Judge This Book By Its Cover

What if we held a beauty contest for climbing guidebooks? With 430 full-color pages of good looks, the second edition of Bishop Bouldering ($37.50, wolverinepublishing.com) might make Miss America. That is, if Miss A could find her way blindfolded to every bloc from Rock Creek to the Druids and pull down like a fiend. The action photos are mostly by coauthor Wills Young, and stand shoulder to shoulder with additions from celebrated shooters including Stephan Denys, Simon Carter, Jim Thornburg, and Tim Kemple. Your palms will sweat. But it's not just pretty. Young and Mick Ryan bring to bear vast knowledge of the area, many contributions to Bishop's list of classics, and more than 60 years of combined bouldering experience. The history section is deep and rich, covering Smoke Blanchard's scrambles in the 1940s to Dale Bard's late-1970s classics to the modern double-digits highballs by international rock stars. Yet for all its smarts and stunning beauty, the book is easy. Pick it up and you're soon intimate with cheap camping, hot springs, town amenities - and almost 2,000 problems in one of the world's sweetest bouldering destinations. — Jeff Achey n-g-^-^^ d-^-ng,

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practice, we learned to sprawl on impact, to keep from hitting the bottom yet still have our feet below us in case we did. (We only experienced a few "taps.") After two days of being scared to fall, we soon went huge.

The turquoise-green, 75-degree seawater makes for a great landing, but the more time you spend in it, the more "pruny" you get. Your rock shoes will often be wet from the sea air or falling into the drink, and you need a dry chalk bag. Joe fashioned the trip's best quick-drying chalk bag by gluing a plastic PVC ring into the mouth of a swimming cap, to hold it open. Thanks to the moist environment plus a wealth of unfamiliar bacteria, open cuts rarely healed without a little infection, so avoiding flappers was critical.

On a previous DWS trip to Mallorca, my hands were constantly sweaty, dirty, or about to grease. I feared Vietnam would be even more raw and humid, so for Ha Long, I decided to experiment with "DWS gloves." Back in the States, I'd bought two pairs of tight-fitting golfing gloves and sewed extra Velcro hand straps around the palms. Then I had my shoe sponsor, Evolv, glue climbing rubber on the fingers. The gloves wouldn't let me climb at my limit, but they seemed well-suited to steep routes with big holds that were sharp, dirty, or wet. Plus, I could swim up and climb out without

To me, deep water soloing in Ha Long Bay was the ultimate blank canvas, awaiting the art of climbing. It was an incredible trip, as "different" as I'd hoped, and after three weeks on Ha Long Bay, I was enjoying the cultural experience so much that I decided to extend my tour of the region. Island hopping through the Philippines, climbing and surfing, I continued down to Indonesia, before finally concluding my trip with a severe ankle sprain at a bouldering competition in Singapore, which sent me home on crutches.

Of all the great moments, best of all was the mind-blowing sensation I experienced leaving Cat Ba's harbor for the first time, standing on the bow of a live-aboard boat next to my longtime friend and climbing mentor, Joe Brooks, rubbernecking in disbelief at the seemingly infinite limestone jewels that lay ahead of us. c^—

Chris Lindner (chrislindner.com) is a nomadic professional rock climber originally from the granite-filled cow town of Ramona, California. Brian Solano is a photographer and filmmaker currently living in Florida with his wife and son. To see more of his work, visit briansolano.com. You can see killer footage of Lindner in Ha Long in Solano's 2009 flick The Players.

Visit climbing.com for more information and logistics.

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