Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Hodgepodge of Climbers in Southeastern Brasil

Looking out toward Curitiba
(Photo by Nivea Bona)
When I first landed in South America in December of 2010, I settled in Santiago de Chile, the Chilean capital city so walled in by the giant Andes mountain range to the east that peaks often felt as if they’d topple right down on top of the city. I chose to live in Chile in part due to the quality and abundance of climbing there. But as the world turns so does life move on, and upon meeting a great girl from the other side of the continent, I decided to relocate to southern Brasil, where I had no clue if there were even mountains let alone crags worth visiting.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Getting Psyched (Out)

If you are like me, you know how much the idea of a climb can grow and subsequently fester in your mind. Whether it is a route you have wanted to do for years or a new climb with a daunting reputation, you know how drastically expectation can color a climb once you finally work your way up to getting on the darn thing. I don’t care if it is an r/x rated trad headpiece or a pumpy sport route with a heartbreaker finish, expectations drastically affect how we climb and, thus, our chances for success on the routes we want to do most.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Time Out in Brasil

Sunset from Anhangava
(photo by Isa Vellozo)

The weather never cooperated in the South American autumn. It was cold and rainy from Easter to the end of May, getting cooler by the week. And I was busy, too, of course, engaging in a Brazilian romance and wondering where it was going to take me. To the mountains during that six-week voyage it did not, so I flew home to the US and flailed at Rumney, vacationed in Acadia, ripped my fingers to shreds on Cannon, and beat the heat at Rumney and Farley Ledge. Then my visa arrived at the Brazilian consulate and I boarded a plane to see just how far that romance was going to take me. Naturally, as the weather had been improving in forever rainy city of Curitiba, I was hoping to mix in a little bit of climbing, too. This past Sunday, I got my wish.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Farewell to the 'Gunks

Waiting my turn on Shockley's
This was probably my last trip to the 'Gunks in what is likely to be a few years. Kind of sad about it, to be honest, but excited, too. This has been the summer of "vacation" climbing, as one of my friends coined over our recent trip to Acadia. Ever since my disaster of a Rumney trip in June, I've been hoping to simply get out and enjoy the day with nothing more getting in the way. As a result, climbing has never been more relaxing: No goals, no cares, just climbing and being with friends. This has been a sort of a good-bye summer even though I know I'll be back someday. However, when I do come back it'll undoubtedly be as a different man than not only the one who left but also the one who has chilled the last two seasons. Who that person is will be a surprise to me, I'm sure, and, oddly, the 'Gunks have played a large role in that transformation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Running over kittens at Cannon

(Apologies for the lack of photos. We simply didn't take any)

It wasn't long ago when Cannon was a place of nightmares for me. Three rain storms, an electrical storm, a brutally shortsighted hike to the summit, and a sprained ankle had crushed me time and time again. Don't get me wrong, I have made it to the top successfully several times, including on lead under difficult circumstances, but there was always something about that place that made the added risk assessment worth it. Simply put, don't climb there unless you're ready.

Of course, out of friendship, I ignored this advice and for five pitches I giggled my way up Whitney-Gilman (5.7) last week for the first time in over a year (at least). Even the approach felt easier than normal (for honesty's sake, I was still out of breath at the top of the talus field). But somewhere, maybe in kitty heaven, where the walls are covered in carpet and curtains, where an endless ball of string continually fills up as it eternally unraveled, where there are more back-scratchers than dog bones, somewhere up there, hidden amongst the forever fresh kitty litter, there lies a rotting, bitter-smelling chunk of something dear to cats universe-wide that is quite simply out to get me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Gracias a la Vida


Her eyes were as wide as a bucket of tears when I said I was going to be away that week.
Henry on the offwidth
Photo by Catalina Mekis

“All week?”

“When do you leave?”

It was next Sunday, early, and Henry, Armando, and Catalina had planned to come home late that same day. Maybe I can come home early, I thought, and Henry confirmed that the hardest part was getting there:
“Getting back is a piece of cake, even if you don’t know Spanish that well.”

When we met to discuss our plan the Wednesday before we were to leave, I told Armando and Henry I would leave on Friday and that I hoped we would get to the top of the lower buttress before that.

“I understand,” Armando said. Henry did too. We had one week left together before she left to go home to Brasil. I was going to be away with them, and I wanted to see her one last time before she got on the plane. We had talked about me visiting in April, when her school year was slower after her students had settled in at the university where she taught, but this was also scary to us.

“Don’t have any expectations,” she said. “No plans.”

I deceived her and planned to return early just to see her.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Guidebook: Espolones de San Gabriel - Espelon (5.7), La Raya (5.8)

 Espolones de San Gabriel

Approach: From Santiago head to Cajon de Maipo toward San Gabriel. By car, get directions in advance. By the Metro, get to the Los Mercedes subway stop. Head upstairs and grab a Collectivo (fixed-price taxi) to San Gabriel (as of Jan 2011, about 2500 pesos). The ride takes about an hour (maybe a bit less). Be sure to ask the driver to stop at the last bridge / stream before the town of San Gabriel (this will be a couple of minutes before the border stop, which the driver should know).

At the bridge, face up stream and see the obvious many cliff faces of San Gabriel Mountain. For Espolones de San Gabriel, you're heading to the lowest, large faces on the right of the stream.

Cross the street and bend through the two cuts in the barbed wire fence. You should be on the right side of the stream and facing upstream. Walk along the path (crossing the stream where / if necessary) until you come to a loose dirt / small scree field that is directly below a large slab that is facing the stream. Walk straight up the scree field, finding the path of least restistance to the base of the cliffs.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Viva Chile!

The stream below us
Less than four weeks had gone by since I had first arrived and I was rushing to meet "Red" downstairs. Two days prior he had said on the phone that in order to beat the Santiago crowd we'd have to leave early, which was fine to me because I wanted to beat the hot sun as best as we could. I figured he'd have me meet at the end of one of the subway lines at 7am so that we would have an easier time getting a collectivo (fixed-rate taxi) to San Gabriel in Cajon de Maipo, which is a deep, rural, and narrow canyon just to the southwest of Santiago. A day later I recieved an e-mail with the details: "Bring lunch, water, 3,000 pesos for the collectivo, and I'll pick you up at 9am."

And thus, for the first time, the notion of time in Chile had finally settled upon me.