The Junkyards and Grotto Falls

As the days are short and the the rain does not stop, climbing outside has become rare these last days. Hence, a small summary of the past year split into multiple posts.

In February I had a chance to try ice-climbing for the first time. With an excellent guide (Thomas Exner) who has explained the technique and showed me some great places around Banff. We climbed the Junkyards and Grotto Falls which were easy climbs, but great for someone who has never tried ice-climbing. As always, it became apparent quite fast that technique matters a lot and even though one can power through things, it is not efficient. You better pay attention to that triangular, or you’ll be exhausted in no time!

It was fun to be a complete newbie again, and while enjoying the ice, I also spotted a nice project for summer which Thomas highly recommended too. It is called Sisyphus Summit, 21 pitches with 6b+ (5.10d) max and 5c min (5.9) with a rather consistent level of 6a-6b overall. That would be a big challenge and some more training is required for that project. So first, Aiguille Dibona in French Alps has to conquered with its classic route Visite Obligatoire (12 pitches of overall consistent 6a). This September our group had to retreat due to some unexpected ice on the rock and unfortunate fall of my partner as the result (the second group successfully reached the summit). More about this trip in one of the successive posts.

Left — after finishing the first multi-pitch on ice; right — second climb of the second multi-pitch, practicing to climb vertical ice.Left — abseiling after the second climb; right — Ha Ling Peak and Sysiphos Summit that is a worthwhile project for the future. 














A throwback to Econometric Game 2017

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail with the link to the video from Econometric Game 2017.

It was a fun event and this year’s topic was very interesting as well: spatial econometrics in criminology. It was exciting to try out new methods in a completely new field, compete with top universities and provide the jury with a paper and solution to the case just in 1.5 days. Among standard techniques, we applied a little bit of machine learning techniques, including random forests. A nice overview of statistical methods in criminology can be found in this book.

Our fantastic team it, was a pleasure to work together.


des Écrins

Summer vacation in the area of des Écrins. Many beautiful multi-pitches have been climbed, and some projects have been left for future. A lot of slab climbing which is totally not my favorite style, but somehow I got used to it and even maybe learned to enjoy it.

The view from the car. On our way to the campsite.

img_4199First day, warming up with some single pitching.

img_4377                             Football final for the guys and some mind wandering for myself on the first evening.

img_4379First multi-pitch of the trip with some nice views (although all the views in the area are stunning).

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img_4374 A rainy day in Briançon.

img_4392 img_4391Another multi-pitch with an “adventurous” fun part over a waterfall. Yes, a little bit of barefoot climbing. 🙂


img_4409 More views and nature.

img_4394 img_4396My first experience of taking an “inexperienced” climber on a multi-pitch. Two hot men: nice and diverse climbing, a combination of slab and routes with some nice moves. The hardest route is graded 6a I believe.

img_4403 img_4402 Our lunch spot after the first four pitches.

img_4404The area is extremely beautiful, and there is definitely a lot to do. As we didn’t have many days, we mostly climbed (with one rainy day on which we did some fun via ferratas and one “rest” day for our hands on which we went for mountain biking – another first for me during this trip).

La momie and NTD

A little throwback to the time in France, and a few pictures from the last days of climbing with Guillaume. The purpose of the post is mostly to recommend Guillaume as a climbing guide for those who might be interested (and recall some good memories of course). At first I was a little bit anxious about hiring a guide, but in the end, I was very happy that I found a person with whom it was so comfortable and enjoyable to do three days full of climbing from the dawn and until the sunset. Here is his website where you can find contact details if interested.

First multi-pitch we did on that day was La Momie, it starts in a beautiful red cave from where you can dive into the sea. There are some nice routes and “repetition” of the move from Arête de Marseille where you have to make a half a meter step from a pillar on the next rock. However, on the opposite to Arête de Marseille here it is not just exciting, but also technically challenging as you make a step on a 6b+ slightly overhang route.



Second multi-pitch that we did was NTD with the first pitch from Melody. To start the route, you need to abseil all the way to the level of the sea and try to catch the rope without letting it fall into the water. Yes, our team worked quite well and we managed to keep the rope nice and dry. In general, it is a nice climb with a lot of slab and beautifully textured rock that just sticks to you fingers. I almost wrote “relaxing”, but then remembered that there was a traverse which was not that relaxing.. Anyway, it’s a great and definitely recommendable climb.

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Alone on the wall

We experience and handle solitude differently. Some crave for it on a daily basis, some try to avoid it as hard as possible. Being alone on the wall is something that not many people ever experience. The book captures different aspects of Alex Honnold’s life and adventures. It is written as an autobiography with complementary comments from David Roberts which are as a cherry on the imagestop of cake: they add to already delicious text some refreshing taste. It is easy and enjoyable to follow the narration of these two people.

Not it is just inspiring to read a book from and about a great climber like Alex Honnold, it is also curious to follow his thoughts and changes in personality. Many of adventures described in the book are already captured in some movies/videos (for example: Alone on the wall, Sufferfest). Someone who have seen the movies might find the book a little boring, but it does not have to be that way. To me, they feel more complementary than substituting.

It is interesting to lift the curtain and have a glimpse into a life that is for far away from ours, into unique mind that deals with fear so well. It is curious to imagine yourself in a skin of a person who can be alone on big walls that are intimidating to look even at. Overall, a great book that can entertain a lot of thoughts related to climbing, adventures, risks, life, and looking out for those who are least lucky in this life (for the last one see more at Honnold Foundation).


Rocks in Cassis are beautiful and diverse. When you are climbing just one multi-pitch, you can experience a huge variety of texture: the typical white rock of Les Calanques, red with a lot of round and smooth stones, something similar to sandstone and even a little bit of shiny crystal. The part with “sandstone” feels a little sketchy when you see a bolt coming out together with the rock, crystal part on the way was very short but magical. If you have imagination, you can see this light energy filling your fingers and give you power just to keep going with no fear and no doubts.

Mathusalem. Five pitches at Cap Canaille. 6a+ — 6a — 5c — 6c — 6a+. 5c was comfortable to lead, 6c was hard to follow: especially a traverse move where if you fall you fall under the roof. Apart from that, this multi-pitch is very doable and very enjoyable.

On the left photo you can see an old tree.. maybe that’s why this multi-pitch is called Mathusalem.

new23_2Deux vauriens trois canailles. Again Cap Canaille. Seven pitches. The same way of reaching as Mathusalem: three abseilings, the last one is 50 meters. The view is truly spectacular. This multi-pitch has a comfortable chimney on the way, even though might be not that comfortable with a backpack if you’re a little bit bigger than me. But very enjoyable and easy to climb. It was the second multi-pitch of the day. We didn’t have to hurry per say, but I was finishing the last pitch together with the last rays of the sun.. which was beautiful. It felt like the red rock was shining from the inside, shades were slowly moving while I was climbing and a couple of times I had to stop and look around: it was too magical to hurry. On the top, we were rewarded with a gently-colored sunset.


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Besides thrilling multi-pitches, there are some caves in the area. It is worthwhile to visit some before going climbing. They are not deep for my standards (I was lucky enough to go to speleological expeditions a couple of times in Khakassia mountains when I was a teenager), but it does not imply that they are not beautiful. You can walk a little in a maze of stalactites and stalagmites, and maybe even turn off headlamps for a while and enjoy the silence of complete darkness.


Le Temple and Arête de Marseille

It was the last evening in Les Calanques for our climbing group. The next day Maastricht people were heading back to the Netherlands, and I was going back to my studio in Marseille. This week was full of wonderful experiences, and half of the people decided to stay for another half a day of climbing before leaving. With four people including myself we decided to go on the last multi-pitch of this vacation – Arête de Marseille. To make it on time we agreed to leave the house at 6:30 am. It was beginning of February, so when we arrived at Luminy it was still dark. We started walking to the Calanque called Sugiton. The hike is spectacular. Especially in the morning when the sun is rising and lightens up the rocks with beautiful soft gleams which move and change shape until the sun is up and all the area fills with the sunshine.

We arrived at the first pitch of Arête de Marseille, and while the leader was climbing it the wind rose up and dark clouds thickened above our heads, first drops of rain started falling before the leader even made first belay station. We had to turn back. With adverse weather conditions and two inexperienced climbers (including myself), we would not finish it on time.

Unfortunately, I did not make this multi-pitch that time. But I only turned back to return another time during my two months stay in Marseille. So not climbed Arête de Marseille kept me awake at nights, and finally I came back. Moreover, the plan extended: we didn’t just do Arête de Marseille, we started with Le Temple — nine beautiful pitches with maximum grade 5c/6a — and then after a short walk to the beginning we continued with Arête de Marseille — another five pitches with again maximum grade of 5c/6a. The weather was almost perfect, except for the wind which made verbal communication impossible on the last couple pitches of Arête de Marseille. 14 pitches in total, with really polished routes. As my climbing partner said: it is like you’re climbing on a tile in a bathroom. But even though the rock is polished and probably has seen a lot of climbers, it is beautiful and worth climbing at least once in your life. It is easy climbing with beautiful scenery, comfortable belay stations and few interesting moves that make it special.

One of the pitches of Le Temple:

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Traversing on Le Temple:LeTempleOn the top of Arête de Marseille:IMG_3164 copy