Saturday, December 29, 2007

Barcelona Summary

The last ten days have been quite interesting. at the entrance of my last blog, i was in surianna. what a beautiful place that is. Ryan and i found ourselves amidst a snow storm with a weather forecast for snow and rain and more or less variable, unstable weather. At this point we had a decision to make: stay in Surianna and see what happens over the next few days, or head back to Barcelona and hang out there. Also, at this point i had caught a cold and was feeling sick. My inclination was to stay in Surianna and wait it out. Ryan wanted to head back to Barcelona, and was heavily motivated by a beautiful Spanish girl he had met prior to heading up to climb. So, we headed back to Barcelona. Over the next several days we hung out and embraced the city life. Ryan was occupied with Spanish dreams, and I explored some of the nightlife. The clubs here, for the record, are incredible. I went to one place called Razzmatazz, which is supposedly the "best club in Europe." i won't argue with that! 5 bars in one, from rock to deep house and techno, chill out to dance hard, this place had it all.
Friday night came along and now, with Ryans attention focused back to climbing, we headed to the tunnel in Barcelona with a nice girl (Joana) we had met during the climbing competition. Quite a cool place, that climbing tunnel in Barcelona.
Anyway, it seemed as if our schedules were not in congruence as Ryan and I has some conflicting ideas about timing and priorities. In the end, Ryan went climbing with a few girls we met here, and I went climbing with Joana. Not bad I suppose - both of us climbing with beautiful Spanish ladies - yet not with each other. Interesting how that all transitioned.
Anyway, on Sunday, my day was pretty incredible. I started the day in a quaint Spanish town (cool) with Joana (hot) and we drove to Montsurate (incredible), and then I rolled back into Barcelona to see a sold out "match of the year" futbol game (incredible).

On Monday, Christmas Eve, Paul and Cody arrived. We went to Christmas Eve Mass at midnight, and proceeded to party and dance (Prax you would have been proud) until 7 am. The music at the clubs keeps getting better an better and more intense all the way until the lights come on at 6 am. Sweet. That is the same time, convienently, that the Metro starts to run again. Double sweet.

The next few days we spent catching up and hanging out in this amazing city. Barcelona is filled with incredible architecture, amazing places to see (Park Guell for instance) and stylish people. The Metro system is incredibly efficient and easy to navigate.

The four of us spent the day after Christmas with Meya and Barbara, two other lovely Catalyn beautiful people. I felt very lucky to have them invite us to their home for Christmas dinner. Quite a warm welcome. Quite incredible ladies.

All in all, not really the agro climbing stint in Spain that Ryan and I had in mind when we started out, but sweet none the less. These things you must take in stride and embrace the best of WHAT IS. Life is too short for complaining, for "should have this" and "Should have that" and all the worry of missing out on whatever. Be focused and go after what will bring you satisfaction, and be flexible as you enjoy the ride. And really - ENJOY THE RIDE!

In a few hours we head to IBIZA - an island off the coast of Spain. Its time to get our New Years groove on - and to face up - head to head - with the best dancers and trance DJS in the world. We're up for the challenge... Its GO TIME!

So, as we transitioned into the weekend,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stream of Consciousness Summary of the Last Two Weeks +

December 1: Hard Sport Climbing at Todra. Much 5.12 climbing.

12-2: Incredible Todra multipitch 6c +, crux final stemming pitch over the entire route

12-3: More sport climbing and Ryan sends Afrique Physique Project; we meet Zaid and travel to Sahara, Er Foud and Merzouga and desert kasbah:
WILD dreams in the Kasbah

12-4: I am attacked by a camel at start of trip. The camel ripped my wallet and crushed my Blackberry, nearly puncturing my back in the process. Yes, the Blackberry saved me from being eaten by the camel. More camel trekking through the Sahara! Stopped for lunch at Berber village and cous cous, camped under the stars in the desert, sunset hike, fireside drum jams, (Abdul and the Nomads drumming team debut)-amazing!

12-5: Sunrise Dune Walk, Writing in the sand, Part 6 of Get Motivated
Series: How to motivate a Camel. Travel out of the desert and back to Tineheir, dinner with very cool Spaniards.

12-6: Travel to Todra, climbing - long screamer fall (Tim).

12-7: Climbed 6 pitch route called the scorpion (6 B+) and then TIM SENDS AFRIQUE PHYSIQUE! 5.12A+/B redpoint!

12-8: More climbing at Petit Gorge, I buy Moroccan drums and a magic carpet! (Luggage getting a bit heavy) Overnight bus to Casablanca (yes, another overnight bus).

12-9: Arrive in Casablanca: chill day, continue to be harassed by Moroccan beggars, great seafood dinner, funky nightlife, random Piano Bar where I am kicked off stage.

12-10: Preparation for the training at the SOS orphanage and meetings:
Severine and Beatrice are amazing women.

12-11: SOS orphanage training (incredible!!!!) 15 Arabic managers and
educators learning and focusing on teamwork, communication and support for the ultimate benefit of orphan children. I present all day, Severine translates to the team, the team responds back and Alex translates to me.

I am still unsure if the girls were referring to me as "white devil" or not. (Obscure pet detective joke). Incredible energy. The participants completely embraced the training program. They even choose to stay 45 minutes longer for final challenges and action planning. Thank you to the whole SOS crew, and to Severine and Alex for the translation!

Post training we travelled to Marrakesh via train. One more night in Marrakesh....

12-12 Travel out of Marrakesh, Morocco and onto Barcelona, Spain!
Arrive in SPAIN, secure apartment and immediately head to FC Barcelona versus Stuttgard futbol match - stellar 3-1 FCB.

12-13: City walk, determine Spain is the land of fashion. Quite amazing really, everyone looks like they are out of a fashion catalog.
We went to climb at a climbing gym - informed of competition the following day and we register. Proceed to party Spanish style, which we determine to be very intense dancing until 6 am. People very friendly here, and they like to party, a lot.

12-14: AM power shop (yes, I actually I went shopping) and onto the Climbing comp! (Yes, this was after parting ALL NIGHT). I nearly won the competition (there were no American judges = rigged) Americans tricked into gulping glasses of Anise at dinner by Spanish climbing team (apparently all in one does NOT mean drink this down all at once, but means we are all together, like as one.) The Americans are given ceremonial keys to the CLIMB AT for their stellar performance at the disco post competition. Thanks to Ky, Barbara and everyone at Climb At! Barcelona for embracing the American style of sending.

12-15: Travel to Suriana with Leida, 7 times-running female Spanish climbing champion! Tim officially loses his voice due to competition exhaustion, sleep deprivation and 6 am discos.

12-16: Arrival to Suriana - magico! This might just be the best climbing in the world. Climbing at Suriana: warm-ups and the land of 7A+!!!!!!!!
I nearly onsight 7a+, one crux overhang fall...

12-17: Awake to snow! It never snows here apparently....

Key Travel Insights: Be open to "teachers" who may appear at any time.
The serendipitous occurs when you focus with intention. Be prepared to seize the moment. Maintain goals, release the outcome, and embrace the process. Failure is inevitable, it’s what you do when you do fail that determines your character. Acceptance is key to happiness. Remind yourself what is most important every day. Decide to make each day the best of your entire life. The Power of Now is easy when things are easy, true challenge is in times of conflict or difficulty. Choose to focus on gratitude, abundance, and giving, and you shall be rewarded. Seek and expect the best in every person you meet. Be yourself, not who you want people to think you are. Every action is based upon seeking an emotional state. Awareness of your seeking is key to enlightenment. You climb how you live, you live how you climb. Futbol and Music are the two global connectors for people anywhere. Seeking True North maintains complete relevance. Prepare, practice and passion are the pathways to freedom, beauty, and success in life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lots of new posts and some random pictures - check them out below!

Here are some pictures i thought you might enjoy...
Climbing in Spain

Ryan camel surfing

The camel that ate my wallet and Blackberry (I am not even joking).

Unexpected Motorcycling in the Back Country

The trip continued on through the mountains and the roads were extremely
unstable and rough. As we traveled, we came across a couple from
England who was on an old Russian BMW moto with a side car. They were
definitely struggling to navigate this backcountry travel. Just when we
were unsure of what the heck they were thinking being on this road, their
bike flipped over and the man was nearly crushed! We jumped out of the
jeep and righted the moto and side car. Gordon, the British guy, was in
shock and kept saying, “It looks like we bit off a bit more than we could
chew.... we got in a bit over our heads.” Ummmmm, yeah!

Ryan seized the opportunity to help out by riding in the side car to shift the weight, leaning way off to the sides to provide balance. That was what Gordon
needed to take it out of this difficult terrain. After a while Ryan took a
break and I rode with Gordon, helping him to keep the moto balanced
and maneuver through the hills. Quite the random adventure!!!

We finished the day passing through Dades Gorge. We spoke with local
villagers about other remote climbing areas. We hope to be able to check
out some of these areas before we leave. Morocco is packed with
incredible rock that has yet to be touched. Line after line with loads of
potential for new routes abound throughout this beautiful country...

A "Rest" Day with mountain villagers

Last night we shared dinner with Leif and Ky, our Norwegian friends, and they invited us to join them for a rest day. Today was quite the rest day! We spent the day on a 4 X 4, cruising over the back roads and pistes of Morocco. We traveled through small villages and brought plenty of supplies to give away to the mountain Berber village people and children.

The highlight of the trip was when Leif gave away a pair of his old climbing boots to a Berber man living with his family. He immediately invited us for tea with his family. These people were extremely poor and lived essentially under a burlap tent with what seemed like absolutely nothing.

As we sat for tea, the communication looked like this. We asked a question in Spanish to another guy, who was from Tangier, Morocco, who happened to be following close by and was with us for the tea. He then translated into Arabic the question to Hassan, our driver; Hassan then asked the village people the question in Berber, which is the mountain dialect. They responded in Berber; Hassan translated to Arabic, which was then translated into Spanish for us to understand! Quite the interesting chain of communication.

Apparently he had lived there, in that tent, with his family, for 17 years! They were content with the lifestyle and lived off the land in the mountains very simply. Ryan and I discussed this concept of living for quite some time. What purpose would it serve to have more when the simple existence is what this family knows and wants? To feel the sun and the wind; to live in the mountains for centuries in happiness. Who are we to say what is right or wrong way to live???? We shared tea and bread and Leif also gave an old climbing rope to him as another final act of kindness. Quite the amazing experience to share.

Pillar le Classique

After months and months of dreaming of climbing the mystical route that would begin in the heart Todra Gorge, the time is finally upon me. The original line of the gorge, established in 1964 by a French team, ascends the face of the most prominent pillar. It follows cracks and continues directly up the face of the Pillar, 1,500 feet to the summit. The route requires a "trad rack", which is comprised of nuts, cams and aliens, which we place in the cracks and rock face for our protection as we climb. We were even able to borrow a #4 camelot (a big piece) from the Norwegians, which brings a little added comfort, knowing we will be able to protect larger cracks... All that heavy luggage is paying off!

Ryan wins the roe-sham-boe and takes the "sharp end" or lead, for the first pitch of about 150 feet. A "pitch" in climbing terms is the length in which climbers advance in one rope length. It is typically between 100 and 200 feet in length. During a pitch, the leader goes first, placing gear in the rock to protect a fall. Once at the top, the leader makes an anchor and belays the follower up. The follower collects the gear that the leader placed on the way up as he climbs up to the leader. The climbers then typically switch roles, and the follower now becomes the leader for the next pitch.

The climbing is cold as we are not in the sun yet, and the first pitch is difficult. Ryan prevails through the crux with stemming and finger locks, all with nearly numb hands!

The second lead pitch is my turn, and we are in the sun now. The way to go is not exactly clear, as the crack that looks like I should be climbing appears very steep, dirty, and lacking in places to place protection. The only gear I can see is the ring of an old, rusted piton, probably placed in 1963!

I make the first moves and begin to stem, which is where you have your feet very wide on two opposing walls. One of the walls is very dirty, and I reluctantly clip the old piton ring. I have very little confidence that this will hold if I have a fall of any significance. "No falls, stay strong," I tell myself. The sun beats down, and beads of sweat roll down my neck as I crimp hard on the side wall and shift my feet up the dirty counterpart.

I am surprised this is so difficult and I begin to wonder if I am going the right way. Doubt begins to creep. My forearms flare, my heart pumps rapidly, and fear begins to rear its ugly head. I notice the physiological changes in my body, coupled with this familiar emotional state. I tell myself to breathe, and repeat my mantra: smart, smooth, and strong. I must continue on. My breathing keeps my physiology in check and my mantra keeps me mentally in focus with the task. Inch by inch, I make my way through the challenging crux, which leads to a beautiful diagonal hand crack. I feel at home jamming up the remainder of the vertical pitch to the belay ledge. Feelings of relief, happiness, confidence, and excitement flow though me. YES.

We still have 8 pitches to go! The climb continues up steep yet clean rock to a beautiful overhanging roof, which Ryan leads in style. We are getting into the groove now. Our belay transitions are fast and gear management is flowing smoothly. Pitch after pitch, we continue upward, overcoming consistent challenges while we shout words of support and communication to each other.

Pitches 8 and 9 are supposedly rated somewhere between 5.6 and 5.9 - so I decide to combine these pitches together for a long 230 foot pitch. (This turns out to be quite challenging, as I used up all of my gear, with difficult moves at the end of long run-outs (a run-out is the distance in between gear placements, which means the longer you "run it out," the bigger the distance of the fall becomes).

I create a natural anchor with the resources I have and bring Ryan up on belay, where the final pitch awaits. The last pitch looks beautiful and I liken it to a golden friction pitch (like on the Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton). Ryan climbs up and wonders out loud if we are off route because the climbing is supposed to be easy at this point. It's not. Ryan gets to the last exit move through a blank corner with very suspect protection, and he is stuck.

He searches for gear placements to protect the move. Nothing Ryan finds yield much confidence. The sun passes over the face and I remain ready in the shadowed belay ledge. This last move is a committing, hard face move, with no guarantee that the commitment will lead to better holds! Eventually, Ryan summons his courage and goes for it. He makes it through the move and we both are relieved. I follow the pitch and can see why this move caused such a dilemma! It turns out that one of, if not the most, difficult move of the whole climb was the final exit move off the face! I finish off the last pitch and soon we are on the summit celebrating the successful ascent of the Pillar le Classique!

We meander down a forty-five minute walk off trail through shepards and sheep and beautiful Moroccan Landscapes. At the base we meet Hassan, and share a glass of Berber Whiskey over tales of the ascent....

Todra Gorge

We check into Hotel Yasmina, a beautiful place overlooking a river flowing
through the middle of the gorge. As soon as we get settled, we head out to get onto the rock. Tourists drive by, snapping photos of us and we are happy to be moving and excited about what lies ahead...

Finally arriving at Tiniheir

We made it to Tiniheir and we are immediate greeted by yet another friendly
Moroccan who wants to show us something. I thought Ryan was going to snap,
as we just wanted to be left alone for once...

A short taxi ride through the Moroccan countryside and we have arrived!
Todra gorge at a first glance is magical. All this time traveling,
seeking, and finally we exit the taxi and stare up at the massive red
walls. The moment we step out of the taxi... it begins to rain.

Cous Cous

Here is a photo of a small Berber desert family. We visited them for a lunch of cous cous, and no, she didn’t use hand sanitizer.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ourzazate - A Happy Hippie Town

We managed a cheap hotel room in Ourzazate, a sleepy little "happy hippie town". The vibe is already much more chill. We are getting out of the city and into the smaller towns, and it feels great. We crash out, have a quick coffee in the morning and walk about a mile and a half in the morning to catch the 8am bus to Tiniheir. This will be the last stop be for our entrance into the gorge. We are getting very close!

On the Way to Todra Gorge

We made to yet another bus in Marrakech. This time to Ourzazate en route to Todra Gorge. We are tired. The travel has taken a toll and we desperately want to get climbing again. The bus is filled with Arabic ring tones buzzing, multilingual conversations (French, Arabic, Berber, our English.) Throughout all of our bus rides we have yet to see another Caucasian traveler.

I wonder about all this travel and the idea to come all this way. What will Todra Gorge be like? I peer out the window as we round a mountain pass and see snow. Will it be too cold to climb? Have we made a major error in judgment with the climate? Will my shoulder be okay to climb hard? Many questions fill my mind. Soon I will have the answers!

Aut Aurir and the SOS Orphanage

Right now, I am on a "grand taxi" which costs 6 dhirum from Aut Aurir, heading back to Marrakesh for the 35 K drive. FYI - 1 USD is equal to 7.5 dhirum, so 2$ is 15 dhirum. There are 25 people squeezed into a van a little smaller than the Tripper (another story, another time)! Arabic flows through the cabin.

Ryan and I just left a meeting with Houda, the admin person at the SOS orphanage in Aut Aurir. The orphanage was quite nice, very well kept, with grapefruit and orange trees on site, beautiful trees lining the walkways, and a great school where all the children from the village attend along with the orphans.

The orphanage has 14 houses, with 8 to 10 children per house. It doesn't appear that money is what is needed the most. On the tour we met many teachers and staff, including a very animated Mina, the preschool teacher. She has been with the orphanage since it opened 21 years ago!

Afterward, we phoned Severine, who is in Casablanca and she was very excited to talk with us about the possibility of training for the orphanage directors. She said the greatest need is "how to improve the communication between the educators and the youth which will facilitate their development and improvement as positive, autonomous individuals in society." She also referenced our web site and the story of the Thai training, about creating the possibility of dreams and goals for the future and positive belief systems for the children.

The result? Ryan and I will be heading to Casablanca to deliver a training on December 11 with the orphanage staff and educators for a full day! The goals: team building for the staff, and models, methods and tools for the educators to pass onto the children. We are so excited about delivering this True North seminar experience in Casablanca, Morocco!

The Marrakesh Marketplace

Sunday morning came early and we firmed our plans to visit the orphanage in Aut Aurir on Monday. We arranged some travel plans and got plane tickets for 30 euros (45$) from Marrakech to Barcelona on Dec 13.

The market was an amazing experience: curious tourists mill about trough dancing cymbal players, Tarot card readers, snake charmers (yes - it’s true!). Snail soup, goats head stew, grilled surprises are all at your hands at hundreds of stall. The shopping was crazy. Jewelry, clothes, glasses, lamps, the hand of Fatima (personal favorite) and a multitude of trinkets.

We finished the night off with a massage and scrub down at the local hamman.
This is the Moroccan version of the spa. Big steamy cellar with buckets of hot water. As we started the massage I thought the guy was going to rip my arm off. This continued with being scrubbed and having buckets of water thrown on us! Old school.

Pasha is the place to be

In Marrakech on Saturday night the place to be is Pasha. The best DJ’s in Europe spin to a wild Arabic crowd. Pumping "house" music, flashing strobes, jembe jams and a whole lot of crazy dancing!

Getting Squared Away in Marrakesh

We made the best of a rainy day and had tons of fun bantering and laughing with the locals. Everyone wants your attention to sell you or show you something. We got to the hamman (traditional bath house) just as it was closing. We got lost in the medina for hours and turned it into a big game. We arrived back at our hotel to be shown our room. A lovely honeymoon sweet with one bed, complete a big pink comforter. Not gonna do it. An hour later we were at a hotel in the new city, taking a nap before the big Saturday night in Marrakech.

Our first morning in Marrakesh - Rainsong

The rain continues through the dreary, cold morning. We select a riad to stay at and grab a taxi. We struggle with French and Arabic to communicate with our cab driver. Ryan knows a little French; I stay focused on the Arabic.
Ryan takes the lead on finding the riad in the rain while I stay with the gear by the cab. Nearly 30 minutes passes and I am beginning to wonder what the deal is! Ryan returns and, of course, that riad is booked. Onto the next place. We get dropped off and meander through the next Moroccan maze. Our packs are heavy with climbing gear. Did I mention the pouring rain? We make to our place after an expensive cab fare ($6USD) and a tip for our guy that shows us to the place) and settle into the small, yet nice lounge area. We are told the room won't be ready until noon. We get some hot coffee and begin to thaw out and start to formulate our plan for the next few hours.
We decide we want to locate the hamman (spa) where we can go to a steam bath with massage for 70 dhirum (ten bucks) and attempt to locate a climbing shop and maybe desert trekking shop.

After multiple hot coffees and some bread and eggs we head back into the maze of the Marrakech medina. The barrage of beggars and shop owners is nearly overwhelming. Asking for directions without someone asking for $ is unheard of. Everyone want our $ and wants to walk with you to show you something so you are obligated to pay. This whole scene is very taxing and we begin to feel the frustration and irritation mount.

Just when we are getting to our limit of exhaustion and irritation we find the hamman! Its 12:00 and it has just closed! Sweet. So we settle in and grab some lunch at a small side shop where we see a bunch of construction workers macking down on some hot tagine. Tagine is like stew that comes in a ceramic pot filled with potatoes, veggies and chicken. Thing are starting to look up! Amazing what a little hot food will do for you.

The Overnight Bus Ride to Marrakesh

If you've never taken an overnight bus in a foreign country, it’s well worth the experience - once. Fortunately for me, I was completely exhausted so the random music, chatter, frequent stops, swerving and at times very unnerving sway of the bus only kept me up half the night. Ryan’s seat didn't recline and he kept getting drips of water on his leg from the window so he wasn't much better off! We have arrived in Marrakech and the for once the bus has arrived on time. (This is the one time we wanted it to be late). It is 5:30 am; it is freezing and pouring rain. Ryan and I both feel sick and it is getting worse. We curl up on a hard bus station seat and attempt to sleep our way into the morning when we can find a place to stay...

Fes, Morocco and the Carpet Ride

Today we entered quite possibly the largest natural maze on the planet. Fes, Morocco is known for the Medina - an intricate series of narrow cobblestone pathways with hidden gems around every corner. We navigated the tight pathways popping into tiny doorways, sampling Moroccan cuisine, including harira soup and grilled samplers of chicken and liver, some deep fried bean concoction. We shared lunch with an old school 84 year old musician, complete with the square looking cylinder hat (called a fez). The narrow pathways were a constant reminder of seeking true north and navigating the unknown pathways of life.

Of course, any trip to Fes wouldn't be complete without a trip to the magic carpet store. What an experience this was. Mahammed greeted us with kissed and ensured us all the prices were regulated and we would get "best price".

Great! I need a carpet to really complete my pad! So the rolling out of the carpets began. New style, old style, tight weave, special weave, big, small, pattern this, pattern that. So here was the pitch: if you can afford one, buy several and sell them on eBay to cover your cost! Mahammed ensured me he just got an email from someone that sold these very carpets for 16,000 USD! It’s true, really! So I narrowed it down to 3 that were really pretty sweet. First price: 90,000 dhirums. Yes, that's not a typo. That's the equivalent of like $13,000 - yes, he wanted me to pay him $13,000 for 3 carpets.

Of course, I could easily sell one of them for that on eBay. "I guarantee you there is no risk. Do you understand this word risk? You sell on eBay and cover your cost." Mahammed was a bit shocked when I pulled out my blackberry and searched eBay and found one for $200. He then proceeded to offer me $1,600 for my blackberry. "Shock me with your offer... Take this pen... Take it and write down what you pay for those beautiful art work you only find here in this world... Shock me". Okay Mahammed... I did end up offering him $1,000USD for 3 nice carpets, which I was still actually very confused about. What is a Moroccan carpet worth any way? Does anyone have any idea?????(It's not too late, I can still bring you back one. :0)

Mahammed: "I don't understand! What you say me?" Apparently he really was shocked. And turns out he had spent 7 years in New York... Go figure...

“Listen dude, I've had enough of your BS, what do I look like to you? I'm gonna have to turn you into the carpet police,” I was thinking to myself. Ryan had had about enough, too... By the time we left our energy was about gone... Just in time to make the 8:00 bus to Marrakech. We have a 10 hour overnight bus ride to look