4/24/2017

Chulilla Spain Travel Tips

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Beal Athlete Anne Struble recently returned from a climbing trip to Chulilla, Spain, a small town near the eastern coast of the country. Here are her tips and suggestions for planning your own trip to Chulilla and getting the most out of your time there.

Getting There
Probably the easiest and most direct way to get to Chulilla is to fly to Valencia. It is about 40 min from Chulilla to the Valencia airport. It is also possible to fly into either Madrid or Barcelona and drive from those cities, both of which are under 4 hours away.

Arriving
If you are staying in the village of Chulilla itself, one important thing to note is that while cars are “allowed” on the side streets, most of them are extremely narrow, steep and winding and you may end up in a dead end forcing you to go uphill in reverse in the dark. To get to most locations in town, visitors leave their cars in the large public lot on the North end of town.

It is also possible to leave your car for short periods of time in the main plaza for loading/unloading/ purposes.





Rental Cars
I usually just use Kayak to find my rental cars and go with whatever is cheapest. Gold Car is usually a good cheap option. They have a super coverage that will theoretically make your life easy if you have any sort of damage to the car or need any roadside assistance. However, you will have to pay quite a bit more for it. Additionally, if you don’t get the super coverage, when you arrive to pick up your car they might give you a really hard upsale.


Lodging
Airbnb is probably your best bet for finding lodging. Chulilla is pretty touristy and there are many options. There are a couple of B&Bs that you might also be able to get dinner at and there are a large number of apartments with full kitchens (and often a washing machine as well). Chulilla is very cute, scenic and convenient but it also works to stay in La Ermita (very close only around 1-2km), Losa del Obispo (only a 5-10 min drive to the climbing parking), or Villar del Arzobispo (a bit further, but it is bigger with a full grocery store and some restaurants).


Shopping
The little stores in Chulilla actually have an impressively wide selection given their size, so it’s not actually necessary to go to a bigger grocery store, but depending upon how much cooking you plan to do you still might want to visit one.  Paniza which is right on Chulilla’s center square has daily fresh bread, empanadas and other treats. The woman who works there is very friendly and you can also get a wide variety of other items. If you venture a bit further from the town center there is another bakery and other stores which offer meats and cheeses. There is also a weekly market on Sundays which has a larger range of fresh produce and some snack items.


Restaurants
Goscanos - the climber’s hangout and offers breakfast and dinner, but is often closed in the middle of the day. They are very friendly and offer reasonable prices and good food.
Restaurante Hoces Del Turia - A nice little restaurant right on the main drag through town. You can also just get a drink or coffee.
There are also other restaurants around town, but I didn’t sample any of them. The best restaurants that I experienced were in Valencia on rest days (see the rest days section).


Climbing








The guidebook can be picked up at the Bar El Canton, or the tobacco shop just next door to it, both are located right on the center square. It’s also likely that Goscano’s sells them. For gear, you could probably get away with a 70m rope, but I’d recommend bringing a longer one. There are a few routes that an 80m is necessary for, but in general it will just make your life easier. For draws, I’d recommend bringing 25, or 40 if you want to leave draws on anything for more than a day. Most routes are between 12 and 16 bolts (plus anchors), but there are the occasional longer (and less run out) ones that might need 20 or 22.

The best areas to climb at will really be dependent on the temps and what grades you are looking for.

For shady climbing I’d hit these areas first:
5.11s: Oasis, Chorreras and Master
5.12s: Chorreras, Oasis, Algarrobo (but stay away from the one star 7b+s at Algarabbo)
5.13s: Balconcito, Algarrobo, Pared Blanca, El Balcon, Chorreras

For sunny climbing:
Pared De Enfrente
For the 5.13s check out the El Ramellar sector for sure. It also goes into the shade in the afternoon and is good enough that it is worth checking out even if it’s a bit warmer.


There is also a climbing gear shop in Chulilla, where there was a decent selection of gear and chalk available.


Rest Days


For rest days, visiting Valencia and eating Paella was our favorite activity. If you just want Paella, I’d recommend Yuso. It’s right in the old town area which is great to explore after a huge satisfying meal. Our favorite restaurant, which also had fantastic paella, but other dishes as well, was Navarro, wonderful food and service. It’s an especially good place to go if you don’t speak much Spanish as they will explain their menu in English and make recommendations. They really want you to enjoy your visit.


We just enjoyed wandering around the old town and seeing the sites, but the Valencia Cathedral is definitely worth a visit. In addition to seeing the interior of the cathedral and walking through the small museum inside, I’d recommend climbing to the top of tower, which on a clear day will give you a great view of the area.


The beach on the northside of Valencia is also quite scenic with a long boardwalk with restaurants, cafes and ice cream.


There are also many great trails around Chulilla for hiking or trail running.



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2/21/2017

High on Hyalite: Ice Climbing with the Sierra Club Military Outdoors

2016 Sierra Club Military Outdoors Ice climbing group. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com  
I was surrounded by silence.  A thousand feet above the canyon floor the environment was so frozen in white that time seemed transfixed. Snow slept heavily on the mountains. Pale clouds hung low, stretched out across the peaks like slowly pulled wool. Together the snow and the clouds seemed to absorb any sound. I felt as if I’d forgotten how to hear, what day it was, or anything other than the wall of snow and ice that I had dug my crampons into. I was high up in Hyalite.

Lindsey Robinson on the Mummy II WI3. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Gregory Schillinger on Champaign Sherbert WI4. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
The silence was broken by the faint clinking of ice tools as Devin worked his way up the cliff and joined me at the anchor. “My forearms are burning,” he remarked and I smiled in agreement. We still had a few more pitches before finishing the route. Devin and I were climbing Land of the Lost, WI4, which is a beautiful long and winding ice route in Hyalite Canyon. Each pitch gave us a different perspective of the canyon and frozen waterfalls first climbed decades ago by men like Alex Lowe and Conrad Anker. Sometimes we could see Winter Dance, an intimidating icicle hanging like fangs above our own route; sometimes we caught glimpses of Twin Falls and the towering Cleopatra’s Needle across and up canyon from us; we could also look down at Unnamed Wall and the Fat One where we’d climbed both rock and ice a few days earlier.  

Hyalite has arguably the highest accessible concentration of natural water ice formations in the US. It looks like a frozen rainforest. The rock walls behind the snow and ice are mostly basaltic andesite, formed by an ancient lava flow. Mounds of conglomerate rock are found in higher layers, deposited by a mud flow from volcanic activity in Yellowstone millions of years ago. More than one glacier has carved Hyalite into a wide U shape and dragged rock debris far down the canyon.

Gregory Schillinger and Isaac Teaford on Champaign Sherbert WI4. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Devin and I were part of a Sierra Club Military Outdoors annual trip to ice climb in Hyalite Canyon with the Montana Alpine Guides. Everyone in our group had some background in climbing or mountaineering, but the chief common element among us was that we had each served in the military. Several men came from Army and Navy backgrounds; Devin had served in the Marines and I was in the Air Force. Most of us had not been with a group of veterans since leaving the military.

Gregory Schillinger climbing at the Unnamed Wall. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Kyle Burton climbing Genesis I WI3+. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
The group at the Unnamed Wall. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
For five nights, we all camped in Hyalite sharing hot meals and coffee and resisting the cold fingers of winter. Around the campfire we laughed with familiarity at each other’s stories of military life.

Window Rock Cabin, Hyalite Canyon, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
BBQ. Window Rock Cabin, Hyalite Canyon, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
BBQ. Window Rock Cabin, Hyalite Canyon, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
BBQ. Window Rock Cabin, Hyalite Canyon, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
After Action Review. Window Rock Cabin, Hyalite Canyon, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
During the day, we pushed each other to climb better, longer, and harder. I could tell there was instant trust and camaraderie in ice climbing with people who have been through deployments and who know the ups and downs of serving in the armed forces.
  
Approaching the climbs. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Climbing The Fat One WI3. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Heading back to the cabin for the night. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
The day Devin and I climbed Land of the Lost, our guide Adam remarked on the fortitude of the military teams he’d guided in the mountains. I can see how dealing with tough and miserable military deployments can help veterans adapt quickly to demanding situations in the wild. However, in war there is a human enemy. On the mountain, there are challenges and hazards to overcome, there is a very real risk of death or injury, but there is no true enemy. I gathered that Adam had likely lost as many friends on treacherous expeditions in the Himalayas as I had lost in Operation Enduring Freedom

Adam Knoff teaching lead technique on the Mummy II WI3. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Adam Knoff of Montana Alpine Guides Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Harsh and painful experiences can make us feel isolated, but being together with women and men who have gone through the same difficult times can help restore a broken spirit. Spending time in the mountains, in wild places, is just as important for guides like Adam as it is for veterans.

Issac Teaford on Champaign Sherbert WI4. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Isaac Teaford – U.S. Navy Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
Being on a wall of brittle ice forces you to exist only in the present. The mind is focused on the spikes of the crampons and the tips of the ice tools, the pressure of the body on the ice--nothing else. The stress and confusion of careers, relationships, money, past mistakes, and future plans—everything is cleared away so that the mind and body can feel the ice and maintain vertical progression up the waterfall.
Adam said on our descent, “Sometimes you have to stop pursuing happiness, and just be happy.” In the quiet pauses between our crunching footsteps in the snow, I said to myself, “I am.” 

Lindsey Robinson – U.S. Air Force

Lindsey Robinson – U.S. Air Force Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


Robert Vessels – U.S. Army, Sierra Club Military Outdoors Program Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


Gregory Schillinger – U.S. Marine Corps Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


Kyle Burton – U.S. Army Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


Devin Duval - U.S. Marine Corps Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com

Steve Seager – U.S. Army Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


Dan Shoemaker – U.S. Army, Sierra Club Military Outdoors Program Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


Sam Magro – Montana Alpine Guides Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com


 
Nathan Smith – U.S. Army, Liberty Mountain employee Photo ©Jake Hirschi

The goal of Sierra Club Military Outdoors is to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the skills, exposure, knowledge, and confidence to access the great outdoors. Time spent in nature not only promotes mental health, emotional resiliency, and leadership development prior to deployment, it provides invaluable know-how to help returning vets enjoy and engage with nature upon returning from deployments. Many veterans experience difficulty adjusting to civilian life after leaving the service. Time spent outdoors eases the transition and improves both mental health and social skills. Providing service members, veterans, and their families with quality outdoor experiences will help foster the development of a new generation of Sierra Club leaders and supporters from within the military and veteran community, including family members who will work to actively achieve the Sierra Club's mission and become outdoor leaders in their communities.

In March of 2016, Liberty Mountain was proud to support the Sierra Club Military Outdoors Program on it’s ice climbing trip to Hyalite Canyon above Bozeman, Montana. We believe in the power of the outdoors and it’s restorative nature. To find out more about the Sierra Club Military Outdoors, go to: sierraclub.org/outings/military

"I was not sure what to expect going out on this ice climbing trip being a more mature veteran, retired in 2000, but it was just plain awesome! The bond among the veterans the Montana scenery and the professionalism of the guides made this an experience that I will never forget. If I had trepidations at the start of the trip they soon were erased with feelings of excitement and challenge. I was proud to be chosen for this experience, proud to be a part of this group and by the last day wished it could last a little longer." 

-Steve Seager – U.S. Army

Steve Seager on The Fat One WI3. Unnamed Wall, Hyalite Canyon, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
“The Hyalite Canyon trip was my first exposure to ice and mixed climbing, but certainly reinforced my love for the outdoors and passion for climbing in general. Being with fellow veterans and fantastic guides made for an awesome experience. Climbing in Hyalite had the affect I always seek in the outdoors; where all the noise and worry of life is cancelled out by being in the moment and surrounded by a beautiful landscape.” 

-Devin Duval – U.S. Marine Corps

Devin Duval on The Fat One WI3. Unnamed Wall, Hyalite Canyon, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
“Spending time in the mountains, in wild places, is just as important for guides like Adam as it is for veterans. Being on a wall of brittle ice forces you to exist only in the present. The mind is focused on the spikes of the crampons and the tips of the ice tools, the pressure of the body on the ice--nothing else. The stress and confusion of careers, relationships, money, past mistakes, and future plans—everything is cleared away so that the mind and body can feel the ice and maintain vertical progression up the waterfall.” 

-Lindsey Robinson – U.S. Air Force

Lindsey Robinson on a pillar at the back of the Bingo Cave. Unnamed Wall, Hyalite Canyon, Montana. Photo ©Nathan Smith – Pullphotography.com
"The mountains and climbing are an important part of my life. The beauty and solitude I find there is invaluable to keep my life in balance. The friendships I’ve found in climbing are the closest thing I’ve found to the comradery and teamwork I experienced in the military. Joining this great group of veterans in the backcountry was an amazing experience I hope to repeat at some point."  

-Nathan Smith – U.S. Army, Liberty Mountain Employee

Nathan Smith on the Elevator Shaft WI4-. Unnamed Wall. Hyalite Canyon, Montana. Photo ©Cheri Smith – Pullphotography.com


Photos by Nathan Smith @pullphoto Pullphotography.com
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1/03/2017

Bozeman Ice Fest Recap


This year the Bozeman Ice Fest was held from November 8-11. The festival celebrated its 20th anniversary and was essentially a four day party. Bozeman is located at the mouth of the world famous Hyalite canyon and offers fairly easy access to spectacular ice climbs. Hundreds of festival attendees were able to get out and climb some ice, test new gear, make new friends, and enjoy the adventure film series shown in the evenings.

Kyle Rott on "The Good Lookin' One"
The Liberty Mountain / Grivel team was lucky enough to get into town early and enjoy some ice before the crowds arrived. Tuesday we braved the cold morning weather and headed up to the Unnamed Wall for some laps on The Good Looking' One, The Thrill is Gone and a few other classic routes. 


Not only does it provide phenomenal ice, but the canyon isn't half bad looking either. Donations form the climbing community and from the festival itself play a big role in plowing the canyon road to provide access for climbers, skiers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.


Here's Liberty Mountain Sales Rep Thad VanDenBerghe gearing up for a climb during clinics on the Genesis Wall. The lineup of Outdoor Designs gloves did a great job keeping our hands warm and dry during multiple back-to-back days on the ice. The Denali gloves that he's sporting here are great on belays and are bomber waterproof.


Probably the best gear decision we made was to bring Valandre G2's as our belay jackets. These expedition weight down jackets are said to be one of the best and warmest options out there, and we are all definitely sold. The 850+ count goose down blocked out wind in negative temperatures and kept us toasty all week long. Not only did they serve our team well, but many others that we climbed with ended up in our jackets for belays too because theirs simply didn't compare.

One of the coolest parts of attending festivals and demoing out gear is getting feedback on what climbers like about our products and what they think could be improved. 



An Ice Fest attendee demos the brand new Grivel Salamander 2.0 helmet. 

The new lineup of Grivel helmets recently arrived in the US and festival participants were some of the first to test them out. Above is Liberty Mountain Director of Sales Peter McConkie in the ultralight Stealth helmet. The Stealth weighs in at an unreal 6.7 ounces and comfortably houses both a beanie and flowing locks of hair in a one size fits all package.


Even a local news broadcaster was able to get out on a pair of Grivel tools and crampons.


This is what Ice Fest headquarters back at the Emerson Center for Arts and Culture looked like. Festivals are one of the best opportunities to test out new gear before buying it. Each night festival participants had the chance to demo boots, ice tools, crampons, helmets, and even outerwear for their clinics the following day. Loads of companies bring some of their best products and let attendees take them for a ride. It's a chance to test out a bunch of different gear; things that you might someday purchase, and gear that you might only own in your dreams.


The Grivel team was making it happen at the demo table. Festival participants were able to test out loads of Grivel products including Tech Machines, Tech Machine Carbons, North Machines, Salamander 2.0 helmets, and both G-20 and G-22 crampons.

Edelweiss was one of the beer sponsors and helped everyone enjoy drinks from Bridger Brewing.

Athlete Clinics

A few sponsored athletes were sharing their climbing knowledge during clinics at the festival. 


Here's Edelweiss USA athlete Scott Bennett leading a Fast and Light Clinic up the "Genesis Wall"


Grivel Athlete Shingo Okhawa taught an Intro to Leading Ice clinic and talked about the basics of swinging ice tools, proper movement, and placing ice screws. Check out some highlights of his clinic in the video above.


Aaron Mulkey's Mixed Climbing Clinic on "The Thrill is Gone"


Grivel and Beal athlete Aaron Mulkey shared his expertise on mixed climbing during his clinic on the Unnamed Wall. He also showed how he captures rad drone shots like this one of the class on the same climb pictured above.

A big thanks to all the volunteers and other sponsors who help make the festival happen each year. See you next year at the 21st Bozeman Ice Fest!


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