Category Archives: Climbing

The Thailand trip report!

More than a month has gone by since our last entry. We didn’t have our laptop while we were in Thailand therefore we couldn’t really post anything. Here is a short recap of our time there.

We left Montreal May 26 in the morning and landed it Bangkok – Thailand, 25 hours later + an 11 hours jet lag. It was a long trip but everything went well. We were even lucky to travel on an almost empty plane on the way to Japan from Chicago. We were able to enjoyed the comfort of 4 seats row between the two of us. Mathieu slept on the floor and I slept on the seats…such a gentlemen!


We arrived in Bangkok late at night and had already booked a room in a small hotel close to the airport. The next morning, we tried to reach the owner of the Airbnb place where we were supposed to sleep at that night with the intent to stop by and drop off our backpacks but we couldn’t get hold of him. So we took off with our heavy bags(Mathieu 14 kilos and mine 10) to visit the city a bit. We walked a lot in Bangkok, It’s a huge city with a lot of people and lots of scooters!!! Mathieu almost suffered a heatstroke, considering the temperature reaching 40 degrees, the backpack and the fatigue…no wonder! We took a tuk-tuk for the first time, it was a lot of fun. Later in the afternoon, we made it to the Airbnb where the guy Enes was waiting for us. He brought us to a night market where we ate our first really Thai street food. So cheap and delicious!!(30-40 BHT ~ $1-1.25 CAD).


One out of many temples


Enes, our Airbnb host

The next day, we jumped into a cab to get to the airport. Usually, we like to travel cheap but taking the public bus to go the airport would have been about 2 hours long and with an 9am departure, that wasn’t an option. Drivers are just crazy in Thailand(including our taxi driver), they follow each other very closely and use the side of the road as “official” lanes…I am pretty sure I closed my eyes at least twice on the drive there and just about did a prayer just in case…!

After a short flight from Bangkok, we made it to Krabi town, where we had to take a longtail boat to reach Ton Sai beach. There is no schedule for the boat, it leaves when there is at least 7 people in it. We had to wait for a little bit but it was nice to just relax for a few minutes close to the water, in the shade. The boat ride was about 10-15 minutes and cost about $4 per person. The landscape is beautiful, blue water and huge cliffs of rocks. To tell you the truth, the first time I saw the Ton sai beach, I was a bit disappointed. I was sad with the look of the “town”, garbages everywhere and the big huge gray wall recently built. The place looked kind of dead to me. The beach was dirty with nothing on restaurant or bar. We eventually got over the jet lag and somewhat adapted to the temperature after a few days. At first it was quite brutal how profusely we were sweating while doing absolutely nothing. We quickly learned to appreciate cold showers because the ocean wasn’t really refreshing, so hot it was.

We found accomodation for $8/ night(200 BHT), cheapest we could find there. Our bungalow was very basic and it was in the middle of the jungle. Very little furniture: two small shelves, a pole with 4 hangers, a fan, a bed with a mosquito net and a toilet you flush with a small bucket. Electricity available only between 6pm and 6am. No hot water, but we didn’t need it anyway.




Then we met Joss(Jocelyn), a French guy, who knew the area and the climbing in Ton Sai pretty well. He showed us around and we did our first climbs with him, following his great route recommendations. He also gave us good advices about cheap living on Tonsai. Food and accomodation on Tonsai were more expensive than we had planned, food costing literally double what you would pay at a grocery store in Krabi or Bangkok. Not only that but the selection was very limited. It made it hard to buy food or fresh produce. As a result, we had to eat out 3 times a day. At first, we were very happy to do it as we didn’t eat much in restaurants in the past year. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that we couldn’t continue on that path if we wanted to stay on target with the budget. We started to eat out twice a day instead of three times and sometimes we even shared a meal to save money but Matt wasn’t too happy with it as he felt like he was starving. We weren’t going to die but we definitely didn’t eat as much as we wanted… and to make things harder the food is so good there!!! That’s where Jocelyn’s advices came in handy. He had bought a kettle in town and was using it to boil eggs and water for noodles. Since he only had a few days left, we agreed to buy his kettle for cheap and in the mean time we boiled some eggs at night at his place. We loved the idea so the next day, we got on the first boat and went to Krabi Town. From the pier, we had to walk 40 minutes to get to the grocery store. The prices were very good and we bought lots of snacks, food and beer to reduce our daily expenses… A tall beer at the bar costs $4-5 CAD and at best we could only afford to drink a beer between the two of us daily. Another thing we did was to buy a small bottle of Rhum for $5-6 and we mixed it with pop.


With our backpack full of food, we walked back to the pier and took the boat back. A few days later, Jocelyn left Tonsai and we became the owners of the kettle!! We did another food run a week later which lasted until we left Tonsai. After taking care of the food situation, we had to resolve the water issue. Due to the climate, we were sweating A LOT! Mathieu was drinking more than 5L of water per day and it was almost the same for me. At first, we were paying $4 for 6L of water. It was a lot of money given the amount we were drinking but it wasn’t something we could cut out of our budget. That’s when we found out that we could buy refillable water bottles of 20L for less than $3. What a deal! We just had to carry it up the hill to our bungalow 🙂


Weatherwise, it was awesome, super hot all the time. We only saw rain three times and twice it was at night. It was hard for us to climb in that kind of temperature, so sweaty!! We usually called it a day after climbing 3 routes, 4 at most. We were always climbing in the shade but even then, the 35 degres got to us quickly. We usually took a day off between each day of climbing. We did amazing multi-pitches routes (The Wave and beauty and the Beast) and beautiful single pitches too(Banana hammock, Lion King, Beauty & Beast). You can see our tick list on Mountain Project if you want to see what we did. The rock was so different from all the rock we had climbed in the last few months. We are just very happy we had the opportunity to come here to try it out.



Although we originally planned on spending a whole month there, we quickly got tired of the vibe, the wall and the amount of money we were spending. It would have been a shame to leave without seeing Conrad and Kristine as they were supposed to get there 2 weeks after us. We waited for them and had a few good nights hanging out. On the morning of our departure, Matt and Conrad got up before sunrise to go do what is probably considered the most classic route there, Humanality. Rain got in the way a little but by 9h30am the boys were back and we quickly walked to the pier to hop on a boat to get off Tonsai.


With our small budget, we couldn’t really afford to go to all the other islands and weren’t interested in doing scuba-diving so we decided to hit the city instead. We took a 15 passenger van/bus to Phuket Town(so cheap.. $6 each for a 200 km ride). We spent 3 nights there walking around and eating street food. We even went to an awesome vegan restaurant called King Liew. It was vegetarian heaven! Food/alcohol prices are a lot better in the city and therefor we could treat ourselves a little more! To push the luxury even further, while in cities, we got hotel rooms with A/C, hot water and even a TV for less than $12/night.


Two wicked vegan dishes

Afterwards we headed toward Patong beach for 3 more nights. Patong is famous for its crazy nightlife and although we took it easy the first two nights, the last one was a big one. We must have blown over $40 CAD that night… pretty big for people living on $200/week! We saw live bands, ladyboys, we were harassed so many times to go see an 18+ ping pong show (we didn’t go), drank out of bucket, etc… lots of fun! We also rented a scooter for two days and drove all around the south end of Phuket province. It took us a little bit of time to get used to drive on the left side of the road. No accident but we had one close call with a car when Matt didn’t notice a traffic light. Thankfully, the car saw the two white peeps on a scooter and knew better than we did, stopping in time.


Party on Patong!





Then we had one more challenge to face before leaving Thailand. Canadians are only allowed 30 days in the country if you don’t have a visa, which we didn’t. The minor problem was that we had knowledgeably bought a ticket for 31 days. Apparently the overstaying penalty is $20/day but we had a master plan to avoid having to find out: Going to the airport the night of day 30 to clear security/border and sleep at the departure gate. Theoretically, it was only possible because we weren’t checking any luggages. Usually they will only check you in a few hours before flight departure. Now the following is where it got tricky. We showed up at the airport at 5 pm, 14 hours before our flight, hoping to discuss our plan with someone from the airline and hopefully get issued our boarding passes before midnight. Well that never happened as there weren’t any check-in kiosks for our airline opened at that time and the automated machines to self check-in weren’t supporting our airline. We almost gave up but we still had time to figure something out. That’s when Mathieu thought about doing online check in…One more problem happened: we weren’t able to get a digital boarding pass on our phones for the one flight leaving Thailand. All the other ones for the following connections were coming through easily, but no Bangkok to Japan. At 11h30 PM, we finally got something working by taking a screenshot of a boarding pass you would normally print at home. The border people seemed satisfied with it and off the hook we were, we passed the border at 11h45 PM, 30 days after arriving in Thailand 🙂 We found sweet couches to sleep on and got some proper boarding passes printed at the boarding gate before flying away.


Best airport bed ever, even had a giant pillow!

We didn’t do a detailed budget for our time in Thailand but we kept track. In overall, we spent $955 between the two of us in 1 month minus the flight tickets (flight tickets were part of the $15 000 and accounted for after we bought them). Like I mentioned before, it cost us more money that we had expected but we still think that is pretty reasonable.

Thailand was awesome and although we love van living, we are now ready to start a new chapter, for a few months anyway! We are already thinking about a possible trip in the Fall, probably in Europe.

It’s now just about impossible for us to make it back to Edmonton on budget as we have less than $500 left and it’s probably going to cost more than that to drive the 3000km. Even if we end up let’s say $200 over, I would think that being so close to our budget over a whole year is quite the feat. Budgeting really really works!


April 23 – June 10 : Weekly & Totals since we left 50 weeks ago (damn.. only two weeks left before Elaine resumes work!)

Fuel: $6090.40
Food: $2864.68
Fun: $6380.78 (including our trip to Thailand)

Total spent since the beginning: $15335.86

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $420.35


We gave our kettle to other Canadians the day before our return


Delicious Thai food for $1!!


Mathieu’s personnel lifeguard


Night food market. Our daily dinner spot in Patong!


Weird but delicious coconut drink


You now know the secret to Matt’s good looks.. Man Some!


Beautiful scenery


Crazy driver!


More Thai food!!!


Could barely reach the stalactite!


Our new friends Nelly and Seb!


Kayaking around Tonsai


Having dinner in our bungalow.. well under the mosquito net on the bed .. can’t be outside at night


Curry!!! Never get enough of it!


Chicken burger Thai style


More curry!!!


Inside our bungalow


Lots of scooters !


Beach day!

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Top 10 things to know before coming to Tonsai/Railey [Thailand] in 2015

This post is being written live from our bungalow in Tonsai, Bangkok. We came here to climb for a month, hoping to have a vacation within our year long trip with $15 000 CAD. I wrote it about Tonsai but the exact same applies to Railay. 

We had been hearing before getting here that Tonsai was changing, mostly due to a resort being built using 90% of the beachfront in Tonsai.  What that mean is that as of now, there’s a big wall surrounding the property and that any business that was by the beach was either relocated further up in the jungle or simply closed down, with the exception of Freedom bar and 2 restaurants next to it. Since we were never here before, it’s hard to tell exactly how much has changed but clearly it’s not like it used to be. I know I don’t like that wall and I believe it goes the same way with the locals. 


Here’s a top 10 of things you need to know before considering a climbing trip to Tonsai. 

  1. Bungalows aren’t cheap. The cheapest will ring you in at 200 baht. This will provide you with a shower(cold water only but that’s all you need really), a toilet(bring your own toilet paper, can be purchased for 15-20 baht for a skinny roll), a queen size bed, bamboo walls and cockroaches are included… Hey apparently they keep spiders out!. If you want fancier, it’s there but it will cost you. At least there’s a mosquito net. They’re very effective if you tuck it in underneath the mattress and don’t rest your body against it while you’re sleeping. After a week in one of those bungalows, we are quite ok. You really feel like you’re living in the jungle and that’s awesome. 
  2. A dinner meal, let’s say Pad Tai, starts at 70 and with meat it’s 80 baht. It’s like they’ve all colluded and the prices are the same pretty much everywhere. We looked everywhere for a way to feed ourselves for 30-40 baht like we did in Bangkok and it’s impossible. Everything, and I mean everything is double what the cost is in Ao Nang. (5-6 min boat ride). May I suggest stopping by a store before crossing over to Tonsai to buy anything you will need.  
  3. Thefore, if you want to cut your cost down, it might very well be worth taking the 100 baht long tail boat ride each way to Ao Nang to buy supplies. If you don’t mind your beer at room temperature, you can buy it there for 50 baht for a big 630ml instead of 100-120 in Tonsai. Eggs in Tonsai are 10 baht each while we were able to buy 30 of them for 87 baht in Ao Nang. We use an electric kettle to boil them at night when electricity is on and eat them as hard boiled eggs in the morning. The biggest grocery store in Ao Nang is Tesco. You will find all your food supplies there. It’s a 20 minute walk up the road from the beach or a cheap taxi fare away. Same price for everyone too… Not a larger price for foreigners. Most items have their English description on the price tag which is convenient when you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking at. 
  4. Local shops aren’t willing to negotiate much with their prices or rates. We were able to get a bungalow for 200 instead of 250 by paying upfront for a week but that’s about it. The very same hut we live in was going for 90 baht two years ago. We tried at every resort and only this one was willing to move on the price, even though we were 6 people looking for bungalows together. Forget about getting a deal to rent equipment or at the restaurant. Prices are what they are and they’re pretty high. 
  5. Water. You will be drinking plenty of water so here’s the solution. You buy a big 20L jug for 170 Baht and when you are done, you return it for a 100 baht refund. Effectively getting 20 L of purified water for 70 Baht. It doesn’t say Dasani or Nestle on it but it’s what the locals drink and what they’re serving you in your smoothies.  If you’re going to spend any time with an overnight stay, that’s the only way to go otherwise you will be ruining yourself buying 1.5L for 40 baht or 6 liters for 70-80 baht.   
  6. To many locals, you’re just another tourist with a lot of money. They know you will spend it and don’t really care to give you good, or why not, amazing service. Asking a local climbing guide what the grade of a route is may result you in an answer along the line of “I’m not getting paid to help you, you climb it if you want to know what the grade is.” Unless you hire a guide, you’re on your own. Thankfully regular climbing tourists are friendly as you would expect and you can share knowledge and experience with them. The guidebook is also fairly well done and can be bought locally for 800-900 baht. 
  7. Bring bug spray or plan on buying some locally. “After-bite” isn’t a bad idea either. Many people also bring/use some iodine (aka betadine) to desinfect small wounds.
  8. If you are on a tight budget, going somewhere else than Tonsai might be wise. We are having a hard time spending less than $175 USD/week. We are spending more on a weekly basis here than when we were in the USA. And that’s sharing a big beer daily. If we were to party we would be way over budget. I thinks is fair to say that Tonsai isn’t cheap anymore. 
  9. Deep water soloing is pretty expensive too. We haven’t looked for ourselves yet but from what we have heard, it should be around 1000 baht(over $30USD per person). Sure it includes a sandwich for lunch but it’s still a ton of money per person in Thailand or anywhere for that matter. 
  10. The greatest surprise has to do with Internet. It is readily available at most restaurants and bars with a purchase. Many do not change their passwords every day but since you will probably eat out at least once a day, it shouldn’t be a problem to get your internet fix. 
  11. Bonus: when looking for a place to stay, be aware that some resorts have electricity from 6 PM to midnight while some others have it on for 12 hours, from 6 PM until 6 AM. It’s quite handy when the nights are hot and you want to have the fan on all night. It’s also nice when you have many devices to charge up

As you may have noticed, we aren’t exactly in awe with Tonsai. It’s perfect when you’re having a good time climbing on the beach but coming here isn’t only that. I was in Thailand about 7 years ago and it feels like Thailand is changing. The feeling is that they’re going to milk the tourists for as much as they can. We were laughed at this morning when we preferred waiting for one more person to fill the boat to go to Ao Nang instead of paying 20 Baht more per person. Quite disrespectfull and had we been back home, this idiot would have known my thoughts. 

    My final words would simply be to either lower your expectations if you think that Tonsai is still the sport climbing mekka or just go look elsewhere. The climbs are obviously the same as they were and potentially safer than ever but having to dispense more for a coffee or a beer here than back home is quite shocking and disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is just awesome and I’m glad we came. But what I mean is that we will try a different spot next time. Coming back here for a second time will be a much harder sell than this time around. Perhaps it’s because it’s low season or perhaps it’s because many got the memo already but there are way more island hoppers than there are climbers here right now. 

    We will make the best of it and thankfully we are already having a lot of fun climbing and meeting new people.

    Safe travels everyone. Get in touch with comments if you have any questions. 


    Matt & Elaine

    “Living it up” in Hueco Tanks state park

    After leaving Joshua Tree we set off towards Arizona and made it to Tucson. The drive was boring in places, roads being straight and flat for dozens of miles at a time(You do the math.. miles are the new way to go!!). The one thing that really stood out though was the cartoon style cactus. You know the green ones with two arms pointing up? They do really exist! They’re huge and they’re super awesome. Based on the sheer amount we saw, these things are like the trees of the desert, super well adapted to their environment.


    Alexi, our pal from Quebec we met in J-tree told us about free climbing & camping on Mount Lemmon(Not Lemon), just outside of Tucson. It did sound like a good idea so we knew we should try to hit it when we drove by as it is literally on the way to El Paso (where Hueco Tanks state park is). We left Joshua Tree without really planning the climbing part so once we arrived in Tucson, we had to get our hands on some internet to figure out the hows and the where. We took one of the first exit for Tucson and we managed to get some free internet from a Super 8 hotel. After deciding that we were best going to a local outdoor shop to get some beta for the climbing, we had to find a place to park for the night. Problem was that we had already driven past a truck stop a while back and we didn’t think there would be another one before long. We looked to see if Walmart stores were Overnight friendly but unfortunately they weren’t. So we decided we could probably just park behind the hotel as if we were guests and hopefully no one would bother us.

    Thankfully, we went unnoticed for the night! Just before leaving the parking lot, I noticed a guy cleaning what appeared to be an outdoor pool attached to the hotel. I went closer to see if there wouldn’t be a hot tub by any chance and who knows, the gate might be unlocked.. well guess what? There was a hot tub AND the gate was unlocked. Elaine wasn’t so sure about it but because I hadn’t soaked in any kind of pool of water for over a month, I took the chance and went for it after putting my swim suit on. I turned on the jet, sat back and let it soak for a while.. that was simply awesome! Eventually Elaine came out and dipped in as well. That’s dirt bagging it to the max 🙂

    We went to Summit Hut and spoke with Dave who was super helpful. He strongly suggested we go to Cochise Stronghold instead of Mount Lemmon. Day was getting late so Elaine found a super cool hike, ranked #1 around Tucson, called 7 falls(Seven falls Trail). It was a 4.1 miles hike each way with 200m elevation gain. At the end of the hike, you reach a gorgeous waterfall with numerous pools of very cold water. After hiking that far, there was no way I wasn’t going to go in for a dip. I kind of dove in and as Murphy’s law would have it, my glasses came off and ended up at the bottom of the pool. The problem wasn’t that the pool was too deep, the problem was that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go back in that freezing water 🙂 In the end, a lady was able to point them out from the edge of the pool which made the second dip as quick as possible.

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    The next day we went to Cochise Stronghold and spend a single day sport climbing. We ended up hanging out with some friendly locals which made the day that much more enjoyable. The climbing was slabby at times and I realized that the weeks spent in Joshua tree had actually improved my trust in friction between my shoes and the rock. The climbing is located in a national forest and disperse camping is usually allowed. We were able to spend the night in a little pullout and we had a nice Valentine’s dinner in the nature.


    Cochise Stronghold area

    Our camping spot for the night in Cochise Stronghold

    Our camping spot for the night in Cochise Stronghold


    Valentine's dinner

    Valentine’s dinner

    We then pushed through to El Paso. It’s a border town with Mexico which is separated by a river with a wall built next to it to prevent illegal immigration. We asked around and it sounds like going over the border to visit Juarez, El Paso’s counterpart, is everything but a good idea. We are currently staying at what was once called Pete’s, Hueco Tanks Climbing shop, which doubles up as a campground as well. It’s quite basic with a port-a-potty, fast internet most of the time, and some tables and chairs but the cost is pretty slick: $4/person for 3 nights. So we are paying $2.66/day to camp here but the distance to the park is minimal. We will just about recoup the cost of the camping by saving on fuel. We are less than 5 minutes away from the park. Coincidentally, the same people that we hung out with in Bishop are all here so it’s nice to hang out with friends we enjoyed spending time with back then.


    Our new home at Pete’s!



    Gabi on Ghetto Simulator

    The bouldering here is totally awesome. The rock as the name would suggest, is full of Huecos (round pockets/jugs in the rock) and a lot of the climbing is either overhanging or a straight out roof. “Knee bars” and heel hooks will come in handy I’m sure. There’s a bit of a process to enter the park everyday because they only allow 70 people at any time on the North mountain. Reservations are recommended but we didn’t bother. So far we were able to go in without it but it might get tricky during the week ends. I can see us spending most of the time we have left in the USA here as it is truly a unique place. The nights are very cold at the moment.. probably dropping to just above freezing. Days are warm-ish but the wind is notorious at this time of the year which cools them down quite a bit. We heard that it’s so windy at times that the wind will blow your crash pads away. We haven’t experienced that yet but it’s going to happen I’m sure.

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    Elaine’s fingertips are still very low on skin and she’s being careful with her climbing to not draw blood again. Hopefully with some TLC, she’ll be able to go full tilt sooner than later.

    Our  budget for this week is now $200.66 CAD for food & fun.

    Jan 12 –Feb 18 : Weekly & Totals since we left 34 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $175.01 / $4572.61
    Food: $57.58/ $2328.34
    Fun: $64.77 / $4816.06

    Total for the week without fuel: $122.35
    Total with fuel: $297.36
    Total spent since the beginning: $11717.01

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $4039.20

    E & M

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    Joshua Tree will keep you humble!

    We had a crazy realization today. After choosing not to go to Mexico on this trip, we never did the math. We only have 7 weeks left in the USA before we hit the 6 months mark, which is the maximum amount of time a Canadian is allowed in the USA under normal conditions. To be more precise, only me needs to leave by April 7 as Elaine got a new 6  months from her going to the funerals in Canada a few weeks back. I kind of see now why they were hesitant to let her back in the USA. They actually stamped her passport B-2 which means that now if she was to leave and re-enter the states again, she would more than likely not get a new entry date. That’s another thing we have come to realize on this trip, you have to stay on top of it when it comes to spending great amount of time in other countries. Getting banned from your winter escape country would suck big time if you messed it up.


    You wouldn’t want to loose access to this great temperature


    We were going to spend Valentine’s day in J-Tree( a dinner/dance thing at Yucca Valley Community Center) but now that the clock is ticking, we’re going to hit the road as early as tomorrow. Next stop is Mt Lemmon, just outside of Tucson, Arizona. Sounds like free camping is readily available and that there’s all sort of climbing there: Sport & Trad Climbing and Bouldering. We have also done some math and at the least we will need to reallocate $300-$400 to the Gas budget (We originally budgeted $5000 CAD in gas). It shouldn’t be too bad as we are almost always below the budgeted weekly amount. Next on the list after that will be Hueco Tanks, just outside of El Paso, Texas.


    My valentine!! She’s the best!!!


    Climbing wise we have touched a great amount of the bouldering around here. It was quite nice but very humbling as we were often struggling to make it up anything above V0(One of the easiest grade for bouldering). It’s not unusual to have a problem that’s 20 feet tall and not even get an R rating because the fall is clean. There’s also many crack and slab problems that aren’t necessarily within our comfort zone.


    The rock can be really sharp too, and it was Elaine’s demise. She got numerous flappers (it’s like getting a blister but having the skin on top of the blister rip right off immediately, it takes the whole top layer of skin off of your finger) and after trying to climb with bandaged up fingers, she got a massive flapper yesterday. She’s now out of commission for a few days if not more.

    Me and Conrad did our first rope climb in J-Tree called Bat Crack. It’s a 5.5 with some chimney & crack moves. We got what we were expecting from a 5.5 route in here.. definitely harder than any other 5.5 we’ve done before. Still had a blast and we made it up alright. We even got some booty, recovering a #1 cam, a trad quick draw and two non locking carabiners. It wasn’t even stuck.. it was simply used to bail out. Pretty crazy what people are leaving behind.. especially when gear is so easily recoverable.

    Just about to start climbing the Bat Crack!

    Just about to start climbing the Bat Crack!

    Me on the first pitch trying to learn how to chimney

    Me on the first pitch trying to learn how to chimney

    It’s sad that we found out about the following on our last day here but we were finally able to get some goodies from a dumpster. Nothing crazy but free produce is always nice. I also like that we’re getting very comfortable with our dumpster diving. Today there was a guy doing whatever in the loading bay of that store and we just drove past him and parked by the dumpster. He definitely looked but he didn’t come over to tell us to move on or anything.

    It’s a small world.
    While we were looking for an available campsite at the Hidden Valley campground in the park, some dude signaled us to stop and he offered us to share his site. As we were looking for a full site to split with Conrad & Kristine, we had to turn down his offer. On the other hand, it gave us just enough time to realize that we had actually climb with this very couple at a remote crag one day while we were in Quebec. We clearly remembered each other and that was super cool to run into them again. Even though we couldn’t get a site that one night, we got to hang out other times when we did. The climbing community is pretty small.. even more so the week-day (Monday-Friday) climbing community.

    Our Quebec friends vans

    Our Quebec friends vans

    We have posted this on Facebook already but if you’ve missed it, here’s the video Conrad made about his/our time in Joshua Tree. It’s pretty funny and we had a good time acting in it. The youtube version doesn’t seem to be playable in the USA so if that’s the case, head over to Facebook to watch it. Their page is public and visible to all, even if you’re not on the book.

    Feb 5- Feb 11 : Weekly & Totals since we left 33 weeks ago.

    Our  budget for this week is now $196.53 CAD for food & fun.

    Fuel: $114.30 / $4397.60
    Food: $99.02/ $2270.76 (include $22.28 for propane)
    Fun: $0 / $4751.29 (No fun!!)

    Total for the week without fuel: $99.02
    Total with fuel: $213.32
    Total spent since the beginning: $11419.65

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $4336.56

    E & M



    Arrrrrrrrrrr .. working on my pirate face 🙂


    “Summit picture” on top of intersection rock


    Bat crack probably comes from this bat cave on the route.. full of bat poo!


    “Summit picture” from below


    Aren’t they cute? 🙂


    The picture isn’t over exposed.. his legs are just that white 😉


    Scary V0 slab route.. Super aesthetic though!


    This may be the shortest problem in J-tree, sitting at 7 feet tall 🙂

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    From one desert to another

    Almost two weeks have gone by since we did our last post… We are kind of got busy I guess… Sorry! As you can imagine time and dates are very different for us now. Day of the week is irrelevant and we have to look at a calendar to know the date for sure.  Its really nice to be in some sort of 4th dimension where the clock isn’t ticking.

    A few times in the last couple of weeks, we had to put the alarm on (6am) to get an early start. That was a bit of a pain! ELaine had a hard time and didn’t want to get up at all. We’ve been getting up with the sun for so long now, it’s hard to be “forced” to get up and get going so early.
    It reminds us too much of the working life we left behind more than 6 months ago!!


    image_5(1)We did a couple of trad climbs multi-pitch in Red Rocks National Park. We gave a second shot to Tunnel Vision(5.7+), the one we tried and didn’t finish a week or so ago. That route is different compared to anything we’ve climbed before. For one, the 5th pitch is a dark tunnel about 20m long. We actually brought headlamps to climb that one. Additionally, there was a lot of cheminey climbing/moves on this route. Definitely added some tools/skills to the toolbox. Lots of run out too but that was fine. The biggest thing was making sure I wasn’t leading my way up a cheminey that would have been offroute. When you have to build your own anchors, it’s not always clear where pitches begin and end. I definitely didn’t want to have to down climb what I was just about to go up on.

    Tunnel Vision 5.6

    The Tunnel!


    The second one was another Red Rocks classic called Cat in the Hat(5.6). This one was pretty mellow but still a very nice day on the rock. Kind of nice to have those routes all to yourself. On that route, I managed to free a .4 Black Diamond cam with a 2013 date on the tag. The steel is bent on it from pulling hard to get it out but in my book, it’s definitely fine to use. To make thing better, I didn’t have that size in my rack. Elaine’s patience was tested during that time because I probably hung on that rock face for well over 30 minutes and she was just sitting at the anchor waiting for me.

    cat in the hat

    Best pitch of Cat in the Hat.. also where I found the Cam.


    On the bouldering side, Elaine sent her second V5! An unnamed route in Kraft boulders. She almost sent a V6 too! She just need to work on her explosiveness!! My fingers are still bothering me a bit so I haven’t been bouldering much.

    Elaine crushing a V5 :)

    Elaine crushing a V5 🙂

    Forgot to tell you that while Elaine was gone, I managed to lock the keys inside the van. I’m clearly useless when she’s not around!! Thankfully, Conrad had a metal clothes hanger and with a little prying of the door and something hard to keep it slightly open, it was quite easy to get the door to unlock. There’s always AAA (same as CAA or AMA) that we could have called but doing it yourself is quicker and rewarding.

    We found a second plant in the dumpster. This time around it’s a mint plant. It smells awesome and we for sure will make mojitos at some point. By the way, our basil plant is still alive but not doing too good. I cut a lot of leaves thinking it would give it a second wind but nothing changed. We are giving it a lot of love and hope that it will come back to life soon!!!

    This is how you do it.. !

    This is how you do it.. !

    After 6 months of the sink’s tap leaking, Elaine finaly got really tired of it and forced us to fix it. We didn’t want to invest a lot of money into that repair. So we went to Lowes and bought some PVC pipe. We created a new “very functional” tap and the whole thing cost less than $5!! You sometime have to be very creative when you live on the cheap!

    Our new faucet!

    Our new faucet!

    The street we found to park at night has been working out. Nothing like having a good place to sleep at, without the stress of being waken up in the middle of the night and being asked to move elsewhere. To make things better, there was a Lowes at least a 100m away that we could pick up free wifi from. Free food from the dumpster, free wifi, good place to sleep, Las Vegas was getting really comfortable!

    Working out in the side street next to Walmart

    Working out in the side street next to Walmart

    We knew that our time in Vegas was about to end and so we treated ourselves to a free buffet. We used up all the casino points to pay for it. The food was once again pretty good minus the fact that they didn’t have seafood. Elaine found enough vegetarian options to fill up her belly. It was nice to eat food that we didn’t have to prepare and cook for once.

    All good things must come to an end.

    Famous Rte 66

    Famous Rte 66

    We hit the road and headed towards Joshua Tree national park. We drove on a part of the famous road, Rte 66. It was a 200km extra but it was on Elaine’s bucket list. Sounds like it’s the first highway of the USA or something like that. Elaine was very disappointed by the lack of scenery but now we can say that we’ve been there. On the other hand, it made for a different route than the one we had been on before that goes from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. One super cool thing we saw on the way down was those MASSIVE solar electricity plants. I would be curious to hear how much power these things can produce. It’s just south of the Hoover Dam, which we have once again managed to not go see. That’s after 5 visits to Las Vegas 🙂 Same goes for the Grand Canyon. Maybe next time!


    Our plan was to drive to San Bernardino and make a stop at the FiveTen outlet. The store is only open Thursday and Friday. I needed new shoes and so did The McFarlanes. We all slept in the parking lot of the store. We were waiting at the door when they opened it. I got a new pair of climbing shoes($59USD, regular $149), more aggressive this time. Elaine wanted to buy some climbing shoes too and but hers are still decent so she couldn’t justify the expense. I have such a reasonable girlfriend!

    The 5.10 outlet/wharehouse.. awesome place!

    The 5.10 outlet/wharehouse.. awesome place!

    After our shopping spree, we all drove to Joshua tree Village to spend the night.  While on the freeway, we almost lost our maxi air vent. Conrad and Kristine were driving behind us and were able to alert us. We pulled over and tried to do a quick fix but decided to just take it off. We fixed it the next day. It is a bit of a challenge to repair the roof without a ladder but once again, we are very creative!!!


    Later that day, we entered the park to attack the famous monzogranite of Joshua Tree. Wow that rock can be sharp! After only a couple of hours, Elaine’s fingertips were bleeding pretty good. The rock here is very similar to Bishop Buttermilks. It will take us a little to get use to again. The landscape here is pretty unique and beautiful. Like Red Rocks this place is mostly sand and a lot of it! There is also an infinite amount of Joshua trees and Yucca plants!!
    There is a few free camping spots in the area but they all are at least 15-20 minutes away from the park. We think free camping in the park will be a bit of an issue but we are pretty smart and ingenious by now!


    V4 Ghetto Booty


    V4 Swinging Richard - 3 stars(out of 5) in chocolate boulders .. good route!

    V4 3 stars .. good route!

    The weather has been warmish for the last couple of days but the wind kind of ruins it. Hopefully, we’ll get nicer weather soon! It’s raining today so we can catch up with the online world,do some errands( no free food here so far) and laundry. Otherwise, life is good and we haven’t kill each other yet!!!! Elaine is sometimes a little bit anxious about what will happen to us after the trip…then she  drink a glass of wine and forget all about it!!!

    The budget for last week is a bit over the top due to our tickets to Thailand…but we are trying pretty hard to stay within our budget for the rest of our trip. So far, we didn’t have to reallocate any money to the transport section but we might have to… we will see.

    In our last post, I said that we would be increasing our total trip budget by $650 (by the time we redeemed, we actually had $700 to use!) to include the free travel money from the travel credit card. In the end we decided to not add the dollars we had accumulated to the total budget for the same reason that we didn’t add money to the budget when we redeemed the casino points for the free buffet. We’ll justify it by calling that the perks of being a smart spender. Sort of a free lunch for once.

    So the total for the flight, for two people, taxes in, minus the $700 from the credit card, to fly from Montreal to Krabi, Thailand: $1131!!!!! Cheap is good!!

    Lots of pictures below the budget.. Cheers!

    Our  budget for this week is now $183.17 CAD for food & fun.

    Jan 15 – Jan 21 : Weekly & Totals since we left 30 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $199.95 / $4057.19 (includes 2 months of vehicle insurance, 1 x oil change)
    Food: $32.17/ $2063.84 (includes $29.77 for propane)
    Fun: $1124.50 / $4662.71 (Thailand trip minus some gains at casino!)

    Total for the week without fuel: $1156.67
    Total with fuel: $1356.62
    Total spent since the beginning: $10783.74

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $4972.47

    E & M


    Pork Chop .. it`s the problem name.. come on. Super awesome V2-3

    Attractive Brunette, V2 .. short and sweet!

    Attractive Brunette, V2 .. short and sweet! .. in Chocolate Boulders

    Joshua Tree national park

    Joshua Tree


    The Pirate Crew.. AAARRRRRRRR!

    Joshua Tree

    Joshua Tree national park

    Joshua tree national park

    Joshua tree.. they grow in funny ways

    stuck in between boulders

    Help I’m stuck!!!

    photo 1

    Baking bread from dough.. Found a Pilsburry package you know where .. it worked!


    It`s either that or run it out 20 meters.. 🙂


    The entrance of “The tunnel” in Tunnel Vision. It`s about 15 feet tall.


    Bella totally sleeping wherever she likes

    photo 2

    Girls trying to stay fit on the road while Conrad enjoys a cinnamon bun 🙂

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    The tunnel!

    Did someone say FREE BEER? And hasta pronto Elaine!

    Dumpster diving is so crazy here you would have to see it to believe it. The stuff they throw out is plain unreal. Did someone say free beer? This week, we got about 75 beers out of the dumpster. Some of them were disposed of because the package was damaged and most of them were probably thrown out because they were “expired”. I knew beer had a shelf life in the grocery store but I didn’t think it was to the point of throwing it out at the 3 months mark. I feel like they should at least try to discount it or give it to their staff. I haven’t had a Guinness since we left and the one I just had was delicious! 3 x 12 packs of IPAs? Hell yeah!

    On that same dumpster dive, we got much more stuff. A lot of the products we found had been disposed due to a container breaking inside the case. Instead of cleaning up the undamaged products, they just threw it out. We got much more Organic Maple Syrup than we can keep and eat, same situation with olives or Frank’s red hot sauce. There was about 10 cans of chicken soup, cheese strings and unfortunately, some broken glass, which gave me a good cut on the tip of my thumb.

    Frying some dumpster diving veggies.. it`s awesome!

    Frying some dumpster diving veggies.. it`s awesome!

    So the other big news this week is that Elaine is gone. She went to her grand-mother funeral and will be back next week. So I went bouldering with Conrad and Kristine yesterday and I managed to hurt a couple of fingers pretty good it seems. Will be taking some time off and hopefully it’s nothing serious. That will teach me to think I can climb V8 🙂 In the mean time, squeezing anything with my right hand is out of the question. So today I did a whole lot of MyVegas 🙂

    All four of us tried to do Birdland again but the line up for it was just ridiculous. We ended up doing another 5.7+ next to it. It wasn’t an epic but it was close 🙂 It took us a long time to do it all, mostly because the party ahead of us all wasn’t the fastest one. We actually had to rappel in the dark with cellphones as light sources. Furthermore, our rope almost got stuck while I was leading. The holds on the one pitch sort of stick out and the rock is very grippy. I must not have been careful enough with the rope drag and the rope ended up going sideways between two pieces of protection. I gave it one last shot before rapping off to release the rope, to realize that if I pulled hard enough with my legs, the rope could move. I pretty much had to use a prusik when Elaine started climbing to pull on her rope as it was destroying my shoulder & my arm to pull. Notably, it was our first time having to build trad anchors at the belays. It went very well and we hung on them quite a lot.. at least I did while belaying.

    Before Kristine starts climbing towards Conrad

    Before Kristine starts climbing towards Conrad

    I went back to do Birdland with Elaine the other day. I knew there was a stuck Caming device on the route next to it and I was really hoping to go try to get it out but a party just ahead of us was able to release it. We arrived a little late and we had to wait for a few parties to get started before it was our turn. Ultimately it went fairly well as all parties were of 2 and the line up was moving quickly. The day before Elaine left we had another late start and got on a route called Tunnel Vision. Some kind of classic trad 3 stars route. We missed the proper start of the route and ended up going up a pitch of 5.9-5.10 sport climbing instead. It took me a while to get up there and Elaine was struggling with the backpack. Anyways we had to bail off this route but it was still fun. Now we know where the proper start is. Oh and to top if off, I found a trad quick draw on the belay ledge for the second pitch.

    The warm weather is finally back! No need to do up the mummy sleeping bags all the way anymore at night and during the day we can wear shorts and climb shirtless again! I heard Elaine saying that it was -40c in Rouyn Noranda this morning… It’s a shame I couldn’t go with her!! 😉

    Today I’m dog sitting Conrad & Kristine’s dogs. They are lovely and are quite easy to take care of. They only problem though is that they fart a lot!! I’m not kidding.. it’s like every 5-10 minutes one of them lets loose!

    Conrad and Kristine making some monnney!

    Conrad and Kristine making some monnney!

    Our  budget for this week is now $ (we’re rich!) CAD for food & fun. 

    Jan 1 – Jan 7 : Weekly & Totals since we left 28 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $40.95 / $3785.84
    Food: $54.49/ $2028.08 (includes $28 of propane)
    Fun: $5.58 / $3486.04

    Total for the week without fuel: $60.07
    Total with fuel: $101,02
    Total spent since the beginning: $9299.96

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $6456.25

    E & M

    Dirtbagging skills (… Dumpster diving!)

    All layered up… it gets chilly at times!

    We are still in Bishop and still loving it here! The weather is a little cooler now…nights are sometimes below freezing. Climbing in the shade is a bit cold and you for sure need a thick jacket but in the sun it’s pretty good. We have been bouldering quite a bit more lately, our  fingers skin is having it pretty rough so we took more rest days than usually. Elaine did her first ever V4 “Beer tumor Right” and is now working on a V5 with Kristine. After a few days, I finally sent “The Hulk” V6 and now working on a V7. It’s all very exciting!!!

    Heavenly Path (V1 highball) in Happy boulders

    Heavenly Path (V1 highball) in Happy boulders

    Elaine working Solarium, a classic V4

    Elaine working Solarium, a classic V4

    We have added a new tool the our box of “how to dirtbag it”. As the title says it, we have tried and succeeded at dumpster diving. Don’t over think it, dumpster diving is what it is, looking for stuff that is still good to use or eat in a garbage bin. It may be frowned upon by society in general but for having talked about it with other climbers who are living on a small budget/in a van, dumpster diving is pretty amazing. It does feel awkward to do it in public and in broad daylight but it’s totally worth it and sort of feel like winning at the lottery 🙂

    At first I didn’t think about it, but dumpster diving (aka Freeganism) helps reducing food waste. It doesn’t take much for a produce to get discarded,a little black spot or a bruise. We also witnessed grocery store staff filling up carts with almost expired/ day old bread, pastries and cold cuts and throwing it all in the dumpster ….it really makes you think about waste/environment and what you can do as an individual to reduce it. Over the last week, we have had good luck finding products that were just about past their “best by” date. Here is what we were able to salvage:

    • 2 x 2 Litres of Orange Juice
    • Much more bread than we were able to eat or give away
    • Over 5 lbs of tomatoes
    • 1  giant honeydew
    • 1 cantaloupe( Elaine couldn’t find anything wrong with it…it was delish!)
    • MANY dozens of eggs
    • yam potato
    • 5lbs of frozen chicken breast (cooked it all, have been eating it for two days.. all good!)
    • 4 packs of “Donettes
    • A full game of Pictionnary

    I wish we could do more dumpster diving but most places either lock up their bins or use a compactor. In any case we are saving a bunch of money and it’s kind of fun to eat random things.

    Otherwise life is still good. In anticipation of the Xmas holidays, we bought and installed some LED Christmas lights. They look awesome and provide a warm & low power light source. I only wish they would blink to make it awesomer 🙂

    Christmas lights

    As usual, more pictures below the budget with some captions

    Our  budget for this week is now $190.92 CAD for food & fun

    Nov 13 – Nov 19 : Weekly & Totals since we left 21 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $79.10 / $3454.04
    Food: $53.69 / $1623.59 (Includes $16.95 for propane)
    Fun: $40.55 / $3213.98 (bought a 26oz of Bacardi Rum with a $2 off coupon.. cost $8 USD!)

    Total for the week without fuel: $94.24
    Total with fuel: $173.34
    Total spent since the beginning: $8291.61

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $7464.60

    E & M

    bishop gravel road

    Improving the road by digging out a boulder.. you don’t want to puncture your oil pan out in the sticks

    best picture of me

    My best picture .. 🙂

    volanic tuff

    Elaine being pretty in the hueco 🙂

    van living

    Killing time doing some Sudoku or something like that

    Boxer dog

    Bella, also known as Shit-Face McFarlane .. dogs just love eating poo

    boxer dog

    Diva, aka the Other Shit-face McFarlane


    First flapper of the trip 😦

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