The year 2019 was a year of settling in Switzerland. It was much less nomadic than previous years. We travelled less and tried to explore what the local surroundings can offer. And it does have a lot to offer as long as you are open to try. So we did. We started skiing much more than we used to in the past, got into ski-touring, tried out mountain trail runs. Climbing got a little bit forgotten in this whole picture, mostly because there’s so much to choose from and I kept waiting for the climbing psyche to emerge with a force.
After spending three months training for a marathon which we ran at the end of October, 2019, we both were a bit tired of it and thought we need to recharge. Since a while ago we had an idea to do a road trip in the US. The idea was to visit some national parks, do some long trail runs, get a taste of American climbing. When the time came for the trip in November, it almost fell apart. The marathon crushed my immune system, so I got sick. We questioned postponing the trip but left on time in the end.
After landing in the craze of LA and driving a bit away from the big city, we stopped for a night to let the cultural experience sink in and get some very much needed sleep. The next day we drove with the eyes wide open and reached the first stop - Joshua Tree - a significant place in climbing history where many of our hero climbers have spent time at some point in their lives. The first day we mostly hiked and looked around. But my curiosity was surfacing and I was keen to start experiencing this place by touching the rock. And so the next day we climbed some routes which felt sooo good! That’s how the psyche comes back I thought! We climbed Southwest Corner (5.6) and Cryptic (5.8) on the Headstone Rock in Ryan Campground, Double Cross (5.7) on The Old Woman in the Hidden Valley Campground, Loose Lady (5.10a sport) on Dodo Buttress in Real Hidden Valley. At the bottom of Double Cross, we even met Hobo Greg - a local of JT nowadays that we recognised from the voice in a recent Enormocast. Even though we spent very little time in Joshua Tree, we both agreed that it does have a special vibe and feels very spiritual. I would love to come back!
As our trip had to fit in two weeks including all the traveling, we had to move further. The next stop was Red Rocks. After a bit of driving through nowhere, we reached Las Vegas, which is quite the opposite of that. When our GPS said 20min left until destination while we were still in the middle of this light infused city of fakeness, we both shrugged in disbelief. But it was indeed the case and just after a small turn we enterred the darkness and then the weird campsite of Red Rocks which is huge but of course all fully booked. Luckily, we got a place in a shared campsite. Unlucky was that now Martynas got sick and so we only climbed some sport climbs. One of them was quite memorable called Mr Choads Wild Ride (5.11b).
We abandoned our plans to do a multi-pitch while Martynas was ill and left Nevada for now. The next destinantion was Grand Canyon National Park where we initially planned to run rim-to-rim. That had to be postponed for some time in the future and so we just walked around admiring the vastness of the canyon and observing the crowds of tourists.
From there we set Moab in the GPS and started driving further north-east through the deserts of Arizona and Utah. We had heard so many stories about the desrt climbing, The Indian Creek, The Arches, Moab so setting our foot there felt important. We started by climbing an intro tower called The Owl Rock (5.8) and the Stolen Chimney (5.10d) on the spectacular Ancient Art (Corkscrew Summit). The next goal was the Castleton Tower which we had to postpone one day because of the crowds as it happened to be Sunday. Instead we climbed some single pitch routes in Potash Road. One that stood out was Another Roadside Distraction (5.10b). On Castleton we did Kor-Ingalls (5.9) - one of The 50 Classic Climbs of North America - which was amazing and we were glad to be climbing it on Monday. The cracks and the offwidths were very cool. It was like a new game for which the rules have to learnt from scratch. Standing on these towers felt very fulfilling and I thought that I would gladly spend some period of my life living in a desert climbing all these towers and cracks that we only got a sneak peek of.
We had less than a week left so started moving back southwest. On the way, we stopped at the Zion National Park where we didn’t climb anything. And then headed back to the Red Rocks hoping to get on some multi-pitch before getting on a plane home. The big plan was to do Epinephrine as it is so widely praised. However, when we approached it there were so many parties waiting already that we thought it wouldn’t be fun waiting. Maybe some other time. We did Unimpeachable Groping (5.10b) instead which was a nice route but not too impressive. It seemed too much like gym climbing and too similar to what we have available in Europe.
We clipped some more bolts the next day and headed further back. We paid a visit to the Death Valley and imagined the people suffering while running Badwater. The last day we had Impossible burgers in some hipster place in LA, walked around in the Venice beach observing the people roller skating, doing tricks in the skatepark and enjoying the sun. With that our trip has come to an end. Martynas stayed for a conference in San Diego and I headed home which we now call Zurich.