Back when I was in Rodellar I was fortunate enough to meet Stefan Joller, The (other) Swiss Machine, whom I teamed up with for a couple weeks, during which many a heated pool game was had, which, by the way, became the main focus of the trip during that time. There had never been such a competition between a Brit and Swiss, one time it even resulted in an international competition, with Myself and Mark Busby representing the Brits. However, when our trips came to an end, the score was tied and a rematch was in order. So a couple weeks ago I made the journey out to Switzerland for the final battle.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any pool tables in Lucerne, so we had to make do with some climbing.
The plan was to get on some multipitch routes and have a bit more of an adventure, rather than going for performance. I was a complete beginner in this style, I didn’t even know what a prusik was, but Stefan was the perfect partner and showed me how to be as efficient as possible; still more squashed-snail-esque than Ueli Steck, but passable I guess. Well, no one died anyway.
We managed to get up a few without a hitch, albeit a little dehydrated and sunburnt, but during our second night in Ratikon we were rudely awakened by some rain, resulting in a quick
dash stumble in the dark to the car, sleeping bags in hand, to get a bit more kip before making a quick getaway along the sketchy dirt road, with our eyes peeled for rockfall we were quite surprised to see some of the locals in the middle of the road.
After navigating round these with by persuading them, with some some difficulty, to go the other way, or at least to pull into a passing place, we drove South to Ticino after stopping at a dark and damp sport climbing area called Motel where I opted to try a boulder problem called Whale Sandwich at the base instead. It was pretty simple but very fun; just squeeze! Something I haven’t done much of, so was reduced to a panting wreck after each attempt, but managed to reach a big jug where I presumed the hard climbing to end, but unfortunately also where the cobwebs and dirt began.
Chironico is the land of clean cut overhangs and positive crimps. Basically, the stuff of my dreams. The first day there I ran around like a kid in a candy shop, so excited to see what lurked in the darkness under each boulder. I’d had enough vitamin D, I wanted the cold wind to barge past and to wake up to a clear frosty morning. Summer hadn’t quite realised that it wasn’t wanted anymore though, but we made do by climbing in the evenings, and our motivation for being in one of the best bouldering areas in the world more than made up for the lack of friction. Skin was the only limiting factor, but nothing that a bit of gurning couldn’t fix.
I tried a couple things, Komilator first, which I knew nothing about except the name and that it was 8a in the guide. It required a bit of shoe faggotry, I found a way to make the heel stay, but not before I had almost trashed two right shoes so had to wear a left shoe on my right foot for it to work, and managed to pull up to the jugs at the top. I later found out that it has been chipped and is now 7c+ ish, and that I’m an idiot and used shit beta because in my desire to follow just the holds on the face, I assumed that you couldn’t use a big hold on the left, or a massive jug just above. I don’t think they made much difference to the difficulty though, not at my height anyway.
And yes, if you’re wondering, what started off as a nice easy multipitch trip where performance didn’t matter at all, it had now become a bouldering trip where performance was everything! With my goal for the winter being to boulder 8a I thought this a good time to give one a blast, so I tried Le Pilier, and after getting absolutely spanked in the afternoon heat, I waited for the sun to set to try it with cooler temps. After a bit of faffing around and using smartphone tactics to get beta/save skin I yanked my way up it the next day all square on feeling like Daniel Woods. It does sort of climb like that though, rather than me just being shit.
I loved Chironico. It’s made for me so I imagine I could do well there, so of course I’d like it. But going and doing long multipitch routes with great company in great surroundings gave a different sort of enjoyment, something probably a little closer to ‘normal’ fun which isn’t what I normally go for, being an improvement obsessed type. It was fun though, at the time, but the satisfaction isn’t very long lived, though sometimes its nice to go away and just bumble about for a bit.
Bumbling doesn’t make you stronger though. Now I’m back and living in Sheffield, and there shall be no more wandering round like a babbling bumbling buffoon, to paraphrase Ms McGonigall. Last time I checked bumbling wasn’t part of The Plan.