Mamas Climbing Weekend in Banff

We have been back from our family journey to Europe for three and a half months. From being confined in tight spaces as a family 24/7 to being back at work and straight into our real life routine, I was craving a little break from the everyday and some time for myself. More than anything, I was craving time in the mountains.

My loyal climbing partner, Shenoa, and I started plotting our mountain adventure weekend, settled on dates and set our sights on a multi-pitch extravaganza in Banff National Park to tick off some of the recommendations from this article in Gripped.

Our neck of the woods boasts some fabulous rock climbing but unfortunately no moderate multi-pitch sport routes. Long climbs also require a bigger time commitment than cragging and therefore, you tend to never know when you are going to come home, which isn’t ideal for mother for whom being home on time to cook a healthy dinner is a top priority.

This is my bad; unlike my dear husband who has no problem blocking out every other aspect of his life (such as his daughter and myself) when he climbs, I feel like I am failing at mother duties if I am away for more than a half-day. However, I don’t seem to feel that way when I am away with work for multiple days. Women psyche…still trying to figure it out myself!

Perhaps it’s a form of mother FOMO?! How on Earth are they going to survive dinnertime without me? They sure will be dying from a frozen pizza overdose and a TV comatose if I am not around?!

Anyhow, I knew that removing myself from the family for an entire 2 days and 2 nights was probably the best way to really focus on my own goals: climbing two classic moderate Rocky Mountains itineraries, getting half-way through my Jan Redford book “The End of the Rope”, sleeping nine uninterrupted hours twice, engaging in meaningful conversation with my friend over wine and chocolate and somehow avoiding to spend significant financial resources in one of Canada’s most pricey resort town.

Yes, we were really going to dirt-bag it! Well, sort of.

We left town on a Thursday after work in my friends shiny F-150 pick up truck loaded with a luxurious Bronco pop-up camper at the back that contains a plush queen-size bed, a cozy duvet and a 3-way fridge stocked with dry cider, four different types of cheese, artisan sourdough bread, fresh garden produce and a healthy dose of dark chocolate…and red wine. Real fancy dirtbags we are!

Our fancy dirtbag set up…

We arrived at the Lake Louise overflow parking lot quite late where we would spend the night, avoiding paying campsite fees. A sleepless night later (awoken every ten minutes by semi trucks rolling on the busy nearby TransCanada highway) we popped the camper down and agreed on the plan to head to the Tunnel Mountain campground to snatch one of the last first come first served campsites. Heck, I had already screwed one of my night’s sleep, I sure didn’t want to risk screwing the next one and even worse, our climbing goals because of sleep deprivation.

While we were driving to Banff, we got the news from our hubbies that Kimberley was under evacuation alert because of the nearby wildfires. Darn! That almost put a damper on our adventure as the guilt started settling in my stomach: my husband would need to pack our essentials on his own and still get my daughter to her swim lesson on time. How could I be such a selfish mother, prioritizing rock climbing over my family in danger of evacuation?! Fortunately, we were on a rock climbing trip and not a shopping spree, which likely would have made our respective husbands request that we come home NOW! Somehow they seem to like the idea that we are as committed to climbing as they are…

After some reassurance that the families were fine and would reunite with us half-way should things get out of control, we decided to stick to our plan.

After a hearty breakfast at our quiet campsite, we strapped our backpacks on and set out on foot for Banff’s scenic Hoodoo trail toward Tunnel Mountain and our objective for the day: Le Soulier (5.7, 4 pitches). This route was first established a long time ago but the spaced-out rusty pitons have been replaced by shiny bolts in recent years. The route originally owes to a single climbing boot nailed with a piton but has since been replaced   by a pair of high heel pumps. A funny nudge to our female climbing party of which neither of us ever wear heels.

Yes, there is a lovely view from where we stand. The Banff Spring hotel in a total haze.

A little over an hour after leaving the campsite, we found the start of the route and got all set up for our climb. While the first pitch had some loose rock and was more of a succession of ledges, the remaining 3 pitches were surprisingly solid and fairly well protected. The climbing was straightforward, easy and enjoyable and gave us the opportunity to rehearse our system of swinging leads efficiently and building bombproof belay stations. Unfortunately, due to the raging wildfires in BC, we didn’t get the picturesque views of the Bow River and Banff Springs hotel below nor the majestic Rundle Mountain across from us. We topped out a couple hours later and had a nice “summit” picnic before the ten-minute back down via a nice trail.

Shenoa leading the pitch with le Soulier
Halfway through our climb, the smoke cleared out a bit and allowed us a glimpse at Rundle mountain

Adventuring with other women is really something I appreciate, especially since becoming a mom. Like Jan Redford in her personal tale about mountains, marriage and motherhood, my will and courage levels seem much higher when I don’t have a male partner to rely on. In the presence of males, often stronger climbers, skiers or adventurer (even if I am more experienced than them), I tend to second-guess myself more.

I also find women tend to be more attentive to each other and therefore we are more likely to pause more often and check in. We also eat and hydrate better, hence I usually feel less tired after a day out with my girls. I also pay more attention when selecting the objectives and ensure I am going to maximize my enjoyment as opposed to just blindly going for it.

With the 12 km walk both ways from the campsite, that day felt like a well-rounded mountain adventure and the perfect warm-up for our goal the following day: Plutonian Shores (5.9, 7 pitches).

plutonian shores guidebook

Giving up $27 on a campsite ended up being a great decision of ours and after a gourmet camp dinner and finally a great nights’ sleep, we woke up refreshed and ready for our day.

Gourmet camp dinner climbers style

We drove to the Cave and Basin area and followed a good but steep trail toward the north face of Sulphur mountain and our  chosen route. Thanks to a very detailed topo, we had no problem finding the route which appeared to have four climbing parties already on.

We left them plenty of time before we started climbing and apart from a small rock or two falling in our direction, having other climbers above our head wasn’t too much of an issue. The smoke was worse than the day before but the temperature  cooler, which we didn’t mind at all.

Shenoa leading pitch 1 of Plutonian Shores
At the start of the climb with 200 vertical metres left to go

We linked the fun and long pitches (up to 55m!) one after the other, swinging leads, cheering each other and enjoying ourselves very much. We were quite pleased with our idea to only take a small pack for the two of us. We also ate and drank prior to getting on the wall. The limestone was quite solid with plenty of positive holds and the challenge was well within our skills and climbing level. We even caught up to the male party ahead of us and had to pause to give them some space and avoid being crammed up at the anchor with them.

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Shenoa confidently leading one of the pitches
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The smoke and wind brought some serious ambiance to the climb

The walk-off was steep and loose but short and well marked with cairns. With a large smile on our faces, we walked back to the truck, chatting and joking, feeling so happy and proud of our accomplishments.

By dinner time, we drove into Banff and sat at a small table in a busy vegetarian restaurant for our post-climbing reward. We had after all been such dirtbags that we thought we deserved a yummy over-priced meal and drinks to round up our fantastic girls weekend.

While the routes we climbed that weekend weren’t the hardest nor the longest nor the most prestigious I have done in my fifteen years of climbing, I have seldom felt as stoked on the drive home. Not a single time when I was moving upward on the rock did I think about dinner time at home nor felt the tinge of guilt from being away from my family.

I felt alive, I felt relaxed, I felt empowered and more importantly I felt myself.

 

P.S.: Many thanks to my rock warrior friend Shenoa for making this trip extra special and for being such a great climbing partner. xox

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Fun Things To Do For Families In Kalymnos

Kalymnos is a small island located in the Dodecanese region of Greece, at a stone-throw for the Turkish coast.

 

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The spectacular island of Telendos

 

 

Renowned for its superhuman sponge divers and its mythical rock climbing, Kalymnos is a wholesome travel destination sought after by foreign and Greek travellers alike.

We have been fortunate to spend two full weeks on the extraordinary island back in April and what struck us the most is, well… everything!

Intrigued by the quantity and quality of rock climbing routes, we were amazed to find out that Kalymnos is a wonderful island to discover as a family and that is sure to please everyone, including the non-climbing grandparents.

Greeks Are Fond of Children

Greeks literally adore children and welcome them everywhere. Now try to walk out of a store without a free treat – usually sweet –  being offered to your little angel! That’s just about impossible. While we were there, I must say that I had to loosen my grip a bit about sugar and treats as it would have been quite impolite to turn down such a nice gesture and refuse the treats #hellofreegroceries.

Cafés and taverns are all very welcoming to kids and will make anything to please them and their parents. I read in a travel guidebook that hiring a babysitter on a Saturday to go out on an adult date just isn’t a thing in Greece. Hence, it’s not unusual to see very young children out and about with their parents quite late in the night. If the restaurant owners have children themselves, they are very likely to be playing in the place while their parents are at work and entertaining the guests.

 

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Toys and games at the Gelato shop

 

Anywhere you go, beware however that there is just no boardwalk in that country. Streets are as narrow as can be and cars, scooters and other motorized vehicles drive at fast speed. A stroller is great to keep the little ones contained while walking on the road and older kids should be kept very close by.

Greek children learn a very good English in school and are happy to engage in a conversation with foreigners at the playground or the beach. Most of them have dark hair and dark eyes, they are quite intrigued when seeing a little blond kid and sometimes can stair with insistence. To my point earlier about sweet treats; it appeared to me that Greek children eat a lot of junk food and a lot of sugar and sugary drinks; something that even our daughter noticed on her own. Different country, different eating habits!

 

Grandparents Are a Blessing

I am speaking in general here. But they are especially for a rock climbing couple traveling to Kalymnos Island with their four-year-old daughter.

We don’t have the luxury of living near our parents in the everyday life and that makes us appreciate even more to 1) spend quality time with them as an extended family 2) being able to leave our daughter with them for a few hours to go climbing AND knowing she is having a blast.

This year we realized that for the first time we are able to really climb as a family, now that baby girl is no longer a needy baby or a crazy toddler and starts to enjoy climbing a lot or is just content playing with her toys at the crag and making friends with whoever has a few minutes to engage in a conversation with her.

I must say that having my father and stepmom there with us was extra special and made us enjoy our stay on the island … a lot. In addition to providing us with some quality adult time, it also opened our mind to other activities and attractions to explore on Kalymnos for non-climbers.

 

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Enjoying our first meal together before getting on the ferry in Kos

 

For those who would like an opportunity to go on the occasional adult climb, Monster Café in Masouri offers a childcare service for about 8 euros per hour. This is also a place for the little ones to hang out with their parents, meet up with other kids and enjoy the fabulous toys and activities. The Café’s menu includes healthy kid-friendly meals and snacks,  fresh fruit smoothies but also good coffee and après climb hop beverages.

 

Here is the list of our top activities to do as a family in Kalymnos:

  1. The Climbing

Well…It’s a bit difficult not to mention it, so might as well start with it. The climbing in Kalymnos is not only fabulous, but also very family-friendly. The information about the walking distance and difficulty of the trail is easy to find as well as the areas at the bottom of the crag and presence of easy climbs for beginners or children and the sun exposure. The guidebook is very complete, to say the least, which makes the planning of family cragging days much easier. The trails are overall in quite a good shape and walking distances are reasonable. Many areas at the bottom have been landscaped nicely so parents don’t have to fear deadly falls or traumatizing injuries. We also found that although the routes are all very long (30-40m), the first couple of metres often offer easier climbing, which makes the scenario ideal for families.

 

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Grande Grotta, Kalymnos’ most famous sector

 

Unsurprisingly, we encountered quite a few young families during our stay, all eager to exchange beta and share a secret gelato place or nice kid-friendly beach.

Speaking of beach, the “Beach” sector was one of our favourite to spend a day at, with kid and grandparents. We also enjoyed Symplegades a lot as well as Sea Breeze and Arginonta Valley, all for their easy access, flat and safe areas and shade.

For non-climbers wanting to experience verticality, guided via ferrata might be a great option. Located near Myrties, the via ferrata takes adventurers from 10 years old and up some 400 metres above the sea with outstanding views of the neigbouring cliffs and the island of Telendos.

 

2. The Underworld

Caving. Underground exploration. Spéléologie in French. The act of going underneath the surface of the earth through a sometimes tiny hole entrance to enjoy the sight of karstic activity and stalagmites and stalactites as big as the walls of a gothic cathedral.

Fully equipped with steel ladders and ropes, the Underworld is the most accessible cave on the Island. Located near the town of Skalia, it can be accessed within only 10 minutes of walking. While my daughter had the time of her young life going down in the tummy of the Earth, I – a longtime claustrophobic – was petrified.

 

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Entering the underworld…not even scared at all!

 

Nonetheless, (and because I know my own fear is irrational) I thought the place was safe to explore for a child that can safely climb up and down a ladder and walk on uneven ground with some help from papa.

Since then I know I am less of a hero to my daughter who was so proud to out courage her mom at only 4. Well, that’s just the beginning, isn’t it!?

For a preview of what the cave is like, check out this short Youtube video.

 

3. The Sea & the Beaches

No surprise here. Kalymnos being a Greek Island, just like all the many Greek islands, boast amazing beaches, is warm and sunny and is surrounded by deep turquoise water. Beaches and children always go well together and early-mid April, the temperature of the air and the water were getting warm enough to enjoy nice swims and sandcastle building sessions. The beach in Masouri has some really nice sand and one or two cute beach bars.

Taking a taxi boat ride to Telendos, the nearby island located 10-minutes across from Myrties is also very much worth it. For 2 euros per adult one way, a day spent at Telendos is great fun for the whole family and the beaches are beautiful and shady.

We found the cute little harbour of Porto Vathys was also a great place for a nice seafood lunch and a swim. The place has some natural diving platforms and hosts diving competitions in the fall each year. Make sure to take swimming armbands or a lifejacket for little kids as the water is too deep to stand and the stairs are coated with sea urchins…ouch!

 

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Idyllic beach location

 

In the summer months, Vathys would be an ideal base to go out on a kayak or SUP tour and boats can be rented right there.

Scuba diving and snorkeling is also very popular on the Island which boasts many diving schools and guiding services.

 

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Swimming in Vathys

 

 

4. Local flavours

Tomatoes taste better when they are in season and fish tastes much better when caught the same day. Kalymnos is an absolute paradise for foodies, especially foodies like myself who enjoy food when fresh, local, ripe and its most simple form. A little olive oil and vinegar, a little oregano, a few olives, fresh goat feta, crispy cucumbers and sweet red bell peppers AT EVERY SINGLE MEAL. Difficult even for a picky eater not to like the food in Greece. Greek yogurt topped with honey and pistachio, frozen greek yogourt with berries, local salami…yyyuuuummmm. Exploring the flavours of Kalymnos was my own personal second favourite activity (or perhaps even my first).

It is true that sweet treats are very present in Greece and especially when traveling and in need of quick, easy snacks that don’t require prep or can be packed easily. However, fresh produce is everywhere and is so affordable compared to BC!

Oh, the joy we had in stopping on the side of the road to buy fresh feta from the local lady cheesemaker, or fresh oranges and strawberries from the mobile market – a pickup truck loaded with produce going around the island each day.

Agriculture is a very important part of Kalymnos economy, as the thousands of free-roaming goats and chicken can attest. Grapes are grown in the lush Vathys valley. Fish is caught every day, right there off the shores of Masouri.

 

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Meeting the local fauna

 

Restaurants all take pride in the authentic Greek menus they display on the black chalkboards. Eating out is way more affordable than in other european countries. Count 12-15 euros per adults for an entree and a beer.

 

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Après climb dinner and drinks at Azul

 

Portions are generous enough so two entrees can feed a family of three with leftovers to take home. Greek cuisine is simple but so tasty. Greek wine is okay and quite pricey. Beer is thirst quenching after a day spent outside in the sun and of much better value.

On the go, grab a gyro! For a mere 2 bucks, those tasty pita bread filled with chicken or pork, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and tzatziki make up the best lunch.

 

5. Archeological & Cultural Wonders

As the cradle of Western civilization, Greece boasts many remnants of the past and does well at restoring, interpreting and showcasing them.

The Orthodox calendar is filled with celebrations of all kind so chances are one is going to fall while you are visiting. We were there for Catholic Easter (not really a big deal) and the Orthodox Easter or Christos Anesti (Christ Arisen), celebrated in Kalymnos with dynamites and fireworks across all the island, in memories of the battles against Turkey and perhaps as a warning to the neighbouring country with whom Kalymnians seem to hold on-going tensions. The detonation of dynamite bouncing off the limestone cliffs was really deafening and I sure was glad to be witnessing the celebration in downtown Pothia rather than climbing in a cave that could collapse from the strength of the explosion!

 

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Othodox Easter Sunday in Pothia

 

Massive family reunions seem to be the tradition on Christos Anesti and the equally traditional lamb roast is what brings the families together. Wandering through the streets, we couldn’t help but feel our mouth water to the fragrant smell and sight of perfectly roasted animal on the tiny balconies. Having a taste of a juicy and flavourful chunk of lamb kindly offered by a local was a pure delight to our daughter.

 

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Mmmm…roasted lamb

 

Pothia holds an impressive archeological museum for the size of the town and the island.  Exhibitions feature antiquities from the Prehistoric and Post-Byzantine era, presenting thus timelessly the island’s history over millennia.

The Castle of Chora is one of the most famous attractions in Kalymnos. It is situated in the place where ancient Pothia once resided and it is considered as the medieval capital of KalymnosThe castle took its final form in 1495 and was inhabited continuously until 1812 . Our little clan enjoyed hiking up the 230 steps leading to the Castle, wandering through this larger than nature open-air museum and exploring the many chapels and building that once constituted the town. With a little imagination and many princess and dragons stories, this kept our child entertained and interested for a full half-day.

 

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Fishing is an important part of the island’s culture and economy

 

The Maritime Museum of Kalymnos is another important cultural point of interest. It presents the naval tradition, history and methods of the sponge catching, along with many artifacts from ancient shipwrecks.

 

6. The hiking

There are many great hiking trails on the Island most of which are fairly easy and short and can be managed by strong little walkers or parents carrying the precious load…or a mix of both, like in our case.

Our whole crew had an amazing day hiking the Island most-traveled hiking trail: the Italian path, from Pothia to Vathys.

Though the trail is in much better condition on the Pothia side. Built by during the Italian occupation of the island under Mussolini, this easy 8-kilometre journey took us from the narrow streets of the capital to the quaint port of Vathys over a pass culminating at about 400 m above sea level with amazing views along the way. The work that has gone into paving the first portion of the trail to carry weapons and supplies is unbelievable.

Along the way, the landscape evolves from urban at the start to a few gardens and farm on the outskirt, then to dry and deserty land on the plateau with views of the sea and the neighboring Island of Kos. Then, upon descending toward Vathys, the lush valley bottom lined with fruit trees and vine welcomes the travellers that then end up the journey with the refreshing view of the harbour, its cute houses and colourful fishing boats.

This hike is best when completed early in the day as there is no shade at all and no access to water.   From Masouri, we took a bus to Pothia and then a scenic 30 minute taxi ride back to Masouri after a well-deserved swim and ice cream.

Kalymnos hiking map can be purchased at any outdoor retailer and includes the location of all walking trails as well as all the climbing sectors.

 

HikinginKalymnos
Scenic trails everywhere!

 

 

Getting there, getting around and getting a roof overhead

Kalymnos being a remote little island, it can be a bit challenging to get to, especially when the weather is not cooperating. From our research, we found that flying from Athens into Kos and then taking a ferry ride was the fastest, safest and most cost-efficient of all. The flight takes about an hour. Then a taxi takes you to Mastichari for about 15 euros. From the port, a fast or a slow ferry sails across to Kalymnos in 20 to 45 minutes for 5-10 euros per person. On the return day, it’s best to allow plenty of time to get to the Kos airport and to book a return flight later in the day as the stormy sea might get in the way of catching your flight.

Scooters are the absolute best way to get around the island, although it’s not very convenient with an infant. We used a mix of scooter rental (12 euros per day or weekly deals around 55-60 euros (yes, the 3 of us rode on it with all the gear! #dontdothatathome) and public transit (2 euros per trip). Small rental cars are also available and are certainly the best option for families of 4 or with babies. Otherwise, when staying in Masouri, many climbing sectors, stores and amenities can be accessed on foot.

 

Scootingaround
The Best part!

 

Note that tap water in non-potable so, therefore, the freshwater logistic needs to be planned efficiently, hence a car might be useful for families. Free water springs are found in Masouri and bottled water can be purchased everywhere, but please, do our dear planet Earth a favour and don’t contribute to the plastic orgie in the sea.

All accommodation options can be found in Kalymnos – (except camping?!) but our recommendation for families really is the apartment with a full kitchen. Little studios are less costly but are limited in cooking amenities and usually more designed for couples. I personally find that you always end up spending more time in the unit as a family as you would without kids, might as well be comfortable.

Our travel party of 5 opted for a spacious 2-bedroom apartment that we rented from Poppy and Nikolas Sdregas, a lovely local couple. We thought the place was a little pricey and located oddly close to the road but it offered comfort and convenience of cooking most meals in, easy walking access to everything and a common living area to hang out as a family. Moreover, the kindness and attention of the owners really made our stay enjoyable, especially the fridge stocked with bottled water, wine and breakfast items upon our late night arrival.

Bottomline

We had been wanting to experience Kalymnos for so long and the waiting was well worthwhile. Kalymnos is getting better every year with more sectors, more routes and more amenities being added. We were surprised to see how family-friendly the destination is and enjoyed discovering the island with our daughter, my father and stepmom so much. Kalymnos must be on every rock climbers list and having a family should not be the excuse you are making not to go. Go! Go, now!

For useful travel information visit: climbkalymnos.com

P.S. I would like to say a special thank you to Jacques and Diane for being such formidable travel companions and grandparents and allowing Hervé and I to climb together again. Thank you to Hervé for being carrying such a heavy load around each day and still managing to send some pretty impressive routes. Thank you to my little Eva for being such an incredible adventure partner and a keen little rock climber and finally, thank you to my friends Anne and JD for giving us the guidebook and lots of very useful tips.

 

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One very content father!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vamos a Chulilla! Climbing in Spain with Kids

Hola, Espanol!” says my daughter, giggling, as she runs out of the Panaderia. In her hand,  she holds a small pastry generously offered by the owner. Then, she runs across the narrow street to the village Plaza and sits on a bench to savour her sweet chocolate-filled mini croissant with a delicious honey-nuts topping.

It’s 11 am on beautiful Thursday in November and the Plaza is bathed in the sun and bustling with life. Today is market day. The locals are shopping for fresh produce, leather purses or pajamas and socks. Nearby, at the Caffè, a few climbers are sipping café con leche and catching up on emails, eyes glued to their laptops.

The temperature is cooler at this time of year and therefore no one rushes to the crags before noon, especially the shady ones; the mythical ones.

 

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A village nestled between the cliffs. Photo by Shenoa Runge

No one rushes to the crags but us. On a ten-day vacation with young children, we want to maximize every hour of daylight to explore and enjoy this huge climbing playground. Time is limited and family vacation also means we are here to spend quality family time.

 

We’re wondering how we possibly are going to fit everything into ten days…
Although a tiny little village, Chulilla is an enorme climbing destination. After timid developments in the 90’s, local route setters have been very prolific in the last few years, with increased community support towards this major tourism draw. The spot now counts over 800 routes dispersed across a dozen different areas, some located at walking distance from the village and some a little further away in the valley.

The quaint, white-washed village is perched on a bluff and surrounded by countless kilometres of bright limestone walls, perfectly vertical or slightly overhanging.


The climbs are known to be long and tenuous. It isn’t uncommon to link beautiful technical moves for 40 metres and even 50 metres in one single climb. Climbers must come prepared: strong forearms, eighty-metre ropes and lots of quickdraws are required to make the most out of a stay in Chulilla.
While the area offers climbs that range from 6a to 8b, Chulilla is an absolute paradise for 7b climbers, grade in which many of the most iconic climbs can be found. This is a little unfortunate for us, who happen to be modest climbers in comparison to many visitors to this destination.
The information we hold prior to our arrival is that routes in the 6th and low 7th grades can be found but can prove a little runout or polished. Nonetheless, the place still looks appealing to my dear husband, our loyal climbing partners Marc and Shenoa and myself, and we feel confident about finding nice climbs to play on.

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Marc and Hervé eager to get on the rock

In such a large destination with all the many different sites, the local climbing guidebook Chulilla: Guia de Escalada is absolutely essential, but requires some studying.
Fortunately, after day 2, we realize that there is some excellent climbing in our grade with plenty of newer climbs on excellent rock and very well equipped. Sectors like Fantasia, Cherales and la Peneta is were we end up spending a lot of time, in the warm autumn sunshine. These areas never seem crowded although very easily accessed. Most of those sites however, are not very toddler-friendly.

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Moms get on the rock while children play nearby, sheltered by the overhang. Photo by Marc Trudeau

The sites that we find fit and welcoming to families are La Nevera that is of easy access and has fun caves for the little cavemen. Competicion is the best area we found to set up a small top rope for the kids and is also an easy end-of-day crag on our way to the bar. Finally, we also enjoyed another small crag in the canyon between the bridges for the great hike it provides, the river and the fine sand.

Finn, never taking the easy road
Because the little ones like cragging too
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Eva and Finn exploring the narrow streets

We find however that the best way to maximize our time on climbing days is to split up our group into two teams; one team to look after the children for the half-day while the other team climbs.

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The Turia valley, a real oasis in the desert

There are plenty of fun things to do with the kids around the village between exploring the narrow cobbled streets, playing princess & knight in the Castillo, paying a visit the white fluffy goats, hiking the river valley or simply enjoying the local delicacies and running around on the Plaza. Chulilla also has two decent playgrounds, of which one is located by the local watering hole, wifi hotspot and tapas and climbing beta provider; Goscanos.

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Eva, Finn and Shenoa hiking Los Calderones trail
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Meet the Knight and the Princess of the Castillo

 

 

Fortunately , we also have opted for a comfortable and spacious four-bedrooms vacation rental, la Casa Nispero, which is located on a large gated property and the end of a quiet street where the little ones are free to roam. The location and amenities of the house really contribute to making our stay enjoyable, from the ability to cook healthy meals at home to the cozy evenings by the wood fireplace, pool-side lunches and naps in the sun…as well as the two bathrooms.

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Our Casa for ten days

There are also many other vacation rentals right in the village to suit every budget and group size as well as cozy inns and hostels, the main one being El Altico, owned by one of the prolific local route setters. Many climbers also stay in camper vans around town or on the main public parking lots, with access to water and wifi at the nearby climber’s bar.

The village hosts several small mercados or carnecerias where one can find most of the staples to survive: cheese, bread, wine, meat and charcuterie, oranges and mandarines in season, local and absolutely divine. For more diversified foods, the nearby city of Lliria or Valencia are the best options we found to please our little and big eaters.

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Breakfast in the warm morning sunshine

In Chulilla, the spirit between locals and climbers from all around the world is truly positive, especially when the climbers happen to have ninos,  who are the best conversation starter and get a very special attention from every store or restaurant staff.  Even with a limited proficiency in Spanish, it is very easy to communicate with residents who are so friendly and welcoming and never seem on a rush.

Eva chatting with a local abuela at the market

In the small climbing shop, visitors can buy all the staples including the guidebook. The store also carries t-shirts and hoodies with Chulilla’s tagline: Climb. Eat. Sleep. F**k. The sight of it makes me think that it’s probably what defines a stay in Chulilla for most climbers, single, young and beautiful, although we definitely noticed an imbalanced male vs female ratio.

Obviously, going on a rock climbing trip with toddlers changes your experience … a lot. I think it’d be more accurate to summarize our experience in Chulilla this way: Sleep. Climb. Eat. Play. Nap. Snack…and wipe bums.

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our crew – Photo by Shenoa Runge

A Weekend of Rock Climbing in Revelstoke, Toddlers in Tow

Everybody loves Revelstoke.

Nestled between the Selkirk and Monashee mountains, this railway and forestry town really is gifted with an amazing geography. Glaciers and dramatic snow-capped mountains, the mighty Columbia river as a backbone, lush rain forest with oversized cedar trees and ferns. Everywhere, the influence from the West Coast can be felt; in the culture, the lifestyle, the vibe…as well as the amount of annual precipitation.

Abundant precipitation in the winter (in the form of cold, dry powder snow) is part of what has made Revelstoke, or Revy as the locals refer to it, a skiing Mecca. With its incredible ski resort that boasts the highest lift-accessed vertical in North America and hundreds of acres of pristine and rowdy terrain for cat, heli and backcountry skiing, Revelstoke is up and coming on the global best ski destination scene.

Revelstoke also has an impressive network of high quality single track trails, like hundreds of veins on which fresh-air deprived mountain bikers from all over Western Canada and beyond come to ride, up & down.

However, what Revelstoke is less known for is the diversity and the quality of its rock. About ten different climbing areas are scattered around town, all within 10 to 30-minute drive; trad or sport, from the short single pitch to the 450m multi-pitch bolted routes on the Columbia Buttress, from low grades to 5.13 +, there is no shortage of fun routes to climb.

Both ourselves and our loyal climbing partners and friends Marc and Shenoa had been to Revelstoke for climbing before kids and had all had an amazing time.

The highlight of our previous visit had been climbing at Waterworld, a cliff on the side of aquamarine Lake Revelstoke, a few kilometre north of the dam. After a 2-minute hike, climbers rappel down all the way to a small wooden platform only a foot or so above the water. Although the couple of 3-4 pitches routes at Waterworld are all bolted, they offer a nice alpine-like challenge as once you’ve rappelled into the unknown, you’re committed to at least climb the easiest route up: Gilligan’s Island ( 5.8). On hot summer days, make sure you take a skinny dip from the platform before you start the climb, at least you will feel nice and cool for the first few moves! The photo featured at the top of this post was actually taken 6-7 years ago, during our first visit to Revelstoke.

With great memories from our previous experiences, when the time came to decide on a climbing destination for a long weekend in the spring, we quickly reached a consensus. Over and above the good climbing options, we were all pretty confident that this place would also be very kid friendly with easy and convenient camping options and other fun family activities to keep our busy toddlers entertained.

On the May  long weekend, then, after the usual full day of packing, we set off to enjoy a couple of days of climbing in Revelstoke, kids in tow.

Our family set up camp at the Williamson Lake Campground just a kilometre out-of-town on the Thursday night. We had booked well in advance knowing that this would be a very busy time in Revelstoke and we didn’t regret it as the place was full. Our daughter was ecstatic when she realized that there was a fabulous playground at arm’s reach from  our campsite, which in fact made us feel like we were camping at the playground. Wiliamson Lake was also pretty cool with tons of fish to feed Cheerios to from the dock.

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Eva and Finn “setting up” THEIR playground for the weekend

Although this type of campsite wouldn’t normally be our fav, this time around we were thankful to find hot showers, plenty of other kids for our children to play with AND a washer and dryer that we were stoked to find when the camper’s roof leaked gallons of rain water onto our bed.

Our friends Marc, Shenoa and their little boy, Finn,  only met us the following day and brought along a canopy tent that also proved to be quite useful in the rainy weather.

Shenoa and I had the privilege to tackle the climbing first as the papas took care of the children. Under a beautiful sunny sky we aimed for the Begbie Bluffs and spent our afternoon connecting with the local rock at the Raptor wall. We were glad we hadn’t taken the kids as there was little to no flat and safe space at the bottom of the crags. At Raptor wall we found some nice vertical routes from 5.8 to low 5.11 . We came back to the campground late afternoon to relief the dads and let them enjoy a few hours at Begbie Bluffs. The little ones on their end also had their share of fun while they dipped their naked bums in the lake and made sandcastles.

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Herve on the steep and classic “Flashdance” (5.11a) on Raptor Wall

The following day, after a short stroll  downtown, we stopped for delicious coffee and treats at La Baguette, a local favorite held by a fellow couple of Quebecois. As the name indicates, La Baguette is a fine bakery where you can buy your daily loaf of fresh bread, order a full breakfast or lunch and treat yourself with their in-house baked goods and tasty gelato. This place is tiny and can be very busy so come prepared to wait to be served, but the wait is always worth it.

Later that day, we all packed up to go spend the day at Blanket Creek Provincial Park.

Herve and I then left our precious, who was snoozing in the camper, to the attention of our friends and went for a romantic outing on to the Blanket Arête (2 pitches, 5.10d). The Arête is highly visible from the bridge over Blanket Creek when driving south towards Galena Bay. Although the walk to the start of the climb made it feel like the rock would be mossy and moist, in the end it was a really nice climb, with the bouldery crux being at the start of second pitch.The Blanket Creek Crag also boast some single-pitch routes, mostly in the low 5.10’s. While the provincial park is ideal for families, the crag is unfortunately not.

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My date scoping “Blanket Arête” from the bridge
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A little moss on the first pitch of Blanket Arête
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Marc taking his baby-sitting role very seriously

After this quick outing, we went back to the day use area to relief our friends and put our parents hat back on. We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking to Shannaghan Falls, chasing gofers and playing in the sand by the lagoon with the two tots. Upon Marc and Shenoa’s return from their climb, we had a nice picnic dinner in the park before heading back to our own campground for the night.

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Shannaghan Falls are only 5 minutes walk from the campground on a stroller-friendly trail

 

When we woke up on the Sunday, it was pouring rain. This meant we had some time to explore what Revelstoke has to offer in terms of indoor activities and we were quite pleased with all the options! Of course, we all indulged once again in one of our favorite activity, which is going for coffee and treats. We also checked out some of the towns’ boutique stores, before heading to the aquatic centre for a swim. Revelstoke’s public pool is quite impressive with its 3-storey high water slide, its kiddy pool and deep water solo like climbing wall. Everyone had a good time there and we ended up staying for a few hours! In the end, we didn’t even get a chance to check out the other “indoor” options such as the Railway Museum, the Dam, or the Begbie brewery.

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Our little gourmet is always up to checking out the local dining scene…especially when it comes to sampling “pains au chocolat”
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Our two dwarfs enjoying a hike in the rain (aka so glad we packed warm clothes and rain suits)

On our way back to the campsite that day, we decided to go check out another climbing area, “the Drive-In” which is only a few kilometres from Williamson Lake on the east shore of the lake. This area is nothing major but it was steep and sheltered enough than even after a day-long rain shower, some of the climbs were still dry. We decided to give it a go and were quite pleased with the end-of-day muscle stretching opportunity at this low-key crag.

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Herve and Marc checking out the Drive-In, which boasts a few .10’s, .11’s & .12’s

After one last nice camping dinner all together and a restful night, we all set off the following morning. Our friends hit the road back to Kimberley and we set off West towards our next destination, Squamish, where we were intending to spend the rest of the week.

On our way out-of-town, we stopped to the ultimate kid’s attraction on the Trans-Canada Highway, the Enchanted Forest. For a mere $11 per adults (free for tots) our mini spent a full 2 1/2 hours visiting every single hobbit’s house and shaking hand with every one of the statue animals, elves and other fairy tale creatures.

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The closest thing to heaven for a 2 1/2 year old: the Enchanted Forest at Three Valley Gaps

In spite of the rain, we had a great time climbing and enjoying family time in Revelstoke. If you head there, make sure to purchase the excellent local guidebook “Revelstoke Rocks” from 2010, self published by local route-setter and mountain guide Ruedi Beglinger.

Provincial Parks near Revelstoke, such as Martha Creek and Blanket Creek offer great camping options. There is also numerous forest service roads and backcountry camping options out-of-town.

The town has good boutique shopping, a good Saturday morning Famers Market, as well as plenty of excellent dining options. For quick and easy meal with the fam, check out Nico’s Pizzeria and the Village Idiot, or for a more refined dining experience, Woolsey’s Bistro or the 112 Restaurant and Lounge won’t disappoint.

There is no shortage of good swimming holes on hot summer days as well as plenty of stroller-friendly multi-use trails around town, including the Greenbelt. Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks are also located very close from Revelstoke and boast multiple family friendly hikes and scenic views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to experience it all this time…

We will back there for climbing and all the other fun stuff, that’s for sure…because for kids and adults alike, AND for non climbers, Revelstoke does rock!

 

 

From 2 to 82: 3 Generations on a Trip to Cassis, France

Last November, like every year, we went to France to visit my in-laws. Since they are well into their 80’s and no longer really keen to go on vacations on their own, we thought it would be great to go with them on a trip. We were committed to do all the travel arrangements and the driving, so what would be left for them to do would be to enjoy the ride and spend quality time with their grand-kid, away from their daily routine and chores.

There were a few reasons why we set our choice of destination on Cassis and the Calanques:

  • It was a fairly short drive from where they live (a mere 3 hours), which would suit elderly parents just as fine as our two-year old daughter.
  • Having been there as a young couple before kid, we had found Cassis very quaint and charming, which is contrasting with other major resort towns on the Riviera.
  • Cassis is located by the sea in the Provence region; it benefits from a pleasant Mediterranean climate which was important to consider given the time of year we would be traveling.
  • The Calanques offer plenty of scenic sightseeing and walking options that are well suited to children and seniors alike.
  • Most importantly (and a little selfishly too), it’s a fantastic climbing destination. Although I must admit that being a multi-generational trip my husband and I didn’t have much expectations as far as rock climbing goes)

With the rental car all packed up, the five of us set off on a beautiful Sunday morning for Cassis.

I had arranged accommodation in advance and had opted for a 2-bedroom condo located on the heights of Cassis, that I booked for the full extent of our stay. The condo happened to be the best option for us as it provided a quieter option to hotels downtown. We also wanted the convenience of a full kitchen, a large dining room, a nice patio and yard and a swimming pool (that we contemplated lots but really never used!).

Cassis is a VERY busy town 4-6 months of the year and can also be VERY pricey, but fortunately, traveling in November opened up more affordable lodging options. The full week rental plus cleaning fees was about 500 euros, which can quickly turn into 1100 euros during peak season. The owner was personable as “jail’s door” as my dear husband would say, and therefore our interactions with him were limited, but he had a cute bunny in a cage that my daughter made friend with…until he bit her hard.

The kitchen being separated from the dining/living area by 3 steps was, in a way, sort of ideal, and it set a different tone to our family time from the get go…My mother-in-law having reduced mobility, the kitchen by default became my kingdom, which allowed my in-laws to relax and let themselves be pampered and served. I know by day 2 they were both bored stiff to not be able to do anything in the kitchen, but overall, I think they quite enjoyed spending more time with their grand-daughter and being fed different food.

We also discovered that multi-generational travel (love the term!) brings a different pace then what we were used to; but you know what, we also realized that 80-year-olds and two-year olds are in fact on a similar schedule! Our daughter’s most active times of day are early morning and late afternoon, and this seemed to suit my in-laws quite well.

A little beach time, although the temperature barely climbs over 20 degrees
A little beach time, although the temperature barely climbs over 20 degrees

Between breakfast and lunch taken at the condo, and between the afternoon nap and dinner is when we did our exploration of Cassis and the Calanques, and it was awesome! Here’s what we have enjoyed the most:

  1. Walking around the port and chillin’ at the Café:

Cassis is such a picturesque town, everyone has to at least spend a few hours wandering around, peeking into the over-priced stores, and sitting at a patio to enjoy a cup of espresso or un demi (glass of beer). Multiple celebrities own properties in Cassis, so who knows, perhaps you will recognize one of them…

The only downside to the downtown is that there is very little parking nearby which is less than convenient when traveling with a young child and seniors, but being November, we still had some luck finding spots not too far…just be ready to leave a whole whack of change…

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Multigenerational travel or when the little ones get all the attention

2. Shopping at the Marché

Le marché is an institution no matter where you are in France, and even more so in the South. This is where people socialize, get some fresh gossips, buy their produce, a fresh loaf of bread, and of course a little piece of Provence such as lavender-scented olive oil soap, some Santons or a traditional tablecloth.

Note: there is even less parking spots available downtown on market day…

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Embracing the French life on this rainy market day

 

3. Taking a drive to explore La Calanque de Sormiou

If the drive through Marseille and its dodgy neighborhoods is a bit daunting to many people, a visit to the Calanque de Sormiou makes it well worth the adventure. Just outside the city limits, a drive on a narrow windy road up a small pass in the mountains and down on the other side takes you to this beautiful fjord. Once there, you feel you are on an isolated island in the middle of the sea.

Busy with the tenants from the many little “cabanons” in the summer, mostly recreationists and fishermen, and groups of youth part-taking in sailing camps at the UCPA,  it is a ghost village in November. The breeze from the sea, full of iodine is very invigorating and the view truly breathtaking. The walk to the end of the “cabanons” is only a kilometre, which was perfect for the young and the young at heart.

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La Calanque de Sormiou in rest mode after the busy summer season

 

4.Walking to la Calanque de Port-Miou

This Mediterranean Fjord is the closest to Cassis and can be access by a short easy walk. The biggest challenge once again is to find a parking spot nearby. Port-Miou in Provencal dialect means “Better Port” as it offers a nice anchoring locations for boats, sheltered from the wind.

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La Calanque de Port-Miou is the closest to town and offer an easy walking access

 

5. Taking a drive to the top of Cap Canaille via la Route des Crêtes

La  Route de Crêtes is closed several months of the year and mostly during the summer months, the main reason being forest fire hazards as we found out when we were there. Fortunately, it had reopened a few days into our weekly stay after an episode of strong wind and we were able to take the impressive drive and stop at the top to take photos. Note: children would be best kept on a leash is what we learned in a very scary way as our daughter ran for the edge and was caught just on time. Be cautious up there, parents; toddlers are unpredictable.

We also welcomed the opportunity to check out the anchor stations of famous climbs that top up right where tourists take their photos.

The view from there is stunning and on bluebird days you can really appreciate the uniqueness of the Calanques and the vastness ( and blueness (?)of the Med.

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Photo spot at the top of the Cap Canaille. Watch your kids as there’s a 200m drop right there!

 

6.Checking out the waterfront play area at La Ciotat

One fine day we went on a mission to shop for food (we actually did that everyday, several times a day) we ended up in La Ciotat looking for a larger grocery store than what Cassis offers, which is very limited and quite expensive. We decided to check out the port area, which from our memories was industrial and ugly. To our biggest surprise the whole waterfront “promenade” had been recently revamped and beautified and hosted the most amazing playground ever. This really made everyone’s afternoon as our daughter played and made friends, we socialized with some parents and my in-laws quietly sat on a bench, enjoyed the sea view and the sight of their grand-daughter playing and having a blast. That night we also brought some amazing seafood from the grocery store and had a feast back at the condo.

 

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Having a good time with her new friend at La Ciotat’s seafront playground

7. Climbing a multi-pitch route (yes, we finally did that!)

Towards the end of our trip, my husband’s best friend came to visit us, which opened up some climbing possibilities. We were also joined by our dear friend from Marseille, Elie, who at 76 years old still rocks his 5.10 on lead. One morning I took off with my two partners in crime, left husband, toddler and in-laws behind and went back to the Cap Canaille to climb the route “2 Vauriens 3 Canailles” (6 pitches, TD-, 6a+, 150m). After a spooky pendulum rappel down from the photo spot at the top, we let Elie lead the way on this pumpy, juggy, beautiful climb with a bouldery start that has left us a bit shaken. If the climbs in the Calanques can be polished and crowded, the Cap Canaille was a good surprise…but to this regards, locals say that Cap Canaille is NOT in the Calanques…

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Elie as keen and happy as ever, rocking this multi-pitch like a champ in his own backyard
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Un vaurien ou une canaille?
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Raph focused on the steep, pumpy 4th pitch

It was a great adventure with the 2 boys, just like in the old days, that we finished with a beer at a Café in the port and another seafood feast at night back at the condo. Don’t feel sorry for my husband who stayed behind since he went back with his buddy to climb the same route the next day and was also pretty stoked about it. We also checked out one sport climbing crag that wasn’t anything worth bragging about but still offered a fun afternoon outside with our toddler girl and some deserved rest at the condo for my in-laws for whom sometimes, being around a 2-year old 24/7 can be a little overwhelming…fact duely accepted and understood 🙂

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Checking out a local crag on la Route des Crêtes

 

All things considered, this first multigenerational trip was awesome. We had lots of quality family time and hubby and I were even able to escape for a romantic trail-run together. We had a little beach time and ate lots of excellent food. We dined-in most of the week as it was more convenient for our family and kept the costs reasonable. We were able to purchase good seafood locally or at larger grocery store of communities nearby. We also indulged in some good fine pastries and enjoyed our daily croissants and pains au chocolat and coffee at the port. The fair weather has also contributed to make our stay in Cassis the most pleasant, as we were able to spend most of our time outside…Had it rained all week, we certainly would have found the condo a little small…espceially with an energetic 2-year old.

Most importantly, I think our trip was a success because were able to manage everyone’s expectations, individual pace and interests so everyone from 2 to 82 could have a fantastic time.

 

 

The Little Climber’s Gear Check-List

We are so excited!

In 3 dodos (three sleeps) we’re leaving for an eleven-day climbing trip in BC. This year we’ve decided to do our spring trip a little later than usual and to stick to destinations within our dear Canada for a few different reasons: low Canadian dollar, lack of friends with the same schedule and a desire to spend some time with Tata (French slang for Auntie) on the coast. Our trip will be in two phases; we will spend the first half in Revelstoke, and the second half in Squamish. These choices will allow us to split the drive in 2 (Squamish is a mere 12 hour + drive from Kimberley, where we live), and will provide great variety in the climbing and in the scenery.

Our Mini actively helps with prepping our camper and packing her stuff, which really contributes to building the excitement!

A few weeks ago, I came across this excellent blog post from mother, climber and writer Beth Rodden on great outdoor kid gear. (I must say that I pretty much agree with all her list, with the exception perhaps of the Poco Plus child carrier by Osprey. I would certainly have used and loved this pack had it been generously donated by a sponsor! Unfortunately, we stuck to a much more minimalist version by Deuter, generously donated by dear friends with two older kids. My husband decided this Deuter pack was more aligned with his own vision of what mountain gear should be: light, light and light. The fact that there was no padding and storage space for useful things such as diapers, water, food, spare cloths was to him, a detail he could cope with.)

Anyhow, our daughter is now almost three years old, very active, and somewhat interested in climbing and hiking…all by herself (I DO IT! …sounds familiar?). With quite a few camping and climbing trips under her belts, we now have our list of favs when it comes to packing her gear. Here’s our check-list:

1- Deuter Little Star Sleeping Bag: Can be extended to fit children from age 1-6. Combined with the Z-Thermarest= hours of entertainment


2- Petzl Ouistiti Full Body Harness: for the 5-minute climbing session which last less time than it took to put that thing on 🙂

3- Patagonia Capilene Thermal Underwear: our MUST since birth. Need to transition to a t-shirt rather than onesie now as missy doesn’t wear diapers anymore

4- Helly Hansen Rain Set: The suit was great up to 2 and potty training. Now we find the 2-piece set more versatile. Can be layered with warm pieces to replace a snowsuit…Yeah, we’re going to coastal BC…did I say the weather can be unpredictable in BC in May, or in fact, every month of the year?

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5- Grivel Kid’s climbing helmet: cute and functional, can also be used as a bike helmet for space saving purpose

6- Mammut Kids 10L Backpack– (because she wants to hike ALL BY HERSELF!): a serious review website would say: storage= 0, functionality=0, waist belt=0, hydration system compatible=0, cuteness=10, stuffed mammoth=10.


7- Shoes: hikers, beach/water shoes, Keen sandals, Bogs rain boots… weather can be unpredictable in BC in May…tak’em all.

8- Books: Mountain-related for total immersion into our element

9- Sun/bathing suit: in case we get the odd warm day

10- Sun hat+sun glasses: for the style, and the odd sun ray

11- Ukulele: for showing off with Tata by the campfire

12- Smartwool Merino Socks: a couple of pairs, they are simply awesome

13- Flash light: for reading the cool mountain books on line 8.

14- Water bottle: You know the great $30 Klean Kanteen kiddy water bottle …NOT! A $10 no BPA version will do just FINE!

15- SMALL toys+ favorite SMALL stuffy: ’cause that’s all that fits into the 10L backpack on line 6.

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16- Patagonia Puff Ball jacket: warm, versatile and so reversibly stylish

17- Bubbles, bucket and shovel: to keep busy at the crag, beach or campsite

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Allright, I got to go finish packing!

 

Pecorino, Cannonau & Calcare Part 2

Rock Climbing in Sardinia, Baby-Friendly

Families can’t really go wrong when choosing Sardinia as a destination for a vacation. There is plenty to for everyone to do, from fabulous beaches to quaint villages, sail cruises to inland hikes, plenty of cultural interests and all sorts of activities for visitors looking for an agri-tourism experience, trad climbing, deep water soloing and long multi-pitches. On our hand, we kept our exploration of Cala Gonone pretty simple. Our stay was filled with our daily share of sports climbing, hanging on the beach, eating gelato …and changing diapers.

We had done our homeworks and had researched some climbing spots ahead of time online. The website www.climb-europe.com was, as usual, a great place to start gathering some info when planning a climbing trip in Europe! On day one, we also invested in Pietra di Luna, 5th edition 2011, by Maurizio Oviglia, a very good guidebooks covering over 1,400 routes everywhere on the Island. Bear in mind that this newer edition doesn’t include as many multi-pitch routes as the older versions. We purchased the book at the small climbing store in Dorgali, along with a pair of new rock shoes, which proved to be way to painful to wear and ended up being replaced by a second pair purchased the following day. Yes, we were in Italy and I was decided to take advantage of the traditional Italian excellence in shoemaking.

Families also can’t really go wrong when choosing a crag to spend the day. Around Cala Gonone, all of the crags we visited are fairly easily accessed and offer flat shaded spots to set up a blanket or even a tent for the kids to safely play and nap. Since we were there in May, the weather was also most favorable to spent the days outside with little ones; plenty of sun but moderate temperatures and the usual breeze cooling the air just enough.

Some of the crags we visited are:

  • Budinetto: located 5 minutes drive from town and 15-minute approach, this site offers moderate slab routes from 3c to 6c. It is mostly south facing and offers a spectacular view on Cala Gonone and the sea. We picked this location for our first half day on the rock. Probably the least baby friendly of all because it’s fairly bushy and doesn’t offer that much flat areas at the bottom; it is less than ideal for a clumsy toddler.

 

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Slaby limestone that has lots of grip in Budinetto. Great way to start clipping bolts again.
  • Cala Fuili: This site is also located just outside of town and requires a 10-30 minute hike, depending on the area. Some easy climbs are just off the beach and therefore very busy and quite polished. As you walk deeper in the canyon, you find more interesting routes, graded from 5a to 8b+. It is the largest sports climbing site in the area with over 110 routes, mostly single pitch with some multi. The beach is ideal to hang out with kids, however, since climbers will have to wander out of reach to find interesting routes it’s best to split the group…
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Cala Fuili is an easy-accessed, popular beach just outside of town
  • Biddiriscotai: A very cool cave accessed by a scenic 20-minute walk right from town. Nudists love to soak the sun on the rocks near the cave, which can be a little surprising as you come around the corner…It boasts about 50 routes from 5b to 8a+. The sea mist definitely makes the holds a bit greasy but the location is well worth the trip. It was a great location for small children who are not too mobile but could be a challenge for busy 2-3 year olds. The cave itself is like a giant sandbox and offers plenty of shade. The routes feature neat tuffa and stalactites.
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The coolest approach ever…minus the naked Sards (not shown on the pic)

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Baby catching up on zzz’s while papa and his buddy tackle a greasy 6c
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Look who’s climbing steep stuff in her socks!
  • Buchi Arta: Our Cala Gonone favorite. After a slightly longer drive up and down a narrow mountain road, you have arrived! This site offers 35 routes from 5c to 7a, vertical and crimpy and lots of flat spots nicely shaded by the ancient pine trees. While you won’t get a seaview, it’s ideal for a group with lots of space for the kiddos to roam. We spent two full days there and I think what makes me emotional about this spot is that it’s where I led my first 6b!

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A napper’s guide to Sardinia
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Giving this first 6b all my attention
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I could write a post only about bread, cheese and wine in Sardinia…so could my baby
  • Cala Luna: I personnaly did more beaching than climbing at this particular site, but I can say that the approach is definitely the coolest of all. While you can access it by hiking severals hours, you can also rent a power boat at the port for the day for about 80 euros plus gas. We were fortunate enough to be a group of 10 (8 adults) and were met by friends of friends so it was all well worth it and quite affordable. The boat ride was exceptional on a sea so blue and so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Along the shore are many caves to explore, which get very busy with larger tour ships later in the day. You can also take a taxi boat to Cala Luna. The climbing there was good, with routes from 5c to 8b+ including some multi-pitch. Hubby and I were able to leave baby girl to our friends and do the classic very photogenic 2-pitch route. The beach was beautiful although it was much harder to find shade so bring your own tent or shelter or umbrella. Be aware of wild pigs who love to steal your food.
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A classic 2-pitch route is right on the prominent pillar

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All Aboard!

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Setting up base camp at Cala Luna

The boys in our crew were also able to squeeze in some quality multi-pitch routes, in Margheddie and Supramonte (in-land). Our thought was that the climbing was overall excellent, on solid limestone, well bolted and the grading relatively on par with other major european climbing destinations. We were happy to go early season and found the locals very hospitable and nice and the prices quite a bit lower than during the peak summer season. Many locals speak French or a bit of English and we found communicating was never an issue. I am sure Sardinia has a lot more to offer than what we just experienced but, so goes life when you want to balance a family vacation with a baby and destination climbing…can’t do it all! That being said, I wouldn’t mind going back to Sardinia has it has printed on our minds very sweet memories.

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Some more napping, just for the beauty of it

5 Reasons Why You Should Go On A Climbing Trip With A Baby

Friends and family who are not climbers have often asked us: “When you take your baby climbing, do you strap her onto your back and climb?” Hell, NO!

Rock climbers are, by definition, in the eyes of non climbers insane irresponsible beings who risk their life every minute. I get it. The concept can seem a little vague for someone who has never tried climbing before. Now, don’t only take my words for it, do you research. Sports climbing, when done properly is very safe. When planned responsibly, and of course when you have a third or more responsible grown-ups on hand, it can also be a great activity to take a baby along. I never used to be much into sports climbing before kid and now I am learning to love it more and more, especially when sports climbing is one of the main components of a family trip. Here are 5 reasons why it’s so awesome:

1- It’s all about your family

With a newborn, life gets a little bit crazy. To me, the domestic life has appeared at first to be like a prison. At home, the first two months of my daughters life, I would easily get overwhelmed by all there was to do and get distracted from what really matters: bonding with my baby and as a brand new little family. In an 8-foot truck camper in the middle of the Sierra Nevada, the home-related chores are pretty much reduced to none. Once you’ve figured where you’re going to sleep and what you’re going to eat, your time is all for your family and this is pretty fantastic. Sipping your cup of coffee in the desert morning sun with a sleeping baby nearby pretty much makes you forget about the the pile of dirty laundry, the mail to pick-up, etc.

At home at the Buttermilk boulders near Bishop,CA

2- It’s a great way to recconect with your postpartum body

Physicians recommend to wait at least 6-week after birth to gently start exercising again, and this should be done after medical consultation to ensure the recovery is underway. I personally followed this guideline and maybe waited even more. I also consulted my family doctor before starting climbing again to ensure I didn’t have diatasis recti. After doing weeks of soft physical rehab exercises and lots of walking to regain strength and endurance, I finally felt ready to climb again. I was by no mean a strong sports climber before pregnancy so I really had no pressure when I picked it up again and was therefore able to enjoy a very gradual, easy reconnection with the rock…and with my core muscles and my upper body. The pace that my baby’s routine would impose on us suited me just fine; a little walking, a little breastfeeding, a little climbing, eating some snacks, walking the baby some more so she could sleep,hanging out in the sun, climbing a little more and the day had gone by!

finding a nice shaded spot for baby’s nap near Bishop, CA

3- It’s a great way to reconnect with your partner

No, your romantic life doesn’t end the day you pop that baby out, although it sometimes feels like a remote memory, especially when that little being is sucking up all your attention and your energy. On our family climbing trips,we’ve always been fortunate enough to also have wonderful friends joining us, which has first allowed us to take turns climbing, belaying and taking care of the baby. But what makes our friends even more wonderful is that, wether or not they have kids, they’ve offered to also take care of our daughter for shorts periods of time. This is allowed Hubby and I to take a few moments to ourselves… to soak in some hot springs, to tackle a route together just like in the old days, or even to catch up on sleep or get organized with groceries…yes, you’ve heard me; with a couple-of-months old, even grocery shopping IS a romantic activity.


4- It opens your climbing perspectives

As mentioned earlier, before being a mom I didn’t care all that much for sports climbing, and to me, bouldering was not even something I was considering as climbing! My husband and I would spend any opportunity we had to go alpine climbing or climb multi-pitch routes. The odd bit of sports climbing I would was early season to get into alpine climbing shape. Well, because we don’t simply strap our baby onto our back and climb (for goodness sake! Seriously!) being new parents who didn’t want to give up on our passion, we had to adapt, and it proved wonderful. The beauty of sports climbing is its relatively simple logistic and the fact that the time commitment can be much shorter ( yes, we’ve had a few around the clock epics in the alpine before). You usually sports climb in fair weather, and in very pleasant environments. It also didn’t take long before we started realizing how much bouldering is adapted to climbing with a baby. Especially when you don’t have friends on hand to take turns belaying. I must even confess that since I have become a mom, I even picked up indoor climbing and I love it. It has become my weekly “me time” I get to spend with other mom friends. Although alpine climbing is still very dear to my heart, I love how easy crag, Boulder and indoor climbing is to juggle with a young family.


5- You create long-lasting family memories

I strongly believe people who say that there’s no point traveling with infants because they will never remember a thing or even says that traveling is detrimental for children are so wrong. Traveling, exploring new places, being exposed to new smells, new sights, new flavours ( even through breastmilk) will for sure imprints on babies soul and will contribute to who their are as humans. Openness is something intrinsic to children. Fear of differences is a learnt state. Tolerance, kindness, curiosity, adaptability are values that can be passed on right from birth. If a baby won’t have memories of a journey she was on when she was 2-months old, she will certainly have acquire sensations from it and will relate to your own memory of it as a parent, through stories and photos. To us, the very first trip we did as a family is closely linked to the wonderful memory of our daughter’s early age. Something that’s truly amazes me about young kids is that, when their basics needs are met and they feel safe and surrounded by the most important aspect of their little world; the presence of loving care-givers, they are really at home anywhere in the world.

And, finally, to anyone who asked me “why do you do this?”, my answer has always been “why not?!”

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Rock Climbing in Sardinia, baby-friendly

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Mountains are great but the sea is pretty sweet too. Here is a view from Cala Fulli
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our daily fix of Mediterranean

Pecorino, Cannonau & Calcare Part 1: A long journey to Cala Gonone

At the exact same date 3-years ago we were embarking on a memorable trip to Sardinia.

Even with a 7-month baby in tow, we were convinced this trip would be a relaxing getaway made of chillin’ on the beach, reconnecting with climbing on perfect seaside limestone cliffs and drinking wine with a bunch of friends. After the fact, I can say that we certainly had underestimated what traveling with a young baby would entice…and overestimated the amount of climbing we would do. But other than that, our trip to Sardinia was absolutely amazing and we recommend the destination to any climber novice to expert, bachelor to a family of 8 and everything in between. Here’s our story.

My in-laws have generously lent us their car for our trip. We’re all packed and ready to go. I thank the Lord for only having one kid. There’s so much stuff in that car that my daughter seems to be buried in her car seat. I hope she’s still able to breathe. As realistic parents of an infant, we’ve decided to do the drive over 3 days between Saint-Etienne, France and Livorno, Italy. Our ferry ride is booked for 2 days later. Our goal is to drive to Serre-Chevalier to spend the first night at our friends who are coming with us on the trip and then together make our way to Livorno, spend the night near the Port and then embark on the ferry. Fortunately, our 7-month old is a well-traveled baby who travels well. Yeah, this can sounds odd, but at 7 months she’s already spent 1/7 of her life on the road, has flown 9 airplanes and traveled across 3 countries on 2 different continents…She’s a trooper. The only minor thing is that she breastfeeds a lot…and often! So, well, we take our time and make a lot of stops.

Who said that distances in Europe are short? Certainly not the parent of an infant. Driving 600km takes us 2 full days. However, the drive is uneventful and quite pleasant even, especially on the second day when we rally with our friends, Antho, Tif, their daughter Kenza and the dog Naumai. We took walkie-talkies along and we’re able to communicate and coordinate our stops as we drive at what seems like crazy fast speed on Italian freeways, which are all stupidly narrow and all underground and where fancy Alpha Romeos pass you nonchalantly at 160k/h. Other than being quite stressed and worried that my in-laws’ car mirrors get ripped off at every turn, we’re all excited about the trip and finding some nice Mediterranean weather. We spend the second night near Livorno in a cute little inn where the staff is absolutely charming and we get to enjoy our first wood oven thin crust pizza and a cold beer in the lounge while our little angles are snoozing in our nearby guest rooms.

The next morning, we casually make our way towards the port but quickly realize that Livorno port is huge and we have one idea where our dock is. After driving in circles for a while following Antho who seems to know where’s going (not!) we finally board the ferry just before the door closes. Booo for the Frenchies, you almost earned us a two-week vacation in Livourno. The day-time ride from Livorno to Olbia on Mobylines is about 8-hours. Mobyline ferries are very well set-up for families with children, with Disney-themed play areas, well-adapted washrooms, plenty of space to move around, several cafes and food outlet all serving delicious espresso for less than a dollar, uh, well, euro. Okay, a dollar fifty. From the deck, we sail along the rugged coast of Corsica on a calm see in a gray and relatively cool weather.

After reaching Olbia, there’s only 2-hour drive to reach our destination of Cala Gonone, a small fishing village on the east coast of the island, turned into a prime tourism destination which the German visitor market particularly affectionate. It seems like early May is still considered off season there so we’re hoping to find some peace and quiet and are ready to handle cooler temperatures.

We are meeting 3 other friends who took a different ferry from Genoa: Sophie, Raph and our 75-year old badass climbing legend friend from Marseille, Elie. The villa is right at the heart of the village just half a kilometer from the beach and has a gated garden and 2 patios with atrial view on the sea. It has a large dining room with a massive table, four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The kitchen is incredibly tiny and very poorly appointed which seems the weirdest thing in a villa that size in a country that claims to be the most food-loving in the world. It will prove challenging some nights when there are 4 of us in there; the two moms trying to mush of some veggie to feed the babies and the 2 others on dinner duties. With limited kitchenware, our cooking ability is somewhat limited, but fortunately, we live off divine charcuterie (salami and prosciutto), pecorino and other fabulous cheeses, olives, and wine.

Reuniting with our long-time friends in this very special place on that first night feels wonderful and it sets the tone for a great time. After too many glasses of wine for my husband my family and I settle in our little bedroom for a very poor night for all of us. Actually, for all sorts of different reason, every of the nights for our entire stay will be poor, more specifically because baby girl has started waking up every 2 hours. One other reason is that Kenza, Tif and Antho’s 18-month old daughter is an early riser. One other reason is that Italian people never sleep and like to go about their duties at night, such as signing, picking up the garbage, using power tools, arguing, etc. All the sudden, being in the place at the heart of the village doesn’t sound like a good idea anymore.

In my next post, I will talk about the serious business..rock climbing in Sardinia. Stay tuned!

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Papa showing her baby girl the monster wild pigs eating our picnic in Cala Luna
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Solid limestone, deep-blue sea and sunshine…heaven
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Sleep deprived but so happy!
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Road trip baby…in papy’s car on top of that
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La grotta, accessed by a scenic trail along the shore

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