Recently I posted about my trip to Kalymnos in June of this year. At the end of my trip I put together my top ten list of places I would like visit for rock climbing, however, I never explained why I wanted to climb at those places. So here they are, the rationale for my climbing bucket list:
- Kalymnos, Greece
I wanted to climb here for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that it is argued by some to be the sport climbing mecca of the world. I am a sport climber at my roots, so something about those big, beautiful tufas really appealed to me. Plus, being walking distance from the Mediterranean is a bonus. The second reason I wanted to go to Kalymnos was get in touch with my Greek heritage. After a number of days on the island climbing, enjoying Greek cuisine and trying to learn Greek, my partner and I spent several days in Athens taking in the sites and culture of one of the most important civilizations in human history.
- Patagonia, Argentina
The sheer immensity and the ominous look of the walls and rock in Patagonia is what draws me here. Patagonia is a true test of a climber’s rock ability. Alpine approaches lend way to massive big wall climbs, sometimes in less than ideal conditions. In Patagonia, all factors come into play. the ability to move fast, to pull hard moves, to layer correctly, to make decisions based on weather and conditions, and to push through adversity are all skills that become important here. I want to go to Patagonia for the experience, and the chance to take everything I have learned about not only rock climbing, but all climbing, and combine it into the adventure of a lifetime. Climbing on perfect granite cliffs would also be a plus.
- Chamonix, France
To be completely honest, I know little to nothing about Chamonix. From what I can gather, climbing in Chamonix is the adventure of climbing in Patagonia, combined with the luxury of staying in a French chalet. Climbing in Europe is lightyears ahead of climbing in the United State, and has always been that way. Chamonix in particular is a classic example of a European mountain community who has devoted itself entirely to the sport of climbing. There are roadside sport and trad crags, and for those feeling a little more adventurous, chairlifts to the base of alpine rock routes. Who doesnt want to skip the hike take a chairlift to the base of their climb?
- Ceuse, France
France has obviously been blessed by the rock climbing gods, I would be crazy to not include Ceuse on my list. While the approaches are much longer than Chamonix, and not accessible by chairlift (HUUUGE BUMMER), the limestone crags of Ceuse house some of the world’s hardest sport climbs. This includes Realization, a 5.15a put up by Chris Sharma. Can I climb that hard you ask? Hell no I cannot climb that hard, but I would love the opportunity to push my sport climbing limits at such an inspiring proving ground. And, for those of you trad climbers out there who think there is nothing in Ceuse for you, check out this crazy video of Arnaud Petit climbing Black Bean, 8b, with gear.
- Squamish, BC, Canada
More sport climbing! Not quite as far away as the other destinations on my list, but I have to give our neighbors in the Great White North some credit for Squamish. There is roadside cragging, huge multi pitch climbs, and of course Canadian hospitality. I have very little experience in Canada except for a family trip to Niagra falls and a short stay in Montreal for the Youth Continental Championships when I was 16. Vancouver which is about an hour and a half drive away, is the cultural center of Canada as well as a city that is frequently listed as a top five worldwide city for livability. So not only does this place have perfect granite, but it’s also an excuse to visit our neighbors to the north and experience what Vancouver has to offer.
- The Bugaboos, Canada
Another Canadian gemstone, the Bugaboos. Have you ever seen a picture or a video of a granite crack that just looked so perfect that it made your palms sweat at the thought of it? That is what happens when I see pictures of the Beckey Chouinard route, one of the most classic alpine rock climbs on the planet.I saw a video a few months back of alpine climbing in the Bugaboos, and almost bought a plane ticket right there (Ill post the link below). Perfect cracks, alpine approaches, and the chance to see a moose (hey its Canada), all of those things sound awesome to me.
- Yosemite, California
I shouldnt even have to explain this one. Yosemite; home of the stonemasters, birthplace of modern climbing culture, home of the most iconic cliffs in the world. Enough said.
This is another destination that I do not know a whole lot about. What I do know however, is that Thailand’s scenic beaches are filled with overhanging sport crags, with even more development happening as we speak. Many climbers who visit Thailand stay in beachside bugaboos in small village communities. I have never been to Asia, and if I could pick one destination to see, it would be the country of Thailand. Partly because it is affordable (I am on a budget), but also because the culture is something I want to experience. Thailand is often referred to as the “land of smiles” because the traditional Thai greeting involves giving a welcoming smile. Smiles, beachside climbing and accommodations, sounds like a nice vacation to me.
- Grampians, Australia
I have some unfinished business with Australia. In 2010, as a youth competitor, I qualified for the Youth World Championships as a speed climber. I was suppose to spend a week in a beach house with the U.S team coach and a few other team members. We were going to climb outside and train for the competition. But instead what did I do? I broke my arm playing pickup baseball. Needless to say, I have thought about Australia nonstop for the past five years. Grampians National Park is home to an equal mix of sport and trad climbs on sandstone cliffs. A trip here would not only lend itself to phenomenal climbing, but also the experience of a lifetime in the land down under.
- Dolomites, Italy
I have been fortunate enough to have the chance to climb a little bit in Italy, in Arco to be exact. I enjoyed every second of it. Amazing limestone, beautiful scenery, and Italian food and wine to recharge after a long day. The Dolomites are one of the most beautiful collections of mountains in the world, and on top of their beauty they are also rich in climbing history. Dolomite climbing could include cragging at a sport or trad area, or just like Chamonix, taking a lift to the base of huge alpine rock climbs (those Europeans really have it figured out). A destination that definitely calls my name and earns a spot on my top ten.
When I put this list together on the plane home from Kalymnos, I was a little sad. I was coming home and I knew it would be a while before I was able to go on another big trip. But after having sat down to write a more descriptive list for all you NEM fans out there to enjoy, I got pretty excited. Partly because I spent a rainy afternoon looking at climbing pictures and videos, but also because I had an important realization. Us climbers are some of the luckiest people in the world, and here’s why; climbing takes us to places that “normal” people wouldn’t find by accident, beautiful valleys, stunning mountain ranges, and hidden communities of some of the most genuine people you will ever meet. Climbing locations tend to be off the beaten path, far from major tourist areas, and filled with people who exemplify the culture of the country. Climbing is not just about getting to the top, it’s about the journey and the experience. I encourage everyone who reads this to sit down and make your own top ten. Pick places that inspire you, look beautiful to you, or give you an excuse to climb in a place you have always wanted to visit. Once you’re done, share with us! We would love to hear where our followers want to go!
– Alek Pouliopoulos
NEM Director of Operations