To climb or not to climb……is that really a question?
It was on a heated, humid day….in an area quite appropriate to be labeled a Dragon’s home… that my friend and I found ourselves both aching to climb and at the same time jump into the cool, shallow lagoons of relief in Long Dong, Taiwan. Without gear, the former would be pretty difficult. After an “emergency” climbing call to my friend, Matt, who is the guru of climbing in Taiwan and has written many a guide book on the various crags, he helped initiate our search for a couple of friends he knew that would be generous in letting us join in that day. We found our saviors in the form of Ofelia and Maurice who were taking action on a route in the “Golden Valley” area. They were abseiling down and as they set foot to the ground, invited us to use their gear.
We would start up another route named “BA Insanity” while the couple went to dip in the lagoon and before they even turned to leave, I felt the kinship. Climbers do that with each other quite often; they friend strangers in the name of rock, nature and ascending. However, regardless of what we had in common, it was very obvious that Ofelia and her boyfriend, Maurice, were tremendously giving people and sacrificed their time so we could get our share of climbing in too. I’ve been in touch with this bold, beautiful lady who works as a creative by weekday while pushing her technique and mental stamina on rock by weekends and whenever she can find the time. Here, I’ve finally had a chance to speak with her in detail on her climbing experiences in Taiwan.
RRRG: How did you first discover climbing?
Ofelia: I learned climbing from my friends and experts; from climbing technique, learning about safety and rope systems, etc. these people have been my greatest influence.
RRRG: What is your favorite type of climbing or what do you climb most often?
Ofelia: Sport climbing, traditional climbing and bouldering are my main exposures to rock climbing. When the opportunity comes, I would like to try deep water soloing and big walls. I enjoy every type of climbing and they require different type of challenge and mind adjustment for me. However, I feel the need to focus most on the traditional rock climbing at the moment. The type of rock, my movement, the climbing difficulty, where and how far to set the anchors all present a great challenge for me. The pressure and the exposure of my body image aren’t always easy to deal with, either, and all these factors make me love and yet fear climbing.
RRRG: Do you ever feel afraid when climbing? In what ways do you react or combat the fear?
Ofelia: I do feel afraid…however, the longer I think of the fear, the more afraid I become and it is not productive to what I want to accomplish. I conquer this problem by selecting a reasonable climbing route at my level or at its edge. When the fear comes I try to relax my mind and focus on looking for possible hand and foot placements. After I’m able to concentrate on my movements, I try many times again and if I am unable to conquer my fears then what I do is ask a more experienced climber to give me advice or help demonstrate and I try my best to complete the route.
RRRG: How are female climbers perceived in Taiwan?
Ofelia: Most Taiwanese girls think climbing is a strange thing to do, quite frankly, it’s not popular. The percentage of females that try the sport out and stay involved is very low. A lot of people just want to try it out but they don’t stick with it, especially with outdoor climbing. In Taiwan the girls are afraid of getting dirty, they are afraid of the sun and getting dark, and gaining muscle. This sport isn’t easily accepted in female circles here. I have been asking my friends to come climbing with me and encouraging more girls to come out. I sincerely hope that this sport evolves to become more accepted with girls and women.
RRRG: What is your day job? Other hobbies?
Ofelia: I am an interior designer; my job can be really stressful at times so climbing helps me relieve this stress like an escape. I’ve already planned to take trips every year – specifically for climbing and mountain trekking. These two are my passions. I also enjoy bicycling and swimming. There are other activities I would like to try like sky diving, kayaking or something other more extreme sports but it has to be in the right environment and these sports also require money!
RRRG: Where is the climbing in Taiwan? Natural or training gyms…
Ofelia: The most popular outdoor (natural) rock climbing sites in Taiwan include: Long Dong in the northeast region and Tainan-Guanziling in the south region. There are also other popular sites like Dapoayen and Rehhai in Taipei, Horen Rock in Hualian and Xiushan in Gaoshung.
Artificial rock climbing sites (no permits required) include: IDEA , Y17 and Lanzhou street gym in Taipei, iClimb gym in Hsingchu, Hsianyehqing in Taichung, Huolee gym in Gaoshung and YiCaiYi gym in Ilan.
那是一個悶熱的一天….., 在一個被傳神的, 以龍的窩居命名為龍洞的地方, 我和我的朋友, 渴望著攀岩, 又迫不及待的想跳入水潭中消暑. 沒有隨身攜帶攀岩器材, 想攀岩談何容易. 不過, 緊急連絡了台灣當地的一位攀岩專家 Matt 後, 他迅速的幫我們連絡了好幾個慷慨的攀岩同好. 而我們的救星, 也因此以 黃自君和 陳震宇的姿態, 出現在我們的眼前. 他們恰好完成他們的攀岩路線, 準備下山休息. 路程中, 順便邀了我們同行, 並慷慨的轉借器材給我們.
當我們的 “好友” 在水潭中消暑休息時, 我和我的夥伴也開始我們自己不同路線的攀岩活動. 喜歡攀岩的人, 和同好談大自然, 談岩石, 談對攀岩的熱愛. 因攀岩而結識, 而成為好友, 是經常的事. 不過我們的好友和她男友, 真的是特別的慷慨大方. 感謝他們犧牲自己的時間, 把器材借給我們, 並等著我們, 讓我們有機會享受龍洞的攀岩樂趣. 我和這位爽朗及美麗的女設計師兼攀岩專家, 一直保持著聯繫, 最近我還終於找到機會, 親自訪問她關於在台灣當一位女攀岩家的種種.
黃自君: 運動攀登,傳統攀登,抱石 這是目前接觸到的攀岩類型,有機會會想嘗試deep water solo 和big wall每項攀登項目對我來說都很感興趣,會有不一樣層面的挑戰及心態轉換,就傳統攀登來說,是我覺得目前最需花時間接觸的,無論岩質.動作.難度,放置固定點的位置及距離,都是要謹慎考量還有面對暴露感大的難關,心理壓力的調適,讓我又愛又怕
RRRG: 在台灣, 大家對女性攀岩者的觀感是如何呢?
Interview by Christine Cauble; translation by Mei-Chun Huang, Christine Cauble and Jane Leung