I thought it would be longer before I returned to Europe, after my experiences in 2011, which were recently exposed in a Rock and Ice article, where I battled loneliness, failure and depression, swearing to myself rashly that I’d never go back.
Maybe the difference this time is I’m not alone; I brought a piece of home with me, in someone who’s known me for over a decade, since I was a gangly, brace-faced pre-teen.
Or maybe it’s the entirely different curriculum I’m following. My last visit was dedicated to competing on the World Cup Circuit, to plastic and rankings. This time I’m in Europe solely for the pleasure of rock climbing, no judges, no points. No real aspirations, honestly, aside from just spending time climbing in an area I’ve never been before.
Of course being here doesn’t come without some anxiety, even though I’m in a completely dissimilar situation from last time. But each day that goes by, I’m reminded that I’m here because I chose to be, because want to be, because I love climbing. And the climbing in Switzerland doesn’t suck.
It’s so beautiful here. We’re in the mountain town of Claro, surrounded by towering white peaks. We go out in the late mornings, after the frost has burned off, and spend the day at either Cresciano or Chironico, two different areas within just twenty minutes of driving. It’s cold, and sometimes starting up is hard, but if we can get good and warm it’s worth it to feel the gratifying slap of sticking to a hold, otherwise un-stick-to-able in higher temperatures.
Some of the climbs here remind me of The Valley, in the way that they’re proud, granite lines, with slightly technical face climbing. As Yosemite is the only other place I’ve climbed on granite in the woods, it’s easy to seek out similarities. Of course, there are characteristics of Colorado bouldering that present themselves here as well. But to be fair to the area, it is its own. It really is different from anywhere I’ve been, but what place isn’t? It has its own qualities, style, scene. Like all areas, there are lines that are gems and lines that are mediocre. The most exciting aspect of Switzerland for me is that it’s new. Everything is new, and therefore by nature is guaranteed to be at least somewhat exciting.
When the sun goes below the mountains and our fingers, freezing, cease to grip holds we head home, knowing, gratefully, that the cabin in which we’re staying will be toasty, a fire already lit by the kind old man and his wife from whom we’re renting. They spoil us.