Friday morning and it’s our last day climbing in Switzerland. What may surprise you (if you’ve been here) is that we’ve been debating where to go.
The boulders here are a five to ten minute walk from the tent and yet once Jim gets up, our plan is to drive down the valley do Val Calanca. See, i’ve been trying to decide whether this has been a successful trip or not. On the whole, most definitely: i can’t emphasise enough how stunning it is here, with beautiful snow covered mountains. Other than the cold, the weather has been fantastic, with nothing more than a tiny snow flurry since we got here and i cannot argue that it’s been great to get away and go somewhere new. But this has been a climbing trip and in that respect it has disappointed more than a little. This may seem a justification for coming but it’s me trying to answer the question that’s been going through my head for the last couple of days: would i come back?
As i mentioned in a previous post, going somewhere new requires something different, namely information ad therein lies our first problem. Normally, you can gleam this from either books or people and we’ve come to realise our guidebook isn’t great. It’s got enough for us to get a feel for the place but is by no means comprehensive and can be tough to find problems. I know there is a better guide out there somewhere and for anyone visiting, i would strongly suggest trying to find it. As for people, there aren’t any. With the boulderer’s obsession with “conditions”, i was expecting it to be fairly busy, with at least a handful of climbers around the campsite. There are none, or close to none, and even the Greek George, who came and shared a beer with us last night, hasn’t been out much, leaving us with no-one to ask questions or explore with.
There’s also the standard of climbing. Magic Wood has an abundance of problems for an experienced boulderer climbing in the 7s and 8s but sadly (through no fault of his own) jim does not fall into this category. I did know this but didn’t quite realise how few lower-grade problems there would be for him. This makes a big difference, as i haven’t wanted to run off and leave him working a 6a/b in order to go and do something else on my own and there really isn’t anyone else to tag along with.
And of course the timing. You get time off when you can, so you go away when you can but November in the Alps? I think i’d pick somewhere else next time. I can adjust to climbing in sub-zero temperatures easily enough but as Jim rightly said last night, it makes living very tough. Right now my hands and fingers are hurting as i can’t type with gloves on and just camping in these conditions for a week is hard. We’d have possibly coped better staying in a hotel or the edelweiss, but still, Spain has much more appeal right now. Oh, and while the weather has been glorious, Magic Wood is in a steep valley and once in the forest, you won’t see sunshine for much of the day.
I would also warn prospective visitors, this is a tough venue in other ways; its a mountain crag with rocky landings, steep approaches and more often than not, thuggy steep climbing that as mentioned before, can be hard to find. It’s a quality crag, i have no doubt, but for quality climbers; those doing hard grades with a few years under their belts and while i (just about) fit into that category, couple it with the other issues we’ve had and i can understand why i haven’t got much done.
So would i come back? I think so but only under very different circumstances. Have i enjoyed myself and am i glad to have come? Hell yeah! Still, if you don’t analyse these things, you don’t learn and the big lesson is this: friction may be great at 0C but camping is not. Think we’ll leave it at that.