Al and I were last living on the road in 2009 when we explored Canada and the States in a little blue van for five months, and since then I must have thought about that trip every single day. I’ve always worried that, though we didn’t know it then, that was our chance, likely the only time in our lives that we’d get to do something like that – slowly you realize that it only gets harder to break free from life – work, responsibilities… so I know how lucky we are to get to do something like this again, this time pootling around Europe, and get to call it our job too.
So we’ve been on road trips before, but this one is different. We have regular deadlines to meet (a Europe’s Best Crags episode every 2 weeks) so it’s not about sitting under one project for two weeks at a time, we’re being forced to explore each area as thoroughly as we can, which is a wonderful thing. So often with climbing it’s too easy to put blinkers on and forget to look around and appreciate where you are… not on this trip! If we want to do a project, we better do it fast.
Our first official stop was Gryon in the Vaud region of Switzerland, where some good friends of ours live. One local has accused us of over-selling the place in our video, but honestly I don’t feel that we do. The only downside is the odd strenuous walk-in and having to drive between crags… which we felt was entirely worth it. I’ve been to the area twice before, once to climb and once to ski. This time we went to blow the cobwebs off our sport climbing gear, which I’d say we did… although we also managed to squeeze in a few days of bouldering too. With a nice chalet to live in and all the comforts that go with that plus good company, it was sad moving on, knowing it would be quite a different lifestyle from here on in. Although to be honest, we both love living in a van, and this time it’s a proper camper, we just haven’t done it in winter before.
Having a home on wheels is easier in North America though, we noticed that right away. Petrol and food are cheaper, the internet, laundry and showers are easier to find, wild camping is less frowned upon generally, and of course there isn’t a language barrier. But we’re figuring things out. One of the perks so far has definitely got to be lying in bed in the morning while Al makes coffee and tea and Crux wanders around outside, admiring the day’s view.
In Brione where we headed next, the only place to park a van is a designated car park (above) with a tap, bins and a toilet (until today). Valle Verasca where Brione sits, is really beautiful and full of tourists as a result, making the locals understandably protective of the area. If climbers start misbehaving, the climbing will be closed, so although this designated parking cost 20CHF a night, we sucked it up and that’s where we stayed. The climbing was worth it.
We should have had two full weeks climbing in Brione, but the weather wasn’t kind and in the end only had around four full days on rock there. I haven’t seen such heavy rain for so many days in a row before! We tried to escape it by visiting Valle de Mello in Italy for a few days, but it caught up with us there, followed us to St Moritz, Magic Wood, and eventually back to Brione where we returned to finish our video. Good weather or not though, Switzerland is truly a beautiful country isn’t it!
Now we’re spending our very first night in the Czech Republic, a totally new adventure for us both. It’s peaks and troughs – few things are more frustrating than sitting in your car waiting for rocks to dry, but few things are better than driving to a new area in a new country with the sun shining in welcome.
Make sure you check out our first episode from Gryon, the second (bouldering in Brione) is on it’s way this week and tomorrow we start shooting the third (Petrohrad)!