Above: Monsoon is the route that runs to the right of the cave with the big boulder inside it.
There’s a route in Damai called “Monsoon”. It is a multi-pitch with three pitches, graded 6A, 6B, 5C. It should be noted that Damai routes are graded a little higher than Nyamuk so you might find they aren’t as difficult to climb (although when I first climbed at Damai, I was a newbie climber who found even a Damai 5C to be challenging).
Monsoon got its name because it rained when they were bolting this route (or something to that effect). Monsoon held true to its name because whenever someone was projecting this route, it would always rain. So, too, was it for me when I was projecting this route – it seemed that every time I wanted to climb this route, it would start to rain. One time, it started to drizzle the moment I put my hands on the rock face.
The crux of Monsoon is just before the anchor. Looks can be deceiving because, from the ground, it looks like the easiest part of the route. From the ground, the crux looks like a sloping ledge that you can just walk up to the anchor on. When you get up there, it’s a whole different story. Most of the climbers I’ve seen attempting this route for the first time were pretty gripped on this ledge, granted that they weren’t very experienced climbers.
Monsoon is one of those routes which was very near and dear to my heart because it was the first route I took on as a project route back in my early outdoor rock climbing days. I can still recall the day I first top-roped this route. I had gotten to the ledge and something got caught in my eye. Feeling pretty gripped up there, I brushed my eye as quickly as I could with one hand while I held on for dear life with the other. At about the same time, the wind blew and my contact lens dropped off my eyeball. To add insult to injury, it started to drizzle as well!
In retrospect, perhaps not being able to see so well (since I only had one good eye – I’m pretty blind without contacts or glasses) was a good thing. Since I couldn’t see, I don’t think I was as scared as I would have been if I could see properly.
I don’t remember who was on belay, but I think it was Thin Man. When it started to rain, he asked if I wanted to bail. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sorely tempted to quit and try again another day. But, recalling that it had started to rain so many times before when I wanted to climb Monsoon, and the fact that I was so close to the anchor, I thought, “I’ll be damned if I bail now.”
I also don’t remember when I red-pointed Monsoon, but I do remember that when I finally did, I had out-grown the title of newbie rock climber. It was as if red-pointing Monsoon was the initiation test to get into the inner circle of the local rock climbers’ club.
If I was proud of my achievement of red-pointing Monsoon, the feeling paled in comparison to how I felt when I red-pointed the second pitch of Monsoon.
The second pitch of Monsoon was officially my first red-point on a 6B (albeit a Damai 6B). The first time we went up there, Akmal Noor took us up (us being Thin Man and me). Akmal was so kind to mark the handholds at the crux with chalk, but unfortunately, only Thin Man made it through the crux. I had to cheat and climb off-route (I climbed straight up instead of through the crux which was a diagonal move to the right).
I have to thank Akmal when I finally got my red-point on this route because thoughts of bailing were flashing through my head as I sat in a little cave just before the crux sequence. Akmal had been descending from a route not far from me and he called out to see how I was doing, so I told him I was scared. I can’t remember what he said to me, but I did climb on and red-point the route that day.
The thing about projecting a route on the second pitch is that you’re so high up, you can’t really talk to anyone on the ground. Sometimes you can’t even see your belayer, so it feels like you’re all alone up there. There’s a good and bad part to this. The good part is that no one from the ground can call up and offer you unnecessary beta. The bad news is that you don’t have any encouraging “allez” from the ground to keep you going.
After red-pointing the second pitch, I practiced climbing from the ground to the anchor of the second pitch without stopping. Thin Man and I would do this to train our endurance – it was part of the program for our plan to conquer Humanality in Krabi (which, sadly, I never did in spite of the fact that I went to Krabi three times).
Climbing up to the second pitch is fun because you can get a nice rhythm going with about 50 meters of straight climbing. Most of the single pitches in Damai were less than 25 meters, so sometimes you can’t really get the flow of movement on the rocks going. The only thing about leading up to the second pitch anchor is that the rope drag is so bad, I don’t even think you need a belayer to keep you up there (please don’t take this literally, though, because you should always have a belayer when you’re climbing – unless you plan to solo which then becomes your own liability).
The first time I lead all the way to the second pitch, I felt so pumped, I was even planning to cheat and hold on to a root growing out of the rock somewhere before the anchor of the second pitch. Not only was I pumped from climbing all the way up to from the ground, but the rope drag was like climbing with weights. When I finally reached the root, I was devastated to discover that it had been ripped off the rock face!
That day, I learned something new – in the face of adversity, you can find the strength within to push past the limits of your mind. Since there was no longer a root hold to cheat with, I had to keep climbing without it.