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. 
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!

Friday, June 20


One of the coolest aspects of Europe in my opinion is how quickly and easily you can change countries and people and your surroundings, your experience and lifestyle. Only a few hours by car, but Switzerland is quite a change from the lifestyle I experienced over the last 6 weeks in the french country-side. I've always wanted to visit Switzerland. Despite traveling through Europe extensively as a kid and also adult, I'd never quite made it here. 

Clean streets, sexy German cars, a modern feel, proud people and a tight population strewn through stunning mountain valleys -- this place is much like what I expected. In an awesome way.

On Monday I wrapped up the incredible Arcteryx Academy event in Chamonix, and hit the road. Many years back I had seen this Rob Frost film 'Autoroute' that followed Joe Kinder, Luke Parady and Dave Graham through Europe, hitting many of the rad bouldering and sport climbing spots. This is where I first saw Beat Kammerlander's test piece route 'Speed' 14c at a little crag in eastern Switzerland called Voralpsee. I did not know what to expect with my journey on Biographie but when I finished the route with still a healthy chunk of time left in Europe, the very next thing on my mind was to go and find Speed. So after another 10 days of climbing in Céüse and then a rad weekend in Cham, I hit the road. Truly with no plans, no partners, no place to stay, I quested towards this place and through a series of random encounters and dumb luck / good fortune I made some friends, found a place to crash and got some belays on this amazing cliff. Many rad people reached out to help me and I feel super super stoked for this!

So Voralpsee... is truly a gem. It's as though Little Si (Washington State) and The Fins (Idaho) had a beautiful, beautiful baby boy. The style is thought provoking, finger intensive, technical and demanding. For me, this cliff is heaven. The routes are long and very sustained with varied holds, hard foot work and sizable run-outs. Did I mention that I love this place?

The first day climbing, Tuesday, I had no partners, but I was too stoked after 4 days off so I just rope soloed a few of the crag classics, 'Paradigma' 7c and 'Alaska Kid' 8a, both amazing. On Wednesday I came back with my friend Toby and made two attempts on Speed. There are certainly hard moves but it's keeping yourself together for the length of the pitch that is the real challenge. Brutal crimping, slippery feet and mind bending technical body work make up this brilliant route. I made some nice links but I knew that it would take some time to learn the climb.

Yesterday we returned. I was feeling tired from the two previous days but the weather was perfect and Toby was also stoked on his new project. First try I linked to the boulder crux at the 4th bolt, and then pieced together a nice link from there to the top of Speed, however falling in the extension. 

I wanted to do the extension that Cedric Lachet did in 2010 (Speed Intégrale ~9a), which to me is very logical. It adds a pretty damn hard boulder problem to the top of Speed. Some have said that this boulder problem does not add significant difficulty but I can say with honesty - and those at the crag yesterday will agree - that this is some of the hardest climbing on the whole pitch for me. If you're short there's a really hard move up there! Sure, the bulk of the difficulty is over, but it is by no means over at the first anchor as far as I'm concerned. 

Second try yesterday I had zero expectations, in-fact I considered just saving myself for the weekend. My shoulders were exhausted, skin was wearing thin and fingers swollen. I was just so inspired by this climbing that I had to try again. I fought my way through the bottom gaston crux, resting above, and yelled my way through the red-point shoulder move near the finish. I rested well at the break below the final boulder. I knew that this could easily spit me off, and having miraculously clipped the chains on Speed already, it might be hard to climb back up here...

It was pouring ran. Pouring. The temps were perfect for me and I often thrive in humid conditions. I stuck the finishing moves and clipped the anchor. Mostly, I was surprised. 

I planned to be here for another 10 days to make sure that I would have enough time to do this route. I was even afraid that I would fail with this much time because I'd heard that it was so demanding time and time again. So, obviously, this is super exciting for me. I feel so stoked! Another route that I had dreamt about for years, finally I get to touch the holds and even send. Amazing. 

I'll stay here for another few days and try to climb the remaining routes at the cliff... and then I suppose I will journey somewhere else in Switzerland... any suggestions?