But first, a personal note:
So it has been a while. That is how life goes sometimes. For the last few months I have been paying the piper his due. Working a steady nine-to-five has kept me stationary. But please, no sympathy needed here. Between exploring new-to-me cliffs, trying hard on a few choice project climbs, and planning the next adventure (and the next, and the next) I have been keeping busy. Plans are in the works, but in the mean time…
Back to our regularly scheduled program:
As we barreled down the final hill all I could think was “I sure hope I can stick this last turn.” My climbing partner, Tero, and I had just completed the Tampere Derby, a friendly, 12-hour, climbing competition held in the Pirkanmaa district of Finland. Throughout the day, we had competed against 16 other teams to climb as many routes as possible, at multiple crags, across the district. The catch for us was that while the other teams were traveling by car, we had opted for bicycles.
The day had begun early. While the event organizers gave their morning briefs, the 17 bleary-eyed teams sleepily sized up the competition and prepared for the day ahead. Minutes before 8:00 AM, the event was officially started and the crowd, suddenly alive, dispersed with a frenzy.
As we took to our bicycles in the cool, overcast morning, Tero lead the way. Navigating us through the city blocks like an old hand, his alley cat racing skills really shined. After less than 15km, we reached our first crag, Mustavuori.
The weather, which had improved slightly during our ride, was quite perfect for climbing. The damp chill had been replaced by a hazy sun. Climb by climb, pitch after pitch, we worked our way across the cliff climbing everything under 6c. Nine routes and three hours later, it was time for the next crag.
On the approach to Melo, my road biking skills were thoroughly tested. We had to fight hard to keep our skinny tires rubber side down as we climbed and descended hills on a seldom-traveled gravel road. Reaching the parking area with no incident, we quickly changed shoes and made our way to the cliff. This cliff, unlike the last, was quite crowded with many teams coming and going. Luckily, we were able to deftly move through all seven of the routes there without once having to wait on another party.
By the time we had finished up at Melo the day was over half way through. Another short, but harrowing, ride took us to our final crag of the day, Ramovuori. At Ramo, thing got interesting. The day’s undertakings were starting to take their toll on us. Our strategy became muddled and we foolishly raced up the few easy routes first thing, even as the threat of rain seemed unavoidable. Sure enough, the sky opened and unleashed its cloudburst. The crag emptied as other teams hustled away to other cliffs, hoping they had stayed dry. We lacked this option. Even as the rain fell, Tero continued to lead. The climbing went slower, but it still went! The rain stopped and we did our best; climbing the driest lines we could find. Unfortunately, with the easiest lines already climbed, this left the harder, more serious lines for us to do in the wet.
A bit after 7:00pm, we called it. It was a long ride to the finish line, and we were already feeling quite drained. We left the crag in a hurry, running to our bikes. As it would turn out, I badly underestimated the difficulty of the 30+km ride that we had before us. After 20km, and with still over 10km to go, I hit the wall, hard. Tero, totally out of water and dealing with muscle cramps, was also struggling. We continued to stagger along, though just barely, and far behind schedule. After what seemed like much more than just ten klicks, we rolled down that final hill to the applause of the already-arrived teams.
When the dust settled and the scores were tallied, the organizers presented the winning teams. While Tero and I came in an overall fourth place, we did take the title home in the “team spirit” category.
The evening went on long into the night with dinner, music, sauna, and swimming. A big thanks to the organizers, the other competitors, and my partner in crime, Tero, Without him, I would have never been able to navigate myself even to the first crag.