Tuesday, April 17

France part 1

I've spent quite a bit of time in Europe over the years; my parents have always seen the value in travel and have certainly encouraged and supported me to do so throughout my youth. When I was young we lived in Norway for a while, and we traveled through Scandinavia and the rest of Europe as a family many times since. Once I was old enough (and brave enough), I began traveling alone. I spent another few months living in Norway after high school and I managed to make my way around most of Western Europe and also quite a bit of the Eastern countries too. I loved the newfound feeling of freedom and sense of responsibility- it felt like my first taste of adulthood. Soon there after I became enthralled with Asia and had not made a trip back to Europe since. I feel extremely fortunate for all the international traveling I've been able to do over the years, and I feel strongly that it has informed my perspective and enriched my experience far more than any classroom... traveling is the single most powerful learning tool that I've yet to encounter.
The Verdon Gorge. The scale here is truly amazing. Thousands of feet deep and miles long, this massive gorge drains into the lake you see here on the right. We're staying in a small village on this lake for the next few weeks. In the center of the frame you can see a big cave towards the base-- we checked out this giant cave, only accessible by Kayak, yesterday. It really reminded me of the Pipe Dream- powerful moves out a very steep cave of jugs, toe hooks and the occasional kneebar to help. The routes are burly, long and gymnastic. 
It's been nearly seven years since I've visited Europe, and never before have I had a proper climbing trip here-- this is my first. Psyched. After only 3 days, I can say that I am already very impressed. So far my my two most outstanding impressions are 1) proximity. Within a 10 hour drive from any location in Southern France or Eastern Spain there are literally dozens of world class limestone areas. You could drive between probably 100 crags here in the time it would take you to drive between Colorado and Kentucky. 2) scale. Cliffs here are BIG. It's not uncommon to use every inch of an 80 meter rope, or more. In general, the crags here, are just... bigger.

Andy Mann picked me up on Friday night in Marseille, we drove half an hour to Aix en Provence. Aix is a crazy place, super super young crowd and a lively vibe in an ancient town. It's a great place to hang out. 
We made the hour drive north to check out an uber classic zone, Buoux. Perhaps the international birthplace of sport climbing, Andy and I had to have a look, given our dorky interest in history. It was like a climbing museum, except you can interact with all the exhibits.  
My first day climbing in France!
Andy shows me how it's done on one of the worlds most famous sport climbs... La Rose et le Vampire 8b. This route is incredible!!
The view from our place in the Verdon
Nina Caprez is a gracious host and a brilliant cook. She loves everything about France, and is stoked to show us around. 

If the past couple days is any indication, this is going to be a diverse and seriously action packed couple of months. I'm super excited. I'll post whenever I have access to the Internet.