There are precious few climbing books about Vietnam so when a brand spanking new, a gorgeously photographed, and meticulously researched guide to the country’s best routes comes to Push we get understandably excited.
We talked to the authors of Vietnam Climbing, Luca De Giorgi and Gavi Piper, about how the book came to be.
Luca is a hiking and trekking guide based in Bolzano, in the Italian Alps but guiding trips around the world. While touring South East Asia he spent time at Cat Ba with the Asia Outdoors team and met Gavi from Portland who was working there. Luca’s love of climbing dates back to age 11 when his mum gave him the choice between football, basketball, or rock climbing and he has never looked back.
Luca: “I came back to Vietnam in October 2015 and wrote the old Hạ Long Bay guidebook. Gavi helped me a lot with the writing and did the last chapter, among other things. Two years passed. This year my travel agency offered Vietnam hiking trip, with me as the lead guide. This was a good occasion to expand the guidebook, which was already outdated. Also Jean Verly from VietClimb had done some incredible bolting work in Huu Lung and I decided to include all of that as well. Jean Verly from VietClimb and Rich Fergus the manager of Asia Outdoors entrusted me again with the production of a climbing guidebook, with the idea that this time it should cover the whole of Vietnam. I climbed in Vietnam for a month in January 2018 and climbed most of the lines in Huu Lung, and Mai Chau as well as some new stuff in Hạ Long Bay. Back home I brought Gavi back on board and we started processing the info I had gathered.”
It’s clear that this is not just a book but a labour of love. The pictures, often featuring friend of Push from Asia Outdoors are stunning, and the route information includes all the practical information you need to turn that daydream into climbing reality.
Luca: “We wanted not only to make a climbing guidebook but to make something beautiful. We tried to source the best possible pictures, design it well and included extra material. We hope it will guide climbers to this incredibly beautiful climbing destination and make it appreciated at as much as we did.”
Gavi, herself from Portland, Pacific Northwest USA, and working at Asia Outdoors also remembers how previous guides to Vietnam were starting to show their age.
Gavi: “This book definitely grew out of Ha Long Bay Climbing, which we produced in 2015. At that time, the most current guidebook was over seven years old. There had been so much development in Ha Long Bay since the 2008 book, we kept a master guidebook filled with Sharpie lines that people copied into every guidebook sold. In the meantime, new crags were being developed and access information had also changed over the years.”
“Vietnam has some amazing places with beautiful, low-trafficked rock that a lot of people outside the country just haven’t heard of, or don’t have the necessary information to reach. I think several people had attempted to start putting together a new guidebook, but the project’s scope was huge. Luca had the vision, drive and diplomacy to start with some new text we had on file, coordinate re-evaluation of every route in the region, and really utilize all resources at hand to begin reaching out to previous developers and expedition leaders in order to consolidate information and create an up-to-date guidebook for Ha Long Bay. I joined onto the guidebook as an editor, along with looking after a few other elements, maybe half way through the process.”
Vietnam Climbing covers three developed areas in Northern Vietnam (Huu Lung, Mai Chau and Hanoi outskirts) in addition to Ha Long Bay, for which information has been expanded and updated. The book also covers some bouldering areas further south and gyms throughout the country. Hopefully it will help showcase Viet climbing to a wider world, a world that is still largely unaware of the climbing in this country.
Gavi: “While awareness of climbing in Vietnam has grown in recent years, it isn’t really well-known compared to other areas in Southeast Asia. Vietnam has some amazing places with beautiful, low-trafficked rock that a lot of people outside the country just haven’t heard of, or don’t have the necessary information to reach. Some of these areas have been around for a while; others are new in the last few years. Vietnam Climbing is a comprehensive guide to rock climbing throughout the country. Aside from thorough topos and route notes, it provides information needed to adequately prepare, get to these places and go about climbing in a way that will keep them open. Some aspects covered include pertinent local background, development history, logistics, and further development potential for those who are interested.”
Vietnam Climbing is Vietnam’s first comprehensive country-wide climbing guidebook, ask at Push if you can’t get hold of a copy and we will order it for you at less thanthe cost on Amazon. Ask us very nicely and you might even get it signed by the author(s).
Words by Steve Shipside