Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
I am blown away by Switzerland. We have been here for nearly four weeks now, and I still can’t get over how good this place is.
When we planned this trip, I knew very little about the climbing in Switzerland and pushed hard for splitting our time equally between here and Fontainebleau. I was outnumbered, however, and we decided to spend five weeks on Swiss granite and three on French sandstone. I was worried that my time here would be spent sitting in front of some isolated 8b+ that I couldn’t touch while the boys threw themselves at it. I soon learned that having enough to climb on in Switzerland was a laughable concern. Now, as our stay here draws to a close, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what this place has to offer. There is certainly a lifetime of bouldering for me in Switzerland and it is all amazing.
Angie on a sunny slab by the river at Chironico.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
Ryan Olson and Jason Pinto have joined Jamie and I for the European leg of our trip. After many months of planning, our group of four left Boulder on February 19th. Eleven hours in the air were topped off by an eight hour drive from Paris to the Swiss canton of Ticino. We arrived at our apartment in Claro, Switzerland after thirty hours of continuous travel and met up with two other friends from Colorado who were already here. Despite our exhaustion, we made a late night trip to Cresciano to look at Dreamtime, which is as beautiful and inspiring as I hoped it would be.
Angie hangs out with some locals, who were roaming about.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
We are staying in Claro, which is a perfect home base. Cresciano is ten minutes away, Chironico about twenty and Magic Wood a little more than an hour. Our apartment is bigger than I expected it would be and the surroundings are more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. From our balcony, we have an unobstructed view of beautiful mountains and from our front door we can see the monastery on the hill that is lit up every night. The town itself is very quaint, with a central grocery store, coffee shop, meat market, post office and church. We have been told that this particular part of Switzerland is rural and poor, but those terms must be relative, since the houses are all quite nice, the residents are very well-dressed and expensive cars are not uncommon.
Angie on La Pioche 7B+, Cresciano.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
Our first week here was spent familiarizing ourselves with the area. As we ran around looking at boulder problems, I realized that five weeks would not be nearly enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. I started trying things, but for the majority of the first ten days, I got shut down. It usually takes some time for me to adapt to the style of a new area, and this time I had numerous areas to bounce between. Although all the areas are granite (or some form of it), each has its own style. Cresciano is very technical and climbs a lot like Little Cottonwood or Yosemite. Chironico is also technical, but not to the same degree as Cresciano. Some of the other problems scattered throughout Ticino are on gneiss that is so impeccable that it climbs much like sandstone.
Angela on a classic 7c Molunk, Ticino.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
After a few weeks of climbing, I started to feel better and was able to climb some things on my list. I felt like I was learning the styles of Switzerland and starting to widdle away at my massive “to do” list. Then, three weeks into the trip, we went to Magic Wood for the first time, and I saw more amazing boulders that I wanted to do. I was once again overwhelmed by the amount of climbing in Switzerland. It seems that this entire country is covered with boulders. Everywhere we drive we see them, covering the hills and clogging the riverbeds. In Colorado, any rock that is visible from the road warrants further exploration. In Switzerland, exploring all the rock you can see from your car would take you a lifetime. Jamie, Ryan and Jason have spent numerous rest days running around looking at boulders, but I usually fall behind or opt out of the excursions. I have enough boulders on my plate already, and if I see any more, I think my head might explode.
The amazing feature of Supernova 7c, Magic Wood.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
Throwing myself into an entirely new culture has been just as overwhelming as the amount of bouldering I have found here. We came to Switzerland under the impression that the people in Ticino speak dialects of German or Italian that are far different from traditional forms of these languages. For this reason, I thought it would be futile to learn any amount of either language. As it turns out, knowing Italian in any form would have been quite helpful. I can’t count the number of times that I have stared blankly at someone in response to a question asked in Italian. I have gotten used to feeling flustered and foolish for not being able to speak to the locals, and I am sorry to say that four weeks has not brought me any closer to conquering the language barrier.
Angie sending That Goes Left, a fun problem given 8A in the guidebook but one that is probably more like 7C, Chironico.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
We are leaving Switzerland in less than a week to head to Fontainebleau. I can’t believe that five weeks have passed. Knowing what I know now about Switzerland, I want to rewind to the beginning of the trip and do it all over again. I am starting to feel comfortable here and feel like I am finally hitting my stride. There is just not enough time to climb everything I want to. Today we returned to Magic Wood to see what conditions were like. The last few times we were there it was uncomfortably cold and the trails were very icy. I managed to sneak in a few sends despite dripping boulders and freezing toes, but there are still tons of great problems I want to climb there. I was hoping things would have thawed out and dried up by today, but new snow had fallen and it was still quite cold. With time running out, I had to accept defeat and save Magic Wood for another trip.
Scenic Ticino, Switzerland.Photo by Jamie Emerson — b3bouldering.com
Leaving Switzerland will be sad, but Fontainebleau awaits. I have always wanted to climb there, and I know it will be a great time. I will certainly be back here again, it’s just a matter of time…