Begin June we left Spain. The previous 4 months we had a brilliant time climbing everywhere we wanted, it is just unfair how much rock the Spaniards have (especially compared to flat Holland). I left Spain with a mixed feeling because I love Spain but it was time for something new and I was motivated for Zillertal. But Zillertal had to wait because the weather forecast said rain for 10 days in a row (that’s something else than Spanish weather), so we stopped on the way at Albenga. Just a side note: if you look for the climbing area Albenga it is not near the city (it is in Castelbianco). We didn’t knew that and searched for some (frustrating) hours but we found it.
Gelato, Pizza and Granite - Michiel Nieuwenhuijsen
We stayed for almost two weeks in Albenga and I saw most of the climbing areas, there is not one big sector but it is more like the Frankenjura (but way smaller); a lot of small sectors. For me the best grades to climb there are between 6b and 8a but I have to warn potential visitors, a lot of the (especially the harder routes) are chipped so it sometimes feels like climbing in the gym. For this reason I didn’t really liked Albenga for its routes but the pizza and gelato made up for a lot. Besides for me it was good to have a rest after climbing for 4 months on a row so I enjoyed the Italian lifestyle. Special thanks to Ferruchio our Italian host (and retired chef cook), if you go to Albenga stay at Agriturismo di Ferruchio (Teccio, Castelbianco), this man makes the best quiches.
When the weather in Austria cleared up (a little bit) we left for Zillertal. I was motivated as hell and with recharged battery’s after Albenga. The one route I just had to do was Total Brutal 8b+, I saw a video of this route back in 2006 and knew I had to do this one once I had the change. From the beginning of the trip I knew I was going to send this route. I already climbed the route in my mind a lot of times; edges, heelhooks and dynamic moves, that route is made for me! Yes I said made because most edges are made with sika (which I didn’t knew at first), but it isn’t chopped (or glued) as at Albenga, the route almost climbes as a natural granite route. But when we arrived at Zillertal it turned out that the biggest difficulty of climbing Total Brutal wasn’t Total Brutal itself.
The route is positioned direct besides a small road and that road was blocked due to road works. This meant that the only times to try Total Brutal where after 7 AM and on Sundays (the work schedule was lacking behind so they worked even on Saturday). Besides these most inconvenient climbing times it rained a lot in Austria (we climbers are always grumbling about the weather), thank God granite dries fast. So trying Total Brutal became a mission on its own and at the beginning that really bothered me but a lot of the other routes in Zillertal where wet anyway so I went for it. I climbed the route the first Sunday after 3 evening sessions of working (1 try a session). Despite that it’s manmade I would still say that it is one of the coolest routes that I ever climbed and I am happy to have done this classic. Besides Total Brutal I did some 8a’s in Zillertal of which I onsighted Still waters run deep, my second 8a os (but the first one is downgraded so maybe my first 8a os). Normally I don’t try to onsight a lot of routes, I just don’t like it as much as projecting (maybe because I suck in onsight climbing) so this one was one to remember for me.
In Siurana and Rodellar we met a Belgian-German (Nina Suntag and Micha Vanhoudt,http://www.climb2climb.be/blogs/micha-vanhoudt) couple who live in Vienna now, they invited us to come visit them when we were done with climbing in Zillertal. Apparently there is some good climbing around Vienna (the locals from Tirol never even heard of climbing near Vienna) so we took the invitation and drove to Vienna. I wanted to see what the climbing in the Vienna area had to offer and my girlfriend wanted to explore the city a bit, Nina and Micha live in the center of Vienna so it was easy to combine those two needs. Vienna is a beautiful city with all its old (famous) buildings and I have to recommend the zoo (the oldest in Europe) and the bars at Donaukanal where you feel like being on the beach for any prospective visitor. Besides hanging out like the normal tourist we climbed at Adlitzgraben, Niemandsland and Thalhofergrat.
The climbing is mostly technical on slight overhanging walls which is very different from the climbing in Spain and Zillertal I was used to the last months (and which has never been my strong point). I wasn’t fully motivated this week and I didn’t really care to send any route but I did try a few of Micha’s projects (mostly routes he already did) in this areas. I have to say the grading is stiff but the routes are good and especially the areas of Adlitzgraben and Niemandsland looks like (semi) world class areas to me (I don’t know if it is worth flying to Vienna for its climbing alone but if you live a few hours driving away it is well worth it). I didn’t knew why I was so out of focus, maybe I was just a bit done with rope climbing for the moment.
So Micha took us to a ‘secret’ boulder area one day (the locals call it NÖ, referring to Nieder Österreich which is the province the area is located in), a labyrinth full of (semi-loose) granite blocks. That day I got my focus back and although the conditions weren’t the best I wanted to do one thing only: send those boulders! I ripped all the skin of my fingers but I was a happy camper at the end of the day. Two days later, I needed a rest day, we got back and I did my second 8a+ ever (http://vimeo.com/26227524). Thanks to those two days I was super motivated again and we decided to go bouldering the last month of the trip (happy me). From Vienna we drove to Magic Wood in Switzerland; the place to be for hardcore summer bouldering. I have been in Magic Wood once before and there was so much to try and to finish! Let’s do it!