MANPUPUNER: THE MYTHICAL GIANTS or THE WILD WILD NORTH EAST

4 guys, 12 days, thousands miles from home.


It was an eye opening and an inspiring trip.
Where should I start… Through out the whole trip we were breaking everything into stages. Why would I stop now…

Stage 1: Civilisation to Wilderness

Packing is almost done. Ok, we are 12kg over the limit and we refine our list of things we are taking.

We agreed not to compromise on climbing gear. What can we ditch then?..

Dual fuel burner? Yeah we can leave it, we won’t have time to get petrol for it anyway no chance of getting gas either.

Small burners? Just incase we need them, they are light…Keep them.

Water filter pump and a filter bag? The lighter one comes with us the other one stays in the van.

Food? Trek’N’Eat expedition meals and Olly bars? Russians mentioned that they will take some food for us, but to be safe let’s take it.

We agreed not to ditch climbing gear, but there was nothing else of substantial weight apart from our ropes. We have two sets of 80m twin ropes. Can we climb with one set? Will we even climb at all? O.K. one set will have to do… Which one though?… LOWE 8.4mm or MASTER 7.8mm

Thicker! It can take more beating!

We are packed I guess?!..(If only I knew, that I left my spork behind…)


Airport shuffle: Kaunas – Moscow, Moscow – Perm.

7pm Perm. What should we do? Go to the hotel or straight to the pick up point from where we will be going to Nyrob, where our helicopter will be waiting for us?

Hotel. But I cancelled the reservation, because we had ‘only’ 8 hours to hang around before our transfer bus.


We get to the pick up point via couple of hotels incase we can stay somewhere… Dmitrij is the leader/guide of our group. To get where we wanted we had to chose him. Only 1500 people a year are allowed to the plateau of Manpupuner. The reason is that the rock formations are one of the 7 wonders of Russia.

Ok the chances to climb are getting slimmer and slimmer. Are we going on a very expensive camping trip half way across the globe? I hope not… All of us hope not…

It started to rain, great. The 5 hour bus trip got even more dull. We tried to sleep, but the roads were so bumpy that it was almost impossible. We managed eventually. It felt like all the fillings will be rattled out of my teeth.

I woke up just as we were arriving to Nyrob – a little village in the middle of nowhere. We drove past high security prison with 5 layers of barbed and razor wired fences. Security guards with Ak47s looked at us as we drove past. Are we going to a concentration camp?

At this stage we did not know much about our Russian friends, nor did they know much about us either.

Stage 1 was almost complete. Now we are waiting for our helicopter pilot to give us a thumbs up next time we ask about flying.


Another helicopter lands. Police, ambulance, soldiers they are all here. What the hell had happened? They pull a dead body on the stretcher out of the fuselage. We were warned not to take photos or film. We obeyed – too early to cock up the whole trip.

Are we staying here over night? I asked myself.

We did… In the middle of the night I heard somebody shouting ‘Stoy! Militia! Ya budu stryliat!’ (Stop! Police! I will shoot!) I asked the other guys in the morning, they heard it too. Someone was running from the police and got to the airfield. Gladly It did not affect us.

Helicopter is loaded! Our basecamp, planks for the bridges, metal poles, tools and a lot more stuff than we thought there will be.


We are on the helicopter! Bye civilisation! 1.5h flight was loud, shaky and the windows were positioned behind, thus looking through one of them would get your back stiff in no time. Basically – Ryanair! 🙂


Stage 2: Don’t get eaten by a bear or a hungry Russian.

‘Chetyre cheloveka. Vyydite iz vertoleta!’ Shouts Dima, looking at the back of the MI-8T where we sat.

‘Us I believe’ I said to myself.

We jump out of helicopter with some rangers who will be stationed on that peak. Dima told us to follow the path for 5km and we will reach our Base Camp. Whistling and singing marching songs we went through the taiga. There was another guy walking with us – a filmmaker who was there to document the bridge building process.


That brings us to the stage number three.

Stage 3: Earn Your Climbing

Earlier we thought that we were on a very expensive camping trip. The situation improved a bit. We were in the environment where just a simple thing as walking through was making a lot impact. Constantly muddy ground gets easily destroyed – we witnessed the damage 4 guys can make going up and down the mountain. The river banks are even more prone to collapsing. We joined our forces with Dmitrij and improved the infrastructure so the next group of people can enjoy the nature with as little direct impact as possible. I imagine how strange it might be for someone going in the middle of nowhere and finding a well made wooden bridge/walkway. After we brought the planks from the top of the mountain, as a celebration that we did not get attacked by a bear Dmitrij filled a thermal camping mug with vodka and sent it around. The next day it started going around a bit earlier and on the last day of work ‘The Mug’ started to make rounds at lunch time. Russians do drink. The stereotype is right. All for the good cause. We only made 80m of bridges, but a lot more is needed.


However, we were running out of time and climbing had to be done.

Stage 4: The Mammoth Wall

We walked around the towers. Even though it was windy and cold the fingertips were sweating. The mind was going crazy too. The only word I could think, say and hear was – CLIMB(ing). Withdrawal from not climbing for over a week is obvious



When we finished the first day of work Dmitrij told us that we can climb after we finish with the bridges. It was enough to motivate us to almost run up the mountain to bring more planks down to the valley.

We brought the planks, we cut them, hammered them. The bridges were done!


We walked around the mammoth wall to pick our routes. The boys were kind to let me climb first. I chose the line which was the zigzagging crack system.

I topped out. I was overfilled with joy to finally climb something, somewhere in the middle of Russia. ‘WHO’S SECONDING?!’ – I shouted.

Arunas tied in, I had so much rope drag that just pulling was fruitless. I had to do squats to pull the rope. I pulled all of the rope. Now I had to get him on belay. I started laughing aloud. I had been sport climbing so much recently, that I totally forgot to grab my belay device. ‘Italian hitch it is then…’ I thought.

As Arunas was getting to the top the sun was hiding behind the horizon. Rokas and Matthias went back to the ranger’s hut.


We tied our ropes together, threw them to opposite sides of the rock wall and started to abseil. Not the most orthodox way of descending, but we were not allowed to leave anything on the rocks.

We packed up and rushed to the hut. Then the most amazing sauna followed our eventful climb.

Next day Arunas led a route dedicated to our Russian friend Nikita and named it after him. Rokas lead a variation of that route and named it ‘Easy Peasy’. That was the first ever trad climb for him. Cams on one side, nuts on the other. ‘I put them in the crack and they should hold, right?’- he asks just as he steps on the rock.


Then we set a top rope four Nikita and Maxim who had never climbed before. They were ecstatic when they got to the top of the smaller mammoth wall. To get Nikita down was easy, even though he expressed his concern for going down on such thin ropes. 8.4mm twin ropes. We reassured that we have even thinner ones and he relaxed.


To get Maxim down was a lot more interesting. Our Russian skills were limited to everyday chats and not to technical abseiling vocabulary. I shouted to Nikita who was on the ground and he shouted back to Maxim in Russian.

The first words Nikita told us when we got down that he is signing up to the local climbing gym in Perm as soon as he gets back. Did he? I don’t know. I should ask.

Matthias climbed his route with a nasty chimney requiring a ‘Tight Squeeze’ and that became the name for it too. Again we did not learn to put slings to create extensions to reduce the rope drag. None of the boys were too inspired by the route so I took one for the team whilst Arunas belayed me half way from where Matthias took over. There was so much rope drag that it could not have been done over-wise.


The next day was the last one…

We chose the longest line. All four of us topped out and celebrated the successful trip.


We made friends, we experienced new culture, we helped the locals, we did something for the environment and we climbed.


Now it is time to get back to the reality and train hard for big climbing goals next summer.

Thanks to all of the friends and family for the advice, help and worrying.

A massive thanks to all of the companies who had faith in us and helped us make our little expedition happen.

Montis Magia, Osprey Packs, Petzl, Tendon, Olly Bars, Katadyn and The Reach Climbing wall. 

We will be doing a little tour with presentations and film screening in December. So keep your eyes opened for more info.

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‘When the Dreams Come True’ pre-trip report

It is year 2013, February. I am at the university with my mates procrastinating/researching for inspiration. We are doing motion graphics course, thus it is computer screen intense.

As I scroll and I stumble upon another click bait ’10 Most Interesting Rock Formations’ it got my attention – that is their purpose.

Second down the list was Manpupuner rock formations. 7 towers on the top of the mountain like fingers of a beast hiding under the mountain sticking through the green carpet of Ural mountains’ fauna.

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That is it, the I got fixated on the idea of going there one day. Then lots of questions came to my mind. Where exactly was it? How to get there? Visas? How long would it take us? Bears? Hungry tribal people? Yetis? Is it even possible to climb them?

The dream kept on bubbling in my head.
Meanwhile I climbed all over Europe, but at the back of my mind the ultimate adventure was to go to Ural to see the Mythical Giants and climb them.

Fast forward to 2015 summer.
I met Robbie Phillips in Chamonix just after he had a mega adventure climbing ‘Belavista’ in Dolomites,Italy and ‘Paciencia’ on the North face of the Eiger, Switzerland. I suggested the trip to Russia, but it still remained just a dream.

2016 Spring was the turning point. Then I was sitting with one of my best friends Rokas and over a cup of tea we were sharing ideas. “If not now, then when?”- we thought.

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The dream was still far away from becoming the reality, but the first step, the hardest, was done. We set the approximate date – 2017 August.

Why did we chose August? 
The driest and and most likely time of the summer to get a big enough window for hiking, camping and climbing. Being near polar circle the Manpupuner plateau does not heat up to much at that time of the year. Highs of 19C lows of 8C – sounds like good conditions to climb.

To make dream come true one needs ambition and courage to do things one has never done before. 

I had to pick a team. I knew that I can count on Rokas,

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then I suggested the idea to Arunas Kamandulis and he was interested in the whole adventure.

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Sweet! We have got 3/4 of the team, but that is not ideal. I called my friend Arturas – a boulderer who might be interested to stir up his climbing and put a harness on and place some trad gear whilst being where phones have no signal, where the only transportation to civilisation is the helicopter or a boat down the river. After a sudden change of heart we were one member short and I knew that Matthias is more than keen to join, but how will he feel in a company of 3 Lithuanians? Apparently, he is pretty cool with that, since he climbed with us before and occasional Lithuanian sentence did not bother him the slightest.

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The team is confirmed! Now we needed to get as much information about the logistical side of the trip.

 

How many of us speak Russian? 
Only one and not fluently either. Google translator was an amazing tool which allowed easier communication. Cyrillic is tougher than you can imagine especially after not using it for over 8 years. Those skills had to be dusted and sharpened.

We are going far away from the western world and anything and everything is possible in the deepest part of Russia.

 

What equipment are we taking?
We will be far away from food markets and restaurants, thus we need to carry everything we will eat on our shoulders. img_3341The lighter the better. The only choice was dehydrated expedition meals.

 

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The guys at the Reach Climbing Wall were more that kind by giving us 60 meals of Trek’n’Eat meals and Kadadyn water filtration system to make sure we do not get ill by drinking from a stream straight away.

 

 

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Driving to Lithuania then flying to Perm via Moscow to get a 5h bus ride and then a helicopter ride to drop us off from where we will need to hike for half a day we need some easy accessible food.

London based company Ollybars gave us 100 bars to keep us fuelled without spending time to cook. Low sugar, high fibre bars are an amazing treat after training, but being outdoors they will be more of a treat for sure.

 

Climbing/camping gear shop Montis Magia in Lithuania supports us with Petz helmets, because who knows how loose that rock might be. Head injuries are serious and having no emergency services to rely on we have to make sure that we eliminate unneeded risks.
Our Petz harnesses came from the same shop, with a set of cooking stove and pots. Even though August is the time to admire ‘meteor rain’ we won’t be sleeping under the stars. Blood sucking insects will stay outside our tents. To pack our gear we received 65L Osprey packs.
To tie ourselves for scaling and descending the Mythical Giants we will be using Tendon ropes. A pair of Master 7.8 and a bit more robust for filming and photographs – Lowe 8.4 water and dust treated, which will make it easier incase we get some rain.
img_293212 days is not a long time, but couple of sets of clothing are good to have. ABK made sure that we stay comfortable and bright so we could be spotted if we need a rescue! Stretchy trousers, T-shirts and hoodies. 12 days in the duration of the whole trip, but we will only have a week on the plateau of which we will probably have a maximum of 5 days of climbing. For this task one pair of climbing shoes each will do the job. Let’s hope we will not lose them on the way… The guys at EB would not be impressed…

 

 

Keep dreaming, but don’t forget to act, because if not now then when?

 

Big thank you to the brands below for believing in us and helping us reach our goals!

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You Are Not Always On The Top

Last month I was a guest in, as my friend Talo MartĂ­n jokingly calls it, the ‘Granite Fontainebleau’.  As with the previous trip I had to have a goal for a the time there. I knew that weather is a strong influencing factor and my goal might be half, if finished at all. 

I set, as with the sport climbing trip in August, to climb 10 x 7Bs-B+s and at least one 7C-C+. What I was soon to realize that I forgot how B and B+ is of a more significant difficulty than b-b+ in sport climbing. I just thought that I will try as hard as I could and climb as many as I could boulders. 

Coming back to London from the trip in the alps got me trapped in the ‘Why do I Climb’ thinking. Re-evaluation was due. Having no particular goal prevented me from feeling about climbing I used to. Previous years I was training from competition to competition, but now I am all outdoors and as little comps as possible. Going to a new climbing area limits you to what to expect from that crag. Therefore, projecting something is hard before you see what’s there and I personally experienced dip in my motivation for training. I just wanted the adventure. Why do you climb? I do it because I can progress in so many different aspects: different styles and types of climbing, different cultures I explore whilst on a mission to climb, in other words climbing helps me to grow as a person and for certain makes you a bit more humble. The rock could not care less about our ego. Realizing that makes you aproach climbing in a slightly other way. I see it as a privilege and an opportunity to unite with the nature and feel free from worries. Worrying does not help. Feeling competent does. So if you need to brush up some technical aspects for the next trip. I would rather do that before you get stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Back in La Pedriza I was having fun and after every day looking at my logbook reminded me that I need to get stronger or try really hard to achieve my goal. 


I am proud to say that I have not reached my goal. Beeing somewhere just below half way was where I ended up before I got back to London. 

What did I learn? Set yourself reallistic goals. My ones where realistic, but just about. 


What is next? I am getting ready for a big expedition in August. We will be climbing some unclimbed rock and exploring remote depths of Russia. On that later…

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3 Locations, 3 Friends and 3 Types of Fun.

For those who follow my adventures on Facebook and /or instagram… You might have noticed that the last 6 weeks I was having the prime time of this year. If you don’t follow me, you should. I might infect you with endless positivism and hunger for adventures.
@_v_man_ or Instagram

It went from Big City Life to Brig City Life via Brix(en) City Life. Three locations, three climbing partners, and three types of fun! I drove over 3000 miles climbed over 3000m of rock and achieved my short term(trip) and middle term(climbing grade up) goals!

Let’s talk about goals. I realised that if I don’t have a goal to strive for, I sometimes slack too much and loose the direction. Before this trip I decided that it would be great to climb 10 of 7b/b+ and at least one 7c+/8a. It is sometimes better to have a goal which is hard to achieve, but doable so one has to really push oneself, rather than a goal which can be achieved pretty easy and for the rest of the trip one just climbs whatever. I did a lot of easy climbing and massive multipitches.

The first two weeks I’ve spent with my partner in crime, Matthias Trickey. My mum joined us for a week as well. On the very first day all of us climbed a 200m multipitch. Bare in mind that my mum has only climbed indoors once and she coped well with the exposure and hight. The rest of the time she was with us she spent hiking and admiring the Alps. Mr. Trickey and myself started crushing. It was his first big outdoor climbing trip and he learned a lot. Mostly that footwork is of a great importance when climbing long routes, so you could rest your arms.

I dropped him off to the airport and collected Rokas – my second partner in conquering limestone, granite and dolomite cliffs.

We were 3 weeks in (1 week for Rokas) and I had half of my goal achieved. I had 5 out of 10 7b/b+ and the hard one ticked off. Just chasing grades and numbers felt quite strange to me and instead I wanted an adventure.

That is why we went and climbed Cima Grande with a haul bag which was not needed at all. That made us slower and we had to bivouac at the top. Descending was out of the question. Too risky…We were tired and going with head-torches did not seem like a viable option. The morning was one of the most spectacular ones in my life. All the climbing and getting benighted on the wall paid off with the view from our ‘beds’. We did not have sleeping-bags or sleeping mats, therefore we were pretty cold at the altitude of ~2700m above the sea level. As there were climbing parties above us they dislodged a lot of loose rock which went past us making the sound of a cloud of drones flying by. One rock hit me on my head. Two seconds later it started to ring in my ears. I touched my helmet, but no damage was done. It must have been a small pebble. Even a small stone can get a lot of speed falling 300-500 meters. Rokas got hit on a shoulder blade. That is when it went from type one to type two fun for him and borderline type one for me. He had to use ascenders to get up couple of pitches, because he did not feel confident climbing when there was a chance that he would slip and would have a rather big swing. The reason for that being my runners. I felt very confident and was running out 15-20 meters sometimes, in some instances sideways as the route dictated me to do.

This place is worth comming back to. A lot of rock to climb and plenty to do on rest days. And scenery if breathtaking. The European Yosemite pops into my head straight away.

Loaded with bags of endurance and only one more route left to achieve my goal I got back on the road and headed to Switzerland. Fabian was my climbing buddy for the next two weeks.

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Little I knew that for the next 14 days we will be bouldering. This meant only one thing, I was going to fail on my goal – kind of… I felt privileged when Fabian took me to the local crag which is not mentioned in any official guidebook and conservative, older generation climbers don’t want to make it public. I respect that, but climbing should not become like surfing, when locals don’t share the swell with others. BlindtĂ€lli -the crag- is still to see some major development. There is a rumor that Fred Nicole himself developed some boulders in the forest.

We were having a night session because during the day it was getting a bit too hot and sweaty to pull on small crimps and bad slopers. It was a first time experience for me. I felt recovered from previous days of climbing. 3rd go and ‘HĂ€rti Post’ was in my bag. Fabian fist bumped me and congradulated me on sending my last 7B+. It was a boulder and not a route, however I felt pretty made up about it, but then I needed another project to go for.

I have only cleaned and developed boulders about 3 years ago in Lithuania. Therefore I thought that this would only do good to the community. Every time we were in BlindtĂ€lli we would walk past about 7m-8m boulder with an arĂȘte screaming to be cleand and climbed. So, we did.

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After a ton of moss and pine needles were scraped off I started to look at the moves. The right hand side of the arĂȘte starts with good holds then becomes more technical for you feet to fight the ‘barn door’. We chalked it up and it went… With the first attempt not to the very top. I got scared and messed up my footwork. I felt really honnored to put a first ascent and named it ‘Far Away From Home’. It only gets a font 6B+(V3), but it clearly tests ones confidence at hight. The landing we built is great. I was hungry for more and had to clean the other side of the arĂȘte. The holds got smaller and the moves got bigger. The given name ‘The Other Side of the Medal’ with a grade of F7A(V6). I climbed some routes which were as short as this boulder. At least 3 pads are recommended.

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The last days of my trip were spent in St. Gotthard pass. Fabian and I had no projects were, but we did not take long to find some. The first day there went better than I would have ever expected. I was just having fun climbing a lot of boulders not very hard in grade, then I thought that I need to burn some energy and try something hard. I jumped on something what for you might seem stupid. ‘Stein Christmas’ Font 8A(V11) slab. the sun was behind the mountain and it is almost always windy in the pass. Conditions were perfect… Razor sharp crimps to start with and then minuscule crystals to follow from the rock-over. I was going slow and just wanted my skin to last and not rip pealing my nails off.

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The crimp at the top meant that I have succeeded and it felt like a jug after pulling with my finger nails facing down. Needless to say, I was buzzing with happiness. Sometimes having now expectations and just trying your hardest works to your advantage. I felt like I unlocked something in my mind, something that I could describe as barrier which I had when I was approaching climbs of a grade I have not climbed before. I would plant the seed of doubt. This time there was no doubt, just 100% commitment and trust in my footwork.

Moral of the trip…

Having a some sort of goal is good, but sometimes just climbing something with no anticipation and fear of failing is much more productive and rewarding. Psychological pressure free you can achieve great things, but you need to put all you got.

Now I am back to London for 6 weeks. 6 weeks of intense training to gain some of the power I have lost sport climbing. Then a trip to Portugal and Spain for another 6 weeks of bouldering. I will meet friends I have missed and new people who might become my future friends. Now I need to come up with a goal I want to achieve, some lines I have not climbed the last time I was there.

Keep climbing and having fun! Peace out!

 

 

 

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A Year In a Van

Just couple days ago I celebrated my vanniversery. I was stuggling to comprehend the fact that one year has passed and I lived in my van through out the British winter. 

I have received a number of questions about how I moved into my van; what to look for and what would I change; etc.

After spending a year in my yellow passion wagon – I feel confident and experienced enough to write up my, for some people, very odd choice to become a van dweller.  

Are you sitting comfortably?.. 

Then I will begin. 

Van as a vehicle always seemed to be the ultimate four-wheeled dream. You can have all your gear and friends with you and you can sleep in it comfortably. 

After having a car, a small sedan, for a year I was constantly looking at vans, because I knew that my VW Bora is just a stepping stone.

SIZE DOES MATTER

First, you need to answer a question to yourself. Will I live in my van full time? 

For those who are not going to give up on paying morgages and leave their beloved houses, and only go on (climbing) trips on weekends and some longer ones on their annual leave from work. I would recommend a vw caddy or citroĂ«n berlingo type of van. 

  • They are small,  but big enough to sleep 2 people, fit your gear, let it be crashpads, ropes, etc.;
  • Good for their fuel consumption;
  • Comfortable to drive like a normal car; 
  • Cheeper toll if driving on French motorways. 

Transporter, Vivaro, Traffic… sized vans are more likely to satisfy somebody who wants to spend most of the year on the road. 

  • Easy to park and drive around cities;
  • Choice of different wheel base lenghts to accomodate those who want more space, but don’t feel like going for a bigger van like MB Sprinter, VW LT, VW Crafter, Fiat Ducato and other similar models. 
  • Normally still pretty good on their mpg

I know several people who live in a van like mentioned above, but personally I find them too small for full-time living, especially if you are not fortunate enought to have sponsors who pay you to climb. 

The bigger, the better, right? 

Sprinter vans or their equivalents manufactured by other companies are in my opinion the sweet spot for a person who wants to be a full on van dweller. 


My trusty ‘ol van is short wheel base and low roof. Which makes it bigger than a transporter, but still very easy to park and drive in town. 

Like trasporters, LT vans have a range of heights and lengths. 

If I was to upgrade I believe my choice would be medium wheel base high roof van. 

Let’s say you ended up with a van size like mine – three seats, and an empty space the size of a small crevasse behind them.

The joy of moving into a van is not buying a kitted out one, but planning and making everything yourself and with the help of your friends.

Steps I had to take to arrive to where I am:

  1. Rip out the old ply lining, remove bulkhead and clean the surfaces to get them ready for insulation. If there is any rust make sure you get rid of it and treat it right. 
  2. Insulation…It depends how cold/hot it will be wherever you plan to be. 
  3. Ply lining/cladding depends on your personal preference. I ply lined and carpeted walls and the roof, but put vinyl on the floor, for easier cleaning. 
  4. Furniture and the size of it, the arrangement and the size depends on each other. 
  5. Lights, leisure battery.
  6. Sunroof installation.

At that point I had no lights, nor leisure battery installed. Charging phones out of the cigarette lighter and using head torches to light the van up when it got dark. The best thing about the summer is that sun sets late and after a whole day of climbing you tend to hit the sack and you barely need lights in the van. 

Week later I was traveling all over Europe. Nobody likes a smelly person and to stay clean I was taking showers wherever I could, but when climbing I look out for rivers, lakes, hot springs… Just outside Chamonix we were swimming in the lake Passy. Brilliant antagonist training and refreshment after a day of climbing. There were instances when I was stuck and had to clean myself with a wet wipe, more a bunch of them. It works, just looks unusual. 

One of the best things in my yellow submarine is the gas cooker. That allows me to cook pretty much whatever I can come up with, and I do love a good bit of cooking. Check out my COOK + CLIMB (I will post them here as well) series launching 9th September and you will see that pretty much anything can be done in the van! 

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STORAGE

We built a big top loaded storage box. Fits two people, but now that I intend to put anybody there. Storage under the bed is usefull, as you can put stuff you need to access frequently. Kitchen unit stores most of the cooking related items and some food. 25 litre water tank is there for all those trips when fresh drinking water is an issue.Normally I have several plastic bottles which I refill daily if there is a drinking fountain or a spring somewhere. In a city is a lot easier with that. Maybe I will put a roof rack for crashpads when on bouldering trips, because it can get a bit tight inside with 4 boulder pads and one more person.

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THE BED

I came across several different configurations for a sleeping space in a van. Small van benefits from a rock and roll bed as it saves space when upwards and is a fully functioning seat for passengers. Bigger vans with high roof are ideal to have a bed higher up and that way storage underneath fits crash pads easily. 

In my case the bed is a bench when folded and needs a bit of clearance to flip it down. 

This bed sleeps two and one more person can sleep under the bed as it is half of the bed’s width. One person can sleep at the front on the seats and if you are not over 6 foot tall you will be fine. 

Now my van is pretty much at its’ final stage. Honestly, I can find what to add and improve all the time since it was my first can conversion and the next one will be a lot better.


I have put a sunroof to make sure I don’t roast in my tin while travelling around Chamonix, Dolomites and Switzerland climbing some crazy multi-pitches! Amuerte mode is on!

I wanted to say a big thank you to: 

The Reach Climbing Wall for allowing me to use their showers and climbing surface to train, and tools to work on my van; Rokas, Kristupas, Mindaugas for being those extra hands when I needed whilst converting my van to what it is now; and everybody else who gave me the advice; 

 

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Social Climbing, Solitude and Melloblocco.

It has been a long time guys, but now I will be writing more frequently since I am a full time climber.

In this piece you will find me pondering about as title says both of the extremes. Climbing with a lot of people and crushing on your own.

As I arrived to the Masino valley I was in a mindset of climbing on my own for almost a month, but I knew that inevitably I will meet people here…and I did.

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It was only 4 of us and with hundreds of boulders to choose from we separated quickly to our own projects and lines we were mesmerised by.

Occasionally our paths would cross and we would cheer up for each other on those skin shredding attempts. Most of the time I was climbing on my own. With tactical placement of my crash pads I felt confident or somewhat confident on even pretty big highballs.
4 days went by and the valley was heaving with climbing enthusiasts from all around the globe. Mostly italians of course, but there were people from as far as Australia.

With roughly 3 thousand people in the valley it  felt bussier, but not overcrowded. For everyone who is new to Melloblocco I will quickly explain the concept.

This year there were 4 circuits of classical boulder problems. Easiest ‘Il Gioco Dei Sassi’ (up to font 4C), harder ‘I Sassisti’ (font 5-6A), even harder ‘Il MelĂ t’ (font 6B-6C) and the hardest ‘Il gigiat’ (font 7A-7B) consistion of 10,20,20,20 boulder problems respectively. PLUS like every year there is money bloc circuit. This event it was 12 boulders developed esspecially for the event for each, men and women groups. The grades go ~6C+ – 7C for girls and 7B – 8A+ maybe even 8B for men.

Apart from those climbs within circuits there are loads more to get on to. Of course it is not like climbing on your own, but working out boulders collectivelly is fun as well.

Like Nicholas Hobley mentioned in the Melloblocco film I have made. “You can perhaps climb better during the Melloblocco, because crash pads are everywhere”.

I highly recommend this festival to every climber. Even if one does not enjoy people around, just the feeling of a big climbing event and witnessing people trying their hardest to get to the top is inspiring and gets you sucked in no time.

All good things must come to an end. After 4 days of perfect weather conditions during the get together. People were leaving the valley and for the next couple of days it felt like walking in an abandon amusement park. It is a strange sensation, but then it becomes the norm like it is meant to be. Just you and the nature.


This valley is great for sport climbing as well. Couple hours of hiking and you can get on some bad ass multipich climbs and for those alpine purists – you have peaks of of ~3300m.
Val Masino is a valley to suit everybody’s taste. And of course Italian cuisine is a part of a great granite experience. Ciao!

 

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Homeless, but Vanfull

It was an action packed month of awesomeness. Living in a van was helpfull, because then one can use one’s time more efficiently. Saving time on commuting to places is the main advantage. Having less possesions helps as well. Not many things to worry about alows that person to concentrate on what is important. However, everyone of us has different priorities and different aspirations. Surrounding oneself with likeminded individuals is very important for one’s progression.
On this particular trip I have met many people and some of them will be my friends for future adventures.

Digital Crack-37

©Finalcrux FIlms

A quick glance at the whole trip.

Friedrichshafen: As I had mentioned in my previous posts. The Outdoor trade show was a great opportunity to expand my network within outdoor industries, learn from people who are the best in their field and have a lot of fun in the process of that.

Chamonix and all around it: The time had just dissapeared here. The everyday’s daily agenda was to climb or to rest. By climbing so much and at different crags I clocked up many rock ‘miles’ on different types of rock. From gneiss to granite, via crimpy sharp technical limestone and smoother blocky limestone. I am very happy that I have pushed my climbing to the next level and managed to send my first 8a.
The Digital Crack was a great test piece and I know that next year I will be more than ready to come back at it to finish what has been started.
Matterhorn: The most expensive drive to look at the most iconic mountain in Western Europe. As Mindaugas and I set off from Chamonix we went via Saint Bernards tunnel. Only then it was when we realized that our satnav has lead us not without tolls. 43 euros to get to Italy from Switzerland had to be paid, and we did. As if that was not enough we later realised that it was one way tunnel ticket instead of a return one. There is noone to blame but just ourselves. When we got to Breuil-Cervinia, the view of the Matterhorn from the valley was magical. The mountain had a skirt of rain clouds around it. The forecast for the next day looked pretty good, and if we left early in the morning we could have managed Liongrat route in a day. Since July was very hot in alps this year this caused high altitude glaciers and snow melt. That lead to frequent rock falls and routes on south face of Mt.Cervinia/Matterhorn were off limits. Local authorities made sure that no climbers would go up the Liongrat route. We desided not to risk it. The mountain will still be there in the future, but the decision to ignore the order would have been reckless. Therefore we drove back to Chamonix and of course had to pay
another tunnel toll of 57 euros. That was the short experience of Matterhorn. I will be back there in future to conquere this beautiful mountain.

I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all of my sponsors and supporters:
Troll Outdoors for clothing and equipment;
Climbing Technology for lightweight and comfortable gear;
Wild Climb for helping me to stand on the tiniest granite crystals whilst climbing;
Bounce Balls for making sure that we were fueled up on our adventures;
Boot Bananas for keeping my van and footwear smelling of lavenders;
Plastic Heroes for a beast maker for my van;
The Reach Climbing Wall and Blocfit for providing me with space to train and for all the guidance.

Without you, guys it would have been a lot harder.

I promised a video. Here it is! Enjoy!

Now it is time to continue my studies in London and try to survive a year in my van. I will write a whole post about van living in the near furure. If you are thinking of moving into a van, whatch this space for another blog post.

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Another Week of Real Life

It is 26 days since I have moved into my van. Last 13 I have spent in Chamonix and all around it! I met so many cool people already. Some of them became good friends.

The Gang at La Balme

The Gang at La Balme

One of them is Robbie Phillips. This man helped me to push myself a bit further and work on my footwork whilst climbing. At the moment he is in a queue behind Sasha de Giulian to climb the notorious ‘Pacienca’ on Eiger.

As Robbie left for his main goal this summer, another great friend joined me for two weeks. Mindaugas and myself went climbing to an increadible crag called Bionnassay. Climbing ranges from high 6s to high end 8s and varies between 15m to 44m in lenght. All this beauty is topped with breath taking view of Mount Joie valley overseeing Les Contamines Montjoie and Saint Gervais.

Robbie on the Ring 8B

Robbie on the Ring 8B

I have climbed my first 8A route and finally cut my curly hair. The life feels so real to me here. Nature, fresh air, myself and likeminded people. It seems that I am meant to do this and nothing else. However, I have noticed that smartphones get in the way of being close to nature. Without this technology it would be harder to keep you guys updated with my adventures, but the price I pay is the detachment from the nature. Not constant, but it is there. There is always a balance in life – win some, lose some.

Next week the goal is the Matterhorn and some more climbing.

Bye for now and keep whatching this space for more….

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First Pancake – Not So burnt!

I has been 9 days since I have started my month long journey in Germany, Switzerland and France. I am loving it so far!

First stop was, Friedrichshafen, where I helped out Boot Bananas and Troll Outdoors at the massive OutDoor fade show. I was surprised how big it was. I had to buy a cruiser skateboard so I could get around quicker. As a total newbie to the fair I was absorbing and learning so much in such a short period of time. I won’t lie – maybe only 2/3 of the whole expo was something I wanted to see and was interested even if it was not related to climbing directly. A lot of stands were from asian companies displaying all sorts of fabrics.

The most fun I had while promoting Boot Bananas. I made this short social media video for their instagram page.

A video posted by @bootbananas on Jul 17, 2015 at 9:22am PDT

Outdoor people know how to work hard and play hard. The party at the end was great. Traditional German food and beers for ones who drink, a stage of rock music and one for the EDM fans.

It was hard to fit training/climbing around. During days it was roasting hot, but I managed to squeeze a fingerboard session on my van fitted beast maker and a cheeky session on the warm up bouldering wall for German Nationals, which took place during the trade fair.

At the moment I am in Chamonix. Duncan – another friend who lives in Chamonix – took us climbing to one of their spots. After warming up on Expresso F7A, I worked a sustained route (F7C+) with some powerful moves. I want to go back and tick it.

Robbie Phillips has joined me for a week. Yesterday we went up to Digital Crack just below Aiguille du Midi station. The scotsman managed to send it in the second go. For me, however, I was a bit more difficult and I was spanked by the route. I made a very quick observation, that my footwork, or rather trusting my feet is now as good as I would like it to be.

Robbie working the Digital Crack 8A

Robbie working the Digital Crack 8A

Two more weeks in the beautiful Chamonix, then Matterhorn. Keep checking this space for new blog in a week. In meantime go crush hard. As my good friend and training guru Dave Culver (BLOCFIT) said: Sit less – Campus more!
Au revoir!

Wales, Lakes and Happiness

 

VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM!

Hey guys, have you ever witnessed another person becoming very happy. I mean truly happy, not “you got me an iPad” happy. I suppose that could work as well, but in my case it was experience based. A while ago my mum came to UK to visit me. We went to places, and done things.

My awesome mum!

My awesome mum!

After I picked her up from the airport, we drove to North Wales. It was a lot of greenery there. First stop – Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. Mountains are not very big there, in fact there are no big mountains in the whole of UK. After scaling alps everything looks a lot smaller. However, my beloved mother was stuned by the beauty of that place and I could see that she is extremely delighted. Lithuania is flat, you see. At the age of 55 she scaled her first mountain. One would think, that at this age it is hard to have an experience for the very first time.
Mamos vizitaswaterfall7
Stop number two was Snowdonia. My mum was, as we lithuanians say, “on the 9th cloud”. I cannot tell you what number was the cloud at the Snowdon, but we litteraly summited the highes mountain in Wales by stepping into a cloud. 2h up and 2hours down on the PYG trail is not bad for the person climbing a mountain of such height for the first time ever. Including freequent breaks for my mum to absorb as much scenery as possible.
Mamos vizitasmountain1

Third day and we arrived at Late District. It might sound that we were doing some sort of three peak challenge, but we were not. We climbed Scafell Pike and that was it. It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing the most important person in my life so happy.
Mamos vizitasmountain3
The lesson, I learned from this short trip, was that – time spent with family is time well spent. It does not matter how short it was
Next time you are resting from rock climbing. Grab your parents and go on the adventure. Let it be a micro adventure, but still an adventure.

Next summer I might take my mother to alps to experience the next level of mountains.

Since I had my camera with me, I made a short video of our trip.

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