This is going to be my first blog in English here. Why? Because I have promised that I will write several blogs about people I have had that luck to spend 3 weeks traveling and climbing with in the southwest of the USA. And because I am going to start with Pawel Grochowalski, I would like him and his friends and family to understand this blog, for which English is better. This is also for the wider audience of Climbingbus, my friends from all around the world, who may be inspired to join me for one of my trips and adventures.
I have first met Pawel at a competition called Vertigo Open, in my hometown Bratislava. Back then he was just another insanely strong Polish climber and as a route setter and organizer I remember standing at the edge of the bouldering area together with my fellow setters and shaking our heads how these guys are strong but how many attempts they put in most boulders. They were as we call it prisoners of strength. They had come to Vertigo Open almost every year, but one was pretty special for Pawel – in 2014 he has won Vertigo open, international comp with over 150 participants in his category. That was pretty impressive I must say as the competition that year was pretty tough.
I was very surprised when he has applied for one of the trips to Fontainebleau last spring as we have been in just formal contact and did not know much about each other. But from the moment he has landed in Beauvais, north of Paris, and throughout the two and a half long drive back to our “boulderbase” in Boulancourt near Fontainebleau, I have become to like him quite a lot. We had many things and worldviews in common and smile does not leave his lips together with a positive attitude to life, which I value very highly in people, as it becomes quite rare when we’re getting older. We had a great week climbing together and he immediately applied for almost all of my other trips – summer and fall edition of Tour de Alps, fall week in Fontainebleau and wanted to join us for the VIP Sub Zero trip before Christmas, which he finally couldn’t attend due to some work responsibilities. And of course he applied for the USA adventure not long after I have mentioned it to him. Thus he has become one of my most valued clients, but what is more important, through all those weeks we climbed and “lived” together he has become a dear friend and great climbing companion as well.
All this said let’s look on his impressive achievements over the 3 weeks in the USA. He was the first to fly in and last to fly out so he really got the most of the deal. He literally started climbing several hours after he came to the USA and has climbed until the day of his departure. From the day one in Joshua Tree he was ambitious and wanted to hop on the hard boulders as soon as he can. We have tried Monkeyclaw V10 in Joshua Tree together, but in the warm and a bit humid two days there (despite the desert surrounding, there were a couple of showers and a longer spell of rain one morning) we have not managed to climbed anything too impressive. But Pawel did not care, he went for every boulder I have pointed to him as if it was a V11 – hungry, dynamically and sad to say sometimes too rashly. That has costed him skin and attempts but he did not seem to care. He was just warming up.
Second morning, when it was still drizzling, he did not despair and rather surprised us when he produced a bottle of a 12 years old Mathusalem rum. It was Petra’s last day in the USA after our vacation spent touring national parks of American southwest, so she has embraced the prospect of a day-long party with enthusiasm. We have finished the rum short before lunchtime and as it often happens with the last drops of rum fell also the last drops of rain.
We have enjoyed our mild (so it seemed to us) drunkenness in the fresh clear sunlight on a high rock formation above our RV. When our heads stopped to swim and our full coordination has started to come back to us again, we have decided to go bouldering. We were still awaiting the rest of the group who flew to Los Angeles and was to meet us in the J.Tree that afternoon. We have cruised some of the easy classics until they have joined us and we could continue the „day-long“ party all together with steaks and BBQ added.
After Joshua Tree, we have continued back to Las Vegas from where Petra has flown back to Europe the next morning. Being in Las Vegas, we immediately went for some softer rock - to Red Rocks boulders. We have spent two pretty warm days there and Pawel has climbed everything that we have thrown our crashpads by. That is all up to V8 as the harder stuff has still resisted him. Even with these single digit Vs he has managed to outclimb me before we have left Red Rocks by cruising through a crimpy testpiece called Down the Line V8. That was the one line, my body refused to put more than 3 tries into. Pawel’s inspiring send has prompted me to give it another painful and unsuccessful try I then regretted the whole drive further northwest in direction of our first rest day in Death Valley.
Pawel seemed to recover much faster than me because when we had arrived in Bishop, he looked as he has discovered the best playground. The powerful style of Happy Boulders, Sad Boulders and Buttermilks fitted him as if someone has set it just for him. He has climbed his first US V10 – Standing Kill Order in Happies the very first day and that started his bouldering onslaught in Bishop. During his first day in Buttermilks he has impressed us all when he flashed Soul Slinger V9, a benchmark V nine.
After this, his bouldering started to gain some momentum and there was hardly a day when he has not climbed at least a V9. In just two sessions he climbed a painfully crimpy testpiece Bubba Gump V10 in Buttermilks and in another two sessions he added the Buttermilks’ ultraclassic Xavier’s Roof V11. It was amazing how much effort and will he puts into these boulders. Despite the obvious pain and his ruined skin he always just smiled and repeated his joking mantra: “Neboli! Neboli! Neboli” (“Doesn’t hurt! Doesn’t hurt! Doesn’t hurt!” ), that all of us always laughed over and quickly started to use as well, infected by his undying positivism. He has added another V11 in Happy Boulders few days after the Xav’s Roof. It was called Kill On Sight and he has managed to do it the first try on his second session.
While the trip was rolling in the last week and all of us were pretty trashed, Pawel started to even speed up. During our last day in Happy Boulders he has done four V9s in one day: Last Dance, Slave to the Grind, Hit the High hard One and the notorious Toxic Avanger. Next day he has added the Berret Problem and Checkerboard Right to his growing list of V9s and the very last day he has stuck the Iron Fly in the full sun. That man is a beast! And have I mentioned that somewhere in between he has managed to climb Center Direct V10, high and scary The Fall Guy V9 in Buttermilks, Acid Wash Righ V9 and a brave send of Highbrow V8 in Happy Boulders. He was just crushing it and seemed to enjoy even the pain of his skin.
Best of all, Pawel is a dietologist, but not during the climbing trips. There he enjoys all the spoils that these trips offer from American hot dogs for breakfast, couple of beers throughout the day, to hamburgers and ice cream for diner. All in all he has quickly adapted to the decadent life style of Climbingbus trips. And to sending hard boulders as well.