Category: Climbing

The North Face Mountain Festival 2016

The North Face Mountain Festival 2016

In late May, just before the (kinda) failed trip to Fontainebleau, I read on Planet Mountain that The North Face (TNF from now on) was organizing a gathering of people in Lauterbrunnen (CH) called the “Mountain Festival”. Three days of hiking, trail running, climbing, and adventure in general.
I did buy a ticket on the same day, and the waiting began.

Fast forward few months, and now I am back home after the event took place. And I must say it, it was a really cool weekend, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

But what did happen last weekend in Lauterbrunnen?

Well, I arrived in Geneva Thursday evening, after a delayed flight. Then took a train to Interlaken, where I planned to spend the night in a hostel before going to the festival. It did work out, eventually, and I did spend the night in a hostel (a good night, even), but it took longer than expected, because due to a train failure I got stuck in Lausanne for a while. The only notable event that took place on the train was that I was called “a good boy” by a girl to whom I borrowed my phone (I guess she missed her stop and had to call someone home). As far as how usually my journeys are, this was pretty easy.
Although extremely expensive, because Switzerland.

OK, I will avoid spending hundreds of words talking about events that are of any interest to me only (if even), and just get to the main points. First of all: it did rain. Apparently it always does when I travel, so I was not pissed off at all. It was actually a good test for my gears, and the only issues I had were (1) condensation in the tent (next time I should leave the rain fly open even if it is raining, or just use a tarp instead of a tent), and (2) the discovery that the Patagonia duffel I brought with me (and left outside my small one person tent) was not really waterproof. Some of the content of the duffel got wet, not all of it, and not completely soaked, but it was a mild failure. Still, this setup with a tent all for me to sleep in, and a duffel with all the stuff sounds like a good idea to me, assuming I have a base camp and I’m not carrying everything with me all the time. Not that a different setup would have kept me dry, because my two trail runs were under the rain, and I got soaked anyway. And so did the clothes I was wearing. And due to the rain and the humidity, there was no way anything would dry, so I did just wear wet clothes, and found out they dry out really fast just with my body heat.

I did really enjoy trail running, but I may have underestimated my fitness level. Although I do run, and do run every week, I always run on flat terrain (way to go Netherlands), and going uphill and downhill killed my muscles. Moreover, next time I should keep a slower pace. Lesson learned, and still cannot wait to run again in the mountains.

I also made a small mistake booking a short hike, and realized that a short hike does not do much for me.
Next time, I would either skip hiking, or join a longer and challenging one. So I kind of overestimated my trail running fitness, and had a great challenge, but underestimated my hiking prowess, and was not challenged at all. I did properly estimate my climbing skills, though, but unfortunately decided to climb the only day that climbing was moved indoor because of the weather. There are weather Gremlins out there, I know, trying in every possible way to prevent me to climb outdoors. You will not have me, Gremlins!
On a positive note, base camp had clean (most of the time) toilets, and hot showers. Quite a pleasure to come back from a cold run and have a hot shower waiting for you, instead of just more cold rain.

Together with activities there were talks and other workshops. I did take part in a mobility workshop organized by Commando Active (really good one) and attended all talks given by the TNF sponsored athletes. No need to say that most of the talks were really inspiring, especially “Nanga in Winter”, the story of the first Winter ascent of Nanga Parbat (that did happen just few months ago) by Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger. I was really looking forward to this talk, and was not disappointed at all.
The best thing, though, was that these same athletes were also taking part in the activities, and all the ones I met were really nice and down to earth people. I did run with the likes of Tamara Lunger, David Göttler, or Jez Bragg, and climbed with the Pou brothers: not bad at all as a crew. They were all supportive, and I clearly enjoyed interacting with them. I am a little fanboy, clearly.

So I came back from this weekend pretty excited and motivated, ready to work harder to reach my dreams, and with a list of skills I want to acquire soon. I also got the idea for a possible multi-day Summer hike in the area (a loop beginning and ending in Interlaken, touching Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen). Too bad wild camping is not allowed in Switzerland, cause it would make a hike like this even better. Oh, and if you happen to have the chance to do it, visit the area of the Bernese Oberland, because it is an outdoor paradise.

If you are interested in some pictures, I took some and made a small album. All the pictures are by me, except the trail running ones that were taken by Jez Bragg.



I just got my duffel bag delivered home, full of my climbing gears. It got lost on the way between Paris and Amsterdam, and wasn’t on the luggage belt yesterday evening. But let’s get back to the beginning.

Few weeks ago I decided to visit Fontainebleau (France) with a couple of friends, and in the following weeks we planned everything. Booked plane tickets, a room where to stay, a car. Found a nice guidebook for few sectors of the bouldering area. All the things you are supposed to do before a trip. We were utterly excited, and it did sound like a good beginning to the Summer outdoor climbing season. I’ve been training better this year, and I am enjoying decent climbing condition.

Anyway, day after day the weather forecasts got bad, then worse, then terrible. Then we heard the Seine was flooding, and not somewhere random, exactly in the area around Fontainebleau. Add transport strikes to the mix, and the situation looked quite bleak. We decided to not give up as everything was already planned, booked, and paid, and so we went. It was clear from the beginning that the chances of climbing outside were thin, but not going wasn’t really an option.

To cut it short, it was constantly drizzling, and the rocks were soaked. We just went for a short walk in the forest to check how wet the rocks were, and how did they look. They looked awesome, and we walked from a boulder field to the next one under the trees. The place really stands up to its name. Unfortunately they were wetter than we even imagined, so we climbed them only with our minds.

We went to a climbing gym in the area, Karma, and had hours long training sessions there. We also went climbing in a few gyms Paris for a couple of days when we got bored of spending time in Font. Karma is the climbing gym where the national bouldering team trains, or that’s what we heard. I would not travel hours just to visit a gym, but it was a decent back up, and training with friends is always fun.

The gym was more interesting than a gym would normally be because few days before the trip I watched a video on YouTube, a video called “The master of moves“. If you watch it, you’ll understand why it seemed to me that everything was falling into place anyway, and that coincidences are the salt of life. The video made me think about many things, especially after sharing it with Mauro and talking with him about it. And what made it clear to me is the relationship I have with climbing.

It is just three years now since I started climbing, but in these three years I had the chance to reconnect with my childhood passion for the wild and adventure, and now it is not rare for me to hike, run, or climb almost every day. But this is not the point. The point is that I also believe that climbing show the world how you really feel, and who you really are. It must be different for every one, and climbing is not the only activity that have this power, but it feels so true to me. I cannot climb if my heart is not at peace. All the colors of my character are visible while I climb, and there is no way to hide them to the world. Or from myself, for what matters. It may sound silly, but it seem pretty real to me, especially after seeing so many people climbing.

Back to the story, we finally saw the sun in France, but it was only while getting to the airport on Sunday evening. The I arrived in Amsterdam, and they have lost my bag. Plus trains were delayed, and one even broke down with me inside. It usually takes me less than half a hour to get back home from Schiphol, but it took me more than two hours yesterday. Maybe my karma isn’t that clean, lately? 🙂

Until next time, Font. I’ll be back.

Basilicata Blocfest 2016

Basilicata Blocfest 2016

On April 23 and 24 of 2016, I went (together with Mauro, Marta, Andrea, and Jonathan) to Pietra del Toro, a bouldering area in Basilicata (southern Italy). We wanted to go since the end of last year, and finally decided to go using the 2016 edition of the “Basilicata Blocfest” as an excuse.
We spent two good days climbing boulders, and sent problems between 4c and 6a+ (although Jonathan sent also some 6b). We were so into climbing, that I mostly forgot to shoot videos, and ended up recording only failed attempts (except for a moment when I shot Jonathan sending a 5b problem).

The music is “The Bread Is Hard As Crackers” by Velella Velella.