Sitting at home with the sound of pitter-patter on our sky window, I feel a sense of frustration. I’m pretty sure not the only one as the weather this winter, now going into spring, has been total shit-balls! My two previous winters since moving to Europe were actually really productive and we managed to climb loads. So going into this one we were psyched to ‘up the anti’… but it is seriously fucking with my chi. Somehow the good weather (very few and far between) never linked up with free-time and we’ve spent many days walking around in the rain looking at beautiful rock.
But this story starts months back with a plan to bring Kaddi’s family together for a weekend of R&R. As with this family that meant getting into the mountains and this time it was skiing. Mostly because it was a good time of the year but also so they could ‘show ME the ropes’, so-to-speak. My previous experience was 2 hrs, 2 years before at a small slope which went well considering that expression, ‘its hard to teach old dogs new tricks’. Yes i skied straight into a tree and wiped out spectacularly in front of an old lady but i also managed to get down the slope a few times without falling, so I was excited as well as apprehensive as they are ALL great skiers.
We decided that the perfect lead up to this weekend would be best spent going climbing and get totally trashed so we too could enjoy the rest. Kaddi came up with the idea to explore Val Bavona, a small valley in Ticino best known from the Dosage videos of Chris Sharma trying the Wagon Project and Dave’s Coup de Grace route. Of course i checked the weather and a week before the long term forecast predicted perfect conditions. We decided to book a Gite as we had no idea if camping was allowed. It is really important for us not to ever jeopardize access to any area! Funny how booking Gites, not my favorite thing as it locks you into a specific destination, can piss off the weather Gods. The day after this deed i check again, 3 out of the 5 days = RAIN… oh, SHIT!
Monday morning came and by 11am we exited Gotthard Tunnel and entered my new favorite climbing destination, TICINO! There are better places to climb but this place has it all, 1000’s of boulders, so many crags, and big-walls that will blow your mind! We both thought it was a good idea to stop off in Chironico to split the drive into two 2.30hrs sections as well as guarantee we get some climbing done as we had little idea as to what Val Bavona had to offer. After a short session of laying in the sun, oh my God it was nice to lie in the sun after not feeling it for so long, and a few attempts on Rah Plats Plats, a beautiful Fred Nicole traverse, we hit the road again and reached our destination by night fall.
Driving up the narrow valley felt like driving into a Tolkien story. Our headlights made old stone houses visible that were build into the giant rocks which reminded me somewhat of our trip last year to Val di Mello. The difference is that this valley is narrow and apparently the deepest in the Alps making it feel much more isolated and wild. Falling asleep when you can see so many boulders illuminated through the window was hard but the long drive, bouldering and some schnapps helped.
In the morning we had a coffee and headed into the boulders… these are not your run-of-the-mill boulders though, these things are massive. No no, not big, not large, i mean HUGE, some of which would dwarf those in Bishop but with the “chaos” of magicwood. Often you will scramble up a block thinking its a way through only to find a death drop on the other side. We met some friends a couple of days after these initial (never doing that again) searches who said they followed ours track through the snow but turned around as it was too dangerous.
We soon learnt to skirt around the main block field and probe it rather then enter it. Most of what we found was wet because of the snow melting and thick moss that covers EVERYTHING in the forest. So we headed to the river in search of open ground and hopeful dry rock, we found it. A group of blocs that required almost no brushing. Climbing in a t-shirt we opened 3 great lines by the time the sun slipped behind the mountains. Days are still short here as it is still winter and because of the deep valley floor. Our walk-out was EPIC, the true meaning of this word has been lost with our generation as with most great epics there must be an opportunity to either die, or at least get seriously fucked up. Luckily neither…
Waking on Wednesday morning our hopes of continuing on from yesterday were dashed… rain…. not pouring but just enough to keep the boulders we cleaned from drying. We found many climbed and unclimbed lines over the next three days as well as some old classics we remembered from the Dosage videos. Frustration had long since set in by Friday morning we both knew our time in this amazing place was over, no chance of finding or drying anything climbable… so we hit the road… only to stop of 5 km outside the valley at a small area we wanted to “check it out for next time”, again water was flowing over everything and we again left without even unpacking out chalk bags.
The drive out of Ticino and up the San Bernardino pass felt depressing, it could’ve been so good… AHHH! We were on the way to Flumserberg, a ski resort above Walensee… and only 10km away from Murgtal… yes, we had not given up… driving past the Flums exit and up to first sectors of Murgtal. We walked around the snow covered ground hoping to find something dry, Entlinge was sort of dry but 8b+ is not really an appropriate warm-up after 3 days of walking around in the snow… but in hindsight we could’ve tried some of the moves as it looks amazing! So once again our expectations were too high and we left all the wetness behind and headed up into the high altitudes of Flumserberg resort, where water is more stable.
The next two days and nights turned out to be the best of the trip – thank you Team Lehmann for the wonderful time! It was super fun to see you all and share some laughs. Kaddi and I really enjoyed the skiing, for me it is interesting and motivating to feel the progression from the first 5mins when i could hardly stand on my skies to the last hour on Sunday where i was able to actually ski, using my edges and carve a line.