Swiss Bliss

Swiss Bouldering

This post was nearly a tale of travelling from Aberdeen to Houston, detailing the highlights of sitting on a plane for 10 hours. But I figured reading about it would be about as exciting as living it. Instead, here’s a write up of a month bouldering in Switzerland last October.

I have been told that my idea of what constitutes ‘training’, looks more like ‘not training’. Or rather, just going climbing and hoping that I’ll get better. So of course when planning the Swiss trip, I took the training seriously. I went to Font for six weeks prior. I guess old habits die hard, and I still can’t get disciplined for a fingerboard. But, as non-training goes, six weeks in Font is as good as it gets!

For the first time ever really, I was starting a trip more or less at the top of my game. Problems which I’d normally write off as impossible were starting to look a bit doable, or at least inviting ‘just a look’. Could Dr Med Dent go? Vasco Da Gama? Lemon Tree?

The drive from Font to Switzerland is flat and boring until it is not. The Alpine scenery of the drive in is not a view that you can get bored of. The last time I made that journey was to check out Cresciano and Val Calanca. This time Chironico and Brione were the main targets.

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I don’t really believe in booking accommodation in advance. It’s more fun that way. Right…? So with some last minute googling, and after confusing a Swiss lady with what passes for ‘English’ up north we rolled into Camping Gottardo. The confused Swiss lady turned out to be the camp site owner. We asked to camp. “Too cold”, she said miming shivering. Once we convinced her that with the northern accents came a natural resistance to hypothermia, we were pitched up and ready to go.

Day one in among the boulders confirmed what I already knew. Bouldering in Switzerland is really fucking good. Better than Font? Maybe. Superlatives as such were in full flow as we got used to the gneiss crimps and edges that typify climbing in Chironico. A fantastic contrast to the sloping Font sandstone. The landings can be a bit uneven and spiky,  and made good the army of pads we were hiking around with. The absolute standout from day one was a superb f6b called Shock Wave. It looked simple but was not, and took a good few goes (hours) to figure out and dispatch. 

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Patience prevailed on day two with the seemingly impossible start to ‘Triangolo’ (6c+) eventually yielding to some tidy beta and a good dose of gurn. Even the bad days in Chironico seemed to be good days. Being dragged out of my tent to ‘check out a cave’ in unlikely conditions resulted in ‘Triade’ (f7a) and also the extension at f7a+.

Fairly early on in the trip, I tested myself on Lemon Tree. I was found wanting, but the problem was not – a classic for sure. A tricky pull, leads to a deep rock over, long reach to a sloper, a crimp, and then a big pop to the flat top and glory. Or, in my case a small pop and flop onto the pads. Forced to retreat with reduced fingertips, battle lost but war still on. Trip project identified.

There’s not much danger of getting bored in Chironico. Every taste is catered for with massive burly roofs, delicate padding slabs and everything in between. Variety being the spice of life though, we drive through to Brione a couple of times. This is a less well known venue and access is delicate, so check out the website before you visit. There’s not a guidebook but the ‘Bimano’ app has a few of the problems listed.

The stretch target at Brione was the classic ‘Molonk’ (f7c), but it was quickly obvious that I wasn’t getting close to that. However, there is treasure in the lower grades here as well. The easier problems on the Molonk block were all good fun, and the meadow bouldering is excellent as well. Of course, I had a go at the classic highball ‘Black Mirror’ (f6b), but chickened out less than half way up… I think that was likely the right choice as a fall from the high crux would likely be a trip ending mistake to make.   The left and right arêtes of the big triangular face in the meadow are both good, although the right hand side is an ego massage at 7a.

I capped an excellent day at Brione getting up ‘Pebble Straight’ (f7a), which with the two arêtes made for 3 problems at 7a in one day, a personal record.

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Returning to Chironico inspired, it was time for round two on Lemon Tree. I made sure to have the camera rolling from the start of the session this time to catch the presumed send. Perhaps even ‘first go on the day’? The footage is unlikely to see the light of day which is no great loss. As ever, an overly egotistical approach ending in to failure and frustration. So, 2-0 to the so-called ‘classic’. Still plenty time for another go…

Schattental, is lower down that most of the bouldering at Chirinico. The name means shaded valley, owing to the fact that the sun never really shines there. So it’s pretty cold, especially in late October. The bouldering is excellent though, and definitely worth a visit, regarless of the temperature. The highlight for me was  fiddly & delicate ‘Particle Elementare’ (f7a). This one seemed unlikely till the beta came together and I was at the top. The long and pumpy Vasco Da Gama (f7a) is also well worth a look, although it was too hard for me this time.

As October tended towards November, the weather did as it does and started to interfere with our climbing plans more and more. It was clear that it was time to fly south for the winter. But not before one more session on Lemon Tree. I went up on my own, got reacquainted with the moves, brushed up the top and went for it….

So far this narrative mirrors the previous posts on Amateur Acrobatics and Breakfast Arête, but this time with a far less satisfying conclusion… I got close a few times, but Lemon Tree was not to be for me. Session #3 ended with me lashing the rock with repeated rapid attempts on thin skin and getting predictable results. I could not do it, and it was time to go.

I’d be lying if I said I walked away grinning that day, but overall the Switzerland trip left a huge smile on my face. The bouldering is as good as it gets, as is the setting – a good combination. Not getting up Lemon Tree was dissapointing, but it in no way overshadowed the many problems that I did complete. A trip to Chironico comes highly recommended.  I think it’s safe to assume that I’ll be back to Chironico at some point, and I guess it’s probably easy to guess which boulder I’ll go to first. It’s not over yet, Lemon Tree!

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