BD athlete Sam Elias reports on climbing and traveling in Europe—PART 4
Black Diamond athlete Sam Elias finishes off his four-part European travel updates with the below recap that finally finds Sam doing what he set off to do: climb! The four different reports Sam sent in do a great job of showing the unpredictable and exciting ride that international travel can provide. Thanks for the updates, Sam!
To read Part One, click here
To read Part Two, click here
To read Part Three, click here
I awoke in a slight panic, not knowing where I was. I think that it’s an effect of traveling a lot, always moving around, scenery and surroundings frequently changing. After awhile the mind misses a beat and can’t keep up, and in those few short moments between fully asleep and fully awake, it scrambles to make sense…
“You’re in Arco.”
“You’re in the van that you just bought”
“Get up, it’s time to live your dream”
I found the hotel where the US team was staying, and everyone was in the restaurant eating breakfast. It was good to see all the familiar faces, and hear the twang of American English. Once full and caffeinated, we went to the comp venue and to downtown Arco. The place is rich with climbing competition history, and it is responsible for developing this aspect of the sport through the last 25 years. There is a seriousness and an arrogance about it that exists in the air. It is important to the town, as shown by the sheer number of climbing stores in the small area. Every few doors there was another massive and impressive shop. The competition venue is a large outdoor area just outside of the downtown. It is comprised of a bouldering wall, and a separate speed-climbing wall, and a separate lead climbing structure, and plenty of spectating area. All of it, the town and the comp venue, was right in the middle of a fortress of limestone. There were walls rising up everywhere—layers of them, walls above walls.
While wandering around, I ran into Yuji Hirayama. I knew that he was going to be there with the Japanese team, and that he was invited to participate in the ceremonies because of his competition experience and results in Arco. In the last year, I have had the pleasure to hang out with him in Turkey, China, and Canada. I really appreciate his approach and experience. He said, “Haaaaaeeeeey Sam!... We go climbing!?!?” I said, “Yeah, Yuji, we go climbing.” He didn’t know what my last few weeks had contained. I didn’t care to tell him, or even think about it any longer. It was such a relief to hear his question. It was like my original dream was becoming real. I was finally going to live and to climb in Europe like I imagined.
Over the course of the next week, in between watching and supporting our friends in the comp, Yuji and I climbed for 4 days at a crag called Narango. Each day I felt better and better… a little more at ease. It’s a small limestone cliff that is set up high, and overlooks the magnificent Lake Garda and the town of Riva del Garda. There is a fairly reliable breeze throughout the day, and shade on the wall after about 2 pm. For a small crag, there was a great variety of rock. There were some slabby to vertical routes that were technical and fingery, some routes with tufas from vertical to pretty steep, and some very steep routes with pockets and tufas. The majority of the routes were in the 5.13- range, so Yuji and I were enjoying trying to onsight or flash things… that isn’t really any problem at all for Yuji. There were a couple 5.14’s at the crag and he did an 8c after a couple days of effort. He’s 42, but you’d think that he was 32 by just looking at him, and 18 by watching him climb. He is an impressive person - lighthearted, cheerful. I enjoy being around him, and I feel that I learn something about how to live better every time. Sure, I learn a lot about climbing from him, and he has so much to offer. But, to me, he is a greater inspiration about how to live a good life, how to be healthy and happy.
Being out climbing, being with Yuji as well as the many other international climbers that came to that crag throughout the week (as it was the best place to climb, it became increasingly populated with the competitors that did not make it through each subsequent round of qualifying) I had many chances to think.
I thought about my recent weeks,
I thought about my life,
I thought about the sport of climbing,
I thought about the community.
I didn’t have any deep realizations. I had thought too deeply in the last weeks—over analyzing everything, trying to speculate, trying to understand the concept of chance and the unexpected. Now, I just tried to let the thoughts float around in my head like clouds in the sky. I tried not to attach any emotion to them. Instead, I just tried to cultivate a feeling of gratitude for everything that I had experienced and was experiencing. I think that life is just an experiment. As with any experiment, the outcome is not known at the outset. It’s like an exercise in curiosity…
“What’s going to happen?”
“Where are we going to go?”
“What are we going to do?”
“Who are we going to become?”
The only two certainties in this life’s experiment are that there was a beginning and there will be an ending. Everything that happens in between is pure potential, so it’s right to embrace it, run with it—change, progress, evolve, try new things, live with vigor. At the crag of Narango with friends, I just felt happy and grateful, because I could see that I was doing all of those things.