Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ice-Climbing in the Shuangqiao Valley

Stupa, Shuangqiao Valley.  Nikon D300, 12-24mm, 1/80, f/22, ISO 200.
This is probably one of Climbing’s best-kept secret. The Shuangqiao Valley (Shuang Qiao Gou) in the Siguniang Mountain area (Si Gu Niang Shan) is pristine in winter. The hoards who visit the park during the rest of the year are noticeably absent when the thermometer plummets, and the many waterfalls in the park freeze over, making it a winter paradise: clean, quiet, and beautiful.
 
Camping in the Shuangqiao Valley on the way up Daguniang Peak (Da Feng)
There are at least 60 known climbable waterfalls here, but there is little published information available. What little information is available is mainly in Chinese, as most of the climbers who visit are Chinese. The few foreign climbers here either have Chinese friends or engage a guide.
One guide, Lim Kim Boon, specializes in foreign climbers. Most of his clients come from Singapore, where he is best known. He is completely bilingual, speaking English and Chinese, and will negotiate the beaurocracy of Chinese permits required to climb here. He can also arrange transport and accommodation from Chengu, the nearest city.
Back to School: lessons at the guesthouse in the Shuangqiao Valley.
A typical program from Kim Boon includes 4 days of guided ice-climbing with beginners instruction, and costs US$994 (S$1400). He can also include a 3-day climb of Daguniang Peak (Da Feng) 5025m for an additional US$215 (S$300).  The price includes transportation to and from Chengdu, food and lodging.
Climbing Daguniang (Da Feng) 5025m
Kim Boon resides in Cardiff, U.K. and spends each winter climbing and guiding in the Shuangqiao Valley. He can be contacted at kbclimbing@gmail.com and more information on his website: www.kbclimbing.com
Lim Kim boon in the Shuangqiao Valley

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rise of the Mid-Range Zooms


Baba, Pushkar, India. Canon 7D, 15-85mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO 2000. Photo Courtesy of Laura Liong.

My wife has a new Canon EOS 7D Body(Sweeet! :o) with the new Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens. Wide-open, it produces some corner vignetting, but is otherwise tact sharp. I'm a Nikon user, but I figure if it were to go head to head with my Nikon 18-200, I’m pretty sure it would outperform it in sharpness. Pair it with a Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, and you’ve got quite a compelling two-lens travel setup. Yup… I have half a mind to trade in my trusty Nikon 18-200mm VR lens for Nikon’s equivalent Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G Lens and a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lenssetup. If I add my 10.5mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lensinto the mix, I'll have a pretty sweet three-lens setup!