Night Escapades to Dairy Farm

“The most beautiful mountain in the world is not the highest, or the most difficult. It is personal. It is always the one I am currently dreaming of.

Reinhold Messner

In the past few months, Dairy Farm (DF) has been a personal ‘mountain’ of sorts. With borders shut and our hopes of participating in a TMC dashed, we have spent a semester and some more looking to our local crag for a taste of inspiration and opportunities to explore the multifaceted nature of climbing.

Rock climbing may appear at first as quite a distant concept from MIR’s expedition-style mountaineering. However, they can share great overlap in areas such as risk management while climbing and in building anchors for protection, but only if one pays attention to these overlaps.  Beyond just chasing hard climbing sends, our hunger to improve had manifested itself in the form of learning technical skills from our seniors and practicing them at the crag. 

We were especially drawn towards multi-pitch climbing because it was the next most obvious climbing skill to add to our arsenal and something that has been on our minds. Taking reference from seniors, I suggested to Jing Yang that we went climbing in DF at night. It tied in nicely with our goal of eventually free-climbing a proper multi-pitch route because we would need some level of comfort with climbing in the dark, while also serving as a personal attempt at finding adventure within Singapore’s closed borders. 

Without thinking too much, we set out to DF with Chiew Hui, Gawain and Nathaniel on a Saturday night and found ourselves in front of the American Pie crag. At that time, the Three Uncles had just been put up by QX as a new 3-pitch climb, with the first 2 pitches graded 5.10+ and the last pitch being an aid climb at the A0 grade. The trio spontaneously took off to try the line, partly as a refresher for multi-pitching, and partly for the fun of it. Left to ourselves, we decided to climb American Pie (6B). We had done this route multiple times before and it captured just the right level of difficulty for pushing our comfort zone. After American Pie, we were left with limited options, and even decided to project Rainmaker on a whim! As expected, climbing in the dark was indeed a very different experience. Apart from the fatigue seeping in during the wee hours of the night, it was also a challenge to locate handholds and footholds using only a faint beam from our headlamps. It served as an exercise in patience, precise footwork and committing to hard moves. Shoutout to Chiew’s clip-stick for saving us multiple times on the first 2 clips!

If DF was already an escape from the city’s daily hustle and bustle during the day, it transformed entirely into quiet wilderness at night. We found ourselves immersed with working move-by-move up a wall of barely visible holds, and without the presence of daylight, we also became completely oblivious to the passage of time. Occasionally, the trio on Three Uncles would rain debris down the slab, and Jing Yang would shout to ask if they were still alive. In the midst of it all, one could forget for just a moment that we were still university students trying to get through the stresses of the semester.

Chiew, Gawain & Nathaniel on at the top of the Three Uncles; with a ‘nice view’ behind
Gawain leading up the second pitch of Three Uncles

After enjoying the ‘nice view’ and coming down from their ‘stroll’ up Three Uncles, the three suggested for us to try out the multi-pitch as well. We agreed that we had established a strong foundation in our climbing techniques thus far through our experiences in MLP and leading outdoors. And so, this would become the context of our second night adventure to DF.  On our second night visit to DF, Gawain and Nathaniel shared what they had learnt about multi-pitch climbs and offered some lessons for us to keep in mind. Their informal guidance through questions and experiential learning was a well-appreciated departure from the usual ‘structured’ manner of learning that one goes through in a course. Instead, we were rigorously probed to decide the next step to take based on a logical application of previously learnt principles. The experience inspired a sense of awe for the art and diversity of multi-pitching as well as the skill ceiling that climbers could achieve with their systems in terms of efficiency and self-sufficiency. It also inspired a new sense of independence, insofar as we felt empowered to take the initiative in developing our knowledge without having to wait for structured instruction.

Looking back, our escapades to Dairy Farm prior to its “closure” has been a self-made adventure that we are incredibly proud of, and not least because it was a contrived solution that we had executed in defiance of the situation dealt to us by the pandemic. It has also represented our personal attempt at furthering our mountaineering goals and enjoying climbing in a multifaceted manner through unique experiences such as night climbing, or even climbing photography! What more could one ask for!

When the river is smooth, we’re all heroes. Only when the big water starts to roar can we find out where we stand and what we’re made of. And the key word here is “made”. What have we made ourselves?”

John Long in the foreword of The Rock Warrior’s Way

Written By: Er Qi Yang and Teoh Jing Yang

Disclaimer: All climbs were done prior to the closure of DF on 11 February 2021

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