Around the world in 21 days

Packing your bags for 21 days is no easy task. To make matters worse, I typically pack as though I’m leaving for 6 months. And what doesn’t help–you’re only allowed, usually, one bag…maybe two to take on the plane. Thus I face the same dilemma every time I leave on a trip–what to bring and what not to bring. Well, after several attempts, packing and unpacking, I finally managed to get the zippers zipped up on my overly stuffed duffle bag; I was ready to travel around the world (it’s amazing how much stuff you can fit into a “carry on” aka my 35L backpack-ha!).

Traveling around the world, experiencing many different cultures, it’s easily the most superlative adventure I’ve embarked on. Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly aspects to this adventure that challenged my patience and well being, but like with any adventure you simply roll with the punches and keep on truckin’ (even when your bus driver falls asleep at the wheel, whilst on a crazy highway in South Korea, and collides with another moving vehicle–this actually happened!).

As a climber, whether you like it or not, at times you’re faced with challenges that can push your every mental and physical ability. If for fun or in front of a screaming crowd at a competition, it’s in such times that reveal what you’re capable of and perhaps where your limitations are (for the moment).

For the greater part of January I traveled over seas to South Korea, Italy, France, and Switzerland. These destinations were in place for the 2011 World cups of ice/mixed climbing. I had been preparing for several months prior to these pre-destined dates and felt more ready then ever to compete–representing Canada.

With any competition, aside from the actual competing part, you’re typically confronted with the mental game. This game is not for the faint of heart. Your mind has the ability to wander, leading you astray, and you need to have the tactics to centralize your focus on the task at hand. Part of competing, or climbing in general, is being mentally tough. You can’t get these “guns” by pumping iron. As I have learned, this kind of toughness takes time, experience, mileage, and a lot of “humble pie”.

Competing at the world cup of ice/mixed climbing is very different then your typical day outside pulling on tools. Man made structures that look like alien space ships, sculpted hanging barrels of ice, fiberglass/concrete holds, wooden panels to kick into, isolation rooms, and thousands of people cheering. The style is like nothing else, and getting accustomed takes time and patience…and a will to want to be there. Learning the ins and outs of this nature comes only with dedication, focus and persistence.

At the two events that I participated in, my results on paper weren’t as good as I had hoped. However, alternatively my personal climbing performance had huge improvement from my first bout last year. With anything new, you need to take in everything possible to further your experience, so that you can come back more so ready then before. Last year my climbing was too slow, and I was resting too much. In world cup competitions, you have 6 minutes to climb a long way. Essentially you need to get on your horse and ride top speed…without stopping. Well, despite a bit of miss-fortune, I still climbed a lot faster and stronger then ever before. Those are two good things that in the grand scheme of things kept me positive, and yet still motivated me for more. Already I’m thinking about next year’s competitions and what to prepare for in order to further improve my climbing at the world cup level.

Apart from the competition side of things; the travel, seeing new places, skiing in Chamonix, sleeping on floors (South Korean Culture), meeting so many amazing people, climbing at some of the coolest mixed/dry-tooling crags in the world, this “around the world in 21 days” adventure had everything and more packed into it, making it an adventure that will forever be remembered. I’m grateful to all those who supported me, so that I was able to voyage on this journey of a lifetime.

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