Tuesday, 9 April 2013

My first bouldering trip to Switzerland

A typical view in Chironico.
Switzerland... what an amazing place to go rock climbing. We only experienced a very small part of it over the week we were there, but the rock was immaculate, bullet proof granite that required a range of amazing movement to summit. The scenery is absolutely stunning, with snow capped mountains all around, forests strewn with boulders of all shapes, sizes, angles and features, and small villages dotted throughout the countryside.

When it comes to the climbing, finger strength is a must. It is very physical. So don't go there expecting to boost your grade - best just to go to experience the stone and see what happens. We've all heard that Swiss grades are inflated but that wasn't what I encountered. I thought the problems were hard. It was hard in the same way that any new area you go climbing in is hard if you haven't climbed on that kind of stone before. You have to get used to pulling on the holds, finding the body positions and learning the movement. If you're looking for problems to try I've included my tick list below and few problems I tried and would like to go back for.

Let's go climbing!
First, however, just a quick note on the particulars of our trip - in case any of you are planning your own and looking for ideas and tips. 

Firstly, how to get there... We chose to drive due to cost - it worked out cheaper to get a ferry and take my car rather than fly and then hire a car. There's the obvious benefit of having more space for pads and other gear, but the hassle of hours on end traveling. On the way there we drove to Fontainebleau to spend a day on the famous sandstone before traveling through to Switzerland. It was a four hour drive from Dunkirk to Font followed by a six hour trip to Claro (near Chironico) the following day. Our return journey was a straight nine hour drive from Claro to Dunkirk. I didn't mind the drive but this is down to personal preference and budget.

Secondly, where to stay... In Fontainebleau, if you're looking to camp, I recommend staying at Camping Les Pres. It is cheap, cheerful and has everything you'll need. When in Switzerland, we stayed in Claro due to its proximity to Cresciano and Chironico - plus friends recommended the particular cottage we stayed in. I would give you a link to their website but, unfortunately, I can't find one. Hopefully I'll update this for you soon. But you're looking at around 500 Swiss francs for a four person cottage for a week.

Resting at the cottage on a warm, sunny afternoon in Claro, Switzerland
Right... I think that's all I want to say on that. Now, to the climbing. Below is a comprehensive list of everything I climbed... all really good problems or I wouldn't have climbed them. If you've tried, climbed or plan on trying and climbing, let me know what you think of these.

Tick list

Day one (Friday): Fontainebleau, Rocher Aux Sabot

We stopped off here to break the trip to Switzerland up. We only had around three hours to climb and it was warm and sunny when we arrived - but not to be put off we got straight to business.

  • C'Est Assis, Mais C'est Tasse (7A+)
  • Jeux De Toit (7A) - second go
  • Graviton (7A) - first try, having tried it last year
  • Bioethique (7A) - flash
Day two (Saturday): Traveling from Fontainebleau to Switzerland

Day three (Sunday): Switzerland, Nivo Bassa

The first day on Swiss stone.
  • Hopper (6C+) - second go
  • Swinger Club (7A+) - fourth go
  • Tried Autopilot (7A+) but ran out of time
  • Frogat Traverse (6C+/7A) - flash
Day four (Monday): Deliverance

Skin was lacking, muscles were sore, so we took it easy and had a "mileage day" - lots of easier problems. It was great fun.
  • La Baroness (6A)
  • Blocco 7a Problem 4 (6A)
  • Blocco 14 Problem 1 (5+)
  • Satanik (6A)
  • Second Chance (6A)
  • Belzebu (6A+)
  • Matusalem (6C+)
  • Galileo Bis (6A)
  • Followed by total failure on Mea Culpa (6A+)
Day five (Tuesday): Nivo Bassa & Nivo Alta

Struggled with warm, sunny weather and skin still sore, I got back on some tougher problems...
  • Ron Fon (6A+) - flash
  • Kiss Me (7C) - worked it all but couldn't quite manage the first move, so no send
  • Kleine Lexicon (6B+)
  • Quantic Bloc + (7A) - a long traverse that took me an age to work out and then ran out of steam four or five times on the last move - I was totally worked but no send
  • Nivo Alta Bloc 3 Problem 2 (6A+) - flash
Day six (Wednesday): La Soucoupe, Rah Plats Plats, Serre Moi Fort and Centrale

A full on day - sent and tried loads of stuff in hot temperatures.
  • Vitruvian Man (formerly 7C but now chipped, which I was unaware of at the time* - maybe 7A?) - fourth go. I've included a photo below.
Reaching for what I think is the chipped hold on Vitruvian Man
  • Titan (6C) - second go
  • Blocco 3b Problem 5 (6B)
  • Blocco 3b Problem 8 (6A+) - flash
  • Le Vent Nous Portera (8A) - tried the moves for ten minutes or so but no send; I just wanted to see if it was something for the future - it is!
  • Kanizsa (6C) - second go
  • Salsa Dura (7A) - first go (start moves same as Kanizsa)
  • Satiricon (6A+) - flash
Day seven (Thursday): Boogalagga & Paese

It was raining when we awoke so we decided to make a trip to the chocolate factory in Lugano. Firstly, the trip isn't worth making so I wouldn't bother. We were there maybe 20-30 minutes before returning to Chironico and going for a walk around the forest. Despite the rain, I tried a couple of things...
  • Globetrotter (7A) - it felt bunched and not great, so no send
  • Komilator (8A) - tried the moves but the end was wet so no send
Day eight (Friday): Doctor Med & Deliverance

The last climbing day of the trip before the long drive home. It had been raining lower in the valley and in Chironico it was warm and humid... but the rock was dry!
  • Doctor Med Dent (7B+) - took a few goes due to slippy hands
  • Offene Ture (6B+)
  • Carpe Diem (6B+/6C) - the first move on this was the hardest single move I did all trip... deserves at least 7A IMO
  • Cubitus (6B) - there was two variations and the fridge hugging one deserves at least 6B+ IMO
  • Seppi's Boulder (7A) - total failure on a boulder that is totally my cup of tea... it was time to draw the curtains on the trip.
And that was that, as they say. The end of a week long climbing trip - loads of great problems climbed and an amazing time had. All I can say is, if you're a keen boulderer you must go to Switzerland to climb on those amazing stones.

*Having climbed Vitruvian Man in only a handful of tries, I had my doubts on the grade, which prompted me to research it a little when I got back to the UK. All I seem to find are random comments or rumours that it was chipped so if anyone can confirm I would appreciate it.