In the late seventies and early eighties Suicide Wall, now known as Suicide Cliff, was included in some of the most difficult and challenging climbs in the territory. At the time, the ultimate free climb was Lion Rock and only the most daring even attempted it. It was the only climb I ever saw my mentor, Allen, walk away from. I took one look at it and didn’t even consider trying it.
Then, from the eighties, free climbing standards were reclassified. From that time onwards, the sea walls on Tung Lung Island were pioneered and the difficulty gradings went up exponentially.
I climbed Zig Zag in the late seventies in the company of Allen and an English rock climber, John. I don’t recall the date but it would have been a Sunday. We hiked up to the foot of the wall skirting past the Main Crag and such classic climbs as Sunset Crack, which we had all done on several occasions.
We set up the belay and prepared our equipment. It was to be the first time I had ever used a double rope system. Due to the nature of the climb, which literally involved a zigzag route up the face, using a single rope would have put too much drag on the lead climber (me).
I set off, belayed by John, who had kindly lent me his helmet (as if it would do me any good if I fell off. If the equipment failed the next stop would have been Choi Hung MTR Station, almost 1,000 feet below). I climbed a short six-foot section of the wall to get to the first in a series of cracks that run horizontally and diagonally up the wall, the Zig. Traversing the Zig I set the first in a series of running belays that would protect me in the event of a fall.
The climbing was exposed and exhilarating but not terribly difficult as there were solid foot and handholds every step of the way. It became obvious that the grading of the climb as Severe was due more to the exposure rather than the technical difficulty. After setting up the first running belay I started up the Zag, moving up easily, using the crack as a ladder. At the top of the Zag I placed another runner using the second rope. This system allows the belayer, the person protecting me in the event of a fall, to ease the tension on the first rope, thereby reducing the drag on the lead climber.
At the end of the Zag there was a short vertical crack, at the top of which I set up another running belay. I was then faced with the ‘exit pitch’. The crack leading off to the left looked like an excellent choice, but by this point in the climb the steepness had eased considerably and I decided to ascend the final section ‘friction climbing’. Friction climbing is when you rely on the holding power of your boots and any little finger holds you can find. I made short work of it, arrived at the top of the climb and set up an anchor so that I could belay Allen and John.
Sadly, I don’t have any photos of us at the top so have borrowed this photo of what is now known as Suicide Cliff from Wikipedia.
Zig Zag was one of my more ambitious climbs and I considered it at the time, and now, a great achievement. Another great climb was Switchback, an aid climb, but sadly I don’t have any photos.
There are many reasons why people go rock climbing; a lot of people talk about ‘conquering’ a mountain or rock face. It is not for me to tell people what they should be thinking when they climb, but personally, I saw it as conquering my fear and overcoming my own self-imposed limitations.
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