spring in spain: finding an unexpected casita

*** Hello from South Africa! We’ve been lagging on this post, mostly because internet access has been so difficult in Rocklands that I haven’t been able to go through the photos. I’m in Cape Town for the next week or two, recovering from minor surgery (I had a cyst removed, and thankfully all is fine). While I’m sidelined from climbing and have internet access, I thought I’d take a stab at summarizing our February through May in Cataluña, Spain. xo Angie ***

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This year, we decided to keep on our nomadic journey but give it even more of a climbing focus. Cataluña, Spain and Rocklands, South Africa had been among our favorite climbing destinations, and we decided to flip between the two: sport climbing in Spain in the spring; bouldering in Rocklands for the winter (Northern Hemisphere summer); then a return to Spain for the autumn where we’d (hopefully) tackle some bigger projects with more power from all that bouldering.

As we had spent a lot of time in Siruana last year in Spain, we aimed to check out spots in northern Cataluña, which is dotted with famous limestone crags… and full of climbers from all over.

We rented an apartment in a tiny town called Figuerola de Meia, located off the pass which runs between Camarasa and Terradets. But before we found it, we posted up in the barn of the friendly mayor of Sant Llorenc de Montgai (he also runs the town’s sole bar/cafe/meeting spot).

Our barn dwelling brings us horses as neighbors

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Evening light catches the cacti

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The happening plaza mayor of Figuerola de Meia, population: 6. Our rented apartment was in the building at the edge of the photo on the left.

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Rainbow in the fields below our town

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We were lucky to host a bunch of friends at our place. Dinner parties were had and Scrabble games were won and lost.

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We came to Spain not just to climb but also with the mission of buying a little house or plot of land to use as a base for future time in Europe.

The experience gave us a set of new vocab words, a better understanding of Spain’s confounding land laws, and a closer look at Catalan culture… not to mention an excuse to traipse around some beautiful pieces of land and explore tiny hidden towns and villages.

Enchanted by the stunning views over Baronia

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Old farming tools decorate the streets

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Land-looking

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Ruin-hopping
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Views from the hermita at Sant Llorenc de Montgai

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Fallen butterfly

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Plazas and their fountains

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Laundry day

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Like elsewhere in the world, most young people are heading to the cities for work, which leaves these little farming towns feeling like abuela-ville. I found this brochure advertising an elderly ‘playground’ rather amusing.

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Nighttime sets in on Sant Llorenc de Montgai

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While dreamy in theory, the actual down-and-dirty investigation of buying property in Spain was not always fun. Everything seemed possible at first, until we began to realize the difficulty of Spain’s archaic land laws. It turned out that all the beautiful old ruins in our price range were zoned non-residential and most of the houses people had built on them were technically illegal. We then turned our attention to finding something in a town, but just couldn’t get excited within our price range.

In the end, we put in an offer on a loft apartment sitting on a castle perch on a hilltop in the town where we were staying.  Unfortunately (or actually fortunately), engineering friends of ours, Mike and Gerd, helped uncover that the apartment was mounted on top of a structurally unsound building held up by temporary scaffolding! We felt silly to make such a rookie error, realizing that in many ways Spain is a lot closer to Africa than Europe. With the help of our friend Miki who stepped in when our Spanish skills couldn’t keep up, and Steve’s shouting and vigorous attempts to break the floor we were standing on, we just managed to escape with our deposit. The experience is one I don’t think either of us will soon forget.

We took the next few days to recover from the drama and think about what to do next. We looked at some more houses and apartments, but suddenly the whole idea seemed flawed.

The idea of having a vacation home in a tiny town tucked away from it all sounds charming, and we had arrived determined to make it work. But we were also finding that living tucked away was a tad lonely and inconvenient. Spanish climbers all seem to have vans, and they roll around in little packs depending on whim and weather. Instead of being able to join them, we were getting into our car at the end of a long day of climbing and driving over an hour to get back to our place.

Sheep crossing on the way home from climbing

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Amazingly, mail and packages were hand-delivered to our doorstep, despite being so far off the main road

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Miki had recently bought an autocaravana (RV or as South Africans say, campervan). He kept recommending that we consider one rather than being locked into a specific piece of land. Originally we had dismissed his idea as a cop-out, but after months of land-hunting-misadventures, it suddenly looked appealing: if we owned an autocaravana, we could park it right at the crag. We didn’t have to commit to any one part of Spain. And one day, it could take us all over Europe…

Miki at home in his autocaravana

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In a quick change of tack, we dropped the land idea and within 24 hours had purchased this little gem, a 1987 diesel Fiat Ducatu autocaravana. In hindsight, the land idea felt very silly. This was so much more our style, so much simpler, so much less committing.

Et viola! There she is in all her glory. We still haven’t named her. Any ideas?

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On her first test-camp, in the parking lot of the Terradets refujio, we concluded we’d made the right call. And we haven’t looked back since.

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Unfortunately, all this land-looking left us a little short of energy for climbing photo-shoots. We did do quite a bit of climbing.

My personal favorite new crag was the Bruixes wall at Terradets. Gorgeous, slightly overhung limestone with fantastic views. This wall catches lots of sun, which makes it perfect for cold winter days. It’s also home to my first-ever 7b, Jam Session. I hope to tick more routes in this area when we return this fall.

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Andrew’s laundry-with-a-view, looking at from Los Bruixes

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Steve was especially into Santa Linya, a huge cave on the edge of a farming town. Steep and boulder-y (aka completely not my style and totally his)!

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And Oliana is an amazing crag with such long, beautiful, hard routes. The view isn’t too bad, either.

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We were hit with a lot of rain towards the end of our stay. On a whim, we headed down to Madrid to see our friends Juanma and Helena, who graciously took us in on short notice.

Steve mans the wheel on her maiden road trip voyage to Madrid. (I admit I have yet to drive it!)

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Jualena entertain themselves on their first ride in our campervan (yes, I refuse to refer to it as an RV)

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We headed off to Cuenca, a few hours from Madrid, for a week of blissful campervaning and climbing. Living with your house trailing behind you turns out to be pretty amazing. #wordsineverthoughtidsay

Breakfast, Spanish style, at one of the campervan sites in Cuenca. Lots of toastadas y cafe consumed.

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This is what road-tripping looks like in Spain: heading through ancient archways as we rumble through Cuenca in our ride

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Steve climbing in Cuenca

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An evening stroll through the charming town of Cuenca

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Love locks on the Cuenca bridge

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Juanma and Helena connected us with their friend Jose, who does van reforms. He’s been busy overhauling the interior of our vintage ride this summer to bring her a little more into the modern era.

Jose has a think about how to fix the window

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Though all those hours spent looking for property felt like a massive waste of time, in the end the experience turned out to be helpful. We gained some clarity on what we wanted and why. (Side note: looking for property is an excellent free Spanish lesson, ha!)

We head back to Spain at the end of September, and I’m psyched to get back on a rope and start projecting. And to hit the road in style!

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Posted in climbing, spain | 2 Comments

rocklands in motion


Welcome to our world tucked away in the Cederberg mountains of South Africa!

This short film was intended as a quick cut of my footage from the past few weeks for a presentation at the Mountain Club of South Africa.  Unfortunately my hard drive crashed an hour before the presentation, destroying all my underlying and unused footage. A terrific finale to the week I received my first climbing injury ever, a torn rotator-cuff. Just splendid!

Therefore, this is now the final and only cut the world will ever get to enjoy.  Sorry to those of you whose footage never made it. But you can take solace like I do in the image of my harddrive lounging on cloud nine with cute floppy discs on each arm and a margarita in hand.  Unfortunately, he’s kept company by a lot of other electronics once in my care.

So, go fill your rooibos mug, get a buttermilk rusk and settle down for 12 minutes of pure Rocklands sendage.

And let me know if you have any feedback for the next film (for when I’ve summoned back the will to live.)

As always, thank you Black Diamond, Beal and Saltic.  Now get watching already!

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Posted in africa, climbing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

roadtrippin’ in the usa

Seems it’s about time we posted on our latest adventures. After Angie returned from Peru and I from Alaska last October, we picked up our car from Angie’s parents in Pennsylvania and set out on a new climbing adventure through the US.

Yes, it seems the climbing bug has finally got its little bug-teeth into Angie. She even got her first pair of down-turned shoes the other day, bringing her total shoe tally to three!

Our current location, Bishop, CA

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As for 2013, it looks like we have another fun year lined up, including return trips to Catalunya, Spain in spring and autumn and Rocklands, South Africa for the southern hemisphere winter (May through August).

So, without further ado, here are some pictures from the road:

* Road-trip stops included Red River Gorge in Kentucky; Little Rock City, Rocktown, Horse Pens in the Southeast; Northern New Mexico; Hueco Tanks in Texas; Bishop, Los Angeles, and Death Valley in California; and Red Rocks, Las Vegas.

Not traveling light (it’s all relative I guess): our luggage shortly after meeting up in NYC

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Getting back into the groove and enjoying fall colours in the Red River Gorge

Drive by color bomb

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Steve on Phantasia, photo via Courtney Miyamoto

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Will and Courtney in unusual poses (wearing harnesses)

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Steve with a message for the youngsters

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Will and Courtney getting cozy with climbing movie in the basement of Miguel’s Pizza

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Angie ropes up at the Indy wall

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Fall colours out in full force

winter berries caught in the rain

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Camp-breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions (ps why did we wait so long to get a MSR?)

Tents popping up like mushrooms as weekend arrives at the Red

Sea of tents... Packed weekend at Miguel's

After the red we followed Will and Courtney down to the South East for some sandstone bouldering around Chattanooga, photos via Courtney Miyamoto

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Hitting the road out west

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The Excaliburger from Ozark Cafe in Arkansas. It’s a burger patty sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches!

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Breaking up our drive with bouldering at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in The Ozark Mountains of Arkansas

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Goats are people too

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Savouring our first west coast sky as we hit New Mexico

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Cup sizes to suit any American

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Where's the cup holder for this mug?

Cody on breakfast burrito duty in Albuquerque

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Cody on espresso duty at the park entrance to Hueco Tanks

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Steve busting a move on Dirty Martini in Hueco

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Cody telling a great story

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Hueco still life

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Our winter hole-up in Bishop with Cal and Marsha

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The Buttermilks

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Vikki on Funky Tut

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Video via The RV Project of Luminence, a classic highball at the Secrets of the Beehive. If you wait long enough you’ll see me in there

Greatest Thanksgiving ever in The Pit

Mr Meat and Mrs Pie: a match made in heaven

Kat doing what she does best: making people happy with baked goods (and gigantic pours of whiskey)

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If you’ve spent time in Bishop, you know this slogan

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I become famous (infamous?) in the new version of Sherman’s Better Bouldering

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On Xavier’s Roof

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Two very cold dogs

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Me braving the Grandma arete

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Flann shares Flyboy beta with Angie, photo via The RV Project

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Enjoying a late evening session on Slunk at the Sads, photo via The RV Project

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Me on Beefy Gecko in the Ice Caves, photo via Rock Warrrior Films

View through our window after waking to our first snowfall

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Vikki and Sarah on a cold day out

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The mountains surrounding Bishop awash in snow

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Amazing fare at Marsha’s Christmas party

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Death Valley, an unusual spot for a Christmas camping excursion

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Joshua trees dot the landscape on the drive back from Death Valley

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Escaping the cold on a road trip to Red Rocks, Las Vegas

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The crew in Vegas on New Years Eve

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Max working Wet Dream at Red Rocks

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A mad hype battle we witnessed in Vegas thanks to Alex, a local slashie (climber/ breakdancer)

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Photo via Tracy Lee

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Vikki enjoys a five-star spot on The Wave at the Kraft boulders

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Monkeying around on Monkey Bar at the Kraft boulders

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Discovering delicious tacos in Vegas with Spenser, Vikki, and Alex

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Back in Bishop, Angie celebrates accordingly after sending French Press

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Snagging the crux hold of The Mystery (and putting a shirt on mid-move. Impressive), photos via The RV Project

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Enjoying the city life: a juice bar opening in Los Angeles with Jeff

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Tasty Kansas barbeque to go with a classy jazz session at the Blum house

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Last word goes to Josh Morey, an incredible human we miss dearly

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Posted in climbing, uncategorized, usa | 6 Comments

wild and wonderful huayhuash

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With a two-week break from school for Fiestas Patrias holidays, Ana and I decided to hike the Huayhuash (pronounced why-wash) trek, which took us seven days.

Being the more hard-core of the duo, Ana needed some convincing to go with an arriero (donkey driver). In the end, she caved (whew!) and thus we hired Monsueto whose burros bore the weight of our packs. We provided food and cooked for Monsueto, but he cleaned up the dishes and set up our tents. Luxury indeed!

As we learned later, we probably shocked our Monsueto with our fancy vegetarian dinners. One day I included a carrot in his lunch, which I later found him feeding to the donkeys. When we recounted this story later, our Huaracina friend became hysterical at the thought of him wanting to snack on raw carrots. So turns out eating raw carrots is a gringo thing…

More of a meat and potatoes guy, Monsueto makes sure we know the way before we set off in the morning

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The days generally went like this: We woke up early to freezing cold temps. We made oatmeal in the vestibule of our tent while still wrapped in all our clothes and sleeping bags. We packed up camp and bade farewell to Monsueto, who walked much faster than us.

Then, we’d walk and enjoy the views. We hiked up and down at least one pass per day. The hike is at high altitude–between 3500 and 5000 meters–but luckily I was now fully acclimatized. (Side note: In addition to tea and lunch, taking pictures and consulting the map are excellent excuses for breaks.)

With the exception of one long day, we would arrive to camp around mid-afternoon. We’d immediately start cooking, so we could eat while the sun was shining (read: while it was still warm). We were usually in bed by grandma hour. And then we’d start all over again early the next morning.

The area is populated with sheep herders and subsistence farmers, who live in huts like this one

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A disclaimer on my unfashion-forward jean patch: I wore through the knees of my jeans, and Huaraz does not have pants long enough for me!

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Color-coordination with nature

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Tea time with a view
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Rivers running red

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An infinity-shaped lake on one of our final days

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At the top of our first pass. Only eight more to go!

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I’m not sure what this is, but we only saw one of its kind

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Ana midway up San Antonio pass

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The view the top made it worth it!

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Cheesy yoga pose photo

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Our friend Alexis surveys the scene from the top

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The final campsite comes into view

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The sun hits the mountains before it bids us farewell for the night

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We emerged from the trek dirty and grateful for the comfort of a bed! No epic adventure stories–things all in all went smoothly–but it was a beautiful and peaceful experience.

Gracias, helpful burritos!

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Posted in peru | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

soroche in ishinca

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Since Huaraz IS a mountaineering town, I decided to attempt a mountain summit.

We chose Ishinca, considered an easy mountain in the Cordillera Blanca. And I’m sure any mountaineer who reads this will laugh at my newbie account of the experience!

First, you have to get your stuff up to base camp. We took a taxi a few hours out of town, where we met up with our arriero (donkey-driver). He loaded up our gear on the burros and we were off on a several hour hike, happily free of our heavy packs.

Some campo-style traffic on the drive to meet up with our arriero

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Enjoying a pack-free hike in!

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The mountains come into view

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Then, you set up camp.

Our camp was in a spectacular valley

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But then the real fun: you try to go to sleep early. Because you’re getting up in the middle of the night (in our case, 1:30 am), in the freezing cold, and you’re going to hike, in the dark, in clunky boots, to get to the snow line.

For this mountain, this hike was several hours long and pretty damn tiring. I’m happy it was dark, because I couldn’t see all the torture ahead of us!

On the positive, the sensation of hiking shrouded in darkness, with shadowy mountains all around you, is sensational. Headlamp lights from higher-up mountaineers glimmered around us like stars.

The sky shifted from black to grey and finally to the pale glow of near-dawn

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We took a steep switchback uphill, which turned out to give us a fantastic view–but was a bit off course. As we retraced some steps, I realized that I was more-than-usual zonked from the hike. I was exhausted, dizzy, despondent–and suddenly nauseous.

Yep, I had soroche–altitude sickness.

We were about to bring out the crampons and ice axes and begin the actual mountaineering.

I had to make a quick call. Either I turned back now, letting the rest of the group summit. Or I needed to continue on and actually make it to the top, because once we were on the snow, I couldn’t turn back alone.

The point of no return: where the snow-line begins

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I decided to turn back to avoid making the entire group miss out on their summit moment. I struggled on the easy walk back to base camp, and I realized I had made the tough, but right, call. When I reached my tent, I curled up in my sleeping bag and slowly came back to life over the next few hours.

Snapping photos during my slow-but-steady decent to the comforts of my sleeping bag

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And so concludes my first mountaineering experience*–which was sadly sin summit. Will I try it again? I’ve got to be honest, I’m going with no. Even without the soroche, mountaineering just has too high of a suffering-to-pleasure ratio for my tastes! But to each his own, right?

(*To clarify, mountaineering is climbing mountains…whereas rock climbing is climbing rock faces. As I learned, they are two very different pursuits!)

Posted in peru | 3 Comments

report from up north: the almost-but-not-so-impossible-wall

Steve and co have just posted an account of their climbing epics in Greenland.

Aye mamita–I am without words!

Steve starting up their 9-day-on-the-wall climb

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Oh what a view!

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Meanwhile, this much-less-hardcore half of the Stangie duo is leaving Sunday for the eight-day hike around the Cordillera Huayhuash. I was feeling apprehensive about hiking for so long–and at fairly high altitude–but if Steve do what he just did, then I think I can handle walking!

Steve and team, gracias for the hearty dose of perspective–and psyche!

Posted in arctic, peru, updates | Leave a comment

chevre perú: finding my way in huaraz

I’ve now been in Huaraz, Perú for one month. And I know the next two months here are going to fly by.

My first few days were a little blurry–I was fresh off of about 30 hours of travel to get from New York to Lima and then up north to Huaraz.

Huaraz isn’t the most tranquila of towns. Combis honk (and run red lights). Stray dogs wander and sometimes howl. And this summer, nearly every main road is under construction to resurface roads and mend the strained sewage system.

One of the rare construction signs. People just go about their business during the construction, and on more than one occasion I’ve nearly fallen into an unmarked ditch.

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However, Huaraz is full of friendly people, lots of activity, fun bars and restaurants, and a lively central market selling everything from whole chickens to custom-made clothes.

Veggies in the market.

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And have I mentioned the views? The city is surrounded by snow-peaked mountains, which are what draw many of the mountaineers that convene in town pre-and-post expedition.

Rooftop views of the Cordilla Blanca mountains

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In Huaraz, I’m getting a taste of small-town living. It’s hard to walk down the street or hang out in a cafe or restaurant without seeing someone you know (or who knows someone you know). In this way, it takes longer to do just about anything–yet the experience of getting something done is pretty friendly and social.

Yep, I’m in Latin America: Luly gives Katherine a dreadlock while Katherine’s pet monkey looks on.

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Anyone for a land-line call?

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I’ve become a regular at this fruit stand

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I’m currently gorging myself on these Cape Gooseberries, which I haven’t seen since Cape Town two years ago! Here they’re called aguaymantos. And they are ricisimo!

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I’ve found a living arrangement–I’m renting a room on the top floor of a guesthouse in town called Hostal Caroline. It’s a great deal, and I have access to the hostel’s amenities while also having a private room on the top floor with views of the mountains. And breakfast made for me each morning! I will sublet a friend’s apartment while she’s away for the month of August; otherwise, this will be ‘home’ till the end of September.

Mi casa amarilla en Caroline

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I have also found the lady who makes tamales. They’re like the ones in Mexico but with a twist: olives and pickled onions and ají sauce. Mmmm. Tamales should be their own food category.

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Jugos! What I love is that they don’t even have to-go cups.

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Our writing workshop is underway. We have about 35 girls between ages 11-17 enrolled in our workshop, which Ana and I are calling EscribaChica (which means “WriteGirl” in Spanish).

Ana and I have set up a blog for the workshops, where you can follow along and read work (in Spanish and English) by our awesome writers.

This week we wrote our first poems–some soon to appear on our blog–and I was blown away by some of the things the girls wrote. And it was their first time writing a poem! Creativity is just bubbling over in some of them.

Bi-lingual blogging with EscribaChica

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We’d love for you to make comments on our blog on the work we post. We plan to read any comments aloud in class to the girls. (We will translate those in English into Spanish). Trust me, they will really appreciate your comments and feedback on what they write, so don’t be shy!

Some of our writers hard at work decorating their journals on the first day of our workshops

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We just finished our second week, and after each session I leave feeling motivated and excited by the eagerness of our fledgling writers. And they are teaching me so much already.

Tania shows off the sticker she received after reading her work aloud

tania after reading aloud

As our workshops happen Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I have the rest of the week open to explore.

So far, I’ve been to sport climbing-and-bouldering area Hatun Machay twice, and I’m eager to be a regular there! The guiding company Andean Kingdom runs a shuttle there every morning, so it’s easy to take the two hour ride. The same company runs the refujio there it has the (wonderful) vibe and feel of an Argentinian refujio (no surprise since the owners are from Argentina).

Literally, the first thing that happened when I arrived at Hatun Machay: someone walked by with a dazed sheep, just about to slaughter it for dinner that evening.

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The refujio’s gatita, Paris, who just might make me want to get a cat one day.

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Manu stops to take in the view on the way back to the refjuio.

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Sun setting over the rock forest of Hatun Machay

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Chess by candlelight

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The rock in Hatun is rough volcanic and the majority of the routes fall in the 6/7 grade range, which means I have lots of options in my grade and plenty of people climbing around my level. I’m excited to have access to such a cool place with such a lively community of climbers.

Ana choosing our next route

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Marty practicing how to volar.

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Hatun is at about 4300 meters in elevation, which is definitely a challenge! You’ll get to the top of something that felt easy, yet it feels like you’ve just come back from an intense run. The first day there I had pretty bad altitude sickness too, but hopefully the worst has passed.

On the way back to town, we caught the sun setting over the Cordilla Blanca range. We all hung out of the combi to snap a few photos of the pink illuminating the mountains!

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This past weekend, I went out on a two day hike with some people I’ve met since coming to Huaraz. We were hiking at about 4500 meters, which with a pack and about 35 kilometers to cover over the two days, made it rather tiring. Not to mention that half the time we weren’t on a set trail…and I was still not acclimated to the altitude.

After the first day, we arrived at a small lake where we rested a bit and took in the view.

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Then we made camp. Despite the extra weight, I was grateful to have a warm tent. It gets downright freezing at nighttime!

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Mountain wild flowers closing up as the sun sets

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The next day, we hiked up to a ritual cave area and then onto a second lake, where we drank from the (rapidly receding) glacial water.

Cave paintings

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Katherine hanging out at lake numero dos

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Marshy ground gives way to lush greens and tiny flowers blooming

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Then we made a slow descent back to civilization along the spine of a ridge, which gave us fantastic views of the Cordillera Blanca range

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The crew taking in the view as we reached the top

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Mountains aside, parts of the dry, brown, dramatic hills reminded me of Southern California–and I felt like a bird, given our 360-view of the magnificent scenery

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Scoping out our route back to town

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As we descended back into the valley, local campisneos helped point the way back to the combi which we needed to take back into town. We counted over 22 people crammed into the little van–not including all the babies on the backs of their mothers!

The cramped ride afforded a photo opp of this lady’s awesome hat. Many of the women here wear this style of hat.

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Meanwhile, in the (north of the) Northern Hemisphere….

Steve and co are attempting their route on The Impossible Wall in Greenland, which they were expecting to take about 10 days. Hopefully I’ll get a sat phone message soon telling me how it went!

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The rest of the photos from Perú are here, EscribaChica workshop photos are here, and the Artic Team’s photos are here.

Hasta pronto!

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