Deep In The Woods

It wasn't long after I got into climbing, that I found myself heading to Magic Wood in southern Switzerland with a group of friends. Being a power and strength focused climber, I was told it would suit my style, more than the other great European venue, Fontainebleau.

Not having much expectation of the rock and my climbing ability, I didn't have any firm goals. I mainly wanted to just get outside on real rock, experience a trip with friends, and shoot photos. Magic Wood proved to be the perfect place for all of that. Any fantasy aficionado will appreciate the beauty of the place, it's straight out of a book by David Gemmel or Joe Abercrombie. A dense forest hiding mossy boulders that cascade down the valley, amid the sounds of the rivers below, it certainly feels magical.

The forest is so deep that each boulder becomes its own world. Cool air comes up from the ground, keeping the rocks nicely cold. Each boulder requires a little hike around the valley, but the rock hopping never gets dull, the forest is just too beautiful. Even at peak times, you could go days without seeing anyone else, baffling since it's such a popular place. So popular in fact that many of the problems are horribly polished, a victim of poor rock etiquette. So it goes.

I spent only a week there, which isn't really enough long enough for a new climber - it takes a couple of days to acclimatizing to climbing real rock after so long indoors, then allowing a day or two to for bad skin and resting, so all told, you only have a couple days of hard cranking. Such was my desire for glory in grades, I only managed to lock my way up one hard problem. Though it was arguably one of the best problems in the forest - Hoehenrausch.

It's outdoor board style climbing at it's best. With its powerful moves on fingery holds, it truly gains its grade in the last committing move off a sharp flake - and a daunting landing greets anyone who bails out. After watching my friend crush it, I felt I had to give it a go. I locked down the last move to the rail out of sheer fear of falling down a fissure, feeling a huge sense of relief, and personal triumph when I did. Alas, I didn't do much else, my skin was sore and I was out of time. I was always keen to return, but injuries and distractions got in the way.

I think 2017 will be the year I do.


Climber and photographer based in London