Magic Wood: Bouldering in Ausserferrera, Switzerland

This Adventure of the Week comes from a hand more than 5,000 miles away in Paris, France. TMS friend and former Tahoe local Anya Miller Berg and her husband picked up and left their Seattle homestead for a 5-month stint in France. An avid boulderer, Anya shares with us here a recent excursion to Magic Wood in Switzerland.

WHO: Anya Miller Berg and Charlie Berg

WHAT: Bouldering at Magic Wood (Averstal)

WHERE: Ausserferrera, Switzerland

WHEN: September 2010

GEAR: Crash pad, chalk, climbing shoes

Paris, Zurich, Chur. Our sights were set on the Averstal Valley in southeast Switzerland, home to Magic Wood, a much-talked of and quite-distant bouldering spot. After leaving Chur, things quickly became much more rural. A train took us only as far as Thusis (TOO-sis), where Charlie and I stammered around a bit to find the appropriate bus and happened upon it quite quickly: Andeer, here we come. Gunning it up a steep and narrow valley the giant yellow bus we went. Those things are driven like supercharged wagons! Deposited in Andeer, we only had one more bus ride to get to Ausserferrera. So we waited.

We strolled around Andeer with all of our junk, found an ATM and got some food and drink for a few days of bouldering. The bus finally came and the driver hopped off, took one look at our crash pad and said “Mageek Woot?” in a heavy German accent. He clearly didn’t speak any English, but he knew where we wanted to go and that was good enough for us.

We hopped off right in front of the Gasthaus Generoso, the biggest building in this village with a population of 47. Inside a very traditional Swiss house, we checked in with the owners and were given a key to the non-descript building next door. I was a little disappointed: I wanted some authentic Swiss atmosphere! My worries were quickly put to rest… Charlie and I walked into the building and realized that it was the coolest place we had ever stayed.  The building had been built about four years ago by the Swiss government for the use of the town to generate tourism (mainly from boulderers, ice climbers and hikers coming to the valley). The design seemed to be a governmental standard for the mountains … it could have sat anywhere: it was so unbelievably durable, functional, sparse, but somehow still warm and comfortable. Classic Swiss. Dinner was being served at 8h30 sharp (everything really is on time in Switzerland), so we had a few hours to get out to see the boulders and climb. Good thing I had bought a watch in Chur.

Across the road and down the hill was a flowing turquoise river and a footbridge. We crossed over, literally and figuratively, into what really was a magical wood … a centaur came out and greeted us, there were faeries and nymphs, and a unicorn shook its mane and munched around on some lush grass in the distance. Not really, but almost. The light was soft and dim but still golden and the rocks were just all jumbled … kind of like Chaos Canyon in RMNP but placed in Washington, so there was moss all over everything. Luckily, the problems were clean in the midst of all of the vegetation. The gneiss was steep, tall, coarse and most problems generally had horrendous landings. A bit of a rude awakening after the kind stone and flat landings at Fontainebleau. All of them seemed beautiful, serious, and enchanting! We got over our fears and climbed a few tall moderate problems, walked around the forest, and got excited for the following day…

That night was the eve of our first wedding anniversary and our 10th anniversary of being together … we had a great dinner of some sort of game meat that the owner didn’t know the name of in English and bottle of amazing red wine.  It was perfect. As we were eating dessert a large group of Swiss boulderers came into the restaurant. After we finished our wine and they their dinner, Charlie and I stopped at their table to say hi and ask a few questions about the area. They were really friendly and invited us to sit down. We hung out, talked about the rocks and other items (generally unimpaired by the language barrier) and agreed we would meet the next day to climb. Yes! Friends! We turned in early so we could get up and out.

The next day was cool but kind of dampish. I was worried that the friction might not be very good but it was magically delicious. We walked the length of the talus bouldering area looking for our new Swiss friends, but didn’t find them out yet. Instead, we came upon some magic mushrooms (that’s where the Super Mario designers got that…) and several neat problems that we warmed up on. Alas, we happened upon our friends and the real day of climbing ensued. We did two extremely airy but doable high-balls (higher than Tahoe’s dump boulder), and Charlie wailed on his right hamstring working the mother of all lip traverses: U Boat. I was pleased with two quick sends of a couple tricky 6c+ problems, not to mention just happy hanging out with our new friends. They were interesting, psyched and so similar to my bouldering friends in the States. It was the first time we really felt at home here and we loved it. Same same but different. Thank you Daniel for the liquid courage and to Urs and the rest for all of the fun that day.

Our friends had to leave via the bus to get back to Bern for work the next day, but we kept on. We pretty much destroyed ourselves since we were leaving the next day, climbing until it was dark and heading back for dinner: 8h30 sharp.

This post is just a taste of the Euro adventures found on Anya’s personal blog, Mindful Creative. To see more of her bouldering, check out her episodes on The Season. The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, bike, ski, surf, climb) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers, each week. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

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