FINSREM, Kosrae - High in a banyan tree overlooking the breaking waves of the close-cropped fringing reef around Utwe Harbor, site of the ancient wreck of black birder and scoundrel, William Bully Hayes, Jergen Flores sits for several long and peaceful moments amongst cooing fruit doves, moss and ferns as tropical breezes blow in from the south.
Flores, a professional mountain climber and sometime Yurt builder from Eugene, Oregon is used to much higher and riskier climbs and he enjoys the moment in the one of many of Kosrae's watershed forests.
Joined by climbing partner, Lug McCoy, from Portland, Oregon, the two team up six to eight months out of the year to climb mountains, cliff faces and extreme rock gyms around the world - both for enjoyment and for the sponsorship monies they garner as one of the world's premier climbing/photography teams.
McCoy does most of the photography while Flores will often lead death-defying climbs that they undertake, from the Smith Rocks in Oregon, to the towering Pyrenees of France to the Boulder Canyons of the Mohave Desert in Arizona. Their exploits and photography have been chronicled in such noted publications as Outside magazine, Ultimate Climber magazine and ESPN, the Magazine.
They both admitted that Kosrae is one of the most breathtaking and undeveloped places they have seen."It's good to know that places like this exist in the Pacific," said McCoy. "I hope they can keep it this way for as long as they can." "We'd like to visit some of the other FSM islands as well next year, and spend a little more time if we can," said Flores, after undertaking a harrowing shark-infested snorkel trip in front of the Kosrae International Airport runway, at Okat, complete with alternate currents, major wave riding, rain storms and lightning overhead.
It's not a place that most visitors will go. This reporter went along for the ride and is probably lucky to be alive to write about it."That's some serious action," he said, pleased with the exploit. "It's a rush for sure - just the way we like it."
The two stopped over in Kosrae for a few days on their way to the steep limestone cliffs of Thailand's Krabi coast, near the famous Phra Nang and Rai Leh Beaches. The climb is reputed to have stunning views across the perfect beaches and azure waters of the Andaman Sea. Most of the white-knuckled ascents are in the mid- to high-difficulty category, rated grades 15 to 25.
"We were on our way out there from Hawaii, so we thought we would make a stop, you know, see the sites and all, and make our way over to the SE Asia region, where we have a few climbs to make," added McCoy.
McCoy and Flores climbed more than ten banyan trees around Utwe and Walung on their short stay on the island."To tell you the truth, we read about a writer from Oregon who lived out here, from the same small town that we are from, so that was another incentive," said McCoy. "And you can print that." Indeed, we did.