Monday, June 28, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

When I first got the invite to come down to Singapore to participate in the grand opening of a new hotel/resort, I thought, “Sure, why not?” I would need to do a visa run within 30 days time anyway and this trip out of Vietnam wouldn’t cost me anything.

Initially I was asked to help with logistics of safety for the climbers and be the go-between for riggers of ropes and helpers on the ground. But, as the days ticked down to my flight I got the message that they would need me to step in and climb for the Canadian team. Apparently Will Gadd, a very famous Canadian extreme sports athlete and an old friend, had a conflict and would not be able to attend.

Here I am with Will's medal!

OK. I now get to climb. Great! But I’d have to also compete in a speed climbing contest? Yikes!

Those of you who know my climbing style would never describe me as being fast going up anything. Methodical and calculating yes but not fast.

So there I was at about 4:30 pm local Singapore time last Monday, hanging out on the west side of the brand new Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore cursing my climbing past-the one that got me here because at one time I was somewhat known and the more recent one that did not allow me proper fitness for such an endeavor because Hanoi has been so stinking hot. 300 feet off the ground laybacking against slick glass and pulling myself up on steel fins, I was dead. The tropical heat and sun reflecting off the glass building was killing me. “How the heck am I going to be competitive in this physical state?” I was thinking as sweat poured from my nose and chin while I looked down hundreds of feet to the ground.  It took me over 40 minutes to climb the 600 foot route. I was slow and I felt dejected at the top.

This was my first practice though. And as the competition neared I got stronger because the heat began to lower.

All the while, all of us climbers were being housed within this 5 star resort. My room had a 50” TV, a big beautiful bathtub and view southeast to the bay. The meals were completely paid for and we were granted full use of the facilities from the spa to the fitness rooms. We were treated like kings and queens.

We, if I can back up a little, are a group of 21 climbers-some famous and a few not as famous, from all over the world. China, Taiwan, Thailand, Canada, The US, England, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Australia and of course Singapore were all represented. It was a mix mash of nationalities placed on regional teams- Team Commonwealth, Team China, Team Singapore, Team Asia, Team Europe, Team Canada and Team USA.

Each team had three members and each member would climb one of the towers. A “tag” relay would provide the dynamic element to showcase the three towers. Also ending the event in the pool up at the Sands Skypark represented the climax.  You can see this as a great big ship sitting on top of the three towers.

We climbers provided the opening act to the entire ceremony. And as the first place Team Singapore rang the finishing bell a squadron of sky divers descended over the Skypark down to the waters of the Marina west and below the hotel. Only then was it official that the celebration could begin.

And celebrate is what we climbers did.

You see this was no easy task. From the fittest to the weakest. From the new hot shots to the old veterans. We were all really nervous for a few days. The climb was long. The conditions went from stiflingly hot to soaking rain to blasting wind. Every few hours leading up the live climb would pose a new challenge from new equipment requirements to new timing on the ques.

It was a great relief when our first and only trial run as a coordinated group turned out well without any glitches. This was on Tuesday afternoon. But, four hours before the live broadcast the next day the Singapore skies darkened and blasted the area with rain.

“I told the hotel that climbers are perfectly capable of performing in the rain.” Said Matt Robertson, the climbing event organizer hired by the resort and our personal contact to hotel management. I vividly remembered asking him, “We can? Wouldn’t that be really slick with the glass and the wet railings?” He didn’t know. Nobody knew. It hadn’t rained on anyone yet during all the practice runs.

Eventually we all found out what it was like to climb these features wet. An hour before the live start we had to get ourselves in place, get up to just above midway, and the bottom third was wet enough to make moving up at least 50% harder. But luckily the higher we climbed the dryer it became for the top of the wall overhangs beyond vertical.

We started up midway because we had to get high enough to finish as a team under 15 minutes, the time allotted by ESPN. From the video of the live footage you can see us just hanging out.

Be it adrenaline, the cameras or just rising up to the occasion, but we all pretty much smoked the climb. Doing it all without a hitch.  I felt the best I had felt all week and was glad to join in the festivities at the top in the pool.

But this over the top adventure didn’t end here. Shortly after our climb I had an appointment with the Vietnamese news media, flown in, like almost every other country in the world, to cover the event.

Then there was a big gala dinner thrown. It was originally a black tie affair but the management was gracious enough to make an exception for us climbers.  There we were sitting along side famous gamblers-the resort of course has a casino, brand managers of all the boutique stores from the hotel’s mall and famous celebrities. The dinner was great-decorative dishes that tasted international. But the entertainment was over the top.

During appetizers a live orchestra serenaded us with classical music. Just before our main dish arrived several singers from the musical Jersey Boys sang Frankie Vally songs from their hit Broadway show. And when we finished our main course Dianna Ross came out on the stage and wowed us with her still great voice and energy. None of us thought that our day would end thusly, dancing along with the rich and famous to old Motown hits.

I guess we deserved all this pampering after such a stressful week, a week completely different than my normal ones in Hanoi.


  1. Nice work Linh! Sorry I couldn't make it, but I'm sure glad you had a good time and represented for Canada, nice!!! Hope to catch up with you somewhere in 2010, yeah!

  2. Looks like a blast. The tv commentary is insane. Great job!

  3. That was awesome Linh. Looking forward to seeing you in 4 months.