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?