Saturday, July 26

Recovery

Back in the US. Thinking back to an incredible trip. Many good memories, and a lot of motivation for next year...


It's always interesting after spending months in a foreign land, without speaking the language, then to return home and suddenly you hear every conversation around you. I met very few Americans (3?) in Europe during my trip, and while all of my Swiss or French friends spoke outstanding english, I was still excluded from overheard conversations, radio, or all the language that usually populates our ambience. Suddenly I can perfectly understand the chatter around me in the line at the grocery store, or the voice over the loudspeaker, or one half of a strangers phone conversation. It's simple experiences like this that remind me of why travel is so awesome. All the little things that we adapt to, the other little things that we forget matter and the stimulating challenges associated with them. 


Since I got back some great and also, not so great things have happened. Immediately after arriving in Denver well behind schedule and naturally without baggage, I jumped in the truck and took off for the International Climbers Festival in Lander. This has long been one of my favorite events of the year, and the added bonus to link up with all of my good friends from around Wyoming made the long weekend busy and rad. I taught two days of clinics out at the Wild Iris, did a poster signing with La Sportiva and otherwise just enjoyed the place and the good people in-between trying my best to fight jet lag. On the last day, of course at a wall that is well known for ravaging tendons, I tweaked a finger. Something that thankfully, I have very little experience with. Usually I'm super mindful of injury, reserved about things that could take me out, and also certainly lucky as well. Well... not as lucky this day I guess. The stress gradually consolidated in my wrist - but was strongly associated with my ring finger. Despite an extreme urge to climb and train I rested as much as I could handle since then. I've been slowly but surly making my way towards recovery - and along the way I've found a number of things super helpful which I've shared at the end of this post. 


In the meantime I've moved shop up to Estes Park for a while. No doubt a perfect summer hang with a plethora of alpine climbing, the bouldering scene is huge as well, and there is even some sport climbing gems too. Over the years I have spent many months of my life here since well before I started climbing. In many ways it feels like home (or at least one of my homes), I love it up here.

I've been mountain running again which is certainly a rad thing for me. I gave up running back in December to focus my efforts on training for climbing which I think was a good call. As Steve Bechtel says, 'running is about as good for your climbing as climbing is for your running'. A heartbreaking truth for many of us that are passionate about both. Regardless I feel that the running will definitely help with my goals now and it has been super fun to get back into it. On the down side I contracted some pretty gnarly poison ivy, likely from my filthy buddy Zeke. This is another first for me, and let me say that I will never, ever, downplay the suffering involved with poison ivy again. It is heinous!

spending a lot of quality time with this guy
Okay well on the upside I've been acclimating and spending some quality time in the Alpine, getting super motivated for my summer goals and now I'm back to training as well which has been shockingly exciting after some down time. I'll be working with 3 Strings Media once again to put together what will hopefully be a rad piece for Arcteryx. 


If you have not had the chance to check out this video of my climbing on Biographie here it is for your viewing pleasure! And you can expect the second episode of my Epic TV series 'Nomad' to launch very soon as well. This next one features the radical climbing at Voralpse and one of my all time favorite routes, 'Speed Integrale' 9a.


And also, wander over to both my Five Questions page and my Gear Review for some fresh material with legendary French climber Arnuad Petit and a review on the new ultralight Arcteryx Alpha Pack.

------So here is the low down on my injury and also what I've done and not done since, and where I'm at now. Injuries suck, but they are also almost mandatory for us at some point. I feel so so so fortunate that this one is my worst and is still very minor. Anyways, hopefully if you are experiencing something similar this will inspire or inform you or something! I am by no means a health care practitioner or anything these are just ideas! 

The injury was not exactly in my finger, or my hand. It really seems like a tweaked tendon in my wrist - down to about 3 inches from my wrist up my forearm. I did it jumping into a right hand 2 finger pocket and swinging out to my left. I felt a pretty strong 'zing' in my forearm but there was no pop or snap or anything. I felt soreness and limited strength in both of my fingers immediately. I iced, took IB and rested it. After 5 days of no climbing or testing at all, I made a simple test and figured that I could fully load my pointer and middle fingers, so I did some hang boarding with various grip positions on the left hand and the first team 2 finger grip on my right. I found that hang boarding has been much better for recovery than actual climbing because climbing holds and movements are so unpredictable. For the first 10 days or so I was icing 3 times a day and using my ArmAid for massage which I really liked. I was not taking NSAIDs as advised by my one of my trainers. I was using Traumeel on the area twice a day. As I began to notice that my strength was returning I started hang boarding with the entire hand on the right, but removing a lot of weight at first using a pulley system. One of the coolest discoveries for me was to use a bucket of rice for opposition, and also provide some very minimal strength exercises. Here is a link for more info on rice bucket stuff. I have really liked using the rice, and I think that it has greatly helped me heal. Now I am exactly 2 weeks from the day I hurt my wrist / finger and I'm carefully beginning to push towards a standard level of weight for hang boarding - yesterday I was able to dead hang several strenuous grip positions with up to 35 lbs added weight. Although I am noticing a slight pain when I release my closed hand crimp grip. Some grip positions are still bothersome (when trying to climb plastic) and the occasional random grabbing of something (reaching into my backpack to get something has been weird for some reason). I have been taping my wrist when I do any hang boarding which is hugely effective. I am noticing some very slight soreness after training but nothing too far outside of what I would normally expect from a hard training session. 

I hope some of this helps!



Tuesday, July 8

Lehn & O'Hare

Well. I suppose it's only appropriate that I write this, my last post about my 11 weeks in Europe, strung out from a very long and heinous delayed / missed / re-routed trip back. I unexpectedly made it to Chicago, not without some suffering and I'm still looking forward to another several hours of connections and waiting, but in retrospect it's really nothing. We get pretty worked up when our travel plans take strange or unexpected turns - myself included - but this is a perfect opportunity for me to have some perspective. I've just wrapped up what was without question the best climbing trip of my life and likely one of the best overseas trips, period. Taking full advantage of our modern ability to just 'jump' between continents and jet set the globe on what is truly a meager price. Even just to have the privilege and great fortune to make a trip like the one I just did is incredible and something I'm extremely grateful for. So yeah. I'm tired and over the travel, but mostly I'm stoked and very grateful.

I had no idea how incredible the Dolomites would be. 
yup
Alessandro Fischer photo of 'Putain le Systeme' , the Bauch. 

Matthias and I at the Bauch. ©http://www.alessandro-fischer.ch


The last week continued to be exceptional and I fell more and more in love with Switzerland. After some rad time spent at the Bauch and Gimmelwald I followed my tour guide Matthias Trottmann to his next suggestion - a classic Swiss crag - Lehn, just outside of Interlaken. My new friends Christina Holenweg and Danial Hullinger totally hooked me up with great food and warm accommodation in Interlaken for a few days while I checked out Lehn in some less than desirable weather. Lehn strongly reminds me of Little Si in Washington with the rock and movement - and area that many of you know I'm super fond of. I totally got stoked on Lehn. The real prize there is this incredible route called 'Hybris' 14c which takes the king line on the raddest wall there through a low crimpy traverse boulder problem and then a pump run to the anchor with a heart breaking style change at the last bolt - a total sandstone style boulder on slopers even featuring a finger lock. It's a super good route. But one that I was a bit fearful to try knowing that the weather was looking gnarly and I would likely only get two days to do it before leaving.

But, it was clearly the line to try so I went for it on day one. I felt a sense of anxiety and nervousness at the crag after sampling the route and realizing how much I loved it, and suddenly, how much I really wanted to do it. When I left for Europe in April I told myself that if I only clipped the chains on Biographie and nothing else during my almost 12 week trip it would still be by all means, a huge success for me. It's funny how whatever route I'm fired up on - one I've dreamt about for years or one I've just seen for the first time - that route means the world to me. At this point in my trip I had had so much unexpected success that everything else should be simply a bonus but here I was with just 2 climbing days left and I was completely obsessed again, like nothing else mattered. I told myself, 'just this one last route and I don't even care what happens next!!', which should be written on my grave at this point. Shockingly, I finished the route that day. And got up 'Bad Boys' 13c and flashed 'Zentrifuge' 13c as well. I came back the next day in down right horrible conditions and did the Trottmann beauty, 'Amber' 14a/b along with 'No Sika, No Cry' 13d/14a. Barely pulling it off as the crag was surrounded with fog and the upper holds soaked in the strong rain. This would actually be my last climb in Europe.

Susten Pass.
For the following 6 days I went into full on tourist mode. Driving through Italy and checking in with La Sportiva headquarters, exploring the breathtaking Dolomites. I took a fun day of walking in the cool little city of Innsbruck, Austria and slept in a field close to Liechtenstein. I woke up covered in slugs. I had a super fun and very late night in old town Bern and made a very hung over drive to Nice for one last day on the beach before I jumped on my plane.


my bivy spot in the Dolomites was next level. 
beautiful graveyard in Nice. 
Hopefully some of my photos do the last few days justice. It was fun to give up climbing for a little while and just enjoy the drives and scenery without worry about skin or rest v climbing days, etc. Like I mentioned I feel very stoked. It was by all means an outstanding trip for me and I want to definitely express my thanks to everyone along the way that gave me a spot to crash or a belay or a great conversation or a high five. Damn, that was awesome! What's this?... just got an email from United... oh cool... my last flight just got delayed another 2 hours...

I suppose I'll finally sit down and watch my first 'Nomad' episode from Bear Cam and EpicTV! Hope you Enjoy... 

Sunday, June 29

Swiss life.

Switzerland has delivered in a serious way. Somehow, even after a dozen (?) trips to Europe over my lifetime I had missed out on this incredible country. Stunning, diverse landscapes are of course what will steal your heart around here. Don't forget hospitable people and a lofty quality of life. I very much enjoyed my time wrapping up in the country-side, sleeping in a barn (for reals) and waking up to cow bells, but it wasn't until I spent a few evenings in the spotless streets of Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, that it really all came together for me. Less than a sixth the size of Colorado, but there's a lot to be had in the Swiss Confederation.

Before I get into the last few days here I will first revisit the end of my time at Voralpse. I think I've made it clear at this point, but just to be sure, this is one of my favorite little crags anywhere in the world. What's there is very limited - about 15 routes - but if you're into face climbing this venue is one of the best around, no doubt - and the setting is worthy in and of itself. Speed was my main objective for sure, but I was definitely stoked to stick around and finish off the cliff. Every route was good, most were incredible. Next day on I did 'Bandits' 13c and 'Amazonas' 13d, both continuous with a burly crux up high, and both quite hard for the grade - this is by no means an 'easy' crag. The following day I had a great run of first try climbing with a flash on 'Mordillo Extension' 13d and a flash on 'Euphorie' 14a ending with an onsight on 'Grenzganger' 13b. Absolutely brilliant climbing. One more day to shoot some video clips and photos before me and Bear Cam took to the road and linked up with Swiss legend Matthias Trottmann in his home town of Zurich.

                                        www.semmphotography.com  my flash on Mordillo Extension. 


Saying goodbye to this radical spot. 
Matthias is well known for his proud contributions in the Euro multi-pitch game but also sport and traditional climbing in general. He knows the mountains and climbing in this country as well as you could really. I ran into him and his lovely wife Karoline at Voralpse and when I asked about where my next mission should be, Matthias was clearly well versed in the area. Later on I connected the dots and realized who he was and how sick it would be to link up with him.





So a few short days later Cam and I were jugging lines on the burly approach to Matthias' incredible crag, the Bauch in Engelburg. This is essentially an alpine sport climbing zone - well above the valley below - with access to a handful of huge sport pitches from a ledge system that is accessible with some via ferrata and steep hiking to approach. As soon as you leave the ground you have immense exposure and when you are toping out the 40 meter routes you've well over 300 meters of air below your ass. We spent a beautiful summer night bivyed up there. Stars overhead, beers in hand, with a great day of climbing behind us and another one coming up in the morning. It was a really cool experience and I feel really fortunate that Matthias was kind enough to show us this baby of his. While there I made an onsight of 'Burn Baby Burn' 13+ and cleaned up the first repeats of the two (current) crag test-pieces, 'Quattro Stagioni' and 'Putain le System' both in the low 8c range, and both amazing! Amazing effort by Matthias up at the Bauch.

good time were had by all. 
We returned to a warm evening in Zurich and made a picknick by the river after a little floating - it's strangely warm water. On such a nice night the streets were filled with people, bars were full and there was plenty of energy in the air. Zurich is a very charming place, and maybe it's partly just how secluded I've been over the last 2 months but this place really feels young and alive. I'm loving it here.

Yesterday was our third day on, and after two long days at the Bauch I was not expecting much, but Matthias was keen to show off an Interloken classic zone - Gimmelwald - and the weather planned to turn sour (it did) today. Something of a long drive, a cable car ride and a walk through picture perfect Swiss mountain village later... you arrive at this stunning crag, glacier scorned Jungfrau looming in the background. It is for sure one of the most incredible settings for any sport climbing venue in the world. Steep and short is the name of the game which is a big departure from what I've been up to recently, but it's hard not to be motivated at a crag this beautiful.



I warmed up with an onsight on the crag classic - and the easiest route there - 'Teufelsküche' 13a and then went on to have a look at the extension - a very tensiony roof section through a nice series of grips called 'Hexenküche' 13d/14a that I finished next go. From here I wandered to check out the crag classic 14a 'Trümmelbach', which delivers a rad little boulder problem opening and then wanders through pumpy steep terrain until a cruxy part near the anchor. A really nice route. I finished the day on 'Surfer's Paradise', a super worthy 13c that is no doubt world class for this style.

Daniel Hullinger photo of Hexenküche
We ate pizza nearby and watched the stressful end to the Brazil v Chile match before making the 2 hour drive back to Zurich. A much appreciated rest day today and a wide smile on my face after another 3 kick ass days in Switzerland!