Chile – Back to the Desert

While in Chile, I’m supporting VE Global, which fosters the development of children at social risk in Santiago by empowering volunteers to serve as positive role models, educators and advocates of social justice. Learn more and help Lead Now support VE at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourchile

I always get a bit antsy at the end of trips. After 36 flights and 12 countries within 9 months, all without stepping foot back in the US, I was ready for home. Fortunately, all our new friends in Chile made the last month fly by, keeping us plenty entertained with new climbing areas, parties, and my first competition in over three years.

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Jon and I arrived to Santiago, Chile at the beginning of March and immediately met up with local climber, developer, and Marmot athlete Matias Meyerholz. Over the following weeks, we scoped out a number of local sport crags. Santiago reminded me a bit of Salt Lake City and Denver – mountains surround the sprawling city and a short 20-30 minute drive lands you in the hills, removed from traffic and pollution. We first climbed at El Arrayán, a technical basalt area with blocky roofs and sharp thin crimps. El Arrayán turned out to be my favorite cliff around Santiago, particularly because a great horned owl watches over the cliff from a low branch throughout the day (can I get a hooo hooo, Lisa Hathaway!?). I did two really nice 13s at El Arrayán – Geko (5.13c/d), bolted by Matias and featuring my first outdoor toe hook to wrestle a roof, and Por Belenos (5.13c/d) a nice thin slab, first climbed by Alex Honnold a few years back.

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[Entering the crux of Geko (5.13c/d), El Arrayán. Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]

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[Por Belenos (5.13c/d), El Arrayán. Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]

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[Matias cruising the arete of Tranquitronco (5.11c). Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]

We also spent a few days at Las Chilcas, a conglomerate area reminiscent of Maple Canyon. The climbing at Las Chilcas is really fun but particularly steep and powerful (at least at the wall we visited), so it provided great training and not much success. Its location right off the highway in the midst of a construction zone made it particularly entertaining, reverberating, and not so peaceful.

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[Power training at Las Chilcas. Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]

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[Matias on Escaramujo (5.13a), Las Chilcas. Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]

Finally, we visited Cajón del Maipo for some technical sport climbing at La Mina with Matias and his girlfriend, the leading lady of Marmot in Chile, Maca. Set in a  valley at the base of a volcano, Cajón del Maipo features some stunning geological features – certainly one of the most beautiful places around Santiago! Maca and Matias whipped up a nice asado (bbq) while the setting sun painted pink clouds behind the volcano.

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[Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photos]

The convenience of climbing in Santiago is quite remarkable. Within the city, a number of nice gyms can keep you occupied. I tend to laugh at the competition climbers who “train” for two weeks before nationals each year, as if world class strength can be magically accumulated within a few short sessions. However, with no other options, we spent two days in Gimnasio El Muro “training” before the competition. After spending a grand total of 4 days climbing on plastic during the past nine months, blindly hucking over volumes for slippery slopers wasn’t really my strength at that given moment.

Embarrassingly, it was endurance, not power or contact strength, that I lacked for the Master of Bouldering competition in Santiago. As a sport climber, I would hope that a bouldering competition wouldn’t prove too pumpy and fatiguing. I now know that bouldering competitors have significantly more longevity than weak outdoor sport climbers – 5 minutes each on 5 boulders the first day + 5 minutes each on 4 boulders on the morning of semi finals + 5 minutes on 4 boulders on the evening of finals = 65 pretty serious minutes of climbing. In a sport competition, you’ll be lucky to log 12 minutes of total climbing time. Point in case, by the end of the competition I could barely move, particularly my legs which weren’t accustomed to seizing up as I dropped to the bouldering pad.

In the end, I came out in 4th place. Emily and I were actually just happy to make finals! Congratulations to Akiyo Noguchi and Mauricio Huerta for their first place finishes, and to Valentina Aguado (she’s 12) for trying SO impressively hard in finals and coming out in 2nd place!

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[Akiyo Noguchi winning the Master of Bouldering competition in Santiago. Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]

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[Our VE Global support crew at the Master of Bouldering competition.]

I stopped competing three years ago because I was tired of training in the gym and wanted to focus on hard projects outside. But this past weekend of competing did make me miss the competition scene just a little bit. While rules meetings and sitting in isolation for an entire weekend is a bit of a hassle, I still love the pressure of performing in front of an audience on confusing routes you’ve never seen before, learning to laugh at your falls rather than grow increasingly frustrated, and the feeling of unbearable soreness the following day. Our girls from VE Global came out to watch semi finals, the route setters did an incredible job building unique, thought provoking, and challenging problems, and the after party dancing to Buena Vista Social Club was pretty rad. And to top it off, I got to see two of my best friends in the world in Chile after a year apart – girls gone wild with Kara Caputo and Emily Harrington!

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While in Chile, we also celebrated Marmot‘s 40th anniversary with a big party hosted by AndesGear (the Chilean distributor of Marmot) and Escalando Magazine. Thanks for hosting an awesome event guys, and to those who patiently listened to me ramble in Spanish – now I’m motivated for more practice!

The day after the comp, we hopped on a plane back to the good ‘ol USA. Drinking water from the tap, flushing toilet paper down the toilet, and buying plain yogurt at the grocery store has never felt so exciting. I’m happy to sleep in the crisp Colorado air, wake up to the mountains outside my window, and eat my mom’s home cooked meals. It’s these simple things and the love of my family that I’ve missed most while traveling. But best not to take advantage too long – I’m headed to South Africa in just under two weeks to visit my brother, Sam. Bring on the rusks, rooibos, and elephants!

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[See you next time Santiago! Jon Glassberg (LT11.com) Photo]


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