyon, to the nature lullaby that relaxes our body and mind and were soon lured to sleep.

Good morning world! We woke up to motion outside the tent. Curious, we peeped out of the tent and were greeted with cows grazing the grass near the river.

After a quick breakfast, we are off to explore the peak that have been in sight the whole time.?

Relaxing day out! Quick siesta before we proceed with our day trip exploration.

The river valley is surrounded by birch trees lining the river banks, juniper thickets scattered all around, and as we got closer to the peak, we were so close to the glacier! Surrounding rocks and slopes bear the tracks of ancient glacier activity.

Found a great spot for a rest. Surrounded by massive glaciers and snow capped peaks in the background.

Much as we would love to continue with the exploration, we had planned for a quick 2 Days 1 Night trek instead of the whole Aksu – Sabakh trek itinerary, so at this point, we had to turn around to start our descent.

Our kind and hospitable host was very kind to offer to pick us up from the trail head at 3pm, so at the arranged time, he was indeed out there to welcome us back! We were excited to see him! Just like seeing our long-lost friend whom we have not met for years (in actual fact, it had only been 1 day)!

Back in the host’s guest house, we were offered food but we had to kindly decline the offer as we needed to continue a long drive to our next destination. And finally, I managed to convince the younger of the 2 little girls to take a photo with me! I guess she was amused at how I was playing peek-and-boo with her.

Time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts. Their hospitality and kindness towards guests are just beyond what one can ask for.

Want to experience the typical warm hospitality the Kyrgyz shower their guests with? Want to join us on this beautiful trip to the Asian Patagonia? Looking for more wild adventures in?Central Asia? Wildfire Expeditions offer trekking, mountaineering, sight-seeing and horseback riding trips within Central Asia region.?Contact us?to find out more!

As we prepare for our upcoming trip for multipitch climbing, it’s a good time to quickly review the type of gear we will be using. This post also gives you an Idea of what is needed for the local climbing gym as well. This serves as a guide for what you need to start climbing, whether it?s indoor bouldering or your first climbing wall lead.

If you?re new to climbing then knowing what you?ll need to get started and progress can be a little daunting. We’ve put together some basic beginner climbing equipment lists to help you out a bit. Beginner Indoor Climbing Equipment covers everything you?ll need to get you climbing at you local bouldering or climbing wall.

Please remember, as with all the articles, tips and videos on this website, none of the systems, suggestions or practices should be used without proper training and experience. Climbing can be a dangerous sport and all climbers must take responsibility for themselves.

Happy Climbing!

Indoor Climbing

Bouldering
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Chalk Bag
  • Chalk
  • Do make sure the shoes are tight. Usually 1/2 size smaller than your normal shoe size
Top Rope
  • *A suitable locking belay carabiner. Either an HMS, Oval or belay specific.
Lead
  • *A suitable locking belay carabiner. Either an HMS, Oval or belay specific.
  • **30m is usually sufficient, but check with the wall to make sure before you buy
  • ***This is usually optional as most climbing walls have fully equipped lead routes with quickdraws in place. However a few do have routes that are just bolted meaning you?ll need your own quickdraws to climb them . This is a great way of preparing yourself for outdoor sport routes. Eight to ten is generally more than enough, but check with the wall before you buy.

When instructing beginners, I always spend a bit of time on the different Carabiner and types. There are so many types and options, and of course, climber slang to Carabiners. Whether you call it a “Krab” or “Biner”, there are lot’s of variety and options to choose from. More than just choosing a nice colour!

Carabiners are one of the most common and used pieces of kit in a climbers? rack. They are used to belay with, set up anchors, create ?running belays? and a whole host of other tasks. There are so many different choices available to you, when you come to buy your first few biners, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Even though at first glance climbing equipment looks like it comes in a million different varieties, shapes and sizes its usually not nearly as different as it looks and once you understand the basic properties of certain types of kit, it all becomes much clearer. Carabiners are a perfect example of looking far more complicated than they actually are. Below we have outlined some of the most important characteristics and differences between the various Carabiners available.

Whilst we have covered some of the bigger and most important differences there are still subtle details that make one crab?better than another for certain jobs, and to understand everything about a particular biner the best place to look is the manufacturers website where you will get all of the specs (and a fair bit of flowery sales schpeal!).

Locking

A locking carabiner will have some form of metal sleeve or mechanism that enables the user to lock the gate shut. These carabiners are used in situations where there is a risk of the gate being opened accidentally, typically while belaying or building anchors.

Non-locking

A non-locking carabiner (often referred to as a?snap-gate) simply relies on the spring of its gate to keep it shut. These carabiners are most commonly used as part of a quickdraw, for running belays, to rack protection and any time where there is no risk of the gate being opened accidentally.

Screw Gate

Threaded metal sleeve covers the gate, which is manually screwed and unscrewed to open and close the carabiner. These?are the most common locking carabiners and come in just about every shape and size.

Auto-Lock

Normally a spring loaded metal sleeve covers the gate, which is manually rotated to open, but will spring closed and lock automatically when released. Recently Black Diamond launched its Magnetron range which uses small magnets built into the gate to automatically lock the carabiner when closed. Auto lockers are nearly always heavier than screw gates and a lot less widely used, but they are great for beginners groups, children, and also big wall climbing as you have that little extra security.

 

Belay Specific

These are a fairly new breed of carabiner that have a mechanism to prevent cross loading. Some also will not close unless the screw gate is done up, like DMM?s Belay Master, and AustriAlpin?s OvaLock. DMM have just released their new Rhino carabiner which is specifically designed to be used with assisted belay devices such as the GriGri 2 and Trango Cynch. Instead of the normal mechanism to prevent cross loading the Rhino has a small horn which prevents the assisted device from sliding around the biner onto the back bar.

A pear shaped carabiner which is especially good for using with a belay device, and Munter (Italian) hitches.They tend to have a very wide gate opening and are usually very strong. HMS stands for Halbmastwurf Sicherung, which roughly translates to munter hitch securing, because it was first designed to be used with the munter hitch .

D-Shape & Offset D-Shape

Traditionally the strongest shape for a carabiner. Great for general rigging of belays, use with Prussiks etc. The offset D-Shape forces the rope to load the back (strongest) bar of the biner, making it very strong, and safe to use with ropes. Also has a big gate opening. Another good rigging biner. Available as a locking and non-locking biner.

Oval

Not quite as strong as a D-Shape or HMS, although these days most are rated to 25kn (gate closed), so the screw gate versions are strong enough for a multi purpose biner. They are especially good for use with pulleys, as they allow the pulley to hang straight. Great for big wall climbing and also as a belay biner. Available as a locking and non-locking biner.

Solid Gate

Carabiners are only referred to as solid gate when they are non-locking. A solid gate biner is generally used for sport climbing because they tend to have smooth anti-snag noses which aid clipping and unclipping of bolts. Oval solid gates are also great for racking nuts on.

Wire Gate

Wire gate carabiners are only available as non-locking biners. Usually favoured by trad and winter climbers because they weigh so much less than solid gate biners.

Spring Loaded Camming Devices (SLCDs) come under the heading of active protection and are one of the most versatile weapons in a climber?s arsenal. In this article you will find a brief outline of the different types available and what to look for when you begin building a cam rack. There are a number of articles on this site which take a more in-depth look at putting together your first trad rack and placing protection.

The Russian, Vitaly Abalakov, invented the Abalakov Cam way back in the 1930?s. These were based on the mathematical logarithmic spiral shape, in order to maintain a constant angle between the cam and the rock at each contact point. It wasn?t until 1974 that Ray Jardine invented the first SLCDs and named them Friends. These literally changed the course of climbing history. For the first time, both parallel and flared cracks could be protected.

Today we have a huge choice of cams, and they have come a long way, but they are all still based on the original Friend from Jardine which is still in production by Wild Country.

The first thing a new climber will notice is that camming devices are not cheap, and cost significantly more than any passive protection. When you?re first starting out there really is no immediate need to own any cams at all, and it is well worth learning how to place passive protection well before you invest in your first cams. As with passive protection a little research into the areas that you intend to climb will help you decide what type and sizes will provide the most benefit. Check online and in guide books for suggested racks, or even better, give us a call or an email and we can help you out.

Single Axle

These are the closest cams to the original design by Ray Jardine and most, if not all, still use the 13.75 degree angle that Ray calculated back in 1978. Single axle cams are lighter than double axles, but have a smaller range. These tend to be a little cheaper than double axles, but you will need more of them to make up a full set.

Double Axle

Black Diamond was first to introduce the double axle design with their Camalots, but once the patent expired other brands quickly brought their?own versions out. A double axle design means each cam has a bigger range, and this means that in general you are more likely to place the right cam first go. They are a fair bit heavier than single axle units, but?when you compare a full set of each there may be little difference in weight. These are generally the best cams to go for when you?re starting out.

Single Stem

These have a single, flexible stem that will adapt to the angle of pull, working well in horizontal and vertical placements. They are usually made up of a flexible cable that is either enclosed or supported by a plastic frame or tube. The latest offering from Black Diamond, the X4, uses aluminium armour to protect the cable. One small thing to bear in mind with a single stem is that the trigger nearly always requires two fingers to operate it.

Double Stem

Double stem or U stem, this design is used by DMM on their 4CUs and by Metolius on their Supercams. This system can give the stem more rigidity that can help with placements. They also tend to be lighter than a single stem equivalent. One real advantage is that the trigger can be operated with just one finger, so it can be placed when you are at a total stretch. Double stem cams are good value for money when you?re on a budget, and work well to compliment a double axle rack.

Head Width

This is the sideways diameter of the unit, and in general is more important for larger sized cams. A cam that is too narrow will be unstable, whilst a cam that is too broad will not fit into shallow cracks and such. This isn?t something to worry too much about as manufacturers have made most of the decisions for you, but it is worth comparing different head widths between types and brands, especially if you know you?ll be placing them in narrow pockets or pin scars.

Cam Stops

Cam stops?not only prevent the cam lobes from inverting, they can also hold a load in passive or umbrella mode. Up until recently, only double axle cams could do this, but now that most cams are forged rather than cut, most good single axle cams now have cam stops. While?it is never a good idea to simply?hang a cam passively, a cam stop can help a tipped out unit hold a fall, and if nothing else will help prevent the trigger mechanism from snapping when dragged through a crack.

Number of Cams (Lobes)

The number of cams on a device, also known as lobes, varies. Most use four as this gives the most stability and surface contact area, but there are also a number of options available with only three. The benefit of having fewer cam lobes is that the unit will fit into smaller spaces, but this design will have considerably less holding power than a normal four lobe unit.

Cam Tapes

All cams come with a small length of sown tape attached to the end of the stem. Some of these, like DMM Dragons, have an extendable sling which can be shortened or lengthened, and have the advantage that you may not need to attach an extender to it.

Offset Cams

These are units that have two lobes of one size and two of another size. They are seldom seen in the UK, but are the only cam type that will deal with small pin scars and off-width cracks. If you?re not convinced, just take a moment to think of the last perfectly parallel crack you encountered. These are a worthwhile addition to any rack, and essential if you?re planning on climbing in the US.

Micro Cams

Just like the larger ones, but from small to miniscule.

Come join one of our On-the-Ground Courses to learn more about the fundamentals of trad climbing. Or join one of our trad climbing trips and spend a week with us learning about trad climbing!

In this blog, we have a look at some of the different harnesses available, and give you some pointers to help you choose the right harness for you.

People come in all shapes and sizes and for this very reason, so do harnesses. Some harnesses may not fit certain people correctly but will be perfect on others, so it really is vital to try a number on before you select the one for you. Remember, a badly fitting harness can, in the extreme, be dangerous.

 

 

Start by answering the following two questions

1. What type of climbing do you intend to do with your harness?

When properly looked after, a climbing harness should last you some time, so it?s really worth considering your future aspirations for the sport. Do you only ever want to climb indoors? Do you intend to climb it all ? sport, trad, winter? Having a good think about this will help you get a harness that ticks all your boxes. Bear in mind that the more disciplines you want it to cover, the more compromises you may need to make, often in comfort and weight.

2. How much do you want to spend?

Harnesses range from around $45.00 to over 200.00 for professional use. Your budget will of course narrow or widen your options, but even with the cheaper harnesses there is still a fair bit of choice.

Comfort and fit

The waist belt should sit just above your hips. Once you have tightened your harness, you should be able to get a flat hand in behind the waist belt but you should not be able to pull a fist out. Your leg loops should feel secure but comfortable, a good indication of proper fit is being able to slip a flat hand in between the leg loop and your leg comfortably. Your harness should feel comfortable to stand and sit in. When sitting down, make sure the buckles aren?t digging in. There has recently been a real push to move from the traditionally padded harnesses to contoured laminate harnesses, which remove bulk and weight and in some cases retain a high level of comfort. Try both types and let the way it feels dictate what you buy.

Adjustability

The 3 main types of sit harnesses are;

  • Fully adjustable ? meaning you can adjust both the waist belt and leg loops.
  • Fixed leg loop ? meaning you can only adjust the waist belt and not the leg loops.
  • Alpine harness ? available in fully adjustable and fixed leg loop, super lightweight with a the belay loop often only attached to the waist belt.

The amount of adjustment in the fit of your harness will depend a lot on the type of climbing you intend to do. If you intend to do a lot of outdoor trad and winter climbing then a fully adjustable harness is essential in order to get it on and off over bulky clothes, crampons and boots. If you intend to climb indoors and maybe outdoors in fair weather, then a fixed leg loop harness may work for you. Another consideration is your size when you first buy your harness. Many people enter the sport in order to get fit and often lose a fair bit of weight after their first few months, so if you think this will be case for you, then a fully adjustable harness would be the way to go. You ideally want the harness to be in the middle of its adjustment range when wearing it, so that you have room to manoeuvre.

Buckles

Until a few years ago the standard buckle on a climbing harness was known as a ?double back? buckle which meant that in order for it to be safe the webbing would need to be threaded back through the buckle. Currently most harnesses are now fitted with a ?speed adjust? buckle, this has the benefit that the climber does not need to remember to double back their buckles. It?s important to realise that there are pros and cons to each system. Double back buckles have the benefit that once done up ? that?s it. They will not move at all. But they have the drawback of being considerably more awkward to do up, especially with gloves on. Speed adjust buckles have the great benefit of simply pulling them tight, easy with gloves on, but the slight drawback is that they can suffer from ?creep? and will need to be tightened and checked over the course of a long day.

The Rise

The obvious fitting requirements of your waist size and upper thigh will dictate the general size of the harness (eg. small, medium, large). Harnesses also use another measurement, known as the ?rise? and this is a very important measurement to consider. The rise is the distance between the waist belt and the leg loops. When this distance is too short, the climber will be pushed forwards when the harness is loaded, and when the distance is too long, the climber will fall backwards when the harness is loaded. Women?s specific harnesses typically have a longer rise and men?s a shorter one. A correctly fitted harness will, when loaded, mean that around 75% of weight is taken on the leg loops and 25% on the waist belt. Some harnesses are available with an adjustable rise, which can be helpful if you?re having trouble finding a good fit.

The only true way to test whether the rise is correct for you, is to see how it works when fully loaded. The only way to do this is to hang in the harness.

Gear Loops

The number of gear loops you will want on your harness will again come down to what type of climbing you expect to do. If you intend to only climb indoors, then you?ll only really need one or two gear loops. Sport climbers usually need three to four loops, whilst trad and winter climbers will want five and above. However if you try on a harness and it fits perfectly, but has more gear loops than you need, it really doesn?t matter, a correct fit is far more important.

Some specific considerations

A few other details you may want to take into account. If you intend to go winter climbing or ice climbing, make sure the harness padding is constructed from closed cell foam, so that it can?t become water logged. If you want to take it climbing in the Alps, then weight will need to be a big consideration and often comes at the expense of comfort. There are lots of other clever features on harnesses and once you?ve gone through the essentials, the rest will be down to personal preference and taste.

petzl harness

Harnesses for kids

Children below 30-40kg (usually under the age of nine) will need to be fitted with a full body harness. This is because they often?have small hips and a high centre of gravity and run the risk of falling out of a sit harness if inverted (upside down). ?Also children of this age tend to have insufficient stomach muscles to maintain an upright position and stand much more chance of turning upside down when they fall. A general rule of thumb, if trying a sit harness on a child, is to try and pull it down over their hips and if this is in any way possible then a full body harness will be needed.

Care and maintenance

Looking after all of your climbing kit is absolutely essential. Your climbing harness is your direct and only link from you to your safety chain (rope, anchors, belayer) and needs special attention. Always keep your harness away from harmful chemicals and direct sunlight (where possible), storing it in a dry dark place when not in use. If it gets dirty or has been exposed to salt water, then cleaning it with lukewarm water is usually all it takes, then dry in a warm (not hot) room away from sunlight. There are specially made cleaning products for soft climbing kit, made by companies such as Beal. You can also use pure soap flakes to clean your harness, but if in any doubt then only use approved cleaning products. When you remove your harness always slacken off your leg loops, so that they don?t warp or get worn in exactly the same place. When properly looked after your harness should last you a fairly long time, depending, of course how often you climb and where you climb.

So, to sum up, it?s clear that fitting a harness should be as detailed as fitting a pair of climbing shoes. Unless you are replacing an old harness with the exact same model and size, you really can?t know that it?s the right one for you until you?ve sat in it under load. This is why it?s usually best to have your harness fitted by an experienced person.

We had great weather during Singapore’s National Day weekend and it was a great time to visit the local crag.? With Climbers from Korea and Croatia, as well as the US and Singapore, we had an international gathering on the wall! A great warm up for our upcoming trip to Batu Caves!

During the climbs we snapped a few shots of all the action!

Taking a moment to study the route.? Climb with your eyes first, then climb with the hands and feet!

First lead climb on an outdoor wall here in Singapore.? Not a hard climb, and a great opportunity to concentrate on clipping in and topping out!

A nice easy wall, to practice lead climbing and getting solid in the basics, including topping out!

Taking on the face of the rock instead of climbing the crack.? Awesome job challenging yourself.? Only improving the techniques.? Its all good practice on top rope!

It’s nice to belay from the shade…? Taking cover from the heat whenever it’s possible.? Great job belaying as well!

It was a fun day out!? Contact us if you would like to have a private group session or join our intro to outdoor rock climbing clinic and get a taste of climbing outdoors!

We also have a great trip lined up for Batu Caves.? Don’t miss the action!

“Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination.”

We all have childhood dreams. Some of these get fulfilled over the course of life, accidentally for the lucky ones, or with great resolve, intent and effort for the tenacious ones. Some get forgotten or lost in ?adulting?, and some we hold ourselves back from due to fear.

Last month, Wildfire Expeditions spoke with someone who never let fear or apparent impossibilities of those dreams stop her. Watching the live interview, even having known her half my life, I was caught by the matter of fact tone she uses to describe experiences beyond what most of us could even fathom. As if she rolled out of bed one day, decided to be a freediver and went straight to setting national records!

I decided to do a deeper dive with a fellow adventurer, whose exploration of life has led her to discover new worlds both within and without.

 

WF: Would you describe yourself as a fairly patient person?

*both of us burst out laughing even before I finished the question*.[Aside]?A Tunisian memory sprung to mind. Back in 2009, our very first trip overseas together, Anqi utilised her full arsenal of 3 French words to goad the hapless mini van driver to moving with a less than half-full van ? something that NEVER happens. You allez! Toute de suite! We allez! Now! Something in her resolve must have communicated itself to him, transcending language and protocol. This is clearly not someone who takes No for an answer.

Anqi: So no, I am not a patient person. I was caught by the beauty of watching a freediver in action, the freedom of moving without big chunky apparatus, the elegance of his fish-like movement through the water as he cut cleanly through all our scuba bubbles. Then and there, I decided I am going to freedive. I was actually intrigued by freediving and read the manual of freediving by Umberto Pellizari, but I didn?t think it was something I could do. But when I saw the Freediver in action in real life when I was breathing air out of my scuba tanks, I knew right away it was something I wanted to explore.

(Watch the Wildfire Expeditions live?interview?with Anqi?for more context into her story and how she transitioned to freediving.)

 

WF: So being impatient, how did you first learn breath hold? And subsequently, how did you train yourself to record breaking standards in freediving? ?

Anqi: I would say that my freediving progress was very gradual. The advantage I had was that I was a Scuba diving instructor already so was already very comfortable being in the water. When I started freediving I progressed in small baby steps, overcoming different barriers initially in breath hold, to the fear of the deep and the most difficult challenge was equalisation, especially advanced equalisation for deeper dives.

From Philippines to Greece to Mexico, I trained all over the world and competed in freediving events wherever and whenever I get the opportunity. I was very fortunate in being able to interact with the best freedivers in the world, train with them and learn from them.

WF: In my mind, there was always that dichotomy between letting go and relaxing to allow yourself to go deeper and the motivation, desire, effort needed to push your body to extreme levels of exertion. Isn?t one at odds with the other? How do you manage that?

Anqi😕 Yes I agree that this is very contradictory indeed. Besides the physical demands, freediving is mostly mental, which has been the biggest difference for me in experiencing freediving compared to other sports. Initially I had pushed myself with certain depth goals, but later I realised freediving was not such a sport like a 100m sprint where you can use brute strength to reach your goal. I learnt from many failures that this strategy does not work. Instead Freediving requires a lot of inner awareness, patience and adaptation. It is the kind of sport where you need to arrive at the goal without the expectation of arriving. Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination. The way I manage it is to not focus on the end goal but to cherish every moment that I am freediving, for example practising all different disciplines is one way to be an overall well-rounded diver rather than one just chasing for the deep.

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WF: You told me once about the adage: scuba divers dive to see the world, freedivers dive to look within. I thought that was a beautiful summation. Do you feel that freediving has changed you or affected your perspectives, and how you live life?

Anqi: Freediving is probably the purest way to connect and explore our oceans. It is also for me a form of meditation. When I dive into the deep, I feel all my worries fade away. You feel so small, like a tiny drop in the vast ocean. It gives me perspective in life. Many things I worry about seem insignificant in comparison. The ocean is beautiful, life is amazing, and connecting back to nature can make you feel alive. That?s all I need, not societal status, great wealth or endless diversions. Freediving helped me see that a simple life can be rich if it is lived fully.

?

WF:?You are the first Singaporean to medal in Honduras last year, finishing third in the constant weight no fins discipline at the Carribean Cup. You also set 4 new national records in all depth disciplines at the CMAS World championships?right around Singapore?s National Day in fact.

Being born and bred in Singapore, we both know that Singapore does not give handouts. For a non-mainstream sport, what kind of support have you been able to get?

Anqi: It is my dream that Singapore will become a nation that supports Sport on a bigger scale. Sport is great avenue for youth development and community bonding.?Freediving is not in the Olympics or SEA games so it is not a supported sport in Singapore unfortunately. I have not been able to get any financial support for competing or training from the country or dive federation. Luckily most of the competitions I had joined were around the region in Philippines or Indonesia. I dug deep into my personal savings to fund my own training and competition. In order to compete at the world championships in Honduras last year, which was more expensive and further away, I reached out via crowdfunding and received enough support to join the competition. I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity. It inspired me to go all out to compete in 2 more competitions after the world championships and break more records. My hope is that the sport will be recognised internationally, so that future athletes can receive national or corporate support to pursue their depth dreams. For myself it may not be financially possible to be competing full time, but I know the depths of the ocean will be there for me and I will always dive for the love of it.

 

WF: Ever since I?ve known you, you have been pushing limits, in whichever sport or activity you choose to pursue. Running, touch rugby, ultimate frisbee, yoga, diving. You have either competed at national level or worked to achieve instructor certification in each of these sports. And they are so different. What motivates you?

Anqi😕 Sometimes I think I tried so many things that maybe I am a jack of all trades but master of none. I enjoy at different times in my life various activities and always try to do my best at them. I guess I am just motivated by a sense of adventure and the outdoors. I have always been active and love to be outdoors / in nature and I like to try different things!

?

WF: What is occupying most of your time at the moment??

Anqi: I have started an ocean conservation project called the Sea Glass Project last year to bring awareness about keeping our oceans pollution free through making sustainable choices. This is a passion that has kept me very busy!

You can read about Anqi?s inspiration for the Sea Glass Project here:?bit.ly/seaglassproj, and purchase her amazing jewelry at:?Seaglassproject.etsy.com

Malaysia is open for diving for adventurers based in Malaysia! Explore the wonders of Pulau Sipadan, one of the top dive destinations in the world. Book now with Wildfire for the best availability and rates: wildfirexpeditions.com/tours/sipadan or contact us at info@wildfirexpeditions.com.

Are we there yet? Where is French Ridge Hut?!?! I remember clearly that the distance marker and signboard at Pearl Flat reads “French Ridge Hut –> 3 hr” after the river crossing, and we are now 3.5 hours into the hike and I still do not spot the bright red French Ridge Hut. The last 3.5 hours was sheer torture. The only consolation I had was the beautiful mountain backdrop behind us once we got high enough and we had a clear view of the red Liverpool Hut standing strikingly across the Matukituki Valley. This was definitely a full body workout. This section of the trail constantly required me to grab on big fat roots and branches of trees to hoist myself up the steep muddy terrain in the jungle with high-steps. And it definitely did not help that we had full intention to camp in the valley for this 4 Days 3 Nights trek, so we were carrying tents and food supply in our heavy backpacks.

I was trudging step by step with my face down, trying to avoid the strong glares from the hot sun. My perspiration was also washing off the sunblock that I had diligently applied in the tent this morning.

“Come on! I see the toilet!”, Patrick, my fiance, hollered loudly.

I peered up and squinted my eyes against the blinding sun, and there it is. The STRIKING RED TOILET. I have never been so happy to see a toilet in my life! My whole body is aching, but I am so glad we finally made it!

Finally, after what seems like eternity, we hear chattering in the distance, and we can see the toilet and the striking red French Ridge Hut! We are totally thrilled!?

A Guide to Hiking to French Ridge Hut (and Beyond)

Located in the Matukituki Valley area?and?Mount Aspiring National Park?in the?Otago?region (near Wanaka), the French Ridge Track is deemed as an advanced track that is 16.2km long one way, and you will return via the same track. Typically, most people would attempt this over 3 days:

Day 1 – Raspberry Creek car park to Aspiring Hut

Day 2 – Aspiring Hut to Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut

Day 3 – Liverpool Hut / French Ridge Hut to Raspberry Creek car park

Patrick and I always enjoyed doing these treks in a slightly different way, and this time round, we decided to do just that. Make this a camping trip and spend one more day in the wilderness and do a day hike around French Ridge Hut.

Start of French Ridge Track
Don't forget to take a peek at Rob Roy Glacier!
To the left of the trail, you will see and hear massive waterfalls too
I'm loving the clear turquoise blue water!

This section of the track is relatively flat, and the biggest challenge you face is probably the hot sun and a couple of small water streams that you will encounter along the track, but if you have the agility to jump from rocks to rocks, your shoes will be safe from getting wet!

Reaching Mount Aspiring Hut

The Aspiring Hut is gorgeous! This is a New Zealand Alpine Club hut, and sleeps 29 pax, and is definitely one of the better-equipped hut with facilities such as flush toilets. We took a short snack break before pushing on towards Pearl Flat to find a decent camp spot for the night.

Do note the capacity limit of these swing bridges that you will cross throughout the trek
Awe-inspiring!
Clear mirror reflection of the peaks and glacier on the water!

Today had been a relatively easy day, with approximately 4 hours of walking. And… decision has been made. We are sleeping here tonight! What more can one ask for? Snow-capped peak and glacier view, and clean water streams for cooking. So we?dropped our backpacks to explore the area and to see how close we can get to the glacier waterfall!

The moon is peering out as the sun sets. Better get the tent set up before the whole valley is covered behind the shadows of the mountains and we lose light and warmth.

It had been a cold night! We woke up with frost on our tent, and we were just waiting for the sun to hit our tent so we get motivated to get out of our sleeping bags and enjoy the view with a cup of hot tea in our hands!

Frost everywhere around us!

We could see hikers making their way towards Liverpool / French Ridge Hut, as you definitely want to get there earlier as you are unable to make bookings, and is on a first come first served basis. You definitely do not want to reach there late and without a bed for tonight in the hut if you do not have a tent.?

Sun is finally hitting where we are and warming up the valley

We got to the ice cold river crossing at Pearl Flat and this is the intersection where one will choose to go towards Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut. From here on, it will be a painful hike through the steep muddy terrain where the roots and branches would become your best friend. You will be hugging them non-stop along the way!

Stepping into this ice cold river water will wake you up for sure!
A much-needed rest as we trudge on with our heavy backpacks

Finally above the treeline but where is the hut?

We made it! But we are not done till we find the perfect campspot for the night. There were lots of bivouac shelters (or bivvy / bivy) made out of rocks that looks really decent! But unfortunately our tent was too big for that.?

French Ridge Hut
What an amazing backdrop for a toilet!
Guess this is it! Our camping spot for tonight

It is known that French Ridge Hut has some of the best sunset viewing spots. After our dinner feast of tomato sauce meatballs, is time to let our eyes have a feast too.?

Everyone's getting ready in their sunset viewing seats
It is going to be a night with bright round moon peering over us

Woke up to the sounds of Keas flying and chirping outside our tents. We were told that Keas are extremely curious birds and are especially attracted to bright coloured items. Hence, to avoid having our orange tents drawing too much attention to these beautiful birds, we dismantled our tents and left them in the hut before we start?our day hike up beyond the French Ridge Hut to get a better view of Mount French and the Quarterdeck Pass.?

Spotted lots of beautiful flora and fauna along the way

Followed some occasional cairns along the way and finally getting closer to the glacier and snow!

Spot the turquoise blue glacier lake that has formed at the foot of the cliff

After some hours of fun exploration, we start heading back towards the hut.?

Got back to the hut and as the weather forecast is calling for rain the next day, we decided to head towards Pearl Flat to camp so that it would be a shorter hike out to the car park before it rains on us. Right after lunch, we started making our way down.

It was still tough hiking down the steep terrain but it was definitely more manageable than before.?

Here’s our camping spot at Pearl Flat!

Clouds coming in later in the evening. New Zealand weather does change drastically at times

To avoid getting caught in the rain which was predicted in the afternoon, we had an early start towards the trail head. Beautiful and cool day out!

Back to Raspberry Creek car park

It had been an epic 4 Days 3 Nights adventure camping out on this track! It may have challenged me physically and mentally, but it was so rewarding and I would definitely go back for more. For more blogs on our adventure in New Zealand, check it out here!

Looking for unique experiences that does not follow a typical itinerary, is an off the beaten path trip that is not too crowded? Our New Zealand treks and?glacier exploration trips in this region might be the perfect fit for you. For more information, contact us at info@wilfirexpedtions.com.

Like all of us, when ?lockdown? happened, we expected it to last for a month. Then, like all of us, we were surprised when it seemed to go on and on. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, or maybe some of you are feeling stir crazy as well. We live in Colorado, a little over an hour from the Rocky Mountain range ? a year-round playground right in our backyard! When the state closed access to trails due to Covid-19, it was reassuring to know that we could access wilderness as soon as lockdown was over.

The walks, runs, and bike rides on trails around the city have been great, but the longer it lasted, the more we longed for the crisp, clean air and mountain solitude. Once restrictions started to ease, we planned our first hike and soon after, headed out to the mountains.

We started out early on Saturday morning to beat most other people to the trailhead…or so we planned. It was a beautiful drive through the winding canyon towards Indian Peaks wilderness, and we were excited for the morning ahead of us. Until we saw the policeman in the middle of the road, alerting drivers that the trailhead was full?!

Not to be deterred, I checked the map and found another small trail to a lake in an open space protected area ? a little off the beaten path so not very popular. The easy trail was more of a long walk in the woods than a hike, but it was still great to be outside with very few people!

The starting point at mountain lake 8000ft (2439m) above sea level was a short walk away. From there, we set off on a 5-mile (8km) loop gaining less than 1000ft (305m) of elevation – a great way for our legs to ease back to sloping terrain after over 3 months of flat city life. Our previous day out at altitude (over 11000ft!) had been for snowboarding in March ? an entirely different season and what feels like a lifetime ago!

Being out in the spring air was refreshing, with the smells and sounds of the forest all around.

The hike was shorter than planned, but exactly what we needed! The forest of green aspen and pine trees with mountain peaks rising tall above open meadows and an added bonus of the small mountain lake nestled within its midst, was a great start to the weekend. What a way to get back into nature!

The pandemic is still prevalent, but this should not stop us from planning and preparing our next adventure when travel resumes. We still have hopes of getting to Taiwan at the end of the year, so check out our Xue Mountain trek and our Holy Trail trek.

We also have lots of how-to videos, sharing of tips on topics such as photography, backpacking, climbing, diving and trekking on our Youtube Channel and website, to prepare you for your next adventure while staying at home. Subscribe to your Youtube channel now to receive updates whenever we upload great content!

?Annapurna, to which we had gone emptyhanded, was a treasure on which we should live the rest of our days. With this realization we turn the page: a new life begins.

There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.?
??Maurice Herzog,?Annapurna

Although the sentiment behind this quote was a Herculean first ascent of a virgin 8,000er, it resonated strongly with my experience of Nepal ? albeit on a much more diminutive scale.

Despite my proximity to Malaysia (living in Singapore), my first real trekking experience was in the Himalayas, an accidental adventure which shifted the focus of my travels since. With no concrete idea of what a multi-day trek at altitude would entail, I landed in Kathmandu with the must-sees dutifully mapped out, eager to discover, armed with a Lonely Planet and plenty of naivety.?

At an elevation of 1,400m above sea level, there was just enough crisp in the night air for a pleasant change from the humidity of Singapore. ?What beautiful temperatures we are going to get in the mountains?, I thought in blissful ignorance, ?4,100m will feel just a little cooler.? (On top of everything else, ?wind chill? has not quite made its way into my lexicon.)

The next 4 days became an exercise in humility. Huffing and puffing each day while dragging an out of shape body up the slopes of the Ghorepani ? Poon Hill region was as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Watching elderly ladies chug past me hoisting bags and sacks on their shoulders gave me motivation ? after I got past the mortification.

Nepal was also where I first experienced ?mountain spirit?, the camaraderie of fellow hikers and mountain people that crossed my path, always with an encouraging word or a smile when the spoken language failed. This lovely energy from strangers would become a constant feature in treks the world over.

On my second trip, eight years later, I joined two friends on the Annapurna Base Camp trek, one of the most popular in the region. The mountains have not changed. Prayer flags line the trail, and stupas and traffic dot the valley of Kathmandu.

We were blessed with a gorgeous winter trek over Christmas and our guide regaled us with stories and piled us with gourmet meals enroute.

Strong connections were formed with the crew and a scant 3 years later, I returned with Wildfire Expeditions to Mardi Himal, an off the beaten path trek still within the Annapurna region.? It starts beautifully up a quiet path through the village into the forest, where we were led by rhododendrons strewn along the trail like a red carpet.

We incorporated some yoga into this trek at the lower altitudes. Our wonderfully hospitable hosts, rearranged the dining room for our wellness hour. Our wellness hour one morphed into party central just a couple of hours later as Raksi and Nepali music flowed, the two bemused tourists were warmly welcomed into their midst!

We found time to clown around during the lighter hiking days, inspired by Nature?s backdrop.? The weather remained changeable. In one day, we went from dry forest ?to a blizzard!

In the last decade, I have visited Nepal thrice. Each time, the landscape took my breath away, somehow always more awe-inspiring than I remembered. Gazing upon the iconic Machaphuchare with its peak shaped like a fish?s tail the sense of familiarity and wonder never ceased. In March 2017, the air was still crisp, the weather predictably unpredictable, the altitude just as punishing to sea level lungs, and the panorama even more breath-taking than in my memories. There simply aren?t words to describe the views, the emotion they inspire, and the experience.

As the world is gradually coming out of Pause, I look forward to the day I can take to the mountains once more. ??????

If Nepal calls out to you as much as it does to us, join Wildfire Expeditions on our next very special Mardi Himal trek. Trek is suitable for families and groups of all ages. Check out our website for more information about this amazing location! If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, then check out our other treks in Nepal, including our special Annapurna Base Camp Trek.