SKAI Urban Crag: The Boulderer’s Gym in Cluj Napoca, Romania

SKAI is a play on the English word “sky” and the Romanian “scaiete,” (Cirsium vulgare) a common thistle that sprouts a vibrant pink and purple rosette, and which is one of the most bountiful nectar producers across Europe. 

Just like the high-stemmed namesake plant, SKAI Urban Crag offers climbers bounteous boulder problems in their pursuit of gravity defying dynos and pumpy high-flying stunts.

Tudor Cristea, 27, is one of three co-founders and he chatted with me about the gym. He looks like a Romanian Chris Sharma complete with shaggy locks and just-throw-it-on beanie. He relayed his interest in starting the gym, and what makes it unique, “The routes in our gym are very bouldery [in contrast to the other gyms in Cluj], not so classical with crimps. We use more volumes, and for the crux we use boulder moves.”

The gym itself is flowering in its second year, just like the scaiete.

Vibe:

Upon entering the space you feel right away what they are about: The place is bright and radiates with popping neon colors. It is welcoming and attractive.

Actually, because it’s in an industrial park, and tucked around the back of the complex (without signage guiding the way), it feels like you’re descending upon a secret pop-up shop. It has a sort of underground coolness.

Rounding the corner in the parking lot, the one-person trailer across from the entrance is a giveaway that dirtbags are nearby. Once inside, the lounge area is a mix of urban-industrial chic, handmade elements, succulents (because of course), those lights with dangly wires, and a big fridge of beer (nice).

Each time I went there were throngs of devotees climbing about, and people were friendly—in fact, climbers actually came up to me to chat (which Poland, if you’re reading this, try taking some notes). There was a mix of beginners to more advanced (for example, a guy was climbing a 6a route, lead, without using his feet at all), and plenty of space and problems for everyone.

Membership is made up of a core group, according to Cristea, “Our customers are very, very good friends with us. With our crew, we are about 40 people. We all go together to go climbing, outdoor or indoor.”

They often travel together, having recently visited Berlin just to check out the gyms. You don’t hear that every day. 

Bouldery lead routes

Climbing:

The routes on the lead wall cluster around 6a-6b and 7a. There are typically 30-40 routes at any given time and only three top rope lines permanently set. I hadn’t seen this before, and liked the idea of emphasizing lead. The walls are 10m high.

Upstairs there’s a big systems board and an inclined wall chock full of holds if you’re there to train, and just train, and then train some more.

Amenities:

Yoga, hangboards, rings, TRX, campus board, some free weights, resistance bands, a clean changing room and shower.

How to Get There:

The only downside is that the gym is a bit far from the center of the city. The 31 and M31 bus will get you there from downtown. Uber is available in Cluj Napoca if you want to make it super easy on yourself.

Once you enter the gate, walk to the back right corner of the park to find the gym.

Address:

Calea Baciului 1-3, Cluj-Napoca 40023
Google maps

Info:

Hours:
Monday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Tuesday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Wednesday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Thursday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Friday 4–10PM
Saturday 3–7PM
Sunday 3–7PM

Price: 30 lei for a day pass (about $7.16 or 6.32 EUR)

Resources:

SKAI Urban Crag website
Facebook page

Cirsium vulgare. Photo source: Wikipedia

The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe to Get You Stoked for 2019

Climbing trips are one of the perks of the sport: You get to go to beautiful destinations, nosh on new terrain, and hang out with friends.

Sometimes the hardest part can be choosing where to go. I mean, 8a.nu lists over 3,000 crags around the world.

Well, my friend, let me offer a heuristic: Plan your 2019 travels around The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe!

Each festival offers “climbing and…” a little something extra:

Climbing and… neon Lyrca and fresh terry headbands. Check!
Climbing and… developing lines in a post-communist country. Check!!
Climbing and… partying with 700 other people in one of the most stunning places on earth. Check!!!

Doesn’t really work if you can still read the digits… Photo source: Reader’s Digest


I’m not saying only go to climbing festivals…

But I am saying you might want to put your credit card on ice now because it will be hard not to sign up for the lot.

Without further adieu, read on for The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe.



February

Photo source: Morten Johansen

La Sportiva Rjukan Icefestival

Ice climbing reigns supreme in the Norwegian town of Rjukan, which boasts 170 waterfalls (frozen in winter, of course).

This festival is packed with learning workshops covering topics such as an introduction to randonee skiing (or as the Norweigans would say, “topptur”), avalanche awareness, steep skiing technique, alpine climbing and winter aid climbing, drytooling, and much, much more.

Facebook Page / Registration

Additional Information:

  • Date: February 8 – 10.
  • Cost: Varies by activity.
  • Food: Available in town.
  • Accommodation: Stay in town.
  • What to Bring: Ice climbing equipment.
  • How to Get There: The closest major airport is in Oslo. Car is easiest, or you can take a bus (~4.5 hours).


Check out the cave climbing starting at 3:12!


Ísklifurfestival ÍSALP (Ísalp‘s Ice Climbing Festival) – Iceland

The Icelandic Alpine Club‘s annual event visits popular and remote ice climbing spots across the country. In 2018, they climbed at Breiðdalur and Berufjörður in the east, which ÍSALP described as “the least explored quarter of Iceland.” These festivals offer the opportunity to climb classic lines and forge new ones.

Please note: The weather has been warm this season and ice formation has been poor. The organizers may not be able to hold the event this year.

Event website (2018) / ÍSALP (Organizer)

Additional Information:

  • Date: February 14 – 16.
  • Cost: Information coming soon.
  • Food: Breakfast and Dinner offered by hut. Bring additional food.
  • Accommodation: Mountain hut.
  • What to Bring: Mountaineering equipment.
  • How to Get There: Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport is the main international and domestic hub in the country.




March

Climb and slackline high above this gorgeous terrain. Photo source: JoSiTo


Turkish Highline Carnival – Turkey

Though not exclusively a climbing festival, the 7th international highline meeting takes place in Geyikbayiri, one of the premiere locales in the Mediterranean (over 1,300 climbing routes ranging from 5a to 8c+).

The festival is 8 days long and will be rigged up with 20 highlines from 15 to 100+ meters long (woo wee!). All of the lines are within walking distance of the camps; Once you get yourself to Geyik all you have to do is step out the door of your dorm (or tent, or guesthouse) and you’ll be mere minutes from climbing.

Remember: Bring a costume — it’s a CARNIVAL after all!

Links: Facebook Page /FAQ

Additional Information:

  • Date: March 2 – 9
  • Cost: Suggested donation of 25 EUR / 29 USD.
    Food: The closest village, Akdamlar, has several markets to stock up on produce, meat, and other foods. Hitchhiking is commonly practiced here.
  • Accommodation: There are plenty of campsites and bungalows for rent. I’ve personally stayed at the Flying Goat and would recommend them. Wild camping is strictly forbidden.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 80m rope.
  • How to Get There: There are cheap flights to Antalya. Transfers from the airport can be arranged with the camps. Car rentals are cheap at the airport. More information here.




April

Climb in one of Europe’s premier crags. Photo source: Up-Climbing


Paklenica International Climbers Meeting – Croatia

Paklenica is considered one of the top European climbing destinations. With over 600 routes the limestone cliffs of the Velebit Mountain range offer routes from 40m single pitch to big wall up to 350m long.

Photo source: Climb-Europe

Heading into its 20th year, this festival features unique challenges including the Big Wall Speed Climbing, a Kid’s Speed competition, the “From Dawn to Dusk” climbing marathon, and the Paklenica Film Festival, an amateur films showing about, what else, climbing.

Need a rest day? There are over 150 km of hiking and trail running paths.

Links: Event website (2018) /Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: April 26 – 28
  • Cost: Park entrance is 2.6 EUR / 3 USD and 7 EUR / 8 USD.
  • Accommodation: A variety of camps are available in the area.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Located about 46 km/ 28.5 mi from Zadar.




Calgary ‘88 (7A+, V7). Hundreds of boulders to explore. Photo Source: Tomaz Bradesko


Prilep Boulder Fest – Macedonia

Tucked away in the south of Macedonia, Prilep is the fourth largest city in the country (with just over 70,000 inhabitants). The Boulder Fest itself is entering its ninth year, and the event has grown in attendance as has the number of new lines.

Complete with a new guidebook, feast on over 400 projects (or go about setting new ones). The area is quickly becoming one of the premiere bouldering destinations and was one of the sites for the Petzl RocTrip through Eastern Europe in 2014. Expect crimpy holds on sharp granite.

Links: Event organizerPrilep Bouldering / Facebook Page (2018)

Map of Macedonia. Photo source: Prilep Bouldering

Additional Information:

  • Date: April 26 – 28
  • Cost: 5 EUR / 5.75 USD
  • Accommodation: Camping or stay in town.
  • What to Bring: A crash pad!
  • How to Get There: Skopje is the closest major city (about 130km away). You can take a bus or train to Prilep.




May

Jaw-dropping beauty in Albania. Photo source: Patagonia


Albanian Climbing Festival – Albania

Help develop climbing in Albania!

Albania is a small mountainous coastal country lying on the Adriadic Sea, north of Greece and south of Montenegro and Kosovo. Climbing is young here and this festival — celebrating its fourth iteration — was started to develop the community and showcase the country’s potential. For perspective, the first climbing gym in the country was opened in 2012 and according to the article, “Five years ago, one could have counted nearly every rock-climbing-Albanian on two hands.” Things are changing.

The festival moves around in order to show off the best that Albania has to offer from locales like Gjipe, Përmet and Bovilla. Many of these places are remote, have stunning natural beauty, and limited economic investment for the villages. Through the promotion of adventure tourism, the organizers hope to empower small local businesses and communities.

Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5a – 8b+, from single pitch (12 – 35m) to big walls. All the money from the festival fee goes to equip new routes. And for your money you will get a guidebook, swag, yoga, and a party on the beach.

Oh, and Adam Ondra climbed here in 2018.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page / Climbing Albania

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 3 – 5
  • Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD.
  • Food: Bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping on the beach!
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope .
  • How to Get There: Tirana has an international airport. Take a bus to the festival.




The stickers are nice, but the climbing is fantastic.

Integrowanie Przez Wspinanie (Integration Through Climbing) – Poland

Poland’s biggest climbing festival takes place in the Będkowska Valley, less than 20km north-west of Kraków. The setting is fantastic, simply wake up at the campground and walk 100m down the road to start climbing. There are dozens of crags and hundreds of routes all within a 30 minute walk.

At the festival you’ll find workshops for beginners and advanced climbers, extreme rope games, climbing competitions, mountain running, and a focus on activities for children this year. There’s a great guidebook you can pick up at the E-Pamir Mountain Shop in Krakow or use the super helpful online topo repo, Portal Górski.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page / Additional information on climbing in Poland here and here

Camping right at the base of this lovely multi-pitch. Photo source: Gory Online

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 23 – 26
  • Cost: 21 EUR / 24 USD
  • Food: Eat at the campground or bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping at Brandysówka. I’ve personally stayed here before and loved it.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 60m rope.
  • How to Get There: Closest airports are Kraków and Katowice. 20-30 minutes by car from Kraków, about an hour by bus.




Hard to beat the view. Photo source: Dolorock Climbingfestival


Dolorock Climbingfestival – Italy

2019 will mark the seventh year for the event organized by the Alta Pusteria climbing club, Gamatzn. The festival takes place in the Landro Valley, which combines natural beauty and rock climbing history as the area has been under development since the 1980s. The Höhlenstein valley sits near the famous Three Peaks (Tre Cime), some of the most photographed mountains in the world.

The Redpoint Fight is a competition for fun and personal challenge. Climbers are awarded points for their five hardest routes, based on criteria such as on-sighting, flashing and redpointing. There are four categories for competitors: Youth (under 18, F+M); Professionals (F+M); 50+; Amateurs, with awards for each. Yoga, kids climbing, dancing and talks round out the festivities.

Grades here range from 3 to 8c+ and consist of slab, flat wall and overhang climbing. The length of routes vary between 8 and 35 meters.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 24 – 26
  • Cost: 25 – 40 EUR / 29 – 46 USD (depending on when you register).
  • Food: Restaurants nearby.
  • Accommodation: Free camping.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Closest airports are Innsbruck to the north, Venice and Verona to the south. Plenty of transport options listed here.




The Legends of Lycra live on


King of Kanzi – Austria

This Lake Faak festival is all about celebrating the joy of climbing in some sweet, sweet spandex style and flashy terry headbands. A nod to history, the 5th edition celebrates the Lycra tights and colourful outfits worn by the early climbers in the area in the ’80’s.

These crags offer over 300 routes, which means you’ll get to sample plenty during the 8 hour climbing marathon as you try and earn as many points as you can. Kings and Queens will be crowned at the evening party, and awards will be given to the team with the most routes complete and team with the hardest route (among other awards). Of course, the place is buzzing with the one question on everyone’s mind: Who will win the “Golden Lycra Award”?!?!? (The trophy for the best outfit.)

Other features include: Climbing workshops with Alex Megos’ Coaches, acro yoga, via ferrata hiking, bouldering, slacklining and talks by professional climbers.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / UKClimbing

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 30 – June 2
  • Cost: 69 EUR / 79 USD (Early Bird Ticket).
  • Food: Grocery stores in the area but they close at 6.50pm.
  • Accommodation: Hotels and apartments in the area.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: The closest airports are in Salzburg and Ljubljana (just over the border). Hire a car as crags are spread out.




Check out the featureful terrain!


Pecka Rock Climbing Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

May is reserved for the oldest sports climbing festival in B&H. Held at the largest collection of rock routes in the country, Pecka features “a kingdom of the pockets” and fantastic local food. This is a combo event, teaming up with the Forest Party, the Forest Cinema, and the Pecka Outdoor Festival.

Enjoy more than 120 routes from 5a to 8b, with lengths between 15 and 35 meters. For the low price of 15 EUR, receive a printed guidebook and a Pecka Rock Climbing shirt. The event organizers like to keep things simple: “Come, climb and have fun!”

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page (2018)

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (May 18 – 20 in 2018)
  • Cost: 15 EUR / 17 USD
  • Food: Not provided. There is a shop ~5km away, on the way to the camp. Possible to buy local goods like bread, kajmak, eggs, rakija and meals in the village (5 minutes walking from the campsite).
  • Accommodation: A camping place is reserved with your registration. There is no electricity (but you can charge devices in the village).
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Fly into Zagreb and rent a car. You can get a bus from Sarajevo. More details on the event website.




August

Welcoming multiple generations of trad climbers. Photo source: UKClimbing


Women’s Trad Festival (WTF) – UK

Last year tickets sold out in 180 seconds, or faster than Glastonbury, according to event organizers.

Heading into their 4th year, the festival aims to promote participation in climbing and encourage a community of support. Their stated aims are: To help beginners transition from indoor to outdoor climbing; facilitate women in outdoor leadership; and to create a network of female climbers

In 2018, they had 200 participants from as young as 8 to over 60 years old. Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never climbed before!

Links: Event website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: August 2 – 4
  • Cost: Ticket release date being announced soon.
  • Accommodation: Information coming soon (location changes each year).
  • What to Bring: Trad rack (if you have it).
  • How to Get There: Information coming soon (location changes each year).




September

Thousands of boulder problems at your finger tips!


Women’s Bouldering Festival in Fontainebleau – France

2018 marked the first year for this festival at the world’s premier bouldering destination.

The event has the expressed mission to, “be a platform that allows female climbers to meet likeminded individuals in our sport” and to promote the idea of sustainable recreation.

The festival feature workshops on route-setting (by setters on the French National team!), forest conservation, morning yoga and afternoon parkour sessions, evening talks, and a focus on mentorship. And of course, best-in-class climbing. Attendees last year included the likes of Caroline Sinno, who has done multiple 8B (V13) ascents, and Alice Hafer, a former Blokfest champion.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon.
  • Cost: 75 EUR / 88 USD.
  • Route-Setting Workshop: 50 EUR / 59 USD.
  • Accommodation: Camping (price included in cost of ticket).
  • What to Bring: Crashpad, yoga mat, camping gear.
  • How to Get There: Only 55.5 km/34.5 miles from Paris. Take a train or rent a car.




The over-hanging route at 5:27 looks fun. Check out the varied rock face at 6:49


Herculane Climbing Open – Romania

Herculane was a Petzl Rock Trip 2014 stop which has put this crag on the world stage. It’s still off-the-beaten track but good enough climbing for Adam Ondra to visit in 2018, and free the first 9a in Romania.

In other words, if you’re looking for high-quality climbing (Cerna Valley has hosted the National Rock Climbing Championship) and economical value, all without the hordes, you’ve found your place. 2019 will offer up the 17th edition of this festival with three days of climbing and 30 designated routes for the competition. Movies, yoga, and celebration are in store for the off-wall hours.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:




Make your mark in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo source: Drill & Chill


Drill & Chill Climbing And Highlining Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Who knew Bosnia and Herzegovina had such a strong climbing culture?! This marks the second festival from B&H on the list.

Join in to make your mark (literally) with ten days of bolting, climbing, and highlining. Organized by Climbing club Extreme Banja Luka, they set out to “playfully combat the status quo.” If you like to travel and climb off the beaten paths, Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a diverse landscape of forested mountains and an abundance of untamed limestone

Last year the festival focused on the development of the Tijesno canyon, which is nestled in alpine terrain and offers a plethora of multi-pitch climbing.

Please note: Be aware of anti-government tension in Banja Luka as protests have swelled to over 40,000 people at times. It won’t stop me from attending, but something to consider.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (Usually in September).
  • Cost: 5 days package: 30 EUR / 34.50 USD. 6+ day package: 50 EUR / 57 USD (climbing guide and t-shirt included in price).
  • Food: Nightly dinner for 3 EUR/3.50 USD.
  • Accommodation: The camp includes electricity, water, shower, toilets. Basic private accommodation can be arranged. Village house option.
  • What to Bring: Everything you need for bolting.
  • How to Get There: Fly to Zagreb or Split then take a bus to Banja Luka. More travel details on event website.




October

The production value of that video! And Kalymnos looks pretty swell too…


Kalymnos International Climbing Festival – Greece

The Gods shine bright on this rock climbing Adonis of crag and sea.

(Just don’t piss off Poseidon or he’ll blow you straight back to Troy — where the climbing isn’t quite as nice.)

Today, the island has over 2,500 sport routes on Mediterranean limestone. The majority of the routes are single pitch, around 20 to 30m, with some 3-5 pitch climbs as well. You won’t be able to cover it all during the three day festival, naturally. Like laying eyes on Helen, you may find yourself drooling uncontrollably… at the anchors staring out at the breathtaking blue Aegean.

The festival features a Climbing Rally, clinics, the chance to chat with pros, deep water soloing, traditional Greek dancing lessons and, of course, parties.

In the words of Rock and Ice, “The search for climbing paradise ends at the greek isle of Kalymnos” (Feb 2001).

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / More Climbing Information

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (October 5 – 7 in 2018).
  • Cost: Information coming soon.
  • Accommodation: A variety of hotels and guesthouses are available in each village.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
  • How to Get There: Easiest to fly to Kos (via Athens) then take a ferry over.





Reiff Climbing Festival – UK

Perched in the North West Highlands of Scotland this festival offers some of the best scenery and landscapes in the UK — plus pure dead brilliant climbing!

Organized by Hamlet Mountaineering, they cater to all your Scottish needs: Salt water, clean lines and a pub two minutes on from the campsite. Workshops are offered for those who want to improve their skills or deepen your understanding (and appreciation) of the sport you love with the “Geology for Climbers” talk. Want some evening entertainment? Rope up in your Highland dress for the Saturday night Ceilidh with accordion accompaniment.

Other activities include a half-marathon, kayaking and yoga. Gie it laldy!

Stellar trad lines and ocean spray. Photo source: Hamlet Mountaineering

Links: Event Website (2018) / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (October 12 – 14 in 2018).
  • Cost: £45 / 58 USD (covers 3 nights camping at Port a Bhaigh Campsite and a Ceilidh ticket for the dance on Saturday night).
  • Food: Grocery shop in Achiltibuie.
  • Add-Ons: Workshops range from £30 – £90/38.50 – 115.50 USD.
  • Accommodation: Camping.
  • What to Bring: Ask the organizers for what you’ll need in your trad rack. There are top ropes set up for beginners.
  • How to Get There: Details can be found here.




November

Salivating. Climbing shown at 1:45


San Vito Climbing Festival – Italy

Four days in Mediterranean sun. In November? Yes, please. The tenth edition just wrapped up, for what has become a hallmark event in Sicily, Italy and around Europe. The festival features big names, big sponsors, and big crowds (hundreds of people attend) in this idyllic setting of beach, history, and climbing.

Activities include the “Baby speed climb” (for 6-10 year olds) and the main draw, the “Crazy Idea Boulder Event” where competitors can go against national athletes. For non-climbers there is mountain biking, trail running, slacklining (including a 160m line), stunning beaches, and the opportunity to test new gear, in addition to film screenings, live music, and social hours. Of course, if you want more climbing there are over 600 routes in the area.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page (English)

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
  • Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD (covers camping for 3 nights and t-shirt).
  • Crazy Idea Boulder Contest Participation Cost: 25 EUR/29 USD.
  • Accommodation: Timbuktu Hostel. Camping at El Bahira, La Pineta. A whole list of options on the website.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
  • How to Get There: Cheap flights to Palermo. Rent a car or take a bus to San Vito.




Alex Megos approved. “The landscape looks amazing.” Indeed.


Leonidio Climbing Festival – Greece

Can you name the three most popular crags in Europe for 2018?

If 8a.nu’s Tick List is the be-all-end-all, we have 1) Frankenjura, 2) Kalymnos, and rounding in to form, 3) Leonidio (which saw more ascents in 2018 than the beloved Rodellar, Arco and Railay Beach combined).

Just three hours south of Athens, Leonidio is sheltered along the Peloponnese coastline and surrounded by red and grey cliffs that keep temperatures warm and wind down, making it an idyllic winter climbing destination.

The festival itself is only entering its fourth year, yet attendance skyrocketed with over 700 participants in 2018. Come to enjoy more than 1,000 routes from single pitch to multi-pitch up to 250m high, ranging from 5a to 9a.

You can also steep yourself in history by visiting the Unesco World Heritage sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, which are just over an hour away.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / New Climbing Guide

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food: 2 small supermarkets in town, many bakeries, bodegas, and plenty of restaurants.
  • Accommodation: A comprehensive list can be found on the Climb Leonidio website.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15+ quickdraws and an 80m rope (you can get by with 60m).
  • How to Get There: The best option is to fly to Athens and then rent a car. There are options to take a bus.




May the Stoke Shine Brightly on Your 2019!

Hopefully you found the list useful (and even signed up for one or two!).

If you have been to one of these events or are planning on attending, I’d be keen to hear about your experience.

Any festivals that we missed?


Please note: The aim wasn’t to be comprehensive, but rather to focus on interesting festivals. I was hoping for more ice climbing and from places like Scandinavia, Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. And nothing for Spain? Really?!

If you have any festivals to add, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.




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An Expedition for Life: Why I’m Volunteering with Outward Bound Romania

Wish me luck, Tabby urged. 

She looked at me with the composure that comes from hours of practice and a tinge of anxiety. It was the big day after all.

You don’t need it, you’ve got this, I encouraged. She smiled and walked on stage.

When I first met Tabby six months before, she was a self-assured, albeit timid public speaker. You could sense her strength of character, she just needed a little guidance and support.

She nailed the pitch and went on to raise $50,000 to build her company, Ghalani

Tabby was a special one, but her story rings true for the 60 young entrepreneurs we worked with that year. 

Startup Weekend and the formation of Zazu, The Smartest Damn Alarm Clock (Photo source:facebook.com/getZazu/)

You never know until you try

Sometimes we just need an opportunity to find out what we’re capable of. Sometimes a small experience can change the trajectory of a life

If I can pin-point one moment when things really shifted for me, it was participating in a Startup Weekend in Boston in 2010. A friend dragged me to it. I didn’t really know what startups were. We ended up taking 3rd place (and bought Indian food with our winnings).

*That video makes me cringe. But hey, the memories*

Since then I’ve been lucky to have some wide-ranging experiences, from teaching entrepreneurship in Ghana to working on a farm to growing a venture-backed startup.

This exposure has taught me one simple truth: You only learn by interacting with the world.

… And you never know where you might end up. Okay, two truths.

Gordonstoun students on an expedition in the 1980s. (Photo source: americanradioworks.org/segments/kurt-hahn-expeditionary-learning/)

Training through the sea

In large part, my thinking around education has been shaped by Kurt Hahn, the Founder of Outward Bound (OB). 

He promoted the concept of “expeditionary learning”, a model of education-by-doing and self-discovery.

His story is interesting in its own right. I’ll share a truncated version below:

Kurt Hahn was a German Jew who spoke out against the rise of Hitler. At the time, he was the founder and headmaster of the Salem School, and he made his stance clear in a letter to alumni:

“Salem cannot remain neutral. I ask the members of the Salem Union who are active in S. A. or S. S. to break with Salem or break with Hitler.”

Salem School focused on character development and Hahn led by example.

He was jailed, naturally.

Only through the appeal by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was he released and promptly expelled. He then made his way to Britain where he trained young British seamen who were performing poorly in the war.

His educational model is captured in the quote, “less training for the sea than through the sea.” 

He called the program “Outward Bound”, which is the nautical term to describe a ship leaving the safety of its harbor to head for the open seas.

Artist: Norman Rockwell, American (1894 – 1978)
Title: Outward Bound
Year: circa 1973

The call to action

Today, OB offers over 1,000 expedition-based programs and focuses on personal development. They work with cohorts from struggling youth to veterans to those interested in developing wilderness skills, and more. 

I first learned about OB in university while researching leadership and educational training. Their structure for experiential learning was so different (and more interesting) than my experience in class. I enjoyed science labs because they had an integrative function, but my greatest education about science came from my coops (internships) working in real biotech labs. 

When I came to entrepreneurship, I knew this wasn’t something you could download from a book, you had to go through the gauntlet. So I did.

Outward Bound Romania training program. (Photo source:facebook.com/outwardbound.ro/)

Which brings me to today

I’m committed to giving more of myself in 2019 so I wanted to find a way to use my strength (marketing) to support an organization with an important mission.

OB offers a model for education that I believe in and which has played a formative role in my own growth — without ever participating in their programming (yet!). Go figure.

As luck would have it, Outward Bound Romania had an opening so here I am in Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely).

I’m about to wrap up my first week and am excited to hit the “open sea” with the crew.