2015-11-23

Sicily

The past three years me and Laura didn't have any longer climbing trips which would last more than a week. An official reason for this was a hectic schedule: work, studies, work, studies, etc. However, most likely, it was due to the wrong prioritization.

One week long trips were kind of frustrating (at least for me), because you get used to rock just before you are on the way back home. However, this autumn we finally managed to fix the misunderstanding by exploring Sicily's infamous rock for two weeks. Despite relatively long holidays, we did not climb as much as expected in the beginning.

The trip crew consisted of the two of us plus Mykolas and Gabrielė who came to Sicily from Lithuania. Meanwhile, I was traveling from Zürich where I had my final thesis presentations and a farewell at Thalwil (yep, I moved out of the beloved Switzerland). After meeting at the airport we picked a rental car and drove immediately for a regular food shopping. The first roundabout helped us learn about driving peculiarities in this island. Later on, we picked a party animal Laura who flew directly from Andy C All Night. Finally, we were on the way to the El Bahira camping.

During the first day the weather was London-like: lots of rain, strong winds. That's what you can experience in Sicily in November.  The climbing season here is typically in October.  To avoid boredom, me and Laura went for a run which turned to be not the best idea. Due to sleep deprivation or just daydreaming I managed to slip on a stone and smash my pinky finger. It got damn swollen and I was afraid that the trip is over. Next day was spent waiting with the crew in a hospital's queue to get X-Ray. Luckily, nothing was broken, but doctor advised me to stay away from climbing for at least a few days. Bummer!

Finally, during the third day Mykolas and Laura got some climbing done in the sectors close to the campsite.  Both of them were climbing easy stuff while me jealously watching. Laura was afraid of her shoulder injury, so she decided to join our 6's club for this trip.

The next day my finger got better and I managed to do some climbing. Later on, we all got into this mellow routine: wake up early, do some breakfast with strong coffee, go climbing, come back, eat dinner (and in my case, eat one can of tuna fish) and go to sleep early.  By the way, the campsite has an outdoor kitchen with free stoves, moka pots and even some free food, so you can live without spending and bringing a lot.

During the trip we climbed mostly in the sector at the San Vito Lo Capo coast which is in a walkable distance from the campsite. However, one day we got to Crown of Aragon, another to Never Sleeping Wall. The latter turned to be a superb crag: slightly overhanging wall with very long tufas. Grade-wise we sent a bunch of sport routes up to 7a, but Laura managed to onsight some 7a's and redpoint 7a+.

Now, we are back to our beloved London (yep, I moved to London) which is freezing-cold and we are ready to hit the gyms while waiting for the next trip which is ... wait for it ... somewhere around Lleida during Christmas time, maybe Oliana.

Advice:
  • Although we were lucky and it rained only one day in two weeks, in November it might rain a lot. Also, quite a few routes were wet/soggy. On the other hand, in October it can be too hot to climb. Not so many sectors are in the shade.
  • The Di Roccia Di Sole. Climbing in Sicily guidebook has a lot of incorrect grades and they are sometimes inconsistent between the routes on images and in the list. A better one is Sicily-Rock.
  • El Bahira campsite during off-season is awesome! And cheap.
This time it's quite obvious :)
View from the campsite's beach
Finally on the rock
Me
Mykolas's crushing some route
Sectors close to the campsite
Laura onsighting some 7a
Mykolas's new profile picture
The crew #1
The crew #2
"Mykolas, climb faster"
Sharp crimper. She tapped the finger and went back on the route
Evenings' routine
Restday
Laura flying
Warming up at Never Sleeping Wall
Laura on some wet 7a+
Laura
Mykolas on the same move
Me as well
Mykolas
Still Mykolas
Laura in the kingdom of tufa's
Me
Final climb for the day. It got dark after 20min.
Special for Gedas
From the campsite
Field recording on the way back. Some track from the trip
Already in a bus in London. Looking psyched

2015-06-08

Big City Life Escapes


(Click play and enjoy reading)

It's been 8 months since I moved to London and I'm still learning big city life. I'm not a very keen learner I should admit though. The more I learn, the more I understand that for me personally living in a city is only possible if I find a way to escape it from time to time.

From my previous experiences of moving to new places I know that integration takes time. Thus, one should never make judgements too fast. I almost did. First half year was quite hard. A month in a hotel in SF, a month in "kind of hotel" in London. After that even having your own room seems like a luxury. No matter that the room is in a flat that you share with 5 other people.

A couple of months of lonely bouldering evenings in a gym. How many and how lonely depends on country's (you've moved to) temperament and your social skills. Mine are far from perfect, so it takes some time. Also, the weekends not really knowing what to do. Or not really wanting it much.

The good thing is that after some time most often something clicks and everything changes entirely. People are starting to say Hi! in a gym. The weekends become choices you make. Lead, bouldering or trad? A day trip or overnight? Pembroke or Portland? Then you can say that you're starting to learn it. But it's a work in progress.

One of clear signs of a learning progress is sleepy, tired Mondays with over-your-limit number of coffee cups. This was the case for quite a few Mondays already. The last one (actually a Tuesday after a bank holiday) was especially hard after a very short night's sleep at Dima's place in Geneva. Thanks Dima! But it was soooo worth it!

The weekend in Verdon that Gedas narrated so figuratively exceeded our expectations! I was really happy to be able to climb with my friends even when living 600 miles apart. I'm sorry, Mother Earth, my fault. I just can't resist. It would not be possible without flying unfortunately.

We had three days in Verdon and used them all to the fullest. First day I climbed with Saulė. Finally after years of planning we managed that and I hope I was not too annoying and we'll climb together again. We climbed (though not clean) Caca Boudin - a wonderful route on Grands Navires. 6 pitches, ~150m. 4 of the pitches in a range 6c+ to 7a+. The rock of perfect quality and the scenery just overwhelming! The boys were climbing Les Extraterrestress. And we kind of beat them, didn't we? Ok, joking, they were faster, but just barely. The routes were quite close to each other so we had another "competition" - who will make a better picture of the other party. I guess Martynas won with his "sick" pictures as he told us :)

The next day we regrouped. Saulė and Gedas went on to try Les rideaux de Gwendal. And we decided to climb Pichenibule until where it joins Les rideaux de Gwendal in order to avoid the notoriously hard 7b+ pitch at the end of Pichenibule. The plan was good but instead of joining the 6c+ pitch I mistakenly turned to some 7a+ which is still a mystery to me. Honestly, I thought it was a 7c. I don't express such opinions very often, but this time it's honest :) Don't try this one if you're not comfortable on 7b. Aided all the way and it wasn't effortless at all :) The last couple of pitches were nice and easy though. Thalwill couple were already waiting for us on top with the camera.

Pizza and French wine refreshed us or maybe exhausted us as we saw the next day :) We chose some shorter routes in order to leave early so that Saulė and Gedas can catch a train back to Zurich and we can return a rental car on time. I don't remember the name of the route we did, but it was a very good end of the trip. 4 pitches of sunny summer style climbing with the vultures flying so close!

Most of the pictures (probably all the good ones :) were taken by Saulė and Gedas. Thanks!
Martynas on Pichenibule
Martynas
Gedas
Boys seconding
Martynas
Me and Saulė on Caca Boudin
The vastness of Verdon
Martynas
Martynas
Colourful friends :)
Martynas on Pichenibule

Gedas
Me and Martynas
Me approaching the top
Martynas doing the last moves
Me and Martynas finishing a long day of climbing
To the pub!
Some gourmet food :)
Me on Caca Boudin
Martynas and Gedas on Les Extraterrestress
Saulė in action