Friday, August 30, 2013

Hiking in Switzerland

On my trip to Europe, while travelling through Switzerland, we were able to hike on one of the lower mountains of the Swiss Alps: Mt. Pilatus (7000 feet).  The mountain had an interesting and familiar sounding name.  According to legend, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor that presided over the execution of Jesus Christ, was buried in the nearby Lake Lucerne, thereby giving the name to the mountain, Pilatus.  Other legends also tell intriguing stories of dragons and encounters with these legendary creatures.  I always find places more interesting whenever there are legends or fabled stories about the sites I visit almost as if I hope to find one of them true.  After learning of the folklore we set off on our adventure to the summit.

As I sat in the world's steepest cogwheel train travelling slowly up the mountain side I breathed in the cool morning air, closed my eyes for a few seconds, and exhaled all my worries and became consumed in the views.  The steel cogs clinking and hissing beneath me became almost rhythmic and became the background music to the ascent.  The thinner air and reducing pressure pulled at my eardrums giving the crackling popping sounds that occur at higher altitudes.  I felt an energy surging through me that wanted to get out and start hiking around to discover new views and get a glimpse of the greater peaks of the Swiss Alps.

Once the train came to a halt, we still had about 150 feet of elevation to get to the summit.  I immediately started the short hike up.  Almost instantly my body reacted to the thinner air with my heart pounding in my chest and ears.  I didn't care, I kept hiking to get to the top and capturing small elements of the mountain with my camera.  The whistling breezes and the way the clouds slowly slithered across the peaks were surreal.

I call this shot "The Dragon's Breath Upon the Mountain"

Turning the corner to the summit while hypnotized by the stellar view.

               Rolling waves of green.

I had a very hard time pulling myself away from landscapes and rugged terrains.  I tried to snap as many pictures I could out of fear of not being able to remember every aspect of the peak of Pilatus.  I only wish I had more time to hike around the mountain.  There was so much to absorb that one day would not be enough to enjoy it all.  I knew that soon enough I would be back to reality sitting in front of a computer and getting occasional glimpses of freedom outside the office windows, except the views would pale in comparison to this place.  

The higher Swiss Alps in the distance.  These mountains were about 14,000 feet in elevation.

I wouldn't mind enjoying the views from this house on a daily basis.

Swiss national flag hanging in the rafters.

If anyone gets the chance to visit Switzerland in the summer months, Mt. Pilatus would make a great half day or full day adventure for all abilities.  Hikers even have the option of taking a lower elevation trail to reach the summit for a greater challenge.  The visitor center at the top offers detailed history around the mountain along with gift shops and dining that had amazing hot chocolate.  It's not a surprise that the Swiss would have great chocolate though!  The greatest thing I took away from this trip was an even larger appetite for hiking and climbing and a greater thirst for adventure!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Creating My Travel Stories Through Photos

Eiffel Tower, this one is for you!

When I see past pictures of myself on scenic trips and vacations, it seems most of  the photos only showed me standing upright in the foreground of the scene that was photographed.  I called these the boring mugshot poses.  I find I have a hard time remembering what emotion I was feeling at the time and what was happening in the picture.  In this sense the photographs were only pictures that did not convey or create a story in my or possibly, the viewer's mind.  I had thought about this before I went on my Europe trip and really wanted to get some good photos that would forever tell a dynamic story.  After getting back from the trip and going through the photos, it seemed that I had an easier time recalling the exact events (even some nostalgia) of the "non-standard" pictures.

This shot will be forever memorable due to the number foreigners laughing and taking photos of my "stunt" on Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland.

Yeah..I don't like coffee..or the size of this cup.  I was in Paris and had to try the espresso though.  It had a crimp/pinch for the handle luckily.

I was dared to climb up to touch the address number of the door in Lucerne, Switzerland.  Apparently the folks I was with didn't know exactly how much I like to climb.  

This very steep hill was great for this shot.  Shannon actually thought she was pushing me over the edge, down the mountain side vineyard in Germany.

I look back on these photos and I can remember the feeling and get the nostalgia that I was looking for.  With touristy areas that we traveled to, I got a lot of looks and raised eyebrows from the pictures that were taken of me.  I didn't mind because making a great memory was way more important!  I don't recommend everyone take pictures like this.  What I do recommend is when taking a photograph, try to remember that your trying to capture a memory not just a picture.  In that sense, you will always remember your emotions and feelings when you see the picture again and hopefully get the nostalgia that I get when I look back on my photos.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Psicobloc Masters Series: A Deep Water Solo Success

Paving the way for the future of climbing comps was August 2nd's deep water solo (DWS) event: Psicobloc Master's Series.  It was the first time a comp like this was held in the U.S. and it was intense!  A 55 foot wall situated over a corner of a pool used for summer downhill ski jumps, was the main staging area for this vertical contest.  Big name competitors (Sharma, Kinder, Traversi, Woods, Digiulian, Payne, Johnson, and many more) were there to test their skill on a 5.13c (women's route)/5.14b (men's route) rated free solo route.  An added element to this comp was that it was head-to-head in bracket style competition.  First to get to the top or highest point advanced to the next round.  The competitors had to come up with a careful strategy (climb for speed, endurance, or a mix of the two) since they would have to climb the same route over if they advanced to further rounds.  Total cash purse at stake was $20,000!

Let the show begin!
(photo from twitter feed)

The comp was broadcast live over the internet via the climbing media artists at Louder Than 11.  Once again showcasing their talents on broadcasting live competitions, LT11 captured a successful start of DWS comps here in the U.S.  Out of all the stellar, big name competitors Sasha Digiulian and Jimmy Webb took home the wins at the Psicobloc Masters Series and became the first winners of a comp that made a huge splash among climbing fans.  I'm not a gambler, but I would bet a million dollars there will be another DWS comp in the future.  Words alone can't explain the awesomeness of this event.  The entire pre-recorded feed from the comp can be found at  Enjoy this amazingly sick highlight footage from Park City TV, you will probably want to try it after watching!