Last Wednesday people in Ottawa woke up to this wonderful snowfall. Merry Christmas Canada.
discussions and climbing
Last Wednesday people in Ottawa woke up to this wonderful snowfall. Merry Christmas Canada.
I guess if I had to choose my “home” in “the states” it’d probably be Las Vegas. Leanna and I have spent a lot of time there visiting friends and bouldering and when I visit it always feels comfortable. Adam’s house is certainly my home away from home.
Having two weeks away from my job I found myself once again at McCarran Airport, having arrived a long way from Ottawa through Montreal. My goals were different this time. As the flashing lights and taxi cabs distracted me at every turn I decided that I didn’t want to climb in Vegas this time. Adam and I had talked about leaving town, going bouldering to other locations nearby, and that’s exactly what we did. My trip was a Southwest Sample – a quick visit to many of the best bouldering locations in the American Southwest.
We didn’t have every stop planned and just winged a lot of it. This makes it hard to commit to projects and creates difficultly budgeting your time but it’s also nice to have the freedom to move and climb where you want.
Our first stop was Moe’s Valley. Travelling north from Nevada through Arizona to Southern Utah, Moe’s Valley is collection of grainy sandstone boulders less than two hours from Las Vegas. I’ve climbed there three or four times before and this time my goal was to do Booka Booka Booka V13. I had seen videos and I thought that it would suit me and maybe I’d have a chance to put it together.
The weather was super hot and Adam and I were quickly bouldering shirtless in our short shorts. I did a couple of new climbs before I stopped at Booka Booka Booka. I tried the first difficult move and I wasn’t even close. I realize that the first attempts always seem impossible so I kept with it. After almost an hour I was no closer to success. Not only that, but I wasn’t even sure what I had to do to make it easier. Usually you’ll get an idea like “maybe I have to jump more” or “I have to be stronger with my right arm” but for this move I was stumped. It sucked, having planned for more success, but I managed to not get too worked up. I just had to change my plans a bit and try other things.
I managed to walk away with a consolation prize that day sending Man-Boy V11: A reachy problem that’s probably impossible if you’re under 5’8″. I tried it on our way out and climbed it in the pitch black with a headlamp for the topout. I was pretty scared up there off the ground in the dark – I didn’t know which holds were secure or not and I was expecting everything to break off. Luckily I was fine. It didn’t seem very difficult when I sent it but that’s often how it feels when you finally do it. I like Moe’s.
The right fork of Joe’s Valley
Next Adam and I travelled further north to Joe’s Valley, Utah. Located close to Price, Joe’s is a famous American bouldering destination and one of the few I had never visited. Seely had been before and was prepared to show me all of the classic boulders. We arrived late one evening and drove straight to the boulders where I did the super popular Nerve Extension V10 in a rush before we froze. It was cold in the dark canyons and being on the road all day was making us tired and hungry. It was a much different experience from Moe’s the day before.
The scenery in Joe’s is a lot different that other Southwest bouldering locations. The boulders are all found on the side of steep canyons which dip down to the road. You drive along the road and spot the boulders on the banks to either side of you. The views are tight and you get to experience a lot of small changes in elevation. Having always heard of Joe’s Valley it was really great to finally visit. I thought there would be more hiking, and I thought the problems would be taller. There’s a lot of big tall ones surely, but it was surprising to not find that every one was big and scary.
We decided to grab a motel room for a week for cheap (not the photo above). We ended up staying for six nights in the end, departing a day before some bad weather rolled in. I had mixed results bouldering in Joe’s. I’m really happy to have climbed the problems I did but equally upset that I failed on the problems I failed on. I climbed a handful of classics like The Angler V2, Feels like Grit V7, Playmate of the Year V9, and Wills A Fire V6. All great problems and seriously each one is 4/4 stars in my book, especially Wills A Fire.
I was most happy to finally climb Worm Turns, a V11 that I first saw on video on norope.com years ago (maybe 8 years ago). It has a striking tufa / worm feature running straight out of it and you grab it and pinch your way to jugs. I had wanted to climb it for years and I’m glad I got it.
The Worm feature
I was most unhappy to fail on The Ghost King V11. I tried it a couple of times. The first day I almost sent actually falling off the topout which I had already flashed during practice. I was using alternative beta and after some rest I returned and attempted the standard method and actually injured my shoulder a bit. I pulled a muscle some how and it ended up hurting for about a week after. I knew that marked the end of my attempts on Ghost King and I was really upset. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to Joe’s and it was upsetting having to leave with unfinished business. Adding to this was the fact that I didn’t do Beyond Life either. The V12 intro moves were easy and I did them first or second try, however there exists a move in the V10 stand variation that stumped me. A big stretch with the legs to a balancy reach move over a rocky rough landing.
These two setbacks proceeded into a mental setback that had me a bit bummed for a few days. Some weather was rolling into Joe’s so we retreated to Vegas. Joe’s is pretty remote as far as bouldering goes – there’s nothing to do but climb really so arriving back in Vegas Adam was pretty excited to pick up his new PlayStation4 and sit on a sofa for a bit as I reflected on all of the classic problems I saw and didn’t get to try.
Adam bouldering in Joe’s Valley
It was around this point that I managed to convince my friend Max into escaping up to Bishop in California for a few days. He had three days off work so three days it was. It was surprisingly nice to return to Bishop. I hadn’t been since Leanna and I spent a month there during our year off.
I’ve spent a lot of time bouldering there and I’ve managed to do most of what I’m capable of but apparently that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. I was reacquainted with the amazing high-desert scenery and sweet western smells. Being there brought back many great memories. Walking around, experiencing the views all over again, I would recall fun times spent there with friends or solo climbing efforts focused on trying hard.
The first day was spent supporting Max at the Happy Boulders before journeying up to the Buttermilks. Buttermilk country is unique and surely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Returning, especially to the Grandma Peabody boulder, was like reuniting with an ex-girlfriend. She’s familiar, nothing has really changed (well, maybe a few new guys have had their turn), but now you look at her differently. You’ve experienced a lot since you were last with her and those experiences have changed how you feel. The memories of your past together are all still there, nostalgia artificially enhancing moments and her true beauty still stunning, but when you’re back together you remember all too clearly the shitty moments that left that permanent particular aftertaste. The good thing is that now you’re more experienced and wiser and you can enjoy the new time together for what it is – an opportunity to try your hardest to send some great hard boulder problems.
Grandma Peabody – photo © Max Moore
I had three days so that meant two things: no rest and few problems. I focused on Thunderbird, V11. I’ve been trying this boulder for a few years and it’s never easy. It’s a few simple moves focusing on a dyno off a really sharp crimp. You need to have strong fingers and even stronger skin as the rock cuts through your fingertips. After remembering the movements the first day I came close but didn’t succeed. My skin was damaged and I knew I only had about 10 tries remaining in my skin before it split and started bleeding. The second day I only tried a couple times because there was this asshole hanging around the boulder making being there less than enjoyable. The third day I was really close. The closest I’ve ever been and I almost did it before my skin tore and started bleeding. That was the end of that. Consolation was had however as I did a repeat of Soul Slinger V9 with Max. It’s surely one of the best boulder problems on earth – amazing.
Mule deer in Bishop
Bishop had come and gone in a flash and I found myself back in Vegas. I was planning on climbing in Vegas for the last three days before returning to Canada. Unfortunately some freak weather rolled in and it rained in Las Vegas for three days straight. Incredible. Rain in the desert. My friends had never seen anything like it in Vegas. Shakeel, who’s lived there his whole life, had never seen three days of rain like that. Obviously climbing on the brittle sandstone was not an option so we climbed once on Adam’s MoonClimbing.com Moon Wall. It was great. I’ve been bugging Altitude Gym to build a Moon Wall for years now and hopefully they do. It’s a great way to get strong for sure and a lot of fun. When I get a house I’m definitely going to build one.
The trip was sweet and sour. Chicken balls aside the trip probably added more to my plate than it removed but fortunately I have a big appetite.
By the way, if anyone is keeping track Leanna and I are leaving for FUCKING SINGAPORE in like three weeks. Crazy.
I’m sure you’re all well aware by now that Leanna and I are trying hard to travel while we’re still young (wait a minute, is 32 young?). Life has a way of slowing everyone down and as people get older they get more sedentary and at the same time usually busy with family obligations and responsibilities. We’re trying to slow down that process and hit the road again for another trip, this time to Southeast Asia!
We’ve never been to Asia before and I’m sure the experience will be exotic to say the least. I’ve always wanted to go, and much like my trip to Africa I never thought I would.
Why did we choose Singapore as our next travel destination? Well, quite simply we needed somewhere to go at Christmas. Historically we’ve always returned to Thunder Bay and spent our Christmas there with family but this year is different and we took the opportunity to leave. Leanna gets a two-week break at Christmas so it’s be the perfect opportunity to jet off somewhere.
Singapore at Christmas? Yes. While Christmas is not celebrated religiously it’s surely celebrated commercially and the streets are elaborately adorned with Christmas lights. Orchard Rd, the main shopping street, is lit up from top to bottom. Marry that with the humid jungle heat (at 1.5degrees north of the equator) and we can gawk at tackily displayed Christmas arrangements while sweating through our clothes at 33celsius.
Singapore wasn’t on our “must-see” list (our must see list: Japan, Turkey) but since the moment we read further about this city-state we’ve been excited, to say the least. Singapore literally has everything. It’s as if Switzerland decided to open up an expensive Las Vegas in an Asian jungle. There’s so many world-class tourism attractions it’s hard to determine what we’ll do and what we won’t. People usually don’t travel to Singapore for an extended period of time and usually just stop in for a handful of days on their way touring through southeast Asia. While we’re there we’ll try to see as much as we can, and possibly a little bit of Malaysia also.
Alright, so it sounds cool, there’s a lot to see and do, nice warm weather, but still why Singapore?
Singapore has insane shopping malls and strict laws (like, fucking STRICT) but it’s heart and soul must be the food. FOOD. Leanna and I love food (in particular eating food). Good food. And Singapore has soooo much. Cuisines from all cultures and all corners. Everyone in Singapore is a “foodie” and we’ll be able to try specialties from all over Asia. Singapore’s a very multicultural nation and the common bond shared by everyone is food.
Amazing food from the best food blog in asia, ieatishootipost
I’m really excited to take as many photographs as I can. I even finally bought a Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS lens that I’m really excited to bring. While not good for bouldering photos (there’s no bouldering this trip – strictly travel) it’ll be perfect for distant landscape photos and wildlife.
Our trip will start on Dec 19 and we’ll return Jan 2. A short two-week trip which will be trimmed a little shorter even yet by the drastic timezone changes crossing the date-line. I hope you’re looking forward to the blogs and the photos because there’ll be a bunch published when we return.
Hopefully the photos of the food we post won’t make you too jealous ;)
I’ve made a video of some of the climbs I did in Rocklands. It took me a long time to edit it all together and when I showed it to Leanna she said that it may be the best one I’ve made (I’ve made over 20 climbing videos). I think it turned out alright.
I didn’t film much this trip because I was always too busy climbing or spotting. More than half of the footage was captured by Max or Liberty and they were kind enough to let me make a video out of it.
I hope you like it. Tell me what you think.
Check out the video on vimeo.com or watch it below. I suggest watching fullscreen with headphones or something with a little bass because the music is really good.
I was worried about travelling to Santorini a second time. Dave and I had such wonderful few days there. It was magical – white houses everywhere, some with blue roofs, amazing sunsets, scooter rides across the island, great wine and food, beautiful beaches, and everywhere you looked was a like a fake photograph. I didn’t want to ruin this perfect image I had of Santorini.
Originally whilst planning the trip, I had refused to go back. However Anna asked me if I would please go to Santorini since it will be the only time she gets to go to Greece and Santorini is a must-see. She was right – it is a must see. So I gave in.
I do not regret it.
The magic of Santorini will never die. It will always have white houses everywhere, amazing sunsets, great wine and food, and beautiful beaches. It is the most picturesque of all Greek islands. That is why its picture is in every travel book or magazine showing Greece. Even though it does not have as many things to do on the island as Naxos does, it is a definite must-see if travelling to Greece. It is an island full of postcard views.
I think I showed my mom and Anna Santorini’s magic well. We arrived in the late afternoon and after getting settled and deciding our plan for the next few days, we enjoyed an early dinner (since we missed lunch that day) of Santorini specialties. What makes some of the food and wine unique on Santorini is the mineral quality of the soil due to the volcanic ash.
Fava: similar to hummus but better. Made from a bean unique to the island
Tomato balls: tomatoes and other vegetables grated, formed into patties, and fried. Made from tomatoes unique to the island
Santorini salad (made from vegetables only produced on the island) and fried calamari (not a Santorini specialty but still delicious!)
We stayed in Oia which is know for its sunsets. So after dinner we walked to the edge of the town to watch the sunset. . . us and thousands of other people that is! (For better sunset pictures refer to our previous blog on Santorini. Dave takes better pictures than me :) )
All the people watching the sunset. This does not include all the people standing in the same area as we were.
The next morning we enjoyed our breakfast with nice caldera views. Our hotel, Aspa Villas, built this patio over the winter. It was great. I can’t imagine a better place to enjoy breakfast, can you?
Anna and my mom on the patio
One view from the patio
Other view from the patio
After breakfast we had arranged to rent a car and check out the island. First we stopped in the main town of Fira. Here we wondered the streets, checked out all the shops, and bought some local products.
Then we stopped at Santo Wines. We enjoyed a delicious wine tasting with more incredible views.
Our tasty selection of wines including Santorini’s famous white Assyrtiko and dessert wine Vinsanto
Our view as we tasted our wine
Anna enjoying the view
Next we drove to one of the famous beaches on the island, Red Beach. It is famous for its red cliffs which are magnificent. The beach itself however was disappointing. It was full of garbage, the water wasn’t clear, and after about 45 min we were kicked out because it was closing (not sure why). So not the best experience. I recommend taking a picture from a distance and then moving on to one of the many other beautiful and clean beaches on the island.
By this time we were hungry and we drove to a quiet fish taverna again with amazing views, of course (I did say everywhere you look is like a postcard remember?!). This was where we discovered that the electricity on the whole island was out! I did see a fire at a distance while we were at the winery, but I didn’t know what it meant. Apparently there was an explosion and the generator which supplies electricity to the whole island was now on fire. For now this didn’t affect us too much except limit our choices for lunch. We were still able to enjoy fresh, locally caught fish and move on to our next stop: the beach.
Santorini is also famous for its black sand beaches (again from the volcanic soil). The sand is hot though so beware! But the beach was beautiful, clean, relaxing, and the water was warm.
Agios Georgios beach
We took our time driving back, enjoying the many views of the island. When we returned to the hotel we discovered that there still was no electricity and that this meant there was no water. Oia is up on the cliffs and there is an electric pump to pump the water up to the town. But no electricity means no pump, and no pump means no water. So we couldn’t shower but that didn’t matter too much. When we went out for dinner we ate by candlelight so no one could see how dirty we were anyways! Actually I was impressed with how well the restaurants and village coped without electricity. Some places had back-up generators and others just made do. It seemed like the whole town worked together to make the best of it.
The next day we took it pretty easy. Even though it was our last day we were getting pretty tired. Being a tourist is surprisingly tiring. I’m not complaining or anything, trust me. If I could travel for the rest of my life I’d be more than happy! We decided to walk to the beach and then to Sigalas winery and then take a cab back. Our hotel told us to do this because it was downhill to the beach and winery but uphill back. And in the heat of August, she did not recommend the hike back.
So off we went walking downhill in the heat. We only walked maybe 5 min when a construction worker pulled over and offered us a ride. It’s funny because if we were in Canada or if we hadn’t already hitchhiked in Ikaria, I’m sure my mom and Anna would’ve said no. But instead we all looked at each other and said yes! It was cute because he had to wipe cement and screws off the seat before we could hop in. He was really nice and dropped us off at the beach.
I had so much fun at this beach. The water was so warm and the waves were so much fun. I spent most of the day jumping into the waves, suntanning, then back jumping into the waves. The beach was quiet too. It felt like we had it all to ourselves.
Me jumping into the waves . . . so much fun!
We walked to the winery and again enjoyed tasting the delicious Santorini wines. When we went to leave and ask them to call us a cab, they said they couldn’t. With the power being out the phones and cell phones weren’t working. So disappointedly we started the very hot trek up the hill. Again we only walked about 5 min when, this time with our thumbs up, another really nice guy stopped and drove us. You know I wish we could do this in Canada. It’s so nice that everyone just helps each other out. It’s too bad our world has bad people in it who ruin nice gestures like these. Greece, well parts of it, are lucky that they still have this privilege.
Once back at the hotel, we had power but still no water. We wouldn’t have cared except that the next day we were travelling back to Canada. With a very long trek home ahead of us, we really wanted to shower. We had gone over two days without showering, that included beach time which meant sand and dirt in our hair. We patiently waited in our room and checked the water every half hour. Luckily we eventually had a little water and were able to all shower. Whohoo!!
Even without water and electricity and I lost my Greek travel book, Santorini is as magical as ever in my mind. I have no desire to return however, I feel that my turn is over and now many more people need to discover Santorini and see its magic for their own.
And that’s it. We’re now back in Canada and our Greek trip is over. It was a fantastic trip filled with great memories. Thanks Mom and Anna for sharing this trip me – I’ll never forget it!
My Greek souvenirs: 3 bottles of Kitron, 2 bottles of Mastiha, and 1 jar of caper leaves
The most famous sight of Naxos, the Portara, because it can be from the ferry as you arrive on Naxos
We’ve just had a fantastic stay in Naxos! A big part of what made it so fantastic was Nikoletta and her family at Hotel Grotta.
Anna and the amazing Nikoletta
Our hotel which overlooks Naxos from the top of a hill
We were picked up from the port and greeted by the always happy, energetic, smiling Nikoletta. She invited us into her hotel and gave us a drink and some of her mother’s homemade cake while we perused a giant binder of pictures and things to do in Naxos. Then she helped us plan what we should do for our next few days. I can’t imagine a better welcome and greeting than that.
Since we arrived late, we decided to enjoy what was left of the day by going to the beach. That’s one thing that’s so great about Greece – you can go to the beach at 4:00 pm and still have 3 hours to enjoy it!
After the beach we stopped for ice cream. I was really excited because they had mastic ice cream with cinnamon. Mastic comes from the Mastic trees which only grow on the island of Chios – that’s one island in the whole world that has these trees. It’s a real Greek specialty. Dave and I LOVE this flavour so I was extra happy to find it!
The next day we woke up to the most amazing breakfasts I have ever seen. There was about 6 plates of fruit, 15 different kinds of cakes made by Nikoletta’s mom, local cheeses, Greek yogurt, cereal, eggs, omelettes, Greek pies (like spanakopita, and tiropita), and so much more. It was disappointing that our stomachs were so small because we couldn’t try everything. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
This day we decided to take a tour of the island. It was perfect. We had a great tour guide who spoke English, Italian, and Greek and explained everything as we went along. Naxos is actually the most green and fertile island of the Cylcades. Even though it was August and dry, you can still see how lush it is for Greece.
Our first stop on the tour was to see one of the kouros on the island. A kouros is a giant statue of a young male that were often made in Naxos and then shipped across Greece and to other countries. They were typically made out of marble and Naxos is known for its marble quarries. The one we saw was unfinished and broken (hence why it never left the island) and just over 6 m tall.
Kouros of Melanes
One of the marble quarries
Next we went to the village of Apiranthos. It is known as the “marble village” since all the streets and most of the houses are made of marble. It was really pretty.
Then we went to see “Panagia Drosiani”. This is allegedly the oldest church in the Balkans. It is actually four really tiny churches all combined with a central dome.
Our second last stop was at the Temple of Dememter. Demeter was the goddess of grain and they built the temple close to fertile areas.
Temple of Demeter
A chapel next to the temple
Our very last stop was spent relaxing in the beach and eating a delicious lunch at a nearby tavern. The beach was actually our favourite one on Naxos. It was too bad that we couldn’t spend more time there.
Mikri Vigla beach
Mikri Vigla beach
Our Naxos salad which is the same as a Greek salad but instead of feta cheese, they put three different kinds of Naxian cheeses. Mmmm!
Overall the tour was great. It had everything we wanted to see on the island except one village. So the next morning we got up and took the bus to the village of Halki. It is a picturesque tiny village known for its art galleries and kitron distillery. Kitron is a liqueur made only on Naxos from the leaves of the citron tree. The very first kitron distillery is Vallindras which we visited and tasted and bought some of the liqueurs. I really liked this town. It’s small (you can see the whole main area in 5 – 10 min) but so pretty. Everywhere you looked was like a postcard.
We of course, headed to the beach after that. Where else would you want to go? Since it was our last night in Naxos, we stopped for some cocktails after the beach. I had the best Mojito I have ever had! It was funny because we had two drinks and my mom was drunk! She could barely walk straight!!
Naxos was my favourite island so far. It has lots to do and see (ruins, villages, countryside, beaches), unique foods and drinks (Naxian cheeses, kitron), and it has the BEST hotel I’ve ever stayed at (Hotel Grotta – Thanks Nikoletta for such a great stay!). I definitely recommend visiting it if you are heading to Greece.