My home in Chironico. The Fiat Panda
A person can learn a lot about themselves through different experiences in life. Travel, relationships, achievements and failures all play an important role for development. I’m no different I suppose. I recently went on a trip to Switzerland, a place I had always dreamed of going. Before the trip, I had spent 11 weeks training harder than I ever had for bouldering. Hard problems usually take me a long time to complete if I’m not prepared. I tried to offset this normality by prepping my body and mind to send the climbs I always craved when I watched those videos of my heroes on these amazing rocks amidst the old world setting of the Swiss Alps. I felt pretty confident going into the trip that I was in the best shape of my life and ready to take down my hardest climbs ever with the quickness. What I took from the trip was beyond my expectation but perhaps had not much to do with rock climbing. I got to take a good look at who I am as a person and a climber. I’ll start with the facts. Grade-wise, sending-wise, this trip is not going to impress anyone. I did many problems from 7a to 7c. I had a typical epic trying to send Unendliche Geschicte 1. This climb, which is the first part of the Never Ending Story took me 11 days, over the span of 2 weeks to complete. In my personal style, I fell at the last move 46 times in the link before a beta change got me a victory send. The send was on the last day and last try before a snowstorm blew in and shut down Magic Wood for my trip. Afterwards I visited the Chironico area in Ticino. I mean, I don’t even know what to say about Switzerland. I had such high expectations and they were exceeded further than I could ever imagine. Giant and majestic mountain ranges shrouded in waterfalls and striped cliffs were everywhere. The rock is very quality, the lines are aesthetic and inspiring. The food is great. People are very kind and very smart. The villages are very old world. Entire towns are made of real stone. The streets, homes, roof tops. Old fountains run water that you drink from everywhere. Wandering these paths left me feeling like I was walking in another time. To say that I was in awe would be an understatement. I always wanted to see this place and never thought it would happen, but here I was, right in the middle of a dream. On this trip, I came to some serious realizations about who I am and what I do. In the beginning of the trip, I felt like a typical obsessed boulderer. I just really wanted to send those high numbers. I wanted to perform well. I wanted to live up to everyone’s expectation. Mine, my sponsors, my onlookers. When this didn’t happen right away I found myself landing in depressing state. I felt like I failed on the trip. I didn’t prepare enough, I didn’t train hard enough. As a boulderer who focuses on goals and projects, it can tend to take me to a dark side. It is here that I find myself trapped in a black hole where everything feels like a disappointment. At the start of this trip, this is where I was. Wondering what I was doing out here. Waking up everyday cold and wet. I wanted to quit, go home, be a normal person. This feeling set in like a dark cloud. Then I started walking through the forest. I looked around at where I was. I realized what I had done with my life. All the beautiful places I had been, all the great people I got to connect with, and all the adversities that I had overcome. I stopped, laid down and stared at a blue sky with clouds moving over me so fast. Then I smiled and laughed at myself. All the good things about my life were realized in this moment. The experience I have being a traveler and a boulderer is so great. Comparing myself to others or thinking that climbing hard equals happiness were foolish thoughts to have. For me, in climbing there is something much deeper going on. It’s the place where we drift further away from our comfort zone and draw closer to something special. I thought back to a time many years ago when I saw rock for the first time. I was just a clueless kid walking in a forest of giants that had been there centuries before I showed up. I thought back to this time when I just roamed around til I saw something that drew me in. The climbs had no names, no grades, no stars. They were simply what I wanted to scramble at that particular moment. That feeling, that’s a good thing. Remembering this time was great. I got back there again. We get lost over time. I listen everyday to people talk about “ this problem is cooler than that one”, or “ that guys not that strong”. I hear people playing favorites, downgrading, bagging on everything. I realize now that I am nothing like those people. Bouldering has a much deeper meaning for me. I can’t describe it really. When I climb, I feel like I’m in a bubble. It has a very religious feeling. As if I’m doing a dance that pays respect to these large god-like objects that have brought so much joy and meaning to my life. It’s a true passion. An undying love. On this trip, eventually I realized that this is who I am. I can’t be too pious about it I suppose. On the surface, I do strive to challenge myself by doing hard climbs, I make videos, I have an 8a.nu account and sponsors. But, this deeper facet is why I do this. When I imagine the perfect day of climbing for me, I close my eyes, hear beautiful music and imagine myself walking alone through a forest. When the wind blows, leaves fall from the trees, filling the terrain with an array of decorative colors. I walk and walk and walk, and then I see it. That rock that stops me in my tracks. I smile and know that it’s time. This is a very sacred practice to me. My new goal as a boulderer is to always keep this close to my heart where it belongs.