BD athlete Sam Elias reports on climbing and traveling in Europe—PART 2
Black Diamond athlete Sam Elias is currently climbing in Europe and has started sending us updates on his travels. Below is his second report (read the first report here). Seems like buying a van and starting the travels hasn't been easy!
It was nearly three weeks until I actually had a van in my possession. It took only a few days to find a van to purchase, but my specific choice rendered a seemingly incessant stream of “it’ll be ready tomorrow”’s. The 2-year technical certification was expired and needed to be re-obtained through updating small odds and ends. My hope was built up and then dashed when it would fail the testing. Each cycle was more difficult to weather than the last—not because it was just a couple days of waiting, but because of the promise and emotional build up, and then disappointment and frustration when it would not be ready. I made plans, had places and people that I wanted to see, but with each delay, I had to modify my plans and schedule. It was exhausting and it broke me in a very real way. It was not just simply waiting some days for the van that I bought. It was a much stronger and deeper and universal process—confronting the unknown.
What do you do when there is nothing to do?... Nothing.
What do you do when there is only waiting to do?... Wait.
What do you do when you don’t know if you can do something?... Try.
While waiting for the van, I had many great experiences. I got to meet and spend time with some distant relatives, as well as spend time with my friends, Tobias Haug and Adrianna Puhullova. He is German, born and raised in Munich, and she is Slovakian. They live most of the year in Geyikbayiri, Turkey and own and manage the climbing camp Jo.Si.To. We met in April 2010 when I went there on a North Face Expedition. Then, we met again when they came to the US and visited in the summer of 2010. They gave me a proper tour of Munich, and I gained a good sense for the city. We also went climbing at a variety of venues. In Germany, we went to the Frankenjura and to Kochel. Both are historic old-school style limestone areas—fingery, technical. The Frankenjura is a place that I have always wanted to visit. It’s an incredibly large area that is so historically significant. However, the limestone at both spots is not that impressive in look or stature, but the climbing was great, and yes, I even mono’ed on the warm-up in the Frankenjura. We also went down to the Zillertal in Austria and climbed at the Bergstation. It’s beautiful granite offers interesting movement high above a pristine valley.
It has been a rainy summer, so we also had to visit 3 different gyms, one of which is apparently the biggest climbing gym in the world. They have a thing for inside-out climbing here—climbing on a artificial wall al fresco. All of the gyms have it available. I’ve never done that before, and it was nice, especially in the summer when normally the heat and humidity are amplified within the walls of big old buildings containing dozens of sweating climbers, which makes for nearly unbearable hot and stuffy climbing conditions. However, in the height of the summer, conditions on the inside-out walls were not that bad.
Though despite all of these good times, I was becoming increasingly convinced that I might be stuck in some weird and eternal vortex, awaking each day still in Munich, something of a purgatory waiting for judgment. Through this, I must admit that I was a “glass is half empty” type. I’d like to claim some sort of blissful enlightening experience—“Bro, I just stayed in the moment. It was so peaceful” But for me, it was a nightmare. Darkness prevailed, and it hardened me, like steel that has been tempered. I think that it’s fine in the grand scope of things—without the context of darkness, the notion of light can’t exist. Throughout the history of humankind there are Mother Theresa’s and there are Hitler’s. Without the existence of one, we cannot fully understand the other. And so with each passing day, though my brow furrowed more and my jaw clenched tighter and my whole being exhausted, I felt as though I was getting stronger. After many days, with people telling me from afar, “It will be worth it when it’s over,” I thought “well sure, but it’s worth it now.” I was getting to see my mettle, and see what I am capable of enduring. Trying by waiting, with no promise of success in the near future—like in a portaledge in a storm on a remote alpine wall, or a snow cave on a high altitude peak, or hanging on the rope after falling on your project for the 150th try. Perhaps it’s a stretch to compare buying a van to these things, maybe it’s ridiculous. But, though darkness might take hold of me more than the light, Nihilism isn’t my flavor. I look for connections, links, balance in the world. I try to understand the process. It maybe futile, but this personal search for meaning is my connection to the light, and my balance.
This continued until the day when I finally gained possession of the new rig, a converted and pimped 2000 Fiat Ducato. Wasting no time, I immediately ripped it straight to the autobahn in the direction of Friedrichshafen. It’s the site of the European outdoor summer trade show, and my plan was to go to see friends and new goods in the market for a couple days and then head to Arco, Italy to watch the 2011 climbing world championships and do some climbing. Blasting the custom stereo system and 12” subwoofer with the pedal on the floor, and despite embracing the darkness, I arose from my purgatory and found my heaven—an open road, a new chapter, freedom, bliss.