seek drive climb

Simplify our lives, meet new friends, climb new crags. Go Goose Go.

Spain's bouldering paradise

After Barcelona we headed off to Albarracin for what we thought was going to be a five or six day extravaganza on one Spain's few sandstone areas. We arrived late at night and had no idea where to go, so we followed the main road to some coordinates we found online. The first thing we saw were signs signifying that there was to be no camping despite the fact that we were told that car camping in the parking lot was a-ok. We weren't sure exactly what to do so we pulled into a small turnout off the road and set up camp, hoping that we would not be spotted from the road. The last thing we needed was to get harassed for wild camping during our last few weeks in the EU. We set the alarm for 7am, to assure that we would be out of there before any rangers came our way. Of course after we woke up the next morning to figure out where to go, we realized hat we had alternate GPS coordinates for the actual car camping area all along. We just didn't pay close enough attention to the guide. Those no camping signs that we saw everywhere were really for tents, as Spain is pretty chill when it comes to camping in your vehicle.

We arrived at the "camping" area for Albarracin at 8:30am the next day. It was shrouded in mist and a little rain came intermittently. Surprise, surprise...we were so used to this weather and hoped that it would clear up in a couple hours so we could at least hike around and check out the climbing. After a few hours of writing, reading, chilling, eating and playing some Scrabble, the weather looked a tiny bit better, so we headed out to see what this place was all about. We hiked around for two to three hours and got to see three of the surrounding areas.

Morning in the forest

When we had first pulled in to the back of the "lot", we parked next to a British van. We heard them making breakfast and chatting away, but we were so exhausted from our previous nights camping shenanigans that we didn't quite feel like socializing quite yet. While we were parked there chilling, eating, and Scrabbling they packed up and left. When we returned, they had as well and introduced ourselves. It turns out that Nick and Brit weren't Brits at all, but South Africans.

Nick and Brit

They even knew our friends Scott and Kaddi, Chris Kelk, and Micky Wiswedel. We became fast friends and they introduced us to two more couples, Shant and Claudia from Montreal and Norbert and Karin from Austria. They all became our new climbing buddies for the next ten days. As we have mentioned before, bouldering isn't just about the rock but it is about the people that you meet that truly make the experience something special.

The following day's weather proved to be a bit nicer. It wasn't perfect but there was no rain and you can always find some dry boulders if your willing to look hard enough. The eight of us plus 3 wee ones, Sierra, Micah and Jonathon, headed off to Arastradero, one of the largest sectors in Albarracin.

Shant, super dad with Micah and Sierra

Micah and his mutant arms

There was a roof there that several people wanted to try and we figured that roofs had the highest probability of being dry. There was even a little warm-up area behind the roof with some 5's for Corinne to climb. A couple hours later Shant and Steve decided to give El Varano a try; one of the classic 8a's of the area. Though Steve did not send El Varano that day, he conquered that problem several days later. This time we were climbing with a Polish couple, Pawel and Agata. Steve and Pawel had climbed and raged together in Rocklands in the summer of 2011.

On our third day in Albarracin, we were driving into town to grab a shower, we spotted none other than the illustrious Ivan Luengo. Ivan and Rosie were a couple that we climbed with in Rocklands earlier in the trip. Ivan was actually the one who helped Steve name his first ascent in the Big and Roof sector of the de Pakhyus bouldering area. It turns out that Ivan and Rosie actually moved to Albarracin in October, a short time after they returned to Madrid from South Africa. We had actually attempted to get in touch with them when we were in Madrid in September but to no avail. It was so crazy bumping into them on the streets of the small town of Albarracin! Unfortunately, we never were able to connect to boulder together while there. Though efforts were made, it just never seemed to work out. We would not be surprised if we see them again in the future. Probably in some other bouldering mecca of the world or maybe even upon our return to either Rocklands or Albarracin.

Future mommy enjoying the practice

Over the next eight days, we visited a host of other areas in Albarracin. The weather was a bit warm and a bit humid but it didn't rain and after our experience in Font, we were in need of dry weather. November was turning out to be a true month of climbing and we were psyched since our trip was coming to an earlier end than originally anticipated.

Karin climbing at the most picturesque boulder in Albarracin

Corinne on Seiscerrano (6b)

Some of our faves from Albarracin include the El Molina del Gato, a bar with a river running through it; the Panaderia, home of the amazing round bread, muffins and chocolate rolls (these were to die for), the Carneceria, the morcilla might actually be one of the most amazing "sausages" we have ever eaten and lastly, the amazing farmers market every Wednesday. You could get some of the best Clementines we have ever had; 5 kilos for 3 euros!

The town of Albarracin

The folks in Albarracin are serious - This is part of a entire trebuchet park!

The rock quality in Albarracin is similar to that of Red Rocks or Joe's Valley. The style is a wild blend of Bishop table top volcanic roofs and Font style top outs. It is a fantastic mesh of power and static climbing; dynamic throws coupled with slow delicate movements. While the grades are inconsistent and the Euros can't seem to travel more than 2 meters from a boulder before dropping trough, it is a wildly fun place to climb with beautiful scenery and a relaxed lifestyle.

Norbert crushing La Rampa

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfRI0ggIlgw&feature=youtu.be;rel=0] Myself and Nick cranking out El Varano, Techos Don Pepo (left), el Orejas de las Regletas and Zatoichi.

If you go to Spain for hard sport, take some time to visit the boulders too. Some of our favorite problems in Albarracin included el Varano, el Orejas de las Regletas, Seiscerrano, el Grimpa, Zatoichi, el Mito de la Caverna and Motivos Personales (sit).

Brit, Nick, Corinne, Norbert, Karin and Jonathan in the bear hat

-C&S

Bleau part Deux

Steve preps L'Etrave as Yannick, Stephanie, and Morgan chillax

Perfect rounded boulders clustered throughout a golden, orange and red Autumn forest. Enough established climbs to last several lifetimes with more to be discovered in the lush mossy forest. Quaint little French towns with boulangeries on every corner serving delicious pastries and breads. Free camping sites with climbers from around the globe meeting and exchanging beta and stories. In a nutshell a bouldering paradise. What can make such a wonderful place lose it's luster? In one word....rain. Endless, unrelenting, mud conjuring rain. Or hot days and 100% humidity following that rain....

Lost in Cul de Chien on a wet day

We expected some wetness upon our return to Font, but we also thought there might be colder temps and overall better conditions. We met quite the opposite when we arrived in early October. The 3 plus weeks we spent in France's premiere bouldering destination started off well enough. It would rain a bit, then clear and we would get in a day or half day of climbing. This quickly degraded into solid rain with a forecast for days of the same. We decided that sitting in the Goose day after day was getting on the dull side and pointed the van north to Amsterdam!

Fast forward five days and we arrived back in Font with renewed skin, high hopes and a slightly better forecast. The weather held for about a day, then rained, and when all hope was lost, it stopped! Only to be replaced by temps in the mid twenties, no wind and a dampness that hung in the air like a wet towel. Think east coast summers, just not quite as hot. I was climbing in shorts; just shorts. This in Font in October?! Give me a break.

Bleausard showing us how it is done

In a few days our friends Scott and Kaddi were planning on visiting. We told them of the endless rain and terrible summer like conditions. They were coming either way as Kaddi's brother's friends were having a 30th bday blowout in Bleau and climbing was second, if not third to drinking and partying.

The fiery end of the German's birthday party

On an overcast day after another day of rain and season 4 of True Blood and reading in the van we set out in the humidity to the infamous Bas Cuvier. I had not been there yet even after a cumulative month spent in Bleau and Corinne had visited it once on a single day trip to Font with our friend Mike Silva back in '07. Upon our arrival we ran into our friend Clement whom we had met in Rocklands. A part time videographer and creator of Sandstones Media. He was also planning on meeting Scott and Kaddi when they arrived. He showed us a few classic in Bas Cuvier, then set off to pick up his girlfriend Julie. We spent most of the day in just one sector where I managed to crank out the first 7a, 7b and 7c in the forest. Not a bad day considering the friction reminded me of a slice of pizza. Corinne also busted out a few sends despite her growing belly. She managed to finesse her way up a Font 6a which would be 6b+ anywhere else on the planet. Not too shabby for 40 and pregnant in the day's pizza like conditions. We relearned the valuable lesson that the results of no expectations, unadulterated psyched and the only goal being to have fun, is that you actually end up sending a lot of boulder problems despite conditions.

Clement centimeters shy

The beautiful Contrôle Technique 7c+ Bas Cuvier

I left the shoe on for 3 hours

A few days before team Germany was scheduled to arrive our Swiss/French friends from Geneva Morgan, Stephanie and Yannick showed up to join us for a few days of sloppy sloper groping. We spent a few days in the humid rainforest conditions climbing classics and discovering 'new to us' lines. In the evenings we would all retreat to their small gite and prepared yummy warm meals.

Yannick topping out the classic La Marie Rose 6a Bas Cuvier

Morgan dyno'ing on a slab..go figure ;)

After a few days we had to go back in Paris for another ultrasound (stay tuned!) and checkup for Corinne. Upon our return the weather had finally shifted to cold October conditions and we spent our final days with Scott and Kaddi experiencing a small taste of Font friction.

Smooching the stone on Mégalithe 7c/7c+ at Rocher Gréau

As we prepared to leave, the rain clouds returned and with it our desire to move south in hopes of warmer, drier weather were solidified. While conditions could have been better, they in no way altered the fact that Fontainebleau is the best bouldering the world has to offer and we are sure to return time and again in the future; even if it might rain the entire time.

-S

PS - A shout out must go to Corinne for once again shooting some great shots that I plaster my name all over. Thanks baby!

Geneva: A city we could live in

Our friends Stephanie and Morgan live in the center of Geneva in a one bedroom apartment on the second ( but what they call the first) floor with their dog Tao; an expat pooch from West Virginia. Since they knew we were driving around Europe, they invited us to come see their home in Geneva while we were traveling. We knew that we loved Switzerland, having already visited the Italian and German regions, so we went visit them for some climbing in the French Alps. We arrived on Friday evening, which happens to be Aperitune night. Morgan created this get together on Friday nights, where a couple of friends head over to his house and have drinks and share music. The catch is that the music that they share must be a song that no one else has heard before. It is their way of discovering new music together. Another couple came by and we all hung out, had drinks and food and listened to music. It was a delightful way to spend the evening; it felt more like being back in SF, except for the fact that everyone was speaking French most of the time. Later that night, we headed to a concert a couple blocks away from the house. The opening band played old gypsy tunes and classic Russian, Romanian and other eastern bloc music.

Though we went to the show to see the main band, by 1am, they still hadn't come on and we were pretty exhausted (Steve was actually getting sick AGAIN) and needed to crash. We headed back to the apt, where Steph and Morgan had moved their loft bed to the floor due to my "condition", making getting in and out a little easier. So thoughtful! We were incredibly comfortable and I was truly thankful that I didn't need to make a ladder descent in the dark...

We were hoping to go climbing the next day but like many other days we have experienced here, it was going to rain, so instead, Steph and Morgan showed us around Geneva. Since it was Saturday, the city was bustling with activity. We took the metro and headed toward the lake, the central attraction in Geneva, for lunch. We ate right on the lake with a view if the Jet d'Eau Fountain, a 140 meter geyser that shoots out of the middle of the lake. You can tell that during the summer the area is packed, there are beaches, separate swimming areas with diving boards, boating areas and the like. It reminds me of Lake Tahoe in California, but perhaps a bit smaller.

On our way back to the house, we bumped into some friends of theirs who told us about some bike comp taking place in town. We had nothing else to do, so we decided to go and check it out. In the center of town, there is a large open space, where they host a variety of activities. It is next to the skate park that the city just built. The bike comp was a type of freestyle, bmx biking on different obstacle courses. These guys were pretty incredible to watch...

Later that eve, we headed over to a small Ethiopian restaurant. A food that we missed dearly. We often forget how much the bay area has to offer, especially the food; it is so easy to eat well in the bay area and boy, do we miss it! The restaurant was an everyday apartment converted into a restaurant. Morgan explained that these types of small businesses, just like their climbing gym (more on that later), are considered non-profit or small-profit, so do not fall under the same laws as normal businesses. These small businesses can operate without being taxed and are encouraged. Tt is a way for small businesses to make enough money to cover their expenses. These businesses are not looking to become bigger and more profitable, they want to remain small and cover what they need and nothing more. Dinner was absolutely delicious but of course the price tag was very different than in SF. The dinner that we ordered included a meat dish, so it probably would have cost $50 for the four of us, but alas, in Geneva it cost $68. Switzerland is quite expensive but as Morgan explained to us another day, people make more money, so in the end, it is all relative...

The next morning we headed to Chamonix to climb. What an amazing place! After taking the train to the top with a beautiful view of la mer de glace, we hiked a little ways down to do some bouldering.

F*** alpine, we're going bouldering

Morgan and some of his friends had already discovered and cleaned off a new cluster of boulders in the canyon, that included a very special compression problem that Morgan was dead set on conquering. Steve was excited to climb on the granite boulders; since most of the problems that they cleaned off were tall, 6b or above with sketchy landings, I was in charge of taking pics and watching from the sidelines. I need to be careful with little Crankenstein now, no more falling, so only easy climbing for me. With their efforts combined the boys managed to send the new compression line, an instant classic. While Steve grabbed the first ascent, it was a team effort for the beta and all the boys sent. Morgan later named the problem Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds with a mutual agreement on 7b+/7c grade. Nice work guys!

Morgan setting up to clean the new compression line

Cleaning...

The beta hunt begins

Lots of chalk is showing up

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_DRLiQpoNw&feature=youtu.be;rel=0] ..and the ascent.

Both Morgan and Stephanie had to teach on Monday, so we just hung around the house attempting to figure out insurance and other admin that we needed to accomplish prior to our return home. That night we all headed to their gym. Yes, they are part owners. It is a co-op, one of these small businesses that makes enough money to upkeep and slowly make it better and better as the years progress. It is a true training gym, not quite like Moritz's gym in Nürenberg, but it is purely for those training to get better. Steph coaches the climbing team there on Monday evenings, others coach on other nights. Monday is Morgan's night to feed everyone who is working there that night, so we all headed over there and he cooked a feast, which included huge globs of melted cheese cooked in what looked like a grill cheese sandwich maker. The idea is that you melt the cheese then drip it onto potatoes. It is somewhat similar to fondue, called raclette. Not the healthiest meal but he did include fixins for salad on the side that he had picked on his friends farm outside of Geneva. We continued to hang out there for several hours, drinking beer (of course, there is a bar) and fraternizing while people climbed and congregated throughout the night. This gym is a pretty special place; it is more like a club, they even host bands several times a year and special events that include climbing hard boulder problems as part of the activity. Everyone there drinks, smokes and enjoys, without the interference of cops or authorities. We wish there could have a place like that in SF, but it would have to be underground and in the end, would probably be busted or shut down anyway...

The world's tallest campus board

Though it rained almost everyday we were there, we attempted to get out of the house. On Tuesday, we headed to CERN, the European organization for nuclear research; it houses the largest Hadron collider. We walked through the two exhibits, read, listened and attempted to absorb as much info as we could. This is where the créme de la créme of the intellectual elites do their research. Even the internet was invented here...

Corinne and the Atom Smasher

The first WWW web server

Since Stephanie and Morgan are both math teachers, I hoped that this would be an opportunity to watch teaching in another country. Though I had planned on doing this in several places while traveling, I had yet to do so, as we were never really in places long enough for me to inquire (except for SA, where I just wanted to climb more than work). On Thursday, Stephanie set it up so that I could go and watch a class that was actually taught in English. The kids in these classes were year four, seniors, and were the best of the best, when it came to mathematics; not only were they in a top level class, a mix of Calculus and vector analysis, they were also willing to learn in English, which was NOT their native language; for most, English was their second language but for some, English was their third. The class was run as a normal lecture class, much like a college class, where they attempted to absorb as much as possible. It was a two hour class with a ten minute break in the middle. They had class four times a week. Though the teacher may have had a plan for hw, all of that changed when the students were asked how to prove that the smallest set of vectors that had certain characteristics was the null set. They guessed that the answer was null set, but when their teacher asked them to prove it, they were baffled. So, that became their homework, to prove that the null set was the smallest set. No grumbling, no arguments, they just accepted that they were to attempt to prove it. It was a pleasure to sit in on a class where kids actually enjoyed being challenged and actually, yearned for it. I realize that not all classes are as special as this one, but it does inspire me for the future.

Due to the rain, we were only able to do one more day of climbing in Geneva. On Thursday, we headed to another spot that Morgan and his friends had discovered. It was an old granite mining area, that unfortunately was too hard for me but proved to be a pretty good afternoon for Steve and Morgan...

The view from the boulders

Morgan and Steve preparing for a climb

Stephanie and Morgan were the most amazing hosts; we couldn't have asked for more. Though we were vacationing in Geneva, we also needed to complete a lot of admin...insurance, tickets back home, decisions as to where to have the baby (east coast vs. west coast), plans for shipping the van back, etc. Though we would rather not admit it, it was all a bit stressful and having a home in which to broach these decisions, made our lives so much easier. These two made it very relaxed and we can't wait until we get to see them again. In fact, we should be seeing them very soon, as they are planning on meeting us in Fontainebleau in late October. It will be great to climb with them once again...we are anxiously looking forward to their arrival.

Of course, we hope that we can return the favor when they come to climb in the states. ;)

-C

Madrid Climbing

Here you are in the biggest city in Spain and in less than an hours drive, you can be climbing on some granite boulders or limestone routes. Spain has some of the best climbing in the world but even if you don't hit the best areas (Albarracin, Rodellar, Marguelif, etc), you can still find decent spots with terrific problems.

Erin toured us around some of her favorite spots near Madrid. Though she hadn't been climbing much of late, as soccer was more of the current priority, she took us to the spots that she enjoyed close to home. Our first stop was Zarzalejo, a granite bouldering area north of Madrid. We first picked up Juan, one of her bouldering buddies from the local gym. He toured us around the area. The rock was sharp but many of the holds were conglomerate pieces that were "cemented" into the rock. We started at an easier area where we could all climb and then moved on to a more difficult area where Steve and Juan could really get down to business. After a few hours some of Juan's other climbing friends joined us. We continued to climb for a couple more hours and then headed to El Escorial de San Lorenzo for dinner.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6dPY14RG5U&feature=youtu.be;rel=0]

Five days later, we headed to Patones, yet another European limestone rock band, also north of Madrid. The rock was smooth but not completely featureless, as we were able to read the line prior to making movement. We arrived later than originally planned, but we still were able to do four or five routes. This was my first time using my full body harness, thanks to Stephanie. Not the most comfortable harness but no pressure on the belly, which is exactly what I need right now.

The next day, we headed back to El Escorial de San Lorenzo, which actually also had some Granite bouldering. Both Steve and Erin enjoyed the bouldering here. Unfortunately, much of the bouldering was just a little too hard for me at this point.

Time to spray

Epic sunrise at the camp

Rocklands has exploded over the past six years. It went from a relatively unknown far away climbing destination, to a seasonal epicenter for the world's hardest crushers to come and lay down the bouldering law. The average visitor climbs hard 7s or 8s and for the three months of the high season, climbing becomes the main topic of discussion and the primary activity of every visitor in the small farm town of Clanwilliam. Obviously this can become obnoxious as not all the climbers eat, breath and sleep the sport. Some of us try to pull down hard but would rather have fun climbing, visit with friends, and braii our brains out. However sometimes, one can't help getting caught up in the hullabaloo of hard climbing. :)

Since we were going to have close to seven weeks here, we decided that it would be best to start out very slow. We began climbing half days. That way we would save our skin and be able to enjoy getting outside and climbing most days. We both knew that rest days were key and that there was no reason to trash ourselves no matter how excited we were.

De Pakhuys campground in the evening

Resting and taking it slow worked out very well for both of us. We both came with some projects in mind. Things from the previous seasons that we had tried and wanted to complete; as well as lines we had not tried, but had inspired us before and wanted to give a shot.

Corinne and Charlie, the resident crag dog at De Pakhuys, on a rest day

We arrived mid season and it was colder than it was last year, which is both a blessing and a curse. This year our down coat and hats became a permanent part of our attire. The actual climbing was far better this year but we missed being able to chill out in the hot sun during the afternoon at the campsite. As the season progressed the temps slowly warmed up during the day and within the last weeks we managed to get a pretty nice tan. ;)

Life in Rocklands is rough

The biggest downer this season has been Steve's ability to pick up every virus that passed our way. He was sick half the time that we have been here. Something is seriously wrong with his immune system in this country. Before we got to South Africa, he hadn't been sick once, but here he was sick all of the time, which put a damper on the trip. Eventually he kicked the what we coined the Rocklands Plague and managed to get back into climbing the final weeks.

As has been the theme of our journey so far, the weather went from damp and rainy to warm over the season. When Steve wasn't sick, chances were it was raining, so the amount of climbing was less than expected in our seven weeks. That said we managed to send many of our projects, climb lines we never intended to do and Steve managed to add a number of first ascents to a few sectors around the northern Cederberg.

Corinne on Bullet Proof at Plateau

Steve knocking out Shosholoza before a hold broke this season...

Corinne sending here long term project Girl on our mind at Plateau, Photo Courtesy of Morgan Boiss

When we first arrived we met up with our good friend and Rocklands legend Scott Noy; the very man who convinced us to come back to ZA for the season during our visit in Freiburg.

Scott crushing Witness the Sickness at the de Pakhuys

Then a few weeks into our visit some of our friends from San Francisco came to Rocklands for the first time. Will Wolcott, Colin Trenter and Jen Szeto arrived in late July and joined our small troop. The psych was high and much sending ensued.

Will Up Top at Roadside

Jen and the 5 crash pad stack. Ready to send.

She used em all on Creaking Heights at Roadside.

Colin in crush mode on The Rhino

Will on Pinotage at the Sassies

After hard days of pulling on the bullet hard orange and gold sandstone we would gather back at the campsite and visit the De Pakhuys bar. Built early last season, the bar has proven itself both a blessing and a curse. It brings together the climbing community during the cold evenings for story and beta swapping. It can also turn your future climbing day into an unintentional rest day...or two.

Bar night - Scott, Val and Thys

Other evening we gather around the campfire and braii and chat; hopefully about anything but climbing. Though some nights we can avoid it and may go out for a night session with headlamps.

Our campsite in the evening

Night session on Koevoet (crowbar)

Another season in Rocklands has come to an end. The destination has gotten a lot of bad press this year because of potentially inflated grades, access complications and over crowding. While these issues hold validity and certainly need attention and discussion, I think some visitors overlook the other aspects that make this place a magical little corner of the world. It remains a special place to hike, explore, meet new friends, visit old ones and take some time to live life at a different pace. I want to give a big thanks to all the wonderful people of Clanwilliam and the hard working folks behind De Pakhuys, Alpha Excelsior, and Traveller's Rest. Without them life in the northern Cederberg would not be the same.

Cheers -Steve

A little more video spraying:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ5gFSQ8wys&rel=0]

First ascent of The Power and the Glory at Big and Roof

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShULNKKm9zA&rel=0]

First ascent of Crankenstein at 8 Day Rain

Singing, Dancing and Climbing

Near the end of our trip, Thys set up a day of climbing with some of the local kids who attend Elizabethfontaine Primary. The idea was that a group of climbers would go out with the kids, spot them and get them psyched on climbing. There was even a TV crew coming to film some of the kids with the climbers.

Our international group of climbers included Sandra and Yves from Switzerland, Kaddi from Germany, Jen Szeto and myself from the US and Marinus and Rebecca from South Africa. The kids natively spoke Afrikaans but also had a very good grasp of English, so communicating was not a problem.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0TV1FDidCU&rel=0]

Future crusher

Most of the kids hadn't climbed before but there were a couple who had been out a few times before and were quite good. But the kids were not just interested in climbing, they wanted to listen to music, sing and dance as well.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2mi1y4Bag4&rel=0]

Singing...

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA1i1g5XhIc&rel=0]

...and dancing

We hung out with them for three hours and everyone had a blast. I hope to see some of still climbing the next time I visit South Africa.

-C

The whole gang. Can you find me?

Holy Backblogged Batman!

We departed from South Africa yesterday afternoon and are on our way to Madrid. In six weeks of climbing, exploring, meeting new friends and visiting with old ones we managed only two updates. Obviously a bit more happened during our holiday away from our Euro holiday. We attempted to defend a championship, sent projects, put up new boulder problems, had visitors from SF, forgot what it was like to eat green vegetables, and have some very big news. Stay tuned as we sort out text and photos.

Döner Macht Schöner

Germany is known for it's beer. Bavaria is know for the high concentration of breweries in it's region. Nürnberg is know for the highest concentration of breweries in all of Germany. Germany is know for it's high concentration of limestone crags. Frankenjura is known for the highest concentration of hard limestone crags in all of Germany. Nürnberg is 40km from Frankenjura. Sounds good, no? We were to arrive in Nürnberg the evening of the Germany and Italy match in the Euro Cup. Unknown to us, Moritz and Julia were planning to go watch the match at a public venue. Due to poor planning and construction on the autobahn, we arrived later than expected. Moritz greeted us outside when we arrived in "Little Istanbul" or as what he called the southern ghetto of Nürnberg. Yet, as far as ghettos go, the area was more like the outer sunset in SF than Hunter's point. Due to the amount of Turks in the "ghetto", this area could also be considered "the home of the Döner", the German version of a burrito, insofar that it costs €3 and is a cheap meal that is quite suitable after a hard day of climbing.

Steve met Julia and Moritz in Rocklands last year. Moritz is almost as tall as Steve and they are both obsessed with climbing hard and training hard; they are like two peas in a pod. They climb at about the same level and are able to use similar beta; Steve truly enjoys climbing with Moritz.

We arrived in Nürnberg on a Thursday, as we planned for a full week in the city; we wanted to have a German garage check the Goose. We figured that if anyone would know how to fix the van, it would be a German, being that Goose was born in Germany.  We were still having our coolant issue and we just can't figure out how to fix it ourselves. Steve has been religiously reading forums to help him problem solve but it seems like the more he reads, the further down the rabbit hole he goes. We ended up bringing it to a garage, called N&M, on Monday, explained the problem (well, not all of it but most of it) and they found that part of the radiator was clogged and that the temp sensor for the water temp was old and needed to be replaced. When we picked it up on Tuesday, Goose was definitely acting better but still after a 45 minute drive on the autobahn, the minute we slowed down, Goose's temps were rising again. Not to the level where he is about to overheat, like before, but definitely reading temps above normal, but since it wasn't heading toward the super high temps, we thought maybe, just maybe, they had fixed our issues. That was until Saturday when we headed out to Frankenjura with Julia and Moritz and began to overheat. Once more Goose was acting up and all we could do was unscrew the cap on the expansion tank to release the pressure that was preventing the coolant from flowing. The coolant is getting stuck in the overflow and then cannot push back through to the expansion tank because of the pressure inside the tank. We have no idea why the pressure is building up in the first place. So,a week after our first visit to N&M, we went back and thoroughly explained our issues. The mechanic listened to us but decided that he had absolutely no idea what was wrong. He claimed that it shouldn't make a difference whether the engine was idling or being pushed at 80kph, it would overheat either way, but when he ran the engine all day, it resulted in no overheating and perfect coolant distribution. He kept it for another day, but found nothing wrong. Thankfully, he didn't charge us for his efforts. Once again, we were frustrated and annoyed, as we knew that our coolant problem was going to be a continuing thorn in our side.

We were psyched to head to Nürnberg to visit with Julia and Moritz but we were also psyched to hit Frankenjura, another climbing destination known for it's short, steep but often run out routes. Unfortunately, between our car and the relentless rain during our ten day visit, we spent more days in Nürnberg at the apartment than out on the rock.

We arrived on a Thursday, spent Friday in town sorting ourselves out and headed out to Frankenjura Saturday morning. We received a message that Kaddi, her brother Christian, and some friends were going to be climbing as well, so we headed out early to meet them at Kalte Wald. Though the weather was pretty warm, this area stayed pretty cool and had a nice array of routes from 6a to 7b. There were a couple of really fun 6a's and a great 7a called Stracciatella (sp?) that I enjoyed, while Steve, Moritz and Kaddi worked on a couple of 7b's that seemed to serve them well.  It was a great day and we were excited to see what else Frankenjura had to offer.

After a full day of climbing, we went to do what everyone in Bavaria does at the end of the day in the summer and headed down the road to the Biergarten. The beer in Bavaria is varied and plentiful and ALWAYS tastes good, except maybe the smoked beer, which Steve says tastes a bit like drinking bacon. Not only are there varieties in beer but there are also varieties in non-alcoholic beer; they even have several types of alcohol frei hefeweisen and they were all fabulous. Thank you Bavaria!

After the biergarten, we all were pretty hungry. Moritz knew of an awesome restaurant next to a pig farm but unfortunately, they were having a private event, so we headed to another place in the sweet little town of Pottenstein, right in the center of the Frankenjura region. Noone had been there before but it turned out to be one of our best meals yet. Steve and five others ordered the schäufele, while I ordered another smaller pork dish, as I had had the schäufele two evenings prior and I couldn't finish it the first time.

We were told that the schäufele was one of the best folks had ever eaten; it was pretty fantastic, the rind was perfectly crisped and meat just fell off the bone. We all rolled out of the restaurant after our huge, hearty meal and went looking for a place to camp for the night.

Though Moritz and Julia headed back to the city, the rest of us camped out in one of the very few bouldering areas in Frankenjura.  At around 10pm, it started to rain. We all sought refuge in our respective shelters, Kaddi and Christian and Wupi (Christian's dog, who is a mix between ewok and a wookie) sleeping under a cave with a couple of hard as nails  boulder problems. The rain continued throughout the night, along with a lightning and thunderstorm. It rained all throughout the morning as well. Despite the rain, Moritz and Julia STILL drove out to meet us, as promised. After several hours of relentless rain, Kaddi and friends decided to head home, as they had a long drive back to Freiburg and Basel, Switzerland. While Moritz and Julia gave Steve and I a quick tour of some other nice climbing spots on the way back to Nürnberg.

We dropped the car off on Monday at N&M. Julia has off on Mondays and being the amazing host that she is, took us around the sites of Nürnberg. Nürnberg is a cool little town; it has a central area which is only for pedestrians and maybe bicycles, like so many other cities in Europe; why aren't there more of these in the U.S.? I can only think of Boulder and Burlington off the top of my head. It is so nice being able to walk around, stop at a cafe, go shopping and never have to worry about cars, lights, etc.

For the rest of our stay in Nürnberg, it either rained or was hot and sticky. Limestone sucks when it is wet and does not dry too quickly in heat and humidity. Though we did have three more days of climbing in Frankenjura, we still have yet to truly experience all that place has to offer. Since we need to go and pick up our van in Germany in September and were promised that Jasper Bote would be there if we returned, we are planning on spending another week or two in Nürnberg to give Frankenjura another chance. Though Moritz and Julia will be in South Korea during our second visit, we will have a new base with Melissa and Jasper on the northern end of the city. But don't worry, there are Döner shops there as well...

Just want to give a shoutout to our amazing hosts, Moritz and Julia. You guys were so amazingly hospitable and we hope that we didn't cause too much strife in your life. When we think back to our stay,  we will warmly remember Döner macht schöner, your amazing training gym, great food, great beer (including alcohol frei), Crankenstein and your incredible hospitality. Thanks again you two and we can't wait to climb with you again soon! -C&S

PS - more posts soon hopefully. :)

Feel the Magic

Limestone is widely varied in it's formations, texture, color and quality. The one constant is that when it is hot, limestone is a slippery frustrating mess. We needed some elevation, shade from the sun and rock with a bit more friction. Enter the Magic Wood, Ausserferrera, Switzerland. Six weeks of route climbing had been great for our endurance and route reading, bad for my power and worse for my elbows. It was time to wrestle some pebbles and what better than gritty, overhanging, powerful granite crimping and slapping. We arrived in Ausserferrera late in the evening, greeted by cool air, thick lush forest and the familiar sight of climbers huddled around a roaring bonfire at camp Bodhi. Mischa welcomed us to the camp and informed us of the less crowded clearing across the street where he himself kept his own camper. Exhausted from the drive we setup the Goose and called it a night.

Come morning, we thought it best to explore the forest and find problems to climb in the cooler afternoon temps. The blocks in the forest are extremely condensed meaning you don't have to walk far to reach new problems, but it they also tend to practically layered on top of one another. This lends to lots of scrabbling, hiking up and down and worst of all it creates bad landings under the problems. Big crews and loads of crash pads is the name of the game in Magic Wood. A task our army of two and our wee sized Organic pads were not quite prepared for.

- Dropzone -

We managed to find lines with decent landings for Corinne and she performed musical crash pads while I tried some lines with less than optimal landings. Corinne had the chance to practice a little more with my 60D and I think she is starting to take some pretty nice shots. Shooting photos, moving crash pads and spotting me is tough for one person, but she mastered the skill in in these woods.

- Dino's don't dyno -

As the days passed we met more climbers to help share the spotting responsibilities, which freed me up to take some climbing shots of Corinne. MW is known for having problems on the harder end of the spectrum, so we were skeptical of how much she would be able to climb. As we explored the forest however, we found projects for her and after a few days of work she started sending.

- Beach Arete - Corinne topping out one of her projects.

- Fettes Schweinchen -

- Du cote de Seshuan -

- Slip Slap Slop - A new friend and fellow spotter : Eyþór from Iceland.

After a week of rain on and off we needed to make our way to Germany. The cooling system on the Goose was giving us problems again and we have a friend in Nürnberg who could help us out; not to mention show us around town and the monster climbing destination that is Frankenjura. We were sad to leave beautiful Switzerland with it's endless mountain peaks and pristine woodland. However it will be nice to pay normal prices for groceries again!

-S

Random ramblings #3

I hate the rain... I do not like the weather here...Europe, I mean. We arrived in Europe in April, so rain seemed pretty normal. The old saying goes April showers brings May flowers which is all fine and well but hell, we have had so much friggin rain on our trip...in Font, it rained every single day, sometimes only a little shower and the rock dried later on or sometimes, a shower late in the day after a morning sess but nonetheless, rain every single day.

In Freiburg, it rained too...yes, we got to enjoy two days of climbing but it rained two or three of our five days there.

In Trieste, it also rained almost every day. Again, sometimes in the morning and then dried out or later in the day after some climbing, but still rain.

By the time we reached Hvar, the rain had already passed (the silver lining of our registration debauchle - it rained for five days straight when we were originally supposed to be there). I believe we only got one or two days of afternoon rain. Of course, one of them was the day that Steve had his eyes set on finishing an 8a+ at Vela Stiniva but nature won out and denied him his send.

Italy, more rain...a LOT of rain in Zandobbio, which is why most of our days were filled with admin and spending time with Laura and Guilia (which we were thrilled to do).

No rain in Finale, just hot and sticky, which is almost as bad but at least, we were still able to do morning sessions on the rock...

Magic Wood...a lot of rain...luckily, there were still enough days to get in some bouldering.

And now, rain in Nuremberg...which is why I am writing right now and not climbing...

Let me explain. I actually love rain and truly enjoy spending days indoors when it's raining but we are traveling in a van AND we are climbers, we want to climb rocks, but can only do so effectively when the rock is dry. Right now, we are lucky enough to be staying with friends in Nuremberg, Germany and are able to enjoy the comforts of a home while it pours incessantly outside but our plans, as of last night, was to go climbing today in Frankenjura, at an easier crag where I could climb some 10's and get in some mileage...but alas, no climbing today, rain.

On the road to Hvar

When we arrived in Chironico, we still had several hours of day left (the sun does not set here until 8:30-9). We had a list of must hits for Steve and we tried to follow them as best as possible. We started with Doctor Med Dent, which really only had one problem for Steve (Dr med dent) and a couple of mediocre problems for me, and then continued on to another area that was in town.  We had trouble finding the parking that Scott had described but we decided to just park in the center lot where the local folks parked their camper vehicles (there were three campers already parked there).

The walk was short but finding all the boulders was a bit of a mission. We had taken pics of Scott's guidebook with his favorites marked but actually finding them was another story. The first boulder we found was Borderline, which Steve completed easily. The boulder also had a super fun problem on the left for me. We headed toward the other problems that Scott had starred, like Tomahawk and Freak brothers. There was also a great face problem for me in the Freak Brothers sector that I worked on endlessly. Though I did not send that day, I  did send the next! Unfortunately, Steve could not get Freak brothers during our visit (the only problem that he got on that he didn't send); we will be back when he is feeling stronger.

We found the camping that Scott and Kaddi had described to us but when we arrived, there were already two other campers there and it was a pretty small area...we didn't want to block them or invade their space. Luckily, while we were trying to figure out our next steps, the other campers returned from their bouldering sessions. We quickly became fast friends with Simon & Mikaela and Adam & Michelle (all from England) and Adam & Michelle's dog (for the life of me, I can't remember it's name!). We figured out a good parking situation and chatted the night away.

After lounging around a bit in the morning, we borrowed Adam and Michelle guide and headed up to the sectors that were close by. We weren't ready to climb yet but we wanted to do a bit of exploring. These were the sectors close to the water, where the holds were a bit nicer on the tips. Did I mention that after climbing on Sandstone for several weeks, the granite was a bit of a shock on the skin? There were some great climbs and we definitely wanted to return to these areas later. When we returned, Adam & Michelle invited us to climb with them in another area near the town that we had not seen yet and then return to the Freak Brothers area, because we both had some unfinished business there. Overall, it was a good day; good climbing, beautiful scenery and great company. With Adam and Michelle's lead, we camped in another area, which was actually on the way to Slovenia, our next destination.  We are hoping to meet up with them again in Magic Wood on our way back up...they, too, are traveling and climbing for an extended length of time.

The next morning we made our way to Osp, Slovenia, a small town with exceptional limestone climbing and a chill camping spot, camp Vovk.  We spent one day climbing in Osp. Never made it to Misja Pec (known as one of the best crags in Slovenia) and a ten minute drive from Osp. We did not feel quite in shape for the demanding limestone route reading that we experienced in Osp, let alone the more difficult Misja Pec! Due to the warm weather, we did the requisite morning and evening climbing sess's. Though we saw many a folk climbing in the hot sun on that glassy, slimy limestone; I have no idea how they held on, but they seemed to enjoy it. I, on the other hand, cursed and swore at that slippery limestone, having trouble holding on in the SHADE! We knew that this was the same type of rock we were going to find at Hvar, so it was a good place to prepare. The climbing in Osp was quite nice but we may want to hit Misja Pec on our way back, once we both have our endurance and have truly grocked the limestone rock...

-C

Emilie and Raul

After we left our SF friends and the gite in Moigny-sur-ecole, we decided to head south to an area Scott and Kaddi recommended called Petit Bois. Since it had been raining for some time we thought that the weather and the rock may be better the more South we went, since Steve and MK had that experience while Ginny and I were in Paris. Petit Bois was a great area, tons of problems on both the blue and red circuits, and also included Big Dragon, a problem that Steve wanted to get on, which completely suited his style. This was the area where I began to  understand the essence of mantling and smearing.

We didn't arrive there until late in the afternoon but since it doesn't get dark here until 9:30pm, we still got to climb quite a bit. No one was around, so we decided to camp there and see what was up; we didn't yet have the 411 on how to camp for free here in Europe,so we weren't quite sure where we could stay and where we couldn't. After a bit, another car rolled up. An older guy, probably about 52 or so, got out walked over to Big Dragon (Steve had not gotten on it yet) and began to have some goes. He worked on it for about 45 minutes and then grabbed his pad, packed it all away and took off. Guess he was working on his proj...he got through the first two moves before packing up, not bad.

While senior working his proj, a panel van drove up, parked and started playing some techno music. No climbing, no hiking, just techno. We thought this was a bit weird but hey, we were in the small town of Saint-Pierre de Nemours, who knows how these folks roll.  We cooked, ate, and snuggled in for an episode of Dexter. By the end of the show, another van showed up,  we just assumed it was the techno boys again and went to sleep.

We slept well and enjoyed our first night on our own. Steve got up early, as he was eager to get out climbing again. Unfortunately, I woke up with a sore throat and a cough, so Steve let me sleep in. After his first climbing session, about fifteen problems, he decided to wake me up and make coffee etc. he noticed that the car that drove up the night before, was not in fact the techno boys but another Westy with another couple. Emilie, a Canadian Quebeçois, and Raul, who was from Spain, came over to wish us a good morning (our CA plates had inspired them to come by and chat). We chatted for a few moments and then they went off to eat breakfast and get ready to climb.

Steve's second session was with me. We climbed a bit on both the blue and the red circuit. I worked some of the red problems that included mantles and very crappy feet; they were great fun. After 20-30 minutes we were chatting and climbing right along with Raul and Emilie. We went up to work on some reds, whites and a couple of off-piste climbs together; the more crash pads, the merrier! We climbed together for 3-4 hours until the rain started again. After a couple hours, Emilie and I decided to go shopping on their mountain bikes while Steve rested up for his third session of the day.  Raul and Emilie traveled with their mountain bikes so that they could camp for a while and just use their bikes to get around. There were two markets, the Lidl and the Carrefour, .5 mile away from where we were camped.

We got back and unpacked and my cold began to come back full force. I decided to rest, read and take a nap while Steve was ready for his third session of the day; he finally began working on Big Dragon but after several attempts and raw tips, it just would not go. He got to the second to last move (the crux) but today was not the day. More chatting and hanging with Raul and Emilie, then dinner and sleep. Petit Bois had served us well.

It rained that night. Again and harder than previous nights staying there was just not an option. So we all planned on moving on, but agreed that we would meet up later that day or in the evening at the Hippodrome de la Solle for camping.  Raul and Emilie became our new camping and climbing buddies during the rest of our Font trip...

Emilie and Raul have been traveling for the past two years in their van around Spain and France. Intermittently, Emilie will get a job so that they can continue on their travels, as Raul is in school finishing up his degree in Computer Science. His classes are entirely online, so he just needs to make sure that he has Internet and juice for his computer and he is good to go; he can work from almost anywhere until the end of the semester when he may have to go in for a final. He is able to  live in the van, climb and travel but must also be diligent about getting his work done.  Since it rains a lot in Font, he is able to take advantage of those days and go to the local library and use the SFR Free Wifi.

Raul and Emilie have figured out how to live simply and inexpensively while still eating well and climbing a lot. We learned a lot from them. When Emilie first took me shopping, she took me the Lidl prior to the Carrefour, showing me what to buy at the Lidl because it was that much cheaper; there were still some things that I didn't want to buy there, but overall the Lidl was the place to go. Only problem is there are not many of them. Emilie and Raul also tend to buy a lot more food than we do, as they do not have a full camper but a weekender and therefore have more room; they know what will keep and what is not worth getting but the most important food item that they introduced us to was the chocolate pack from the Carrefour. For under €2, you can get 5 bars of pretty decent chocolate. We plowed through the chocolate in Font...

They also told us about McD's. McD's is the sure fire way to get Internet. Every McD's in France offers free wifi.  They are the only place that you can truly count for getting free wifi, sometimes SFR Free wifi doesn't work but McD's always does. However, we have now found that in Germany, you actually need to buy something before getting the wifi. Once you buy something, you get a sign in  and then you are home free. We have yet to utilize it yet, but it will happen, you can be sure of that.

One evening, Emilie gave us the run down on all of the places that we should go to in Spain, along with descriptions of the type of rocks and climbs. They have been traveling and climbing for a long time, so they definitely have the 411 on where to climb and where to camp. I don't know if we will be able to hit all of the places they mentioned, but we will definitely do our best.

Here is the list of spots that we want to hit with descriptions of the rock and what is good there. We hope to hit them in the Fall, either before or after Font, but we will see... 1. Mont Serrat - great sector in the south "el vermell", "can jorba", on the north side "San Benet"(sp?) - many smaller areas within this place - conglomerate rock - vertical and slabby (sandbagged) 2. Rodeller - limestone - "kalandraka" (Refugio) - overhanging 3. Bruixas - limestone - in Terradets which have sport multi-pitches (very few) many need some additional gear - overhanging 4. Siurana - limestone - slabs and vertical...(sandbagged) 5. Montsan - conglomerate - raco de misa, overhanging 6. Margelef  - conglomerate - everything, has pockets, every grade, vertical and overhanging - other side of Montsan- about an hour away 7. Villanova - good sport multi-pitch - limestone 8. Cavallers- good multi-pitch - granite - good wall for reg sport climbing African wall- good bouldering as well b4 multi- pitch.

Two days before we headed off to Germany to meet Scott and Kaddi, Emilie got word that she was hired by the Canadian government to work on trail maintenance in Alberta. She was off to work for the next 3 months in the forests. Raul still had 6 weeks left of school, so he was going to have to stay behind while Emilie went back to get ready for work. Both were pretty sad that there home was about to split up for a little while but Emilie was already looking to buy a van to live in once she had reached Alberta; Raul would then fly to Canada to meet her and live in the van as well. Once she completed her 3 month contract, the plan was to go into the U.S. and head to Indian Creek in Tennessee; they had been dreaming of climbing there for quite a while. So, U.S. folks, should you want to do some top class climbing with an incredibly chill and skilled couple, hit us up and we will connect you.

What a coincidence that we met Raul and Emilie; they were the perfect couple to meet as we began to embark on our journey. They knew all the ins and outs of van living and how to live on the cheap. There are a lot of differences between our journeys, as our trip includes a LOT more driving and a lot more destinations but we will utilize their tips and our experiences with them for the rest of journey. Thanks guys for helping to make our adventure that much better!

~C&S

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBu94uxH4s4&rel=0]

The vans camped out at the Hippodrome. Got cut short as it started to rain...

Raw Tips

Well, we finally have climbed in Fontainebleau. Though we have been here for 12 days, I have climbed a total of 6 days, while Steve has climbed 7. Together we climbed the following areas: Isatis, Petit Bois and Rocher Canon. The day that I went to Paris with Ginny, Steve stayed and climbed with MaryKate and went Boutier. Though it was raining on Ginny and I in Paris, MK and Steve were able to head south and escape it; the farther south they went, the better the weather.

Even with 6 days under my belt, my skin is only just beginning to feel ready for these sandstone boulders. Font's circuits are a completely new way for me to approach bouldering. I love that I have no idea what level I am climbing and that I just know that I will feel best with red and blue and a few white...sure, I have attempted one or two off-piste problems but to absolutely no avail; I just figured that I can always try.

Bouldering here is hard; it is techy and the feet are rarely bomber but I am learning. I actually love it. Much better for me than the overhanging and thrutchy moves in Vegas or Bishop. Mantles are tough but this is the best place for me to learn and s l o w l y, I am getting better.

~a bien tot Corinne

I have wanted to come to Fontainebleau since I first slid off a sandstone sloper at Castle Rock State Park in California back in 2000. It has taken me 12 years to finally make it here, albeit at the tail end of the season, but dagnabbit I am finally made it. I am made for this climbing. Body tension, surface area and reach, coupled with technique, finesse, and patience and are the name of the game here. I certainly have the former; the latter can be mastered for a lifetime. My big mitts are happily at home on the brain like bulges of this beautiful forest. Font has it's fair share of crimps, but almost every boulder presents you with a rounded top out, void of holds and begging to be mantled. My triceps have not been this sore from climbing in some time; gotta do more pushups...

The weather has been wet, rainy and humid or sunny, hot and humid. The perfect conditions for sanding your tips down to pink tender nubs after repeated failed attempts to hit a sloper you swear exists, but your hand simply can't find. It may have been better sending conditions two months ago, but the evenings are on the warm side and rest days are comfortable in the Goose, so we can't really complain. Font is massive. We have been to several sectors, explored others and have barely touched the surface. It is overwhelming. I could climb here for a lifetime. As it stands we only have a few more days here before we drive to Freiburg to meet our friends Scott and Kaddi. Hopefully the weather will hold and we will get in a few more days of crushing. I guess we will just have to come back in the Fall. :)

-S

Below are some more pics from Corinne. There would be some of her, but I am generally spotting...

Having a great day at the base of Rainbow Rocket in Franchard Isatis.

Serious about sending. Which can be seen below!

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