Euro Road Trip

Immediately after the slow, steady, and stationary month of climbing in Turkey, I spent 6 fast paced weeks touring around central Europe, starting in the beginning of May. It was a completely different style of travel and life. We were constantly moving and we saw and did so much.

On March 30, Emily (Harrington) and I flew from Antalya, Turkey to Istanbul to spend a couple days. It is a large, old, and important city; half in Asia, and half in Europe. It is where the eastern world collides with the western world. We spent our days walking through the city, getting properly lost, stopping often to take chai (tea) in the mornings and Arak (anise liquer) in the afternoons. After a couple days of touring and sight seeing, on Apr 3, we flew from Istanbul to Zurich, Switzerland, rented a car, and drove it to Innsbruck, Austria. James (Pearson), who had accompanied us in Turkey, had invited us to visit. He is a kind and strong Brit, and had recently moved to there. Also, Boone (Speed) and his special lady friend, Jill (Daniel), rendezvoused with us here. We stayed a few days, and James showed us around. Innsbruck is a really cool, active, outdoorsy mountain town. The weather was poor; mostly cold, lots of rain, with only small breaks of no precipitation. It had been this way throughout Europe for a few weeks, and much to our disappointment, it would remain like this for our entire stay. Because of the weather, we climbed inside at the famous gym called Tivoli, but a couple breaks allowed us to visit the granite in the Zillertal and limestone at Schleierwasserfall. Both are amazing crags in beautiful settings.

From Innsbruck we drove to Val di Mello, Italy for a very large bouldering festival called Melloblocco. It takes place at the very end of a narrow, winding, pristine valley of granite where there are blocs littered everywhere beneath big sheer walls. We were invited to attend and participate on behalf of The North Face, with TNF European team members James (Pearson), Iker and Eneko Pou. We hung out and bouldered (Video) for a couple days with them and some of the TNF Europe employees, and then went back to Innsbruck with James for a couple more days. We then drove to Asolo/Montebelluna, Italy for about 5 days. We visited the TNF European office and the Scarpa global headquarters. We climbed outside 2 days at the limestone crags of Erto and Lumignano. Both are pretty historical Italian areas. Erto was “futuristic” in its time due to its steep overhanging walls, and Lumignano is classic vertical to slightly overhanging sheer walls with big pulls between small pockets. We hiked (soloed the via feratta) up Mt. Grappa another day, and spent 1 rainy day losing our way in the labyrinth that is Venice.

From there, we went to Osp, Slovenia to climb outside for a day at Misja Pec. It is an impressive zone, and a worthy modern area. We will undoubtedly return to for an extended stay to climb on the abundant featured overhanging limestone. We then drove to visit the capital of Ljubljana. It’s a hip, young, slightly grungy city with a warm feel. We then drove north to visit Vienna, Austria, and then onward to Prague, Czech Republic for a couple days. Both are beautiful classical European cities, with their own unique feels and flavors, sights and smells.

We then went to Decin, Czech Rep and climbed outside for 2 days with Adam Ondra in one of his home areas. He is an impressive individual; young, quiet, humble, strong and passionate. We bouldered and went tower climbing on very high quality sandstone. The route climbing is old school. 20 to 40 ft run outs between huge rusted out ring bolts. The ethics of the area are strict due to the softer nature of sandstone. They use knotted cord and rope to place in cracks for protection, and they only barely allowed the use of chalk a couple years ago. Adam was actually banned from the area for a couple years, because he was in a photo that showed him using chalk on a hard route in the area. Everyone else was using chalk at that time, but he was acted against as an example to the community, because of his status and media publicity. It is all just fine now that they have revoked the ban on chalk.

After, we went back to Innsbruck for a few days, and from there we went to Basel, Switzerland for 2 weeks. We visited the BD European offices and met the all the great people that work there. They showed us around the city, and took us out climbing, and had many great days with them. While in Turkey, Emily was cast for a role in a short film that would take place serendipitously in Basel. It was for an American artist by the name of Matthew Barney for an ongoing project of his called Drawing Restraint. He needed a blond, fair skinned, female to free solo the 90 ft inside wall of a museum in Basel called the Schaulager. So, she pretty much filled the requirements immediately, and in addition to hanging out and climbing with the people of BD Europe, we were hanging out with very significant figures in the modern art world. It was a crazy, yet special, way to spend the last couple weeks of our trip. There are many parallels between art and climbing, most importantly passion, creativity, and effort. There was a bond that I felt happen there between us, as climbers, and the art people, a mutual respect that grew into admiration. I thought I could read their minds, “You mean you really just climb? That’s it? You care so much about climbing? It’s so abstract, different, pointless in a way.” Likewise, in our minds, we were like, “You really just make or buy or sell art? That’s all? Even this super weird stuff? For what? Why?” It wasn’t that we were able to answer these questions about each other, but that our places in the world seemed the same. Art and climbing are about the internal individual experience, the feeling of being totally immersed in something from that is motivated from within. There are no answers, only more questions. There are only the feelings, the drive, to move and create and explore. It was a deep and thoughtful and inspiring way to end this grand trip, and when were finally finished and departed, I was filled with a renewed purpose, surer of my path and place.

See the whole trip on a map: HERE.

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