Monday, June 13

I did a three part series of informational type videos with Epic TV on a rainy day here in Switzerland a few weeks back. Each one includes a nice little 'task' they spontaneously asked me to preform, mostly with the intensions of embarrassing me - which obviously resulted in some humor. Hope you Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7

Swiss Update

My list of must-do routes is growing every day. Each new climber I meet and share a belay with has a new burning recommendation for me. Projects, forgotten zones, popular cliffs, hidden gems. I knew that Switzerland had an underrated sport climbing scene but I'm downright baffled by how much stone there is packed into this tiny country.

.... Zurich.... Lauderbrunnen. photos from Colette. 

Unfortunately the weather has been nothing short of horrible as of late. For the most part the last two weeks was too wet, although visiting climber and videographer Colette McInerney and I made the very best of it, damn it. It gave us a chance to see some of the lesser known spots and also to spend hours studying weather forecasts. Regardless we had a great time together doing a video piece for EpicTV and touring around the Alps a bit. 

Since I left Voralp about three and a half weeks ago I've been climbing on every sunny day - which were depressingly few. I did get some routes finished though, some of my favorites actually. After a visit to a ultra powerful, slippery, radical 8c rig called 'Appel au Sodom' I was in better condition for my first big mission. It was an unrepeated power-endurance test piece at a stunning crag, Gimmelwald. 'Jungfrau Marathon' 9a, is a battle route. Twenty meters longs, only one poor rest, punching from the start to finish. I got lucky on this one and pulled off a send only a day before it dumped snow and drenched the cliff. Keep eyes peeled for a video on this brilliant route!

Gimmel Express... is very wet... but I still try. Over-stoker? Colette photo. 
Daniel Hulliger photo of Goldfinger.

'Goldfinger' 8c is one of the few routes at Gimmel that remains dry even in the worst of conditions. A savage, lurpy boulder problem sandwiched between grade 7 climbing, this is not my favorite route but dry rock is dry rock! As the clouds descended on the mountain we changed locations. An hour long drive through pure moisture and dense clouds left me less than hopeful we would find anything worth our time. Pleasantly surprised we arrived in Engelberg at a dry and beautiful green-side (on a golf course) cliff named Shlanggen. Colette could sense my boy-like excitement erupting from a seemingly assured defeat, and, in complete over-stoker fashion I tried to warm up with an 8b+ onsight which was less than ideal. I took it down a notch, but I did do 'Termilater' 8b+ and the bouldery, hard, 'Schwarzes Glas' 8b+ by the end of the day. My stoke was well renewed. 

Colette McInerney photo of 'Termilater' 

Colette McInerney climbs on the powerful 'Femme Rouge' at Gimmelwald in less than ideal conditions

Unfortunately from here on the weather continued to shit on us. Stubborn and perhaps too optimistic I forced Colette to continue making the muddy slog up to Gimmelwald, only to find that nothing had dried. And then again... and then again. Finally I got the memo and after several days of rest I changed my aim to Valais, a valley south of Interlaken and a place rumored to always have sun. The two and a half hour drive to Rawyl was like a slow climb out of a steamy bathhouse and onto a sunny beach. I found rock just dry enough to climb and my skin was once again met with the golden warmth of the sun! 'Cabane au Canada' 9a is a route that I've wanted to try for years. Pictures showed this perfect banded limestone, overhanging and featured. This time, despite my complete mind boggling over-stokedness, I warmed up properly and then jumped on the rig. Tension climbing on amazing sculpted crimps, long poppy movements, rests throughout, with a heart breaker crux at the very very top. Borderline perfect route. Pumpy. Awesome. I did the route yesterday but only after waiting out some pretty damn warm temperatures. Funny how quickly the tables can turn. 

Rest day in the sun here in Interlaken! Wishing I had shorts on. The Swiss way: if it's nice out you go outside, period. Definitely helping me appreciate clear skies. Cheers everyone. 

Friday, May 13


Switzerland. I was here two years ago. I slept in a barn, I partied in Zurich, I climbed some great routes. It definitely left an impression on me. The people I met in Switzerland took such incredible care of me. Showing me crags, letting a complete stranger (me) crash on their couch and offering belays and beta to no end. After all my name is very swiss... maybe that's why I feel so at home here.

It's not so much on the map for sport climbing. You've likely heard of Ticino and you've heard of Magicwood. Maybe you've heard of the Ratikon. You've definitely heard of the Matterhorn and the Eiger. But have you heard of Gimmelwald? or Voralp? or Basler Jura? Probably not. The sport climbing here is good. Actually it's really good. 

Little crags spread across the country. A country that you can literally cross in 4 hours. I've been wanting to give myself a good chunk of time to experience these little gem zones since I first tasted the scene here. And now after a whirlwind week landing in the Alps I've settled into my new home in Interlaken - actually a sleepy neighboring town called Bönigen - I can sit down and share a little.

MelloBlocco. I have always heard about this event. I'd heard it was massive and the parties were great and Italians are crazy. All are true. The largest climbing event in the US is likely the Red Rock Rendezvous in Las Vegas, which I did just 6 weeks ago. Mello is easily two times as big. People and cars and crash pads are everywhere. It's an infectious energy. It's fun to be around. The parties and the social aspect of the event are cleary as important as the climbing. Many people take the climbing and competition seriously 97% are there to enjoy the mountains and share some delicious Italian wine with friends. Italians are great. Energetic, warm, spontaneous.... it's a great vibe. Thank you MelloBlocco! I really hope to return.

Afterwards I drove directly to Voralp with an annoying mix of hangover and jet lag. There I met a buddy Logan and we took every advantage of the rare dry and sunny weather. It was perfect. Crashing on my good friend Toby's couch, we spent the days exploring a mythical route from Beat Kammerlander called 'Missing Link'. I fell so much in love with the climbing style at Voralp on my last visit that despite finishing off the main cliff I was hungry to check out this 'other' route. Beat did the route in 1997, giving it the grade of 11 - at the time this was on a short list of routes graded this way. 'Action Direct' and 'Hubble' on that list. Since then it had remained mostly obscure and unrepeated. This alluring history only fueled my desire to check it out. 

As you could imagine I found the route filthy... (only after some terrifying 5th class grass and loose rock traversing). I blew through an entire brush slowly making my way up the route, unlocking some sequences, chalking holds and brushing dirt and worms (yes actual worms) out of the pockets. The crux was clearly a very thin section at 3/4 height. A difficult should move to a tiny right hand edge, followed by a tenuous move to a sloping left hand pocket. From here you grab an imaginary right hand crimp / dimple / pinch thing and then rocket up to a series of poor crimps before a long rock-over / lock off to a side pull. There are hard moves before and after this crux but this is what I'm guessing was the 'missing link' section of the route. Thankfully although the handholds barely exist I did find many foot options. The following day I returned and continued cleaning and even had a nice try falling up just below the crux. 

Perhaps it was the impeding storm, or the looming threat that this route was in fact off limits (?), or maybe it was that my training had worked and this route fit my style and stoke perfectly but on the next day I climbed it. With every move I surprised myself again and again. Ending at the anchor in disbelief.

A few things about this route... It might be off limits. I was unable to get a clear answer on this. I was never convinced enough to stop trying, in-fact most climbers told me to not worry at all. In the end it seems it was fine, but if you plan to check it out be VERY careful on the approach. There are some fixed lines to help your journey but the ground is steep and loose and the consequence is huge (death) if you take the slide. During a rain the top of the route will likely be wet and furthermore the approach will be downright impossible / suicide. The crag is beautiful and the route is phenomenal. It's around 35 meters long and aside from the first couple bolts it is hard the whole way. Slightly overhanging but very different rock than the other Voralp routes. As for the nebulous 11 grade... It's a technical, vertical masterpiece. A route that suits my style perfectly. I'm not convinced that this route could be 9a but perhaps 8c+ is better? Or maybe I got very lucky and things clicked for me faster than predicted? I doubt the route is as hard as Hubble or Action Direct however, despite the fact I've never tried those classics. Who knows? Maybe it suits this obscure beauty to remain ungraded anyways... 

Okay... more projects await. Now I just need the rain to stop... cheers everyone!