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Rope

After the rope adventures in Majorca, it seemed a good idea to buy one of those more-expensive items required for climbing, one that in Australia would be considerably more expensive than here, and due to that has inflicted a long-term habit in me of not going to buy needed things because I expect them to be horrendously pocket-jabbing. So, a rope. The most necessary of equipment besides shoes (with which, you can do an awful lot of climbing and seldom need for more), and the single most costly. Sure, a rack of trad gear goes for eye-watering prices, but individually each piece is seldom over over a hundred, even for cams or a set of nuts, and considering the amount of drilling going on, who really isn’t climbing for want of a trad set?

As for the price, well if you bought cheap shoes, harness, ‘biners, and quickdraws, you could probably kit yourself out with everything for sport climbing for the cost of a rope. Which in Australia tended to be on on the high side of $350, so understandably I never shelled out for one. Here though, I have to remind myself that things are relatively affordable, even Shimano SPDs leave change from a hundred for a couple of books (yes, was in bike shop yesterday, bike needs servicing), so, rope it is. Still a sizeable chunk of €200 though (enough left over for enough chocolate to be sick on), but that’s for 70 metres of 9.2 mm Mammut Revelation. Not sure when I’ll be leading a 35 meter pitch, but not to worry, it’s very pretty (the pictures don’t do the colours justice, either).

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New Boots!

Excitement!

I planned to do this for a while, and almost missed out … end-of-season stock clearance and all meaning the ones I’d coveted were no longer there. Not to worry, turned out another pair looked even better. Considering I’m the type of person who doesn’t have any internal struggle over spending agonizing amounts on shoes if they are for some specific purpose (climbing, hiking, cyclocross …), it’s peculiar I seem to live in battered trainers and put off buying new ones because of the cost.

Yes, good shoes are expensive. My first winter in Berlin was made more miserable by the acres of Mitte shoe shops with price tags I could live off for a month. Come to think of it, the last time I owned a pair of hand-made shoes was when I was a student and plied the silver service penguin trade.

And it’s a stupidly warm 20º in Berlin today. It’s still winter! (To be clear, I’m not celebrating. I like the harshness of winter here, I enjoy the beastial cold and snow; it’s profoundly unsettling to be wearing summer clothes when the Vernal equinox is still half a week away.)

Photo? Yes!

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x-cube the manolo blahnik of climbing shoes

After 18 months and four resoles in a pair of Boreal Stingers I purchased in Toronto, the last resole did them in. They still have a special place in my almost daily climbing, but yesterday I bought a pair of shiny, new, painfully tight orange and yellow Red Chili X-Cube. Weee!!! climbing heaven. I’m off to continue wearing them out, and now I’ve discovered all the inner-city bouldering spots in Taipei, the two weeks until I leave is gonna fly.

Combining the convenience of velcro with the weight and feel of a slipper the X-cube is a shoe built for hardcore. An instant classic this superb shoe sets a standard in fit and performance for all other velcros to follow.

New for 2004 the X-cube features: a new last with lower volume forefoot, this “locks” the foot in the sharp asymmetric toe profile to give immense confidence on even the smallest pockets, smears or scrapes; a wider entry with super comfy cushioned foam and a smaller, reshaped slingshot that really hugs the heel. Team feedback meant we added rubber over the toe for hardcore boulders and comp climbing to give extra bite for “frogging” or the tiniest of toe scrubs and a new light midsole simply adds to the amazing “feel” of this shoe.

This is a shoe that works superbly as sporrts or extreme all raounder but really comes into its own as a bouldering shoe “par excellance” for outdoors, indoors or the “woody”.

ximending

The Taipei Times had a piece on Ximending, which sounds like either the kind of place I’d want to live in, or one of those places that 5 years ago was fun and is now full of suburban tourists. I’ll find out in a few weeks when I get there.

In a small area of Ximending bounded by cinemas, the Danshui River and a strip of karaoke bars and hotels, are lanes and alleys that cater to hip-hop crews and consumers of Asian fashion. It is a lively section of Taipei, with rehearsal spaces for bands and film workshops, mixed with vendors and by-the-hour hotels. There are hundreds of places to eat and all-night cafes.

Taking a stroll and probably getting lost is not a bad way to kill some time if it involves lunch or dinner and a break for coffee. On the way you’ll see a hoard of graffiti. It’s not unlike taking a stroll through a contemporary art gallery’s exhibition of ghetto artists. Among the prominent artists, there is the sublime Arnold — who is rumored to be doing his military service — and Ragdoll. Tags are in Chinese and English. The boom-box greetings of the competing storeowners are the rhythm of the streets, with a half-abandoned car spray-painted with the terse statement: Fuck Nike.

Though papers reported gangland street fights over drugs a few years back, Ximending is now heavily patrolled and has a lot of closed circuit TV cameras mounted on streetlamps.