Monday, April 15, 2013

Athlete by Choice - Duncan Brown

I get attracted to certain characters.
And I go out of my way to meet them.
China is not too far.

I went to China to meet Duncan Brown.
He wasn't there.
No problem, I met some amazing people anyway. (see previous posts)

I line up another trip 3 months later. I read on Facebook that he's leaving. Crap, I already bought a ticket.
Turns out we crossed over for a coupla days.

So here's Duncan Brown on his last attempt on his long term project on his last climbing day at his favourite crag in his, now ex, home town of Yangshuo.
No Guarantee 513.c

I finally catch him at his going away thrash at Yangshuo's ex-pat climber bar "The Rusty Bolt".
There's a bunch of climbers I've met on previous trips, I know enough people to not feel uncomfortable.
I recognise him, I give him a big hug, he looks accepting, but bewildered. I introduce myself.
He talks intensely. The party goes off. I sneak out.

iPhone selfie
We meet next morning at the grubby bus station headed for Lei Pi Shan, super crag.

He comes across confident. And he is keen to talk climbing. Big picture.

There's no idle chit chat. Duncan wants to know my opinion on where Australian climbing is at.
I pull together a few patchy ideas and speculate about the new breed of young gym-trained climbers rattling the hierarchy.
He delivers a professorial lecture on training, crag development, international climbing.

We are there for one thing. A last ditch effort to send "No Guarantee", and I, to make sure everyone sees it.
I feel it's my duty to make sure Australia knows who's coming home.

 "No Guarantee" climbs a full 40 metres straight through that black blob all the way to the trees.
Reference the blob, we'll get back to that later.
Duncan wears: Kailas clothing.

Climb "Paper Cut" 28, pull a harder crux, and keep on pulling for another 20 metres.

 The "rest" near the top of Paper Cut.
Then launch into the hard stuff.

The day I turned up in Yangshuo was the first fine day after a long wet spell.
As usual the first thing I do is check the Li River.
I'm suddenly shocked. There's so much water. I instantly think of disastrous Chinese floods. They can do some damage. The sun came out and the rock started to dry out.

 iPhone shot from December.

Duncan jams in a kneebar at the base of the black tufa blob.

 Time to get some perspective here. There's the black blob way down there. There's a climber in blue on Single Life, I think, level with the blob.

Now that's what I went to China to see!

Extensive crag development all around China has brought Duncan's small town Yangshuo Mandarin accent into scrutiny. He reckons the Chinese big city folk take him for a retard.
Something I had never even remotely considered.
So he bungs on a posh big city accent whenever in Beijing. More "ARrrrrr's" apparently.

Lei Pi Shan, just another Chinese roadside attraction.

Walking away from Lei Pi Shan for the last time. The last time for this era, at least.
Without the tick he so badly wanted.
It's a tough crag.
I was there also, three months ago, the day Logan Barber walked away from Lei Pi Shan. Returning to Australia without the send of "Storm Born" he had tried so hard for.
Logan Barber >

I feel kind of privileged to be there that day. A special day in Yangshuo. Bringing to an end an era for such a prominent Australian climber.
I've searched this photo for any trace of disappointment on Duncan's face. It's not there.
Why? Because he knows he didn't waste any effort. There was nothing he didn't do.
He says he's ready to return to Oz. I sense that's true.
He's got a plan. He knows where he's going. And why.

 Too late for buses. On foot to Goatian.

Four years is a long time to spend in  a kooky little town like Yangshuo. It's got to change a person.
Maintaining focus and perspective must become a challenge. Some people do it well.

Duncan will be putting his effort behind his fitness and nutrition programs in Australia.
Look out for it.

Welcome home Duncan.