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.

                                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?

Thursday, June 12

Céüse, moving on.

I'm always amazed at how much my attitude can change post sending. It's a testament to how emotional the process can be. For the last 10 days it's felt like a completely refreshed trip. I completed my primary objective and now, even still, I couldn't be happier. So much relief. I walk to the crag cheerful and excited, gone is the anxiety of conditions or beta or my level of fatigue or wrecked skin. I'm just simply stoked to climb again, and enjoy great climbing at my favorite crag with good people. It's nice.

But I also know that momentum can be a powerful ally, so the next day after finishing Biographie I put my draws on an incredible route I was hoping to climb over on the Berlin Wall - it's a stunning line that homeboy Dave Graham bolted a while back, and was eventually opened by David Lama in 2010 and to the best of my knowledge has resisted any repeats since. Lülü is a low(er) angle, finger tweaking, resistant, hyper technical, airy masterpiece. It's brilliant! Some of the most run out hard climbing at Ceuse that I've done, and some of the rarest holds and generally in your face throughout, I really loved piecing it together. Quite hard for 14c no doubt, maybe it's harder? who knows. Hopefully my chalk will inspire another repeat.


Next up for me was a super classic over on the Demi-lune that I had yet to check out. Dures Limites 14b is one of the areas most coveted hard routes - bullet stone, cool hold variety and two well separated nice punchy cruxes. It's been warming up here a lot recently, so I was really pleased to finish it in a day before it got any hotter - this route has some very small grips on it. Next I wanted to revisit Chronique de la Haine Ordinaire 14b over on the Biographie wall. I had tried it once back 2 years ago and found the opening boulder problem to feel super hard! I was hoping that in my current condition it would be much easier but I was wrong, ha! This route was super hard for me. Maybe it's my size, or maybe it was in part that I had poor beta until just before my send go, but I had to fight for this thing and I got a gnarly flapper in the process.

Chronique de la Haine Ordinaire -- 
Yesterday Bear Cam and I got some work done, shooting a few last random clips for an EpicTV piece that should release in about 10 days. Otherwise I was really keen to try this incredible, enormous pitch called The Black Bean 14a. Beginning with the crag classic, Les Colonnettes 8a, this 65meter route starts from the ground and climbs to essentially the very top of the massive Biographie wall. It's a journey for sure, and was such a pleasure to do as perhaps my last route in Ceuse this trip. It's logistically a bit of a bummer, but it's a unique and thrilling experience - well worth the hassle! And maybe not much harder than Berlin wall 8a+..
The crew shares some Rosé on the Med. 

And that basically wraps up my time here in Ceuse.... I absolutely love this place - my favorite cliff on earth no doubt, but I'm also excited to move on, and explore some other new zones. I feel very fortunate and grateful for my time here, and I trust will find more incredible routes and rad people as I work my way towards Switzerland!

But first, a weekend at the Arc'ademy in Chamonix... Hope to see you guys there!

Thursday, June 5


Since I last wrote quite a bit has happened in my life. For the last couple weeks I have continued my efforts on Biographie, although in reality, unfortunately I was climbing very little. Through freezing wind, aggressive work sessions and generally just trying hard I had essentially ruined my skin. It was a terribly frustrating process and it seemed as though just when one finger split was healing, another one was opening up. For the last 2 or 3 weeks I had only really climbed on the route a handful of times, otherwise I was resting, diligently taking care of my skin and hoping for some of it to recover. In the off days I would sometimes do little work outs in our gite, lifting bags of wine bottles, doing core exercises and hanging on random door jams. It was really, really difficult for me to rest so much, especially when I was so stoked to climb and moreover especially because last week I made some very inspirational beta refinement in the upper crux that I though could be my ticket to success.

In the end I think that the rest was highly beneficial. If not for my battered skin I would have stuck with my 2 days on 1 day off schedule and likely worked my whole body into total exhaustion. I don't usually rest very much, but this route and the long walk were taking their toll on my body and especially my mind.

On Sunday I walked up the hill, headphones in my ears and stoke high. I had rested 5 days in the last week, and although my skin was thin I knew that I would have at least a couple good goes in me. The crag was crowded with people on vacation for a long weekend and the day was sunny and beautiful. Warmer weather was a welcome change for me, after a frequently bitter cold May. I warmed up as usual, and then tried the route. My first go I felt great getting to the final rest, as I usually did. The days of rest had helped I could tell, but it was difficult for me to wrap my head around my new beta.

I had visualized my other method so so many times in my head that I was still having trouble breaking free from it. For a solid month now I had used an - ever so slightly different - method and climbed into the upper boulder problem over 25 times, inching my way closer to the send, but repeatedly failing. I fell off in the usual place on my first try. I pulled up the rope, brushing as I returned to a familiar spot. I practiced the new method several times, while also aware that I needed to save power as it was intensely powerful on my shoulder. I lowered off.

Next try a sizable crowd had formed to watch my effort. I had just one more try left in my skin. Among the crowd were old friends, new friends and a group of stoked people that had seen my struggle and over the last month had watched and cheered me on as I repeatedly threw myself at this incredible route.

I made it to the crux. I nailed the move. I woke up from a dream, in a place I'd never been before. Exiting the upper boulder problem coming up from the ground with dozens of friends and strangers below yelling towards me, cheering for me. I knew that this was my opportunity and I eagerly sought to take it. As I drove leftward towards the final jug I screamed at the top of my lungs, releasing all the stress, all the anxiety and all the excitement that I felt in the moment. I rested shortly and made my way 50 feet through 7a terrain to the anchor. I clipped the anchor, the people below cheered and I felt pure elation.

A moment that I doubted would ever come had arrived and I was indescribably excited. I was greeted with champagne and high fives back on the ground. Now, 4 days later, I still feel excitement. I'm super proud of this one. I feel fortunate, I feel lucky and I feel very stoked. Thanks to everyone for the huge amounts of support over the years but certainly over the last few months.
Thanks to my friends and family for all the support. Thanks to Tommy, Jai, Thibault, Emily and Colette for all the great, patient belays. Huge thanks to Mark and Mike Anderson for significantly helping with my training. Thanks to everyone who wrote me emails, cheered me on at the crag and sent me good vibes through the process, it all was immensely helpful. Huge thanks to my sponsors Arcteryx, LaSportiva, Maxim Ropes, Metolius, Smith Optics and Climb ON - honestly this dream would not have happened without their continued support.

Okay... well... Onward!