In Russia

Travelling fosters an introspection through which I see my life with different eyes. It forces me to gain awareness and perspective. I am suddenly without all of the familiar surroundings and people and aspects of my daily, ‘normal’, home life. I think about who I am and what I have. It generally brings me to a deep appreciation for this life. This trip has been as such. Though short in duration, the experience was expansive.

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We left the hostel, and navigated our way to Pavel’s flat. There we met some other climbers/competitors. Some went touring, but we went to a small climbing wall to move around and stretch out a bit. After, we all reconvened and prepared to go to the train station bound for Kirov. It was a hustle that involved a solid walk and a few metro rides. We were in a big crew, and each of us had a lot of gear. We definitely were a scene in the Moscow subway. People were staring us down as if we were an alien species from another planet. We got to the station, met more climbers, and boarded the train. Andres and I made our way to our train room, which is basically the size of a handicapped stall in a public restroom containing 2 bunk beds and a table. Waiting for us there, were who we came to call “Our Ladies” to the rest of the competitors, 2  older Russian women that didn’t understand a word of English…which was actually funny in a way, because Andres and I just openly talked shit the whole time about the situation.

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Pavel’s Flat

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Trans-Siberian Railroad

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Me and “Our Ladies” in our room

A little overwhelmed with the situation, Andres and I made a quick move to the bar car of the train, and the safety of familiar surroundings – climbers and alcohol. After some food and drinks, mingling and meeting all the other athletes on the train, we were ready to go to bed with “Our Ladies”, so we made our way back to our car and compartment. I took the top bunk, and was quickly out of commission. As the train creeps along, it gently sways and rocks. I felt like an infant being coddled to sleep in my mother’s arms. All was peaceful and well, until I awoke to what sounded like a garbage disposal shredding glass and silverware. Both ladies were snoring with unbelievable consistency and volume. The fat one on the top bunk across from me was wailing away with a long, sustained inhale and exhale and a deep, low tone. The skinny older one below was resounding with quicker breathing cycles and a higher pitch. It was a spectacular symphony. I didn’t know snoring like that was possible. Quickly passing from awestruck to annoyed, I put my earplugs in and slipped into silence and sleep again. I awoke next, a few hours later, to a flickering light about the room. I rolled over and looked down and was startled by the older women’s face brightly illuminated in the pitch black. The scary white floating mask in the dark struck me into awareness of the situation. Andres, without any earplugs, had been awake for some hours and had resorted to blasting the women in the face with light from his headlamp. It was an effort to try to get them to move around and stop the orchestra. I pitied him, but it was a funny scene and I was laughing to myself in my bed. The light was so bright and the women looked so stupid just laying there snoring. It wasn’t doing any good at all, either. The next time I awoke, I panicked at the thought of missing the stop for Kirov and riding the Trans-Siberian to just that – Siberia. It wasn’t so, for we were an hour from our destination. Andres hadn’t slept at all, and was pissed, so we talked some more shit while having tea directly across from the women, knee to knee in the small compartment. It was all lighthearted though, for we didn’t have true ill feelings for the women. We accepted it as part of our experience, and laughed about it. They were actually very kind to us the whole trip, helping us with all our bags when we boarded and sharing their breakfast snacks with us in the morning.

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Train bar car for some whiskey

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Our train car

The train stopped at Kirov, “Our Ladies” bid us a genuine farewell, and we promptly exited. We were escorted to a bus, and then driven to the ‘Hotel Sputnik’, our home for the next few days. After unpacking we went and registered, and then walked to check out the climbing wall. We were surprised to find it built on the underside of a Nordic ski jump. The whole structure was impressive. The 3 day competition began the next morning, and we were psyched. It was the final Ice World Cup of the season, and the Ice Speed Climbing World Championships.

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Hotel Sputnik

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Comp credentials

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The climbing structures under a nordic skiing jump

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