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Swiss Adventures

We join TCA routesetter Jonny on the next leg of his tour as he puts all that pulling on plastic to good use in the great outdoors.

Climbing in Chironico

“The next part of my travels lead me to Chironico. It’s situated in the southern part of Switzerland, near the Italian border. It was my first time visiting here so the psyche was very high!

Normally when I visit a new area I like to try as many climbs as possible, however, I quickly learned that Chironico is not the best location for doing this. Firstly the guidebook is awful!!! So much time was spent in the first few days just trying to find the climbs I wanted to try. Secondly, the rock here creates some amazing lines, but most of the holds are on the sharp side, with a few holds that really eat your skin! By the end of the first week, I had cut 4 of my fingertips and had used up a lot of tape… (if you’re thinking of going to Chironico make sure you have plenty of finger tape packed!) That being said, the climbing here is still world-class, when you eventually find it.

I didn’t have any particular projects in mind for this part of the trip but instead wanted to try and send as many hardish problems as I could. The trip started off pretty well with a send of ‘Dr crimp’ (7C) and ‘Willenberg Dach’ (8A) before I was treated to 4 days of constant rain. And when I say constant I mean constant heavy rain day and night for 96 hours!!!

Adventures on Swiss rock (photos by Emily Fell)

After the rain

Too many hands of cards had been played and cabin fever had set in but eventually, the rain came to an end and I was excited to leave the van without a waterproof let alone the prospect of going climbing. When the rock had finally dried out and I was able to go climbing again, I was hoping to continue sending but I fell into the habit of getting the moves of climbs done but not getting the send before running out of skin or energy and having to come back to finish the job. I guess that’s the risk of trying to get lots of climbs done instead of being more focused on one or two. That being said I was still pleased to come away with sends of ‘Souvenir’ (8A), ‘Le Pilier’ (8A) & ‘Nobody ist der Grösste’ (8A) in the same week.

I was especially pleased with my send of ‘Nobody ist der Grösste’ as it was not only the best climb that I did but the best climb I tried in Chironico. It’s a slopey, heel hooky, tensiony problem on smooth wave polished slopey holds (bonus for the skin!). It took me a couple of sessions with bad skin to figure out the moves. During these sessions, I knew if I was going to send I would have to climb it without tape to get enough friction on the holds. This meant having enough rest days to let my skin heal. It’s never easy taking extra rest days on a trip but it was worth it to get the send of this particular climb.

WATCH VIDEO of “Nobody ist der Grösste” (8A) my favourite climb in Chironico so far.” 

Feeling the pressure

With my time in Chironico coming to an end, there was one climb left that I had opened an account on and felt like I could send, and that was ‘Second Life’ (8A+). I first tried this problem when my skin was pretty bad so the aim was just to figure out the ~22 moves and not lose too much skin in the process. Luckily it went pretty well and none of the moves felt too bad but being a boulderer, I knew the pump factor was going to be the real problem. This turned out to be true on the next session as I dropped the last hard move 3 times that session. The pressure was now on for the next session as it was nearing the end of my time in Chironico, the weather forecast wasn’t looking amazing and Covid restrictions were definitely being felt (but more on that later) so I wasn’t sure many more goes I would get. When my next session came about I fell off near the end again! I thought to myself that maybe it just wouldn’t go this trip as I didn’t have enough endurance so in my head I had given up but I decided to have one last go and found myself on top of it! Sometimes you just need to stop caring about sending to let yourself climb.

WATCH VIDEO of “Second Life” (8A+) Had to really fight the pump on this one 🥵 far too long for a boulderer!”

Covid’s grip in Europe

Back to the elephant in the room… In the final week of my time in Chironico the effect of Covid-19 could really be felt. Within 3 weeks, Switzerland has gone from having one of the lowest cases in Europe to one of the highest, reaching over 750 cases per 100,000. The police are patrolling a lot now and restrictions changed from very minimal, to face masks being required everywhere indoors and outdoors if 1.5m spacing cannot be maintained. The restriction that affected my life the most was when Germany put Switzerland on its quarantine list, essentially putting an end to the German weekend warriors (who would travel here for bouldering each week) and making the weekends feel less busy. That being said the dark grey cloud of lockdown feels like it’s sitting above Switzerland, ready to start pouring down at any moment and follow the example of other European nations. Next stop is Brione with no idea how long for…”