Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A good friends article in Mountains Magazine from Brazil !

A great friend of ours, Andrey Romaniuk from Brazil wrote a great story about his trip to the US for the American Alpine Club's International Climbers Meet.  This event  happens annually in the first week of October, and is hosted in Yosemite Valley every year!

The Brazilian Climbing Machine - Andrey!

This is where I met Andrey two events ago.  He was in Yosemite early, and shared his campsite with Carol and I before the event.  Carol works for the AAC, and is the lead organizer of the event.
I go every year as the other lead organizer, and as a host climber to help people achieve some of there climbing dreams of Yosemite.  (Although last year the event was in the Bishop CA / East side of the Sierra Mountains, as our Federal Government was shut down!)

His writing speaks of this trip, the meet, and the desert southwest.  Below I have copied a translated version he has given me.  Also I put a link to the magazine, where you can look at the pictures.  You can read it straight from the magazine, if you can read Portuguese that is!      :)
Also some of the desert pictures feature our good friend Forest Altherr who Andrey met at the event!

Enjoy, and great job Andrey!  A very fun read, and thanks for sharing with us!


(The magazine & pictures are at this link.)

An American Autumn

I’m driving through the beautiful roads of California towards a mythical valley, when suddenly a luminous sign strikes me:  ‘Yosemite Park is closed’. The energy of those places is so special that I don’t worry too much about that warning. My plan was to spend the whole month there, but actually had not realized the things behind that message, and what it would mean in my journey.
There are still some 60 miles to enter the valley, when I stop at a tourist information hut. The person tells me that all U.S. national parks were closed for political reasons that I didn’t understand at the time. I decide to head to the park entrance to see what’s going on.
Even the Rangers seemed to not understand much about the situation , and let me enter the park, telling me to follow up the camping which I had reserved and remain there waiting for further news. The environment in that magical place where I lived for a month in 2012 was very different this time. Few people, empty campsites, closed stores, and people without knowing what to do. But I knew very well... just wanted to live life, climb, and had the whole valley without crowd!
As agreed, at the evening my veteran friend Joe LeMay appears at Upper Pines campsite. With him also came Adji, a Brazilian fellow who lives in LA, a yoga teacher who is discovering the magic about climbing. We had a goal for the next day ... Royal Arches. About 1580ft split into 16 pitches.
I had climbed this route last year, and knew that despite long we could finish it fast; my only concern was Adji, that I did not know very well, and the downside that we would be climbing in a party of three. Soon as we soloed the first 4 or 5 pitches up to the steepest part of the wall my concern for Adji disappeared instantly. Despite being a new climber, the yogi master obviously has a supreme body control. Pure joy climbing, enjoying each detail of the wall, fueled by all the energy that this place provided us. By mid afternoon we had already returned to the camp, when we discovered that the next day everyone should leave the park. The mood of doubt was general. No one knew if this closure would last some days, or what was going to happen. This had never happened in U.S. history. I followed just living life one day at a time, and nothing could bother me knowing I still had almost month and a lot of free time to explore the American West.
The deadline was set: Thursday 3pm everyone should leave. Many people bet on Big Walls and jumped into the rock with supplies for a few days, hoping the park reopen until the end of the climb. Still the Rangers screamed on megaphones to everybody get down immediately. Nobody obeyed...
Who stayed onshore had no choice. Joe and Adji returned to their homes, and I followed my journey to the High Sierra, where I wanted to climb something wilder. The road that crosses the Yosemite park is indescribable. Granite domes polished by time, surreal blue lakes and thousands of ancient trees gave the sense of completeness to my free soul.
I decided to go towards Lee Vining, a small town on the east side of the Sierra, on the shores of Mono Lake. There I understood more about the things behind the park closure, which was actually a ‘shutdown’ of the American government, and all the federal services were paralyzed. This meant that not only the Yosemite was closed, but all the national parks and other services administered by the federal government, which also included campsites in several locations.
Following recommendations of the High Sierra guidebook, I found a place to camp, relatively isolated and for free, on the banks of the huge salt lake Mono Lake. The town of Lee Vining was full with climbers kicked out from the valley looking for rock, and it would be no problem to find partnership. So I met a nice couple from Ecuador who was in the same situation. Carla Perez and Esteban Mena would be my partners, and we had decided to climb Mt. Conness (12647ft high). The route chosen was the West Ridge (1480ft), considered by the legendary Peter Croft as one of the most beautiful routes in the High Sierra.
Following the alpine style rules we started the approach very early. After 4 hours of hiking through green fields, slabs of rock, snow, moraines, and descending a gully we reached the base of the immense western mountain crest. During the approach my lungs were working like crazy due to the altitude, while the Ecuadorian friends seemed to be enjoying a hike in a flat urban park. Yeah right, we were almost at the altitude of Quito, and Esteban had climbed a few months ago nothing less than Everest without oxygen! For me, the real rock challenge was waiting...
I don’t know what took over my breath, if it was only the altitude or the amazing beauty of the route. We continue climbing simultaneously by that magnificent ridge of yellowish granite, where the airy feeling was intense with vertiginous abysses on both sides. My mantra ‘inspires expires climb’ was repeated for 2 hours to reach the summit. The view were spectacular, with a blue sky crowning the mountains of Tuolumne Meadows and the distinct Half Dome split in half, there in the background.
Days like these are truly magical. When we feel the famous words of Messner: ‘The days that these men are in the mountains are the days that they really live’...

Carried by the wind...
Every year the American Alpine Club organizes an international climber’s meet. In 2012 the meet happened in Yosemite, where I had the opportunity to join as the only Brazilian climber. This Meet  is ‘closed’, this mean that the climbers are selected through an application form sent previously . There is a price to be paid for participation that includes transportation, 3 meals, camping fees, climbing / rescue  clinics and many other benefits . The event lasts a week, and aims to host a diverse group of climbing abilities from a multitude of countries.
This year I was invited again for this meet, which should happen in the valley. However, with the park closure everything was uncertain, and the organizers had to adapt this unforeseen.
We were told that the meet would be itinerant, around Bishop area and Eastern Sierras. For me it would be an opportunity to taste different experiences.
After climbing Mt. Conness I had to leave my Latin friends to follow towards the ‘International Climbers Meet’. The Meet base camp would be in the Pine Creek Canyon, a valley in the middle of the Sierra Nevada. From there we would attack different climbing crags daily.
More than 50 people from all corners of the world, first class food, cold nights around the campfire, meeting good friends, telling and hearing stories, watching movies in a white van (including exclusively the Reel Rock Tour 8), and of course a lot of climbing was basically our daily activities during that week. I’ve climbed at Owen’s River Gorge, a long basalt canyon filled of sport routes. Alabama Hills, with huge granite rocks that offer various cracks, crimps and balance moves at the best ‘Anhangava’ style. And also at the Pine Creek Canyon itself, a fantastic place that offers short, long, trad, sport, high quality routes. The highlights were the routes ‘Sheila’ and ‘John Fischer Memorial Route’.
Before leaving Brazil I’ve received kindly a copy of the book ‘As Montanhas do Marumbi ‘ from Farofa, and the guidebook ‘Guia de Escalada do Marumbi’ from Chiquinho, which I officially donated to the American Alpine Club Library to entice the foreigners to know the beauty of our mountains.

Flying further...
After the event most participants returned home, but I still had two weeks on the road and was super psyched to keep climbing. Three climbers from the meet also had a little more free time, and we decided to drive together towards the northern Sierra. Nogah (Israel), Simon (England) and Forest (USA) would be my partners for the next few days. We agreed that we would spend 2 days in Lover's Leap at Lake Tahoe area, and then follow towards the dream cracks of Indian Creek. The government shutdown was still going on after almost two weeks and despite Lover's Leap is open because isn’t a park, the campsites are administered by the federal government, so that means they were closed. Anyway after look around a bit we found a great place to spend our days, or rather nights in the area. And for free.
Lover's Leap is one of those places that makes you want to stay forever. At its base there is a small village just like the one at ‘Marumbi’ with houses where I could spend the rest of my life. Close by there’s a huge wall of gray granite approximately 420 feet tall, filled with horizontal / diagonal dikes, cracks and flakes, and dozens of routes! One of them is ‘Bear's Reach’, the one that Dan Osman climb speed soloing on that famous video.
In these two days of course I’ve climbed ‘Bear 's Reach’, nice climbing and very beautiful. We also climbed the superclassic ‘The Line’, 3 pitches on a single crack system that cuts the wall from the bottom to the top. And the mind-blowing ‘Hospital Corner’, which goes through an incredible dihedral in the second pitch with hallucinatory moves.
Most routes have 3 pitches, and after reaching the summit a pleasant 10 minute hike takes you back to the base of the wall to another climb. Nearby there is the Strawberry Lodge, where climbers go at the end of the day to relax, drink beer, eat something and have a chat. Everything seems like a dream...

Touching the ground...
Nogah had to return to Israel, and now we keep the trip with three stinky bearded guys (Me, Simon and Forest), heading to the desert. Would be 800 miles between us and the city of Moab. Despite the long journey, the driving was not as tiring as I expected. Cheap gas, smooth roads (no tolls), radio stations with the best soundtracks I've ever heard, I just needed to keep the car on the road without even stepping on the accelerator, which followed the speed by ‘cruise control’. We left California, crossed Nevada and finally after 15 hours driving we arrived at Moab in the middle of the night, finally in Utah. We slept somewhere on the banks of Colorado River and reserved the next day to get food and water, before leaving for the desert life.
The setting was totally different from Sierra Nevada, no forests, no granite, but a unique and natural beauty. Huge formations of yellow and red sandstones dominate the landscape. For thousands of years indigenous people dwelt the region, leaving signs on the walls that crossed the millennia. If we close our eyes we can still feel the energy of the Navajo, Hopi and Anasazi, and their harmony with the Universe.
Indian Creek is the heaven of pure crack climbing. Forget everything about handholds and footholds, dikes, slabs, crimps, flakes and bolts... It’s just perfect, parallel, vertical or overhanging cracks, of all sizes. You have to deal with them. They are hard and physically demanding where jamming techniques are mandatory. There are no constrictions, and this means that besides technique, you need to make pressure, sometimes a lot! And all this things we discovered in practice...
Although being beaten every day, we were still happy. Everything is a learning experience, and we were pushing our limits to find new ways to solve those problems. After a few days in a row climbing at the crags we decided to rest. The next day we would climb an easy ‘desert tower’, the South Six Shooter.
Get on the top of that tower in the middle of the desert was totally different from any climbing I had done, an extraordinary experience. That’s not a mountain or a crag, but it has a summit (very small), and an awesome view. To our surprise Forest brought 3 cans of beer to celebrate the summit... What a day!
We got down from the South Six Shooter, left our campsite at Indian Creek and headed back to Moab, where we would fuel our supplies and move to the next climb: Castleton Tower. The route chosen was ‘Kor-Ingalls Route‘, 4 pitches, one of the 50 classics of North America.
We started the approach at dawn, and the first rays of sun were already at the base of the wall. I took charge of leading the first pitch in a chimney / offwith relatively easy. The second pitch was leaded by Simon in a tricky wide fist crack. Forest got the third, which is the crux of the route, a hard and strenuous offwith. He grunted, groaned, and passed! Now the last was mine, another tight and naughty chimney, where I had the amazing experience of reaching the summit first! I belayed my fellows and the joy was general. We could spend days up there, contemplating that special place.
After this climb we had to say goodbye to Simon, he would return to England, and I remembered that life also offers hard times. We were living almost three weeks with his British humor, and I realized that I would have to leave that reality within a few days too. We were back to Indian Creek, Forest and I, totally destroyed by so many consecutive days of climbing, and we decided to take a rest day doing a hike in the Canyonlands Park. This hike ended up being a 10 miles trail through landscapes from another planet...
My last day at Indian Creek was dedicated to classic routes. ‘Supercrack of the Desert’, ‘Incredible Hand Crack’ and other ones finished this day with a flourish. I climbed up to exhaustion. I said goodbye to Forest with great regret and let ‘The Creek’ teary-eyed. The journey was not over yet. I would have to return to San Francisco 1050 miles to get my flight back to Brazil.

Life is an intense trip, a long journey that gives us experiences, memories and sensations immortalized in our minds. We are often led by fate, like leaves in the autumn. I can feel the taste of ‘mate’ in the cold air, the smell of the forests, the texture of the rocks under my fingers, the joy after complete a beautiful climb, the surreal landscapes, the nights lying by Mother Earth covered by thousands of stars, the howling of coyotes under the full moon, the unique people I met, leaving a bit of yourself and taking a little of me... When my big trip actually end, these are moments that will carry with me on my flight through the winds.

By: Andrey Romaniuk

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