No Third Time Charm

Outside the window, overlooking the pool, cherry blossoms are flowering pink bouquets, bright against the grey, and tulips rise up with slouched shoulders and frumpy bed head. Water percolates, circling back to collect in clouds, weighted vest air compressing, then streams its way into puddles. In the early morning it’s cold enough to chill the tip of my nose. Spring.
 
Last year I missed this.

I had fast forwarded to summer by flying through to acclimatize on another continent. In a matter of hours I advanced the months, April became June, like the the flippant spin of a radio dial. From where I’ve lived, only in New England does spring get it’s fair share of the calendar’s quarter system.

Prague. May 2018.



Last summer there were no lobster rolls. No fish flaked wet sand between my toes. No end-of-the-earth-piering off into the depths of the Atlantic. No heavy-packed days in the Whites. No barbecues (my god!). 

Instead I traipsed about another eastern boarder, cross stitching old lines of Latin and Cyrillic, Capitalism and Communism, place and no place. 

Actually, it has been like this the past four years (where does the time go?): Mountain View (2015), Accra (2016), New Paltz (2017), Budapest, Plovdiv, Lviv (2018). I, a roving settlement, a stick in one hand, a canvas sack with my belongings cantilevered at the protruding end. Leather straps on my feet.

If I had died before last year I may have been discontented. Pardon the macabre. My point is that I had wanted to travel since uni—I’ve since tasted the fruit and can put sense and color to a wanderlust palette, the wine glass has been tipped back. 

That tipping and sipping could have continued while overlooking a wine-dark sea. After all, I should be writing this in Albania. 

I was supposed to fly out last week: to Dublin, Budapest, Tirana. Flight 2233 ended up with an extra seat. Maybe it made the journey more comfortable for some other lone passenger.

Pirin Mountains, Bulgaria. June 2018.


Comfortable. Alone.

Those feelings have two-stepped and shadow boxed together, seesawed and smelted, fusing at odd angles throughout the travels. A short time in new places make good on that urge to keep going, nothing and no one securing you somewhere. Until its not, and until that melts away too.

For the most part I was rootless, and felt increasingly so as the trip continued. No roost, much roaming. That’s what I went for, though.

Alas the tether was wearing, the leather thong frayed to thin bits. It snuck up on me, didn’t notice until I had been walking several miles on without a shoe. The gravel had been running roughshod underfoot, blisters and stubbed toes alighted the mind to pay attention, eventually, then abruptly.

The last few months were a bit of a trudge, then I came back for my brother’s wedding. It was supposed to be a temporary stay.



In a recent conversation, a young, spirited woman offered, “I think we travel to figure out which places are meaningful to us.” She’s settled into her own nest for awhile, to regain and rebuild a sense of place.

Something changed for me too. Something about wanting to feel connected, about shared memories; a return to old grounds and the chance to look at the land with new perspective. While the lure of the ponderosa pine or mediterranean limestone shrills from time to time, it doesn’t feel right to go back, or elsewhere, right now. In my neck of the woods there’s no Poseidon to piss off or siren’s lullabying; Destiny can be my own.

There are wood nymphs and granite gargoyles, though, schist golems and sonorous stream temptresses, wily foxes and three sisters. We’ll have our fun.

High Tatras, Poland. September 2018.



In the end, I had to step back from all the experiences of the past year to see the bigger picture, then step in close to examine the sand grain mosaic for what it is: A lot of little pieces, a collection of days.

For now the grand adventure follows a storyline closer to home, one day at a time.



Photos by the author.

Shh! Climbing Under the Radar: 10 Lesser Known Crags You’ll Want to Go Climb Now

Ya, ya. We all know about Fountainbleau, Frankenjura, RRG and the likes, but there are plenty of climbing areas that have a ton to offer without the hype and the crowds.

This here (hear ye, hear ye!) is a call to celebrate the lesser knowns, the under the radars, and the off the beaten tracks. They may be smaller, recently opened, just being developed, or harder to navigate (read: Adventurous!).

For the lucky few, these may be home crags, like Thacher State Park sitting 20 minutes from Albany; Or require a bit of self-reliance, like the bring all your food and potable water destination of Dover Island; Or even serious daring spirit to visit the unheralded yet prodigious country of Montenegro.

To round up this list, I called on a little help from my friends, from fellow bloggers to kind folks on Mountain Project. Read on for 10 destinations you probably haven’t heard of, but will be grateful for next time you’re looking at something under the radar.


Photo source: Josh Cook

Škaljari, Montenegro

Climbing type: Sport

Josh Cook puts up routes and bolts the Balkans to this list:

“What if I were to tell you that there is a European climbing area that overlooks a UNESCO World Heritage site, has tufa-filled limestone, boasts routes from 5.8 to 5.14, is well-bolted, only a ten minute walk from the Old Town tourist center, and never has anyone there?

‘Lies!’, you’d say.

Welcome to Montenegro. 

Škaljari is a crag I recently bolted and, in the two years that I have been climbing there, I have seen a total of fifteen other climbers—most are ones I brought myself. 

Too good to be true? Well, there is one con: a local paranoid schizophrenic thinks climbers (i.e., me and my climbing partner) are killing the goats that sometimes are up at the crag. So he blocks the trail with trash and yells at us occasionally for going up there. Also, you need to come with a climbing partner; there are almost no climbers in this country, so you won’t randomly find someone to belay you.

But glorious are the days climbing that limestone and looking out over Kotor Bay. Well worth a stop on your Balkan tour.”

– Josh Cook, Mountain Project

Photo source: Thacher Climbing Coalition

Thacher State Park, Voorheesville, NY, USA

Climbing type: Sport

Opened in 2017, this is the newest sport climbing area in the Northeast, and only the third NY State Forest to allow climbing (Minnewaska and Harriman being the others).

Located 20 minutes from Albany, Thacher sits between the Gunks, 75 miles south, and the Adirondacks, 120 miles north. And if you want to get audacious, it is 170 miles from Rumney, NH, the sport climbing mecca of New England. All of which is to say, climbers of NYC no longer have to drive 5.5 hours for stellar sport, they now have it in their, relative, backyard.

There are currently about 65 routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.12a, and they will appeal to gym enthusiasts as most climbs are roughly 50 feet high, with none longer than 90′. Thacher is special for its dark-gray limestone, which stands out against the granite of New England, the conglomerate of the Gunks, or the anorthosite of the ADKs.

Jeff Moss, the President of the Thacher Climbing Coalition recommends Dragon Kite (10b) as a must do: “Clean solid rock, face climbing, well positioned on the north portion of the cliff. Starts above the trees, it is breezy on a hot day. Great view of the valley.” You can purchase the online guide book from Gunks App ($9.99).

Photo source: Krista deMolitor

Dover Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Climbing type: Bouldering

Krista deMolitor makes the case for island bouldering off the coast of Nova Scotia:

“This secluded island with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean is home to arguably some of the best bouldering problems on the East Coast of Canada. The razor sharp granite makes for superb friction which is excellent for sending, but tortuous on the skin. Dover offers an array of problems falling in the easier to intermediate range, but is also notable for some of its harder classics such as White Trash V7, Blacksmith Dyno V9, Exciter (sit) V10, and Horizontal Matter V11. Visit www.cnsmobeta.ca for a list of all problems.

There are no amenities on the island, so one must bring camping gear and food. The island is very exposed on sunny days with zero tree cover so packing sunscreen and a generous amount of water is strongly advised. The easiest access to the island is by boat. Contact Rod at OceanSpray B&B to book a round trip boat ride for a fee but make sure to give him at least 3 days notice. Boulderfest is a huge event put on every August by Climb Nova Scotia and is a great opportunity to visit the island with lots of climbers who are equally psyched. A visit to the maritimes would not be complete without a trip to Dover Island.”

– Krista deMolitor, allezgirl.com

Photo source: theDIHEDRAL

King’s Bluff, Clarksville, TN, USA

Climbing type: Sport

High-Clip tells you why you need to visit King’s Bluff next time you’re near Nashville:

“Perched up on a 40 foot climb with 2 bolts, I internally chastise myself for not checking out the bolt locations before climbing the route, but then tell myself it’s totally cool because it’s only a 5.5, and I’m the High-Clip. Easy peasy.

Except, routes at King’s Bluff are STOUT. The run-outs are pretty bad, especially given that the wall height ranges from 30-60 feet (most are around 45-55′). And rusty bolts/chains never make anyone feel any better, but at least most of these have newer protection placed adjacent to them. Other than that, this place is the bomb!

King’s Bluff is located in Clarksville, Tennessee, about 45 minutes from Nashville. Managed by the Southern Climbers Coalition (SCC), the area is very well labelled and approachable. The SCC keeps it gated, though you can ask for the code as a climber. There’s a short path and some stairs, on either side stretch the sick walls. Even more, the routes are labelled with their names and their grades. With Mountain Project, it’s almost too easy to find star routes, like “Touchy-Feely,” “Chimney Sweep,” and “Wired for Sound.”

While it is moderately scary climbing, it is rewarding. At the top of each route you’ll see a beautiful river running past. The walls extend far into the green abyss of trees on either side, and if you listen all you’ll hear is perhaps the light jangle of quickdraws against rock. Despite any fear you may feel while climbing, the peace at the tops of these climbs is unbeatable.”

– High-Clip, theDIHEDRAL

Photo source: Ryan Siacci

Inka Waqanqa, Ancash, Peru

Climbing type: Sport

Ryan Siacci sings praise about a lesser known crag in Peru from up high, 4000m up that is:

“When folks think about South American sport climbing, they think about Hatun Machay – the sacred rock forest of the Andes. But this famed crag has had problems in recent years, including the destruction of the refugio and chopping of many classic routes. Route developers from the nearby city of Huaraz have since abandoned the once celebrated crag, instead focusing attention on the ‘recently discovered’ Inka Waqanqa.

Although there are still fewer than 100 routes, Inka Waqanqa offers high quality climbing and oodles of potential. The orange-black ramparts have tons of room for development, with the volcanic rock forming pocketed, technical face climbs and thin, difficult slabs. If bouldering is more your scene, the scope for new problems is almost endless.

Still something of a hidden gem, climbing at Inka Waqanqa is nothing short of idyllic. The rolling green fields are dotted with wildflowers and the swirling Andean mists lend the scene a sense of grandeur. An excellent campsite can be found among the crumbling stone ruins, complete with running water and a remarkably clean pit toilet. Best of all, it’s free!

But remember, take some time to get acclimatised – sport climbing at 4000m sure ain’t easy!”

– Ryan Siacci, Zen and the Art of Climbing

Photo source: Lance Dickey

Lynn Woods, Lynn, MA, USA

Climbing type: Bouldering, Trad

Massachusetts’ highest concentration of bouldering problems (over 1,100 listed on MP) is located, unexpectedly, in Lynn, Lynn the city of sin.

Only 10 miles from Boston, it should be frequented more often, but the woodsy terrain and vast expanse of the park–at 2,200 acres!–make finding the erratics a little challenging. Approaches can be up to 30 minutes of hiking. Ya know, because it’s a big place.

Don’t let that daunt you, Tim McGivern and Dave Twardowski, local climbers, put all the problems on the map. Literally. You can download it here to help you navigate around. You’ll be glad you came as there are plenty of classics from easy (try Bear Grease, V1) to moderate (Holly the Happy Heel Hooker, V3+) to oh damn that’s hard (Green Haze, V7+). There’s even some trad too. Nestled in an idyllic setting, the offering rivals the better known bouldering options in the area, Pawtuckaway and Lincoln Woods.

Lynn Woods croons to my heart as it’s the second place I ever went bouldering outside, and where I sent my first V3 (the uber fun, Subway). Just be careful, in Lynn, you never come out, the way you came in.

Photo source: BETA Fund

Jackson Falls, Carrier Mills, IL, USA

Climbing type: Sport

Wesley Payette proclaims wilderness climbing in southern Illinois. Who knew! Well, now you do:

“For those craving a bit of wilderness in their sport climbing experience, Jackson Falls in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois might be just the place. Ancient mossy boulders and chuckling streams create a peaceful and wild destination. Powerful crimps, shallow pockets, slopey topouts and technical vertical climbing give rise to unique movement and whacky beta.

While predominantly low- angle climbing, the canyon caters to all styles, from thuggy overhanging to heart-breaking slab. In addition, it’s fairly uncrowded even on the nicest days. Those used to waiting in line at the Red may find themselves alone on a four or five-star route. Despite having fewer routes than more popular sport climbing areas, Jackson Falls contains incredible quality and variety. Some of the most classic, unique and interesting routes include Groovy Marcia 5.9, Cheerio Bowl 5.10a, Group Therapy 5.10c, Wild at Heart 5.10d, Lasso the Vulture 5.11a, Who Needs Friends? 5.12a, Detox Mountain 5.12a, Butcher of Baghdad 5.13a, Red Corvette 5.13a, and East of East St. Louis 5.13c.

Jackson Falls is well off the beaten path, so make sure you prepare for wilderness camping if you want to hang about (primitive camping is located atop the cliffs).”

– Wesley Payette, Mountain Project

Cima Catinaccio, Dolomites, Italy

Climbing type: Alpine

Mike Meraner hones in on a hike up Mount Catinaccio, which also features a classic 19 pitch alpine climb for the epic adventurer:

“The Dolomites in Northern Italy are one of the best places in the world for hiking or climbing. The Catinaccio Mountain offers one of the best views of the nearby mountains from its peak at nearly 3,000 meters above sea level.

The start of the climb can be reached via a 3-hour hike and via ferrata from the top of Kölner Hut chairlift. The climb itself starts at Santnerpass Hut consists of two two-hour legs with an elevation of 170 and 190 meters and a difficulty of 6 SL.

After enjoying the incredible views of the surrounding mountains, the descent brings you back to the Santnerpass Hut where you can have an amazing Tyrolean meal or a drink before heading back. If you are not leaving early in the morning, staying overnight at the hut is also an option.

This will also allow you to see the sunset and the sunrise from 2,700 meters above sea level.”

– Mike Meraner, 197TravelStamps.com

Bolton Dome, Richmond, VT, USA

Climbing type: Sport, Trad

For the first time since 1990, Bolton Dome is being re-opened to the public. And to great fanfare. What used to be the area’s most popular cliff in the 70s and 80s, it was closed due to the private landowner’s concerns. Poof. Gone went the best climbing near Burlington, VT.

But not anymore, says CRAG-VT and the Access Fund! They purchased the land to the cool tune of $358,750 last year, proving the value (once again) of conservation orgs for keeping climbing areas open, accessible, and sustained.

Now let’s get to the good stuff. The area offers schist climbing with dozens of high-quality crack and sport climbs, including the region’s only 5.13 trad climb. It is just 30 minutes from downtown Burlington, and provides the most extensive climbing in the Green Mountain State. Classics include, Mister Rogers 5.7+, Jamathon 5.7+ trad, Release the Hens 5.11c, and Two Thumbs Down 5.12a.

Join the fun and celebrate the momentous occasion with the launch party on May 18. If you want all the beta, Travis Peckam’s Vermont climbing guide, Tough Schist, is your best bet. Or you can get them on the app version of the book in Rakkup.

Photo source: Todd Rawls

Staunton State Park, Pine, CO, USA

Climbing type: Sport, Trad

Todd Rawls is boosting Staunton for the adventurist climber near Denver:

“Nestled amongst ponderosas and pines just fifteen minutes west of Conifer, CO and requiring a 45-minute approach for even the closest crags, Staunton State Park offers a secluded getaway for the adventurous sport-climber despite its relatively close proximity to the Denver metropolitan area.

Perhaps one of the finest features of the climbing here is the abundant offering of classic, steep hard climbs located just minutes from shorter, well-bolted moderates, making this an ideal spot for climbers of all abilities. There are also plenty of moderate trad lines and harder mixed stuff for those more inclined towards placing their own protection.

The Tan Corridor and The Dungeon are the crème of the crop, with the Tan Corridor offering numerous well-bolted and utterly classic 10s and 11s, and The Dungeon throwing in pump-a-thon routes all the way through mid-13. Reef On It! (10a), The Opportunist (11a), and If and Only If (13b) are all some of the best single-pitches of their grade in the state!

As of 2018 there is now camping available within the park as well, and free water to boot.”

– Todd Rawls, Generation Dirtbag

Feature photo courtesy of Josh Cook

From a Single Cell to a Whole Lot More: Writing About Growth and Destruction

The ethics of exploration, plastic, plastic everywhere, and organic development

Hey everyone,

This week features larger narratives around life-and-death, the ethics of exploration, plastic, plastic everywhere, and the organic development of a climbing community.

There are also two pieces offering advice for pitching stories and, trying something new here, a log of my own pitches to shine some light into the process.

“Art is commensurate with the human spirit.” – Naturalist, John Burroughs

We all have a story to tell, how are you expressing your human spirit?

Opportunities

Travel writing in Croatia

Learn the fundamentals of travel writing for magazines and websites from professionals. Alex Crevar and Molly Harris are contributors to The New York TimesNational Geographic Travel, and Lonely Planet magazine.

$5,000 adventure grant

GearJunkies and NordicTrack are offering one lucky winner 5 grand to pursue a bike, hike/run, climb, or paddle trip.

What I’m Reading (& Watching)

A single cell become a complete organism

From Dutch director Jan van IJken, watch the alpine newt go from a single-celled zygote into the hatched larva.


What’s plastic doing to our bodies?

Plastic was once thought of as a long-lasting, coherent substance that didn’t make much difference to the environment outside of trash pile up. Now we know it continuously breaks down into microscopic pieces, with long-term consequences.

“A growing body of evidence suggests some chemicals commonly found in many plastics are associated with everything from breast and prostate cancer, to underdeveloped genitalia and low sperm count in men, to obesity.”


On facing the unexplored and the ethics of taking another step

Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever.

Kate Harris is a fantastic writer, who I only came across this week. I’ve been reading a bunch of her articles (they are all great) and am eager to start her book, Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road.

“Chau’s escapade… was nothing more than a violation: he was just another person who believed that the world was his to do whatever he wanted in and with.”

Perhaps more headlines should have read: “Remote Community Faces Biological Terror Threat From U.S. Religious Extremist Killed by Local Authorities.”


How Miguel’s Pizza made the Red River Gorge

If you like climbing narratives that are not so much about climbing, this is an insightful peel-back-the-curtain style look at the history of Miguel’s Pizza, and the enigmatic man behind it all.

Miguel said, “Art becomes part of your ego… that got to me.” As Miguel recounted, the epiphany came when he drew a cartoon character lifting up the costume of an artist and getting inside. “You don’t need a costume to be a person; you just need to be yourself,” said Miguel. “I threw that outfit out and became who I am today: a pizza man.”

Photo source: The Walrus

Writing Advice

Advice from Nat Geo Editor at Large Norie Quintos

Norie offers tips on how, when and what to pitch:

“What’s the story? Why now? Where do you see it fitting in the outlet (what section or department)? And, why you? Stay pithy; aim for no more than a page.”

Also, something I’m probably under-appreciating:

“A rule of thumb: the earlier the better. A year ahead is not too early for a magazine feature story, nor a month ahead for a digital piece. And get to know the editorial cycle of your favorite outlets.”


A Freelance Writer’s Life: The Art of the Pitch

To the keen observer, you may recognize the author of this piece from the Opportunities section. Alex Crevar offers up his own tips for pitching from years of practice (and struggle).

“A writer must make an editor’s job easier. Full stop…

A salesman who hopes to earn a client knows who his client is; he knows what his client is looking for; and knows he must make the best pitch possible to sell his widget…

The simple question: why would an editor want to buy my widget over a similar widget being sold by Jane Doe?”

I take comfort in outlook #2. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Log: My Freelance Writing Journal

I’ve started keeping a training journal to track my progress towards some big mountain goals I have this year. I like the idea of opening up the process and also using a public forum for some semblance of accountability.

So I’m sharing what I did this past week for pitching stories and writing.

Pitches:

  • Pitched three stories. One feature, one newsy story (see below), and one series of posts that will turn into just a one-off piece (also, see below). This is the first time I’ve pitched a feature story idea.
  • One newsy story accepted for online publication in a climbing magazine. I was hoping to be able to do a longer-form interview, so I need to figure out what this will look like.
  • The one-off piece came about from clarifying how I wanted to write the series with the editor. The timing is off for a series, so the editor decided to simplify and do a self-contained piece that is still timely.
  • Two story ideas were rejected by an outdoor magazine and a climbing magazine (pitched weeks ago). One was about gear reviews which didn’t really fit their typical review model, so that makes sense. I didn’t get feedback on the other story.

Published:

Personal Blog:

What do you think? Is sharing a recap of pitches interesting to you?




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Out There / In Here, vol. 4

Feature photo source: Climbing Magazine

Travel Writing Scholarship, Climbing Grants, Epic Road Trips. Oh My.

And tips on pitching.

This week features a bunch of opportunities to fuel your next adventure (which make great stories, of course). There’s a fantastic feature on Bernd Heinrich, a leading naturalist, data about the economic might of climbers, and a charming little cartoon. Enjoy!



Opportunities

World Nomad’s 2019 Travel Writing Scholarship

aka a 14-day travel writing trip for “3 aspiring travel writers to go on assignment in Portugal and be mentored by professional travel writer and contributor to The New York Times, Tim Neville.” This looks like an incredible opportunity.

Also, be sure to read “The Art of Travel Writing”, a free travel writing how to by Tim, which I’ve found to be immensely useful.

Photo source: American Alpine Club


AAC’s Live Your Dream Grant

You don’t have to be a professional climber or pursuing a FA to win this climbing grant. All you need is a clear goal and the aim to level up your skills. Grants are awarded from $200-$1,000.

The purpose of this grant is to support and promote unforgettable experiences for climbers—to dream big, to grow, and to inspire others.


The Epic Road

Stay Wild magazine is offering to fund your next road trip. They are offering funds and goods to make your auto-powered jaunt a reality.




What I’m Reading

nature

A return to nature, your nature

Bernd Heinrich is a leading naturalist and one of history’s fastest ultramarathoners. Now 77, he’s settled in the backwoods of Maine with a wood stove and in his natural habitat.

The author writes, “We live in an age that affords little time and space for communing with nature. We’re busy. Our days are fragmented. But Bernd has dug in his heels against this collective drift. He has recognized where he wants to be in old age and settled in, with purpose. “ (emphasis added by newsletter curator)

“A naturalist,” he e-mailed me, “is one who still has the habit of trying to see the connections of how the world works. She does not go by say-so, by faith, or by theory. So we don’t get lost in harebrained dreams or computer programs taken for reality. We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate.


Real artists have day jobs.

Because it’s hard to pay your way solely from your art. That’s the game we play. But it doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist, or that you can’t make art because you damn well want to. And who knows, maybe some day you will be able to live solely off your art.

“Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.”


Climbers are a major economic force

We know the outdoor industry is a contributing economic force to be reckoned. In 2016, the outdoor recreation economy contributed 2 percent ($373.7 billion!) of the entire U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Climbers are making their impact in hyper-local areas around popular crags that normally wouldn’t get much traffic, like Chattanooga or the Red.

The economic-impact study found that visiting climbers (not including residents, whose spending is considered part of the regular economy) spent $6.96 million in Hamilton County during the 2015/16 fall and winter season…

These numbers put dollars made from climbers on par with revenue from major special events held in Chattanooga, another boon for area tourism. Held in late summer every year, Ironman Chattanooga brings in $10 million, with the race occurring in one weekend and many of the participants staying up to 10 days.




On Pitching Stories




For the Feel Goods




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Out There / In Here, vol. 2

Feature photo source: Outside Magazine

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!!!

( 👉And if you want to keep the party going across the pond, here are the coolest climbing festivals in North America in 2019!)

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 27 – 29
  • 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

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 17 – 18.
  • 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: September 6 – 15.
  • 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.




Find yourself in the U.S.? 👉👉 Here are the coolest climbing festivals in North America in 2019.


Feature photo source: airFreshing Outdoor & Bergsportmagazin

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.

It Won’t Go: On Breaking Up After a Climbing Trip

I’d never wanted a vacation to be over before it started.

Maybe it was because I knew we’d be over when the trip ended. Maybe I was trying to delay the inevitable.

But we were 10 months in and things still weren’t working. 

We tried of course, but when it came down to it, you kept holding back. Something didn’t feel right, you said.

We decided it was time to move on. But not before some fun.

A two-week climbing trip in Turkey awaited. A nice way to end things after the shit that was Kraków. Let’s go out on an upswing, we thought.

Photo by the author

I knocked on your door in Budapest. 

We hadn’t seen each other since that fateful weekend. We were filled with trepidation.

I entered. You gave me a look. I threw myself into your arms. 

We moved to the bedroom and eliminated the distance between us. We fucked then held each other. Hours passed. Sometimes it was so easy.

They were good days. Then we left for Geyikbayiri.

Maybe this will work.

Budapest went well, maybe this will work. Maybe.

I repeated those words to myself like a prayer. I had a bad feeling but tried to be hopeful. My stomach began to knot up at Atatürk airport, not a good sign. 

We caught a flight to Antalya, then took a shuttle to our hostel. I’d tip the driver too much.

Photo by S

It was dark when we arrived. 

The air smelled sweet. Oranges and pomegranates wafted ripe around us. 

There was something else too, the citrus masked a pungent aroma. I breathed a sort of goat, orange, mountain air mélange. It reminded me of the farm. A memory of mixed associations: The smell of verdant life and an imminent season of change; Of the infinite cycle and of confinement. 

The bungalows where we’d stay were coupled off with fruit trees in little vistas of privacy. They were small cottages like gingerbread homes with a Turkish twist. Inside, an Ottoman gourd diffused light through shimmering gems of red, orange, and green. The lamp was too weak to read by.

That night we settled around the fireplace to shoot the shit with our new camp mates. She’d sync in with the rhythm of the place more easily than I would.

She was so god damned cool with everything. 

It was the lightest I’d ever seen her, just carefree and enjoying herself.

I wasn’t able to match the buoyancy.

Why? I didn’t quite understand.

How could she be so at ease when nothing (and everything) was on the line?, I questioned myself. I questioned her.

Photo by the author
Photo by S

We’d talk again about our thoughts on love — how we love.

She’d say, I’d rather give and receive love when it’s there. 

I admitted it sounds good in theory.

I’m not sure why it is like this for me, though. I do find the clarity of knowing things will end to be a relief. It makes it easier. 

Not that I’m happy about things ending, but it helps to have resolution.

I do wonder if I’m the one with the weird strategy, she offered.

She’d told me before that she always feels the emotional pains of a breakup months later. I wondered about the mechanics of regret and grieving.

Photo by the author

The trip would be a tug-of-war with myself.

I was frustrated as hell and felt uncomfortable with us. What we were. It was hard for me to love so freely knowing it was over. It felt pointless at times.

I wondered why I put myself in this mess.

Days passed. It wasn’t working. I needed to get away.

Away from the room, away from the camp, away from her.

We talked and I said I wanted to go for a hike the next day, to get some space to think. She misheard me and thought I was asking her to join.

The next morning, I left two hours before sunrise. Mostly, I stumbled around in the dark. My headlamp was too dim in the blackness, it made me near-sighted. I kept going off-route. 

Come on sun, rise and take me with you. I want to go fast. I want to go far. I want to explode.

In time the sun came. It shone out onto the kingdom in long streaks of color and flare. My feeble eyes tilted towards the sky. I could see a path forward. I ran.

I needed to feel the freedom of movement. 

Photo by the author
Photo by the author
Photo by S

We settled into an up-and-down rhythm.

We had a cadence of a few good days then a fight. I was mainly the instigator. She was always the more understanding one.

On one day the Slovakians went into town for a rest and to re-stock on cigarettes. Only the ear, nose, and throat doctor stayed behind.

We invited her to join us climbing, which made four. We paired off and I chose to climb with Doc. I wanted a day away from her. I felt tight and distracted. Not good for belaying.

I’d lead my hardest climbs to date.



On another day we’d hitchhike to town to buy food. We’d end up with bottles of wine from the driver’s private vineyard and Toblerone. S has her unique social charms, and conversational German. 

It was my first hitchhiking experience. We’d toast to our fortune later on.



On another day I’d surprise her by dressing up the bungalow with birthday decorations. I got her some small things and we enjoyed the morning sipping coffee and talking on the porch. I decided not to make a cake.



Yet another day I’d be cold and distant.

We’d talk through our frustrations and challenges which ironically brought us closer. When we were relaxed we found harmony in continuous laughter. At points we’d feel the closest we ever felt.

It was emotionally taxing.

Photo by the author

The days marched on.

Nearing the end we looked back and wondered where the time went.

I had been agonizing, which had made the days feel slow. Now our time was fleeting and it felt like everything was slipping through my hands.

We left camp and drove down the Turkish coast along the Mediterranean Sea, taking the D400 from Antalya to Çıralı. Three days left, just the two of us.

We each chose one activity: She wanted to go hiking, I wanted to see ruins, and we both wanted to climb.

Photo by S

We walked among the dead.

The mausoleum had fallen into the sea. The foundation was washing away and the walls now spilled into the sand. The cacophonous chambers were aired and quietly filling with empty water bottles.

I seek the ancient world because it reminds me that it was once the present. We will all topple some day.

Phaselis was a prosperous port city that passed hands from Greek to Roman to Persian and on and on, before eventually falling out of favor for larger ports nearby. The slow decline lasted until the 11th century when it stopped being of any importance. Quite a good run, though.

That night she’d tell me, When we were in the car, you were talking with Nico about something — I was only half-paying attention — I was looking at you in the sideview mirror and just felt this overwhelming sense rise up; This swell of love for you filled me.

We did love each other after all.

I pulled her close, held her. What am I supposed to do with that?, I thought.

Quite a good run, though.

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December first. Our last night.

We jumped into the Mediterranean naked.

We’d swam in the ocean — in December — and were all giggles and shivers over it.

Over it. That’s what we were. Tomorrow we’d both fly out from Antalya. You’d leave half an hour before me. We had separate flights because I had bought my ticket later. Because I wasn’t sure if I’d want to jet before the trip was done.

It had been hard. But I was glad I stayed.

A small part of me hoped that I’d run into you on the layover in Istanbul. That wouldn’t happen.

The ocean waves bristled with electricity, the shock absorbed us. We swam with the current then broke the circuit. The lights dimmed.

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We left on good terms.

We had a joke that these were the best breakups we’d ever had. Or maybe it was only me that said that.

Parting at the airport was confusing, difficult. We both admitted we felt closer, more open, more honest. We agreed not to talk for awhile.

Back home she’d show pictures of the trip to her grandmother.

I popped up on the screen here and there. She asked who I was. She said something about a complicated relationship.

Her grandmother said a few words and they both moved on. She told me she really liked her grandmother because she didn’t judge.

In Istanbul I was going through some old emails.

I can trace our time together in the flight details in my inbox. We covered a lot of miles.

In the end, no matter how far we went, we couldn’t bridge that final distance.

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