An Average Climber’s International Trip


Climbing media is full of stories about unbelievable places you’ll never climb at in your life. For most of us, places with exotic names like Railay, Chamonix, Kalymnos, and Patagonia are simply out of reach. This is why Lumpy Ridge is the best trad climbing in the United States.

But all climbers—real climbers— are obsessives.

So how does a kid from Colorado chase climbing dreams across the sea?

Read on:

Buy plane tickets to Hungary to visit your first serious climbing partner, where he now lives. Because he’s a bastard.

Tell him: I’m bringing a rope and a rack.

Since he’s purely a sport climber, he’ll ask: what the hell is a rack?

Let him convince you there’s nothing to climb in Hungary. Too flat, his girl says. Leave the cams at home. Pack a harness and shoes anyways.

Secretly plan on buying a rope while you’re over there.

Show up, hug your bro, spend the next five days getting blackout drunk with the Hungarians.

Emerge from your binge, try and remember why you’re here.

Hit the climbing gym.

Your partner will be able to flash every single boulder problem, because he’s been here for months with no one to hold his rope.

You won’t be able to climb anything, because you seriously busted up your shoulder during your drinking binge. Blame the palinka.

I wish I could remember what I did to it, you’ll say, laughing, over more beers.

Soaking in the city’s world-famous thermal baths will heal your shoulder.

Return to the climbing gym. Rent a lead rope for $3 per hour. Get yelled at in Hungarian for holding your lead belay wrong.

They won’t care when you argue that the guy who taught you to do it that way has been climbing longer than they’re been alive.

Switch your lead belay technique. Justify it by using climber slang: ‘it’s the local ethic.’

Bitch about how uncomfortable the position is during your after-climb beers.

Get shut down by the French grading system.

Complain that this gym is sandbagged.

Refuse to consider that your gym grades light.

Look over with envy at the Hungarian mountaineers practicing big-wall and rescue techniques in the gym every day

Think about how they’d never, ever, ever let you do that in a U.S. climbing gym.

Wish you knew Hungarian.

Try and learn Hungarian.

Realize the only words you need to know in Hungarian are “beers,” (sorok) “hello,” (siza) “thank you,” (kosi) and “palinka” (palinka).

 Realize you’ve been in this city for almost a month and have done nothing but climb in the gym and drink cheap beers.

Question what you’re doing with your life.

Realize you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing with your life.

But maybe you wouldn’t mind a bit more sunlight.

Look at a map. Greece is close.

Get really drunk and convince your partner that you guys gotta go to Kalymnos.

Look at tickets.

Lay out your budget.

Plan the trip.

Realize your buddy’s out of Schengen days, hasn’t sorted his residence paperwork, and might not be able to re-enter Hungary if he leaves. Considering his girl’s here, this won’t work.

Grudgingly accept that love is more important than climbing.

Stay another week because you really want to send that 6b+ in the gym.

Fail to send.

Leave in disgrace.

Head south, overland, towards Greece.

Get distracted in the Balkan countries.

Start thinking about returning to Bosnia and putting up some first ascents in the country’s awesome mountains.

Remember that most of the country is still covered in landmines from the civil war in the ‘90s.

Shelve that idea.

Go to Albania.

Stay a few extra days because it turns out Albania’s a fascinating place.

Make it to Northern Greece.

Realize you’re out of time and money.

Realize it’s been too long since you’ve climbed something.

Decide the second thing’s making you depressed.

Fly home.

Realize you didn’t need to leave home to climb great rock.

After all, you live in Colorado.

Learn to ice climb.

Start dreaming of Patagonia.

Buy a plane ticket, and do it all again.


5 thoughts on “An Average Climber’s International Trip

  1. Feel the same way about Utah right now. Love colombia but missing killer rock at home.

    Good work avoiding the land mines

  2. I’ve never been climbing but thought this was an excellent read! Not sure where in Colorado you are from, but my buddy that I’m traveling the world with spent about 7 years in Vail.

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