I meant to write a blog part of the way through my trip, so that I could provide maximum detail, but I was pretty busy and lazy, so that never happened. On the plane ride home I ended up writing it, so it all worked out.
Si Se Puede - Nicholas Milburn
I just left Santiago, Chile where I competed in the Pan-American Championships. At first I wasn’t even sure if the comp was even going to happen because it was impossible to get any word on it, but after a while word finally got around and invites were sent out. With scheduling issues my parents couldn’t go, so I traveled with some of my climbing friends. I met up with Joe Gifford who I travel around with all summer, Dalan Faulkner and his dad, Danny, and Shane Puccio. The McKeehans helped me get into the country which was very helpful because Chile has crazy requirements for leaving the country since I am a minor and me being an unaccompanied minor did not make things easier. They said it was to help against kidnapping or something, but I think they just want to trap everyone in Chile.
Anyway, once we got to Santiago we all piled into Danny’s rental car and headed to the hotel. We got horribly lost. I’m pretty sure we went to every part of the city except where our hotel was. It took us like three hours to do this 25 minute drive. Other than that our first day was pretty uneventful. However, we did get directions to climbing areas not too far from where we were staying. I also ate a several thousand peso lunch. For future reference it is safe to assume when I say “we” or “our” I am referring to Joe, Shane, Dalan and myself. We stuck together for pretty much the entire trip.
Our second day was much more exciting. All of us got our climbing gear ready to go and we headed to crag. We were going to a place called Palestra and all we knew about it was that it looked cool based on the pictures we found on the internet. We got lost again trying to find which mountain the cliff was even on. If you didn’t know there are a lot of mountains in Chile. After a some good ole trial and error we got to the right place. We parked the car and started trudging up the mountain. After the first 100 feet we should have known something was horribly wrong.
The trail we picked was up this heinously steep dirt hill, but it got better after that, so we didn’t think much of it. Then we went up what we thought were trails, but now I think they were just goat paths or exposed dirt. We saw a guy climbing a cliff way up the mountain, so that motivated us to keep going and we kept going up these mystery “trails”. At a certain point we knew we were not going the right way, but surely there has to be a trial somewhere, right? We kept moving up the mountain bush whacking our way through searching for the ever elusive trail. Every time we would take a step we would slide back down. Finally Joe got to a vantage point and spotted a trail. We all regrouped and headed to the trial, but once we got there it turned out to be just some more exposed dirt, but at least we didn’t have to crawl under bushes anymore. We hiked up to the top of this faux trail to see the cliffs we saw at the beginning far below us. We still had no idea how to get down to them, so instead of climbing we decided to conquer the mountain. We would take our revenge and summit that mountain. We got a couple of cool pictures, ate lunch and hiked to the top of mountain. I was only planning on climbing cliffs on the side of a mountain, but instead I climbed the entire mountain. You might be thinking that we are just some whinny kids who did a bunch of hiking. That might be true, but remember we got to the top!
The next day we went to a closer and easier to find crag. We got directions from this awesome guy named Jaime who we meet in an outdoor store. We found this one on our first try. Jaime showed us some fun rock climbs and some good warm-ups. The first thing we got on was a 5.10 to get the blood flowing. All of us struggled our way up. This climb took way too much effort to be a 5.10. I thought this might be a super stiff crag, but then Jaime told us we actually got a 5.12. I feel like I do that a lot, but at least it makes good stories. One of the routes we got on only Alex Honald has done. He called it a 5.13c or 5.13d. We obviously got on it. The bottom half wasn’t too bad, but the top half was this balls hard super slab. The holds on this thing were roughly half the size of a credit card except for this perfect shallow mono. We all got shut down. None of us could even pull all the moves. The last climb we tried was a 5.14 and look impossible. I started with a boulder that wasn’t too bad with good beta and moved into a roof section that none of us could even start. Joe got high point by sticking two moves in the roof. I think now is the perfect time to introduce Crag Dog. At this crag we meet one of the greatest dogs in the world. He was super will behaved, didn’t bark and knew the begging game like a boss. We got him to sit and stand up. We thought about just putting him and our bag and taking him home. Back to climbing. On my first go I moved a rock by the start which turned out to be the worst mistake I make all day. Crag Dog went crazy. He was barking like just broke his leg and was trying to move carry the rock I just moved. He wouldn’t stop for anything. It was the crazies thing I have ever seen a dog do. Words can’t do it justice. However once he calmed down a bit Crag Dog led us all the way back to our car. We said our farewells and headed back to town.
The next day we went to the U.S. training session and by training session I mean climbing just to stay loose. It was at the Chilean Olympic training facility which was pretty cool. Dalan made up cool lead dyno that no one stuck except some Mexican guy supposedly did it later. After that quick sesh we went to Los Dominicos which is a basically a textile market. If you haven’t felt alpaca fur imagine diving naked in to a cloud floating in space. That might be hard to image, so the point is that it is awesome. The only down side to alpaca is that it is expensive, but clouds in space don’t come cheap. Los Domincios sells a lot alpaca cloths and blanks as well other artsy things. I successful bought my family there Chilean gifts in one fell swoop.
Did you know that the world’s largest swimming pool is in Chile? I only found out once Dalan told me in Chile. We drove out to the Chilean coast early in the morning to maximize our ocean experience. Our first stop was the world’s largest pool. It is part of these condo things, so we had to con our way in. With some smooth talking and some under the table money exchange we swam and kayaked in the pool. This pool is ridiculous. When we first got there, there was team of maintenance people cleaning it up. I think more people use it as calm place to bring out small boats and paddle around, but I couldn’t tell because we had the we had the whole pool to ourselves, just us and a toddler. The pool is adjacent to the coast, so we all went and jumped in the ocean. This water was cold and violent. We would run in only to be crushed by incoming waves. I never really understood how people were carried away by rip tides until now. Even when I would brace myself the ocean would suck me into its depths. It was crazy that the ocean could actually drag me backwards. We drove to a different beach spot surrounded by more mountains and played for as long as possible. I’m not much of a beach person, but was some of the most fun I have ever had. We had to get back to Santiago for our team meeting, so we left.
The team meeting was held in a room in the lower lobby of the hotel. Half way through the meeting we heard chants and explosions going off. The coaches held us which only made our anticipation grow. I was sure a revolution must be going on just one floor above me. Finally we got out to see a crowd of people being held back by some type of security or police making a human wall. I knew soccer fans were intense, but I never would have expected this. A Chilean soccer team was staying in our hotel and they were playing Brazil the next day. We got stand behind the team as they watched their fans cheer them on. We got to jump around with the team and I don’t even know who they were. It was definitely one of the more exciting experiences of my life. It was perfect timing too because the competition started the next day and we all got psyched up!
Now, to the whole reason I was in Chile in the first place. The Pan-American Championship. Sport qualifications were finally here. Each group had the usually two qualifiers. My first climb was 15 meters tall and 5 degrees overhung. It super techy and very delicate. It was a surprisingly fun climb and talk about a pump fest. I didn't notice on the wall, but when I got down my forearms felt like bricks filled with acid. always a good sign that I tried hard. I topped that one along with my fellow U.S. Team mates Dominic LaBarge and Conner Everton. The Second qualifier was just as good. It was a very different style. It climbed up a easy slab section and moved to a near vertical or overhung section of decent Metolius holds. This section wasn't too bad either. Then it climbed into roof and over a lip to the finish. The roof wasn't bad either, but by this time I was really pumped. I felt solid until this difficult cross from a jug to another jug. Then there is a big move to a slimper. I just didn't grab that on, but I did touch it. A bunch of people fell on that move and only two people stuck it. Conner was one of those two people.
Only two groups had semifinals because normally 26 people move to semi’s, but all except two groups had less than 26 people, so having a semifinal would pointless. Those two groups were Male youth B and A. I’m youth A, so lucky me I got to climb a semifinal climb. It was running late and I was the third to last person to climb. By the time I was in the chair ready to climb I was trying not to fall asleep. The climb was ok. The bottom was good, but it had an awkward section just before it kicked out to the roof. While reading the route it was dark so I couldn't see the holds in the roof, so when I got in the roof I was pumped and had a case of tunnel vision and missed the obvious jugs and instead moved through the feet and fell shortly after. My mistake dropped me into 7th, but I was still in finals. Both semifinals routes had a crazy problem with black tape. For those of you who don’t know climbers cannot cross black tape or they are called off the wall. Pretty much every person who got up to the black tape crossed over it. It was a bigger problem on the Youth B route and there was a big tie.
Finals was in the morning. Everything came down to this. One route, eight climbers. Our finals route didn’t look too difficult until the super confusing roof section. However it did look very pumpy. None of the holds looked that good, but they were not that bad either. I was right about it being pumpy. Just about everyone was looking tired from about 15ft off the ground. The route was very consistent from the ground to when I fell. I got up to this crimp rail with my right hand and mini jug with my left. I put my feet up on a volume and another hold, threw a deep drop knee and fought to stick the next pocket. I couldn’t keep lock off high enough and my body spit me off the wall. After everyone finished I was in a three way tie for 1st, but with count backs I was in 3rd. Conner ended up winning this thing bringing it home for the U.S. Congrats Conner the new Pan-American Champion! Also female youth B is awesome. The U.S. had the top five places and there was a tie for first that was broken by time.
Now it is time for bouldering. The qualifying boulders were just your average climbs. Not a single person managed to grab the bonus hold. It was this V10 move off a sideways slimper. The next boulder was confusing and I ended up skipping half the climb. It did this weird thing and made a "C" up the wall or you can go straight up the climb. I flashed the next two boulders which was a slab climb and a pocket fest. With that performance I think I was tied for second. Semifinals was a close race. It came down to attempts. Dominic LaBarge missed moving onto finals by three attempts to bonus. The problem that got him was a super techy boulder with a dyno. It started with a dyno then a hard mantle on a volume. I ended up sending all the semifinals boulders along with five other guys, but with attempts I was in fourth.
Finals was on its way. I was in iso for just another couple of hours and as the sun was setting we moved out to climb. I previewed the four climbs with Conner and Marc (he is from Canada). None of the climbs look impossible, but they didn't look easy either. Right off the bat I was shut down. The first climb had a heinous last move. I managed to touch the finish hold on my best run. This worried me because I knew that Marc and Connor sent it after the crowd went crazy. I knew I had to flash the next three problems if I had a chance to with and I did just that. I flashed the next problems, but Marc ended up sending them all also. The other boulders were not quite as hard as the first, but they were fun. I ended up placing 2nd behind Marc.
All in all this was a fun comp except for the fact that they were late on just about everything, including the award ceremony. My plane left late the next day after awards were scheduled, but speed was still going on and not even close to finishing. I ended up having to miss the award ceremony which sucks. I hate missing awards even if I don't win anything.
I think that wraps everything nicely. I didn't take a single picture of the competition and I can't find any, so sorry for the lack of photos. A shout out to Danny for driving us everywhere, the McKeehans for making sure I could leave the country and to the coaches for doing their coaching thing with little to no sleep. Congrats everyone!!!
PS - The U.S. had one less that half of the people in finals for sport and bouldering!