Sunday, July 24, 2016

Squamish!

Squamish is all I could possibly ask for! A great concentration of best quality splitters, safe trad with bomber gear, short approaches and a boulder field the size of a few Magic Woods.
I have the whole summer off until my uni starts again in October. I was going to join an expedition but that did not come to be, and I reckoned I would instead try to gain some more experience in granite trad and enjoy the dirtbag life. BC was the place to go then!
Squamish is a playground. Camping right under the Chief means you have so much incredible climbing at your footstep. Hard multipitch lines, speed runs on the Grand wall, soloing scrambles on the Apron, biking over to Murrin park to work moves on a project, living the glorious dirtbag life in a moldy tent because your stuff never really dries, sipping beers and listening to each other's stories when the night falls and all the climber people make dinner at the picnic tables :) Since June I've been immersed in the climbing completely, going after it as much as the weather permits (this is proving to be an issue actually, don't let me get started on it). Anyway the plan is to stay mainly in Squamish and make a few side trips. I am going to the Bugaboos in a few days and getting really psyched for some big stuff in 'North America's finest alpine playground' and hopefully not shit my pants.

Having a bike in Squamish owing to the generosity of Paul Mcsorley has been great for commuting around the campground, the city and the climbing. Plus, it's keeping my legs fit. The graffitti on the floor say "break free from fossil fuels", it feels almost hypocritical in a culture that is

I can not describe the amazingness of the Squamish granite. This place has some of the most unique pitches I've ever climbed on. It's the fine subtleties in technique that it demands that make it so exciting. The rock is smooth, clean cut, with great friction, sometimes riddled with a thousand bumps of little crystals where you have to pick the right smear. The Shadow, 12d is the incredible stemming corner testpiece, I've been on it once and have yet to go back to send it. The feeling of exhiliration when you take your hands off and palm off both walls with all the air below is so sick!
Flight of the Challenger 12c was a good moment right at the start of the trip when I managed to onsight it, I gave it all in a 30 minute battle of kneebarring up the tricky groove.
I also gave a few tries to the Cobra Crack which is regardless of my (poor) performance on it a great experience and for sure 'hands down some of the best stone I've ever climbed on'. The purity of this majestic line and it's mindblowing difficulty make you dream to maybe one day sign your name under the names of the Immortals on the 'Earlmaker', the little fingerboard stashed beneath it. I could see how solving this riddle is possible if I would invest a few weeks at least...and get in a kickass sport shape, lose a few kilos, let my sensory nerves in my hand die off and with a sponsorship from a Superglue and climbing tape company.
As much as it sort of resembles a sport climb in how physical it is, it is also a challenge in working out the exact beta: you have to know every move, every fingerjam, down to the last crystal. I had an inspiring session on it yesterday with Logan Barber who is coming really close to send it. Watching him cruise through the heinous fingerlock moves and getting some valuable beta from him (he's put a decent time of work in it) surely improved my perspective on it. I wish so bad I would get to see that send! He confirmes a lot about this route is putting in the effort to learn it and getting used to the pain, and I have not yet completely written off this little dream (but it may take years).
In the last few days in Squamish I got to climb with one of the new generation Stonemasters, Brad Gobright. He is just coming from Yosemite having become one of the few humans doing three El Cap routes in a day, that is enough said I think. We climbed an amazing route full of powerful laybacking and splitter cracks called Gravity Bong and had fun doing some speed runs on the Grand wall. He's definitely one of the sketchiest climbers I've climbed with - huge runouts, half-soloing the whole time and recklessly dancing up the rock. I thought the climbing soon got quite spicy, but still fun so I hope to do a few more pitches with him.


We made a short trip to Washington to climb the granite spires in the Liberty bell group in Washington Pass. Even if it was a bit of a detour from my itinerary, it was a cool trip and we did some good climbing. With my buddy Martin we climbed 'The thin red line', a 15-pitch route with a few crux pitches in moderate 5.12 range.
Second time out of Squamish, I went to Vancouver Island for climbing in Horne Lake, steep limestone amphiteatre climbing that felt quite familiar to places back at home. It's not what I'm looking for in this trip, but Horne lake is great quality and compares well with the mega caves in Europe! Dinosaur Highway 14a is one of the best steep endurance routes anywhere! Plus, we got to go caving, for real.
I am beyond psyched for an alpine adventure in the Bugs and then a final push of going psycho in Squamish to finish all the projects!
Also, look out for the next issue of Beta that we have been working on, arriving in September, themed big walls - enough adventure psyche to move El Cap!

been climbing a lot with Martin lately and we are always crushing! so I decided to wear the same haircut!

dinner party at Malamute

Ann on The Scimitar 5.11 during the off-width day at Cirque of the Uncrackables

the dream line! you can barely spot it

resting on Dinosaur highway 14a 

Aussie friend Daniel finds first time on limestone hard enough 

I didn't think I could still drop knees. Sport climbing at Tunnel point, on Drop your gloves 13c

approaching the Liberty bell for a big day of fine granite. The Thin red line was quite a long day, we got off route and then Mikey Schaefer (the first ascensionist) shouted beta at us, we were already two pitches up his project :)

friend Ruben setting off on a fine arete sport climb at Squamish, Eurasian eyes 13b

Brad snapped this photo of me following on Gravity bong, on the first of the 5.12s, sick pumpy layback on the sheerest wall of all Squamish

Speleo at Horne lake!

Horne lake, the view from the crag. Vancouver island is beautiful, has mutantly big berries and gives a feel of wilderness. The climbing spot is unique and worth going!

Daniel on the South early winter Spire in Washington Pass. The scenery with the mountain backdrop and good granite is awesome, but the place itself doesn't feel very remote since the road runs just beneath.

epic photo of Patrick on the summit in Washington Pass!

Joe from OZ attempting the Sentry Box, Squamish's first 5.12, a formidable thin crack testpiece.

a day on Zap crack with Klemen Mali

Logan with blistered up finger after the battle with Cobra. It's yours man!

me on Made from fire 5.12 at Top Shelf - a 'locals' crag that is kinda freshly developed. It takes a half hour hike to get there, and yet it was only recently developed. Which means, there is tons of amazing climbing even closer by...

sending fuel - campground brewed berry jam

Washington Pass team

sport climbing at Tunnel point

a beach in Vancouver

sweet camping at Horne lake

dirtbag van parade

me squirming up the Split Beaver, the intro offwidth at Squamish

sport climbing on Petrifying wall

an imported frenchie feels comfortable on BC limestone! Thibaut on Dinosaur highway

looking for jams on Trippet out 5.13- at Top Shelf

buddy Zack on Boogie till you puke. All the knees were left intact and nobody pooped. Whoosh, what a relief.

just another sick splitter, Zap crack 5.12d


on the send of Zombie roof, 5.13a
Martin following on THE SHADOW
FUEL!
ferry ride to Vancouver island
fog rolling in to the Howe sound. view from the top of the Second peak of the Chief.

Masses are asses 5.12b


Monday, May 16, 2016

Crack and tufa

Since I've been back from my big trip to Spain, I keep bouncing around trying to make the most of my year off. It's amazing how things sometimes seem to run in my favour and every time I leave on a trip not knowing where exactly I'll end up, I come back having had a great time.
I feel I've been lucky this trip one more time again, from meeting my climbing partner while hitching on the side of the road to reuniting with friends for one of the best days on rock ever, to being hosted in a small perched away village in the hills of Provence that saved me from the worst rain. It could have gone worse, granted, the cold rainy front made the last few days a bit chilly and windy and the hitchhike back a little less pleasant. It was great to immerse in the French climbing culture again. So many climbers and so much rock to climb, so much activity and development everywhere, the Provence region is filled with a lifetime worth of climbing of many different kinds that will keep me coming back.

It's been a year since I've last been in Verdon. One more time I returned with a ticklist even longer despite having ticked a few classics, c'est la vie I suppose. I have in mind a quote from Sonnie Trotter, it's after realizing there's too many routes to climb in a lifetime that you can settle with it and relax and stop being anxiously psyched. This is wisdom indeed and I think it took him some years and a baby to realize that :)
the amazing Verdon, cliff of L'Escales 
I managed to get done one that used to make me jelly since first seeing it, the massive tufa climb classic Tom et je ris. A day upon arriving to Verdon, I went for a hike in Culouir Samson and thought I was lost in a stream of tourist and will never find a cool partner to climb some fun stuff. That night in one of the bars in La Palud (that has all the characteristics of a climbers' bar - big concetration of colourful puffies, unshaven people smoking rollies, a number of white vans parked in front - except for expensive beer), I run into Arthur and his friend Vincent. With Arthur, we sieged Cous cous in El Chorro a few months ago and this was a total coincidence. Tom et je ris? Let's go do it tomorrow!
Arthur taking the swing

Arthur lost in the sea of tufas
 Only thing to compare it against is the Monster offwidth from the El Cap. It's a similar kind of challenege where it comes down to determination, resisitng the horrible pump and not losing focus the whole half hour you're doing it. I was shocked once again how bad my tufa climbing is, I think in the years of obssesive campus boarding I have neglected my footwork slightly. The mono-tufa pinching sections give me horrible pump since they require a good deal of shoulder flexibility, while the double-tufa knee-drops are by definition not my thing.
The supposedly scary runouts didnt feel bad at all, there's plenty of bolts, or maybe the trad climbing I've been doing is making the difference and I'm happy about that. The exposure is unreal though as you are literally suspended mid air in a massive gorge with wind blowing and vultures circling around. I wanted to do the line since the approach and the spiky nature of the tufas make it a big commitment, so I tried really hard on my second attempt and got it after a huge fight. On boire la biere ce soir! Big ups to my two Swiss/French friends for being such a good team.


pinching like crazy on Tom et je ris
Vncent hung off the rope to take a few pictures, here's meon one of the cruxes, the elbow gives away i am suffering from a severe lactic acid build up
jumping in the Verdon after a big day of hiking to get to Tom et je ris
i caught a vulture circling in the air

In Verdon, I also had a day of doing the famous Voie ULA, an old classic that has raised attention after having had its bolts removed in 2011. Removing the few bolts in every pitch (while leaving bolted anchors) by a person "inconnu" has sparked a big controversy by introducing a new ethic in a long developed place, one that has been made possible with the advent of better and more accessible trad gear. Interestingly enough, most people I spoke to agree this was actually a good move that gave the route a little more character and has made for one real big classic that should be on the ticklist of every climber arriving to Verdon with a rack of cams and nuts.
Myself I agree and think this is a fresh way of thinking that puts a nice counterweight to today's bolting exploits, much different to the bolting back in the day, that basically have no restrictions and end up making many routes have a ton of bolts everywhere - look at some routes in Paklenica for example
Gian Luca following on ULA, a classic Verdon route that has had its bolts removed and now offers six brilliant trad
 pitches in one continous crack

Annot was a bit of a discovery in this trip. I'd been to this place before for some sandstone bouldering, there might even be some pictures about it in this blog from some years ago when I had milk teeth and didn't know about crack climbing. It's hard to believe one would just walk past these amazing splitters and not want to try them. Anyway I'd heard about the trad in Annot and was keen to check it out when Gian Luca (my hitchhike ride from the first day) suggested it. It blew me away! So many good lines, typically either splitters or dihedrals, OR, the more exciting gritstone-ish lines with pro in sketchy pockets and horizontal breaks. Totem cams prove indispensible because of their narrower stems, they really do the trick and seem to me a piece of engineering genius.

my friend Dave on his favourite kind of crack, Pure finger 7c

trying the sick project in Annot, a well overhanging hands crack that finishes with a super physical boulder section

tightening down towards the finish, this one will be a tough nut to crack

an offwidth a day keeps the doctor away... or maybe not
this one went well, there's some great lines to practice, it would have helped us a lot in El Cap



commiting to a petite runout on the hard grittish "Sadomasochiste direct" 7c 

the most unique climb I'd ever done, slinging the hollow sounding holes and sticking cams into pockets on "Spitalgie" 6c

Gian Luca cuts feet in this short, but spicy roof crack "C'est ta rate en realite" 7b
It was a great time in France all in all, with a reinspired psyche for trad climbing that makes me plan more trips for good looking cracks (interested partners hit me up!) and search for a bigger adventure. Since htiching to France now feels like taking a bus ride, I am thinking of going all the way to Sweden for the first month of summer. Too bad you can't hitch-hike a plane.

Basically I returned for the climbing festival in Austria, the funny climbing festival in Carinthia called Kings of Kanzi where I met Sean Vilanueva and Nico Favresse and saw their new film "Adventures of Dodo" which is full of amazing. It's impossible not to be inspired after seeing it and meeting those cool guys in person made it even more powerful.

with Sean and Nico. Look out for a feature with them in the autumnal issue of Beta magazine (themed Big balls, i mean, walls)
"Team Beta" consisting of me and Jurij battled away, not intimidated by the underdog-not-local status and came at third place after experiencing sever toe pain and emptied forearms. The festival was good fun, look out for the next installment in 2017!