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Travelling during a pandemic

TCA Routestter and BD Local Hero Jonny Kydd had to cut short an epic world climbing trip in March when the pandemic hit. He has finally restarted his adventure and shared an update from the road.

So it turns out 2020 wasn’t a great year to take a sabbatical to travel and climb around some of the best bouldering spots the world has to offer… but who knew!

Cancelling the trip of a lifetime

When Covid took control of Europe (for the first time) I was in Switzerland, where the local authorities decided they wanted everyone without a Swiss licence plate out of the country. This lead to hectic replanning and driving to Fontainebleau only to be told France was going into lockdown and ending up back at home in the UK. A 2-months Rocklands trip in South Africa was then cancelled, not exactly what I had planned for the first part of the year!

Hitting the road again

As soon as the cooler autumnal conditions had arrived – and restrictions loosened – I was keen to get back out in the van and head to Europe. So at the start of September, I headed to Magic Wood, Switzerland. This seemed like the best choice of location to go as it was just coming into good conditions and there’s a campsite at the crag with suitable Covid restrictions in place, making it feel safe and less likely that I’d be kicked out again!

After a long day of driving, with minimal stops, my girlfriend and I made it to Magic Wood. We were surprised upon arrival at how normal it seemed, expecting to see face masks and designated zones for cars and tents, yet it was pretty much the same as it was pre-Covid with the addition of a few signs reminding people of social distancing and to wash their hands. The main noticeable difference from the norm was a reduction in different nationalities. Pretty much everyone was Swiss or German, whereas in the past you’d have people from all over the world visiting.

The minimal restrictions felt a bit strange as everything had been ramping up in the UK just before I left and took a couple of days to get used to more relaxed regulations. The other odd bit was that it definitely felt as if most people visiting Magic Wood had a more relaxed attitude towards the rules than I’d been used to. Luckily the wood absorbs quite a lot of people – so it never felt busy when climbing.

Back on rock

Anyway on with the climbing! Having been to Magic Wood a couple of times before, I’d done most of the quick classic ticks so I knew this trip would be more likely trying hard things that suit me, easier things that don’t suit me and still feel hard, or climbs more off the beaten track.

The trip started off pretty well with ticks of “La Dance” (7C), “Nothing Changes” (8A), “Hydromancer” (7C+) and a flash of “Kristallo” (7C) in the first part of the trip whilst playing around on a couple of harder climbs.

(Nothing Changes 8A, photo Emily Fell)
(Nothing Changes 8A, photo Emily Fell)

The harder climbs that I gave attention to were “Electric Boogie” (8A+), “Steppenwolf” (8B), “Riverbed” (8B) & “Never Ending Story” (8B+). Despite doing all the moves on each of them it quickly became pretty obvious that the line I most wanted to do was Steppenwolf. It’s a great board style bloc, with athletic moves, an obvious line of holds, and a top out that’s not a given.

After having a promising couple of sessions in hot conditions I was sure I could do it if cooled down a little. Whilst the heat was still in the wood I played on some easier problems between sessions on the project and managed to send “Riverdance”, “Waldbrand” & “Knallpot” all 7C, which was good for confidence and making sure I didn’t forget how to send!

There was a rainy day, which usually cools the temperature in the wood for a day or two, so I thought this would be my chance. I left it a couple of days after the rain and was hopeful of the send but upon arriving found that the top was wet! Climbing is a game of strategy and patience. I still had a good session and linked all the hard moves so was pleased with the progress.

(Eyeing up the lip on Steppenwolf 8B, photo Emily Fell)
(Eyeing up the lip on Steppenwolf 8B, photo Emily Fell)

Persistence pays off

My confidence was high that if it was dry on my next session I would be able to do it, but with rain forecast for later in the week, it still being hot, and thin skin, it left me falling on the last hard move a couple of times! With rain on its way and needing at least a day to let my skin grow I thought I may have missed my window and would have to wait for another trip, which was hard to deal with after coming so close, but fortunately, the weather forecast was wrong and another opportunity arose. This time I took advantage and got the send on what I feel is probably the best climb I’ve done to date!

With the rest of the evening and the next morning looking dry before over 24 hours of forecasted rain I tried to make the most of the dry spell and sneak in a couple more sends which saw me get up “Conan” (7C+) that night and “The Bizarre Ride” (8A+) the following morning. Little did I know this would be the last send in magic wood for this trip. The rain that was forecasted turned into over 20cm of snow in a couple of hours! We decided to cut our time in Magic Wood short and head below the snow line to Chironico. It’s my first time there so hopefully, I won’t get too lost and we will continue to be safe from Covid!

(Conan 7C+, photo Emily Fell)
(Conan 7C+, photo Emily Fell)
If you need to live vicariously right now, follow Jonny's adventures on Instagram. If you are having massive FOMO, beware!  

Meet TCA Routesetter Jonny Kydd


For more from our Black Diamond Local Heroes, check out BD Local Hero posts on this blog.