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Engelberg Bouldering

Went camping and bouldering in Engelberg. It was windy and wet.

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There is a wonderful chain of long weekends between April and May in Europe. You don't know what they represent or celebrate - religious holidays or something - but don't really care. Most importantly, they enable weekends away in the mountains without the stress of hurrying back to Zürich to wash cloths while trying to catch your breath after working all week. The first long weekend with reasonable weather was spent in Engelberg bouldering.

Bouldering is a subculture of rock climbing for the more chilled and sociable adventurer. It removes the adrenaline and solitude of high high mountains and replaces it with lazing in the sun on bouldering mats, chatting to your new-age hippie friends and occasionally touching rocks. Although there is some sport involved if you're serious about it, it's mostly about everything else besides the climbing; camping, chatting, flopping about and doing some climbing on the side best describes going bouldering.

You departed from Zürich - your shiny new GPS being thoroughly useless, not knowing Luzern - and drove into the mountains up the winding s-bends, eventually finding a car park at the end of the last open dirt road. The snow had melted enough for some wild camping near the car park (very banned) but the trails up into the valley were still patchy-white. Day one was nice and sunny but extremely windy. Avalanches were rumbling down every ten minutes but nothing close enough to worry about. Some boulders were actually in the middle of huge avalanche paths, meaning you had to traverse chunky snow fields to get there - an adventure in itself, especially with ice filling your shoes. The boulders were rather big but really far apart. Walking from one problem to the next was basically a hike, especially when a river crossing was necessary. Every climb was really challenging, each taking a good twenty minutes to get, if at all. It was a hard area.

The river water was the temperature of freshly melted snow and had a stabbingly-painful quality to it. Washing plates and cutlery in the river was the most horrendous camping duty imaginable. To get to the river you scrambled through the bush for a good fifty meters and slid down the bank onto the rocks, balanced there and froze your fingers. It was only after the third trip through the wild woods that you found the path. The next morning revealed a friendly camp-side stream of crystal-clear water irrigating a garden of Bärlauch herbs located just thirty meters from your tent; knowing this sooner could have saved a bit of effort the day before. You cooked using your miniature camp grill over a smokey wood fire and it all tasted great!

Day two started with some unhappy, cold and windy weather, which prevented any kind of climbing. The rocks were wet and unclimbable, so you all went for a walk up the valley against the wind and continuing rain. You gave up, went back to the car and had a nap, not really hoping to do any climbing that day. Luckily the strong winds dried the rocks and a few hours later were climbable again. You made a few attempts here and there - some successful, others frustrating and out of your league - and generally enjoyed touching all the rocks. Meike suspected people who boulder must have a rock-fetish, because they're always touching big rocks in an almost sensual way. Even if the rocks hurt them, they keep coming back for more; it must be some kind of geological masochism. While clinging to one near-flat rock face by your fingertips, standing on your tippy-toes, stretching up to the limit, all muscles tensed and really scarred that you were about to slip, you had an epiphany: the thrill of bouldering is to earn your victory. The exhilaration of understanding and completing a bouldering problem is all the more for your pain and effort because you've worked for it. You're not relying on cheap tricks or compensating with height, strength or weight - you're simply searching for your own way up. This is why people climb painfully pointy, freezing cold, slippery wet rocks: satisfaction of earning a victory.

Anna Bay Beach House

Your family decided it was time for a change, and so sold their house and moved a few kilometers north to Anna Bay. The house came with a pet Kookaburra, who politely requests to be fed of a morning by tapping his beek against the glass bedroom window/door. It apparently paradise there with the beach a mere few hundred meters away. All's well.

Spring in Zürich

The sun is shining and flowers are blooming - Zürich is suddenly pretty. You even read a story about a guerrilla botanist who, in the dark of night, runs about town planting flowers. Is that the worst it gets here? My got, it's lovely!