As the train pulled into Martigny, Switzerland, I started feeling really nervous. I had come to the province of Valais to do some rock climbing with a man I’d never met, I was completely under equipped (read, I had nothing; no equipment, gear, or outdoor clothing of any kind), and I had never climbed outside of a gym before. On top of that, the weather report had predicted rain for the duration of my stay and I wasn’t sure how I’d get by without a rain coat….
Ever since I started climbing indoors about a year ago, I craved to leave the sweaty, loud, crowded gyms to climb outside on real rock. The problem was, I didn’t know anyone back home who would take me out. My mum had told me about a climbing friend of hers from her time as a nurse in Switzerland 30 years ago and suggested I get in touch with him. After finishing up a long tour in Europe in early June and with two weeks off in Berlin before heading home, I sent Lucien an email.
I jumped off the train and started peering at everyone on the platform. It’s a funny feeling trying to recognize someone you’ve never seen before, but as my gaze settled on the figure of an calm, smiling man with a halo of gray hair, I instantly knew it was him.
An hour and half later, I stood at the base of a giant slab wall jutting out in all directions. The rain had stopped, the sun had peeked through the clouds, my harness was on and Lucien beckoned me to go up. Over the next 4 days, I’d scrape, cut and shred every square inch of my forearms, legs and hands, spit my toenail in two, and do my first lead climb as well as my first multi pitch. It was an incredible trip.