Climbing around the world: this is the dream of many of us. Yet few dare to take the plunge into the adventure. Noémie and Adam did not hesitate long before following their deepest desire. And to discover the world and access the most beautiful cliffs, they have chosen nothing less than to travel by bike. This is the story of a hell of a climbing and cycling journey. We invite you to share it with us as they interviewed us from the new continent. (this is Noémie speaking).
In a few words, introduce yourself and tell us how your project was born?
Adam grew up not far from the Peak District in the North of England. Then he went to London to study and work in music. His love for mountains and climbing has never left him. And that’s what eventually led him to resign from his job as a sound engineer. In 2014, he began working as a climbing instructor. He then focused his efforts on organizing and preparing a two-month trip to Yosemite with two main objectives: the North Face of Half Dome and the Nose of El Capitan.
I grew up in Bourgoin-Jallieu in the Isère region not far from the ski slopes and hiking trails of the Alps. After obtaining my master’s degree in economics, I worked for a year in an association promoting renewable energies. And I took advantage of my vacation for my first bike trip to Italy.
When my contract ended, I went to Canada to work as a waitress and learn English. By the end of the summer of 2014, I had saved enough money for a nearly 4-month bike trip to Mexico. In my saddlebags, my slippers and my harness encouraged me to take a detour to the Yosemite.
By the greatest coincidence, we found ourselves sharing a site at Camp 4 for 5 days. Once we had left each other in our own direction, we kept in touch and found ourselves in France, in Chamonix in January 2015.
What were the reasons for leaving? Travel? Ecology? Climbing?
Shortly after we moved into Adam’s truck, we thought we were going back to Yosemite to climb together. I suggested we go by bike. Finally, this basic idea was quickly drowned in our simple desire for adventure. We knew how to live with little. So we would have enough space to carry our climbing equipment in our bike bags.
We were also very attached to the idea of not taking a plane for this climbing and cycling trip. It seemed important to us to avoid the pollution that results from this as much as possible. Administrative constraints finally forced us to take three flights, two of which were to fly over China, which twice refused us a visa. However, we are doing everything we can to avoid them. Traveling slowly with only the force of your calves is the best way to immerse yourself completely in a place and in the present moment.
What was the duration of “incubation”, of organization in concrete terms?
We spent a few months researching itinerary options, visas, closed borders, cliffs on the way. For countries requiring visas, we knew we would have to apply en route since we had no idea of dates. The book Parishes of Legends by Arnaud Petit and Stéphanie Bodet was one of our sources of inspiration in terms of itinerary.
Apart from these administrative issues, the most important part of the preparation was to set aside enough money to last as long as possible.
We had set ourselves a target of 20,000 euros. Sum that we have managed to gather in three seasons in Chamonix. Living in a truck and not paying rent has greatly facilitated our savings efforts, without having to kill ourselves at work. Except for our insurance and our annual ski pass, our expenses were limited. And we could even spend most of our free time in the mountains and the off-seasons on bike-climbing trips.
We had planned to sleep mainly in tents and in low budget accommodation (guest houses or youth hostels). To budget the accommodation part as much as possible, we used FindHotel a lot which allowed us to have an idea of the prices for the different countries you had planned to cross.
Have you done any training runs for this climbing and cycling trip?
Yes, we have made several trips in cyclo-climbing mode in Europe. We started with two short walks over a few days in Great Britain from Adam’s parents to climb in the Peak District.
Then in June 2015, we got into the saddle from Albertville towards the Dolomites with two ropes and all the scrap metal. Linking the French, Swiss and Italian Alpine passes of more than 20 kilometres, a good challenge for our first real two-wheeled trip together. Once there, the rain was there. But we still managed to get the jammers out and enjoy ourselves for about ten days before taking the train back.
The summer season ended, we took the road again from my parents’ house in the Isère, towards the Calanques. On the way, we climbed the Drome with my uncle, in Buis-les-Baronnies, in Buoux, before making some big routes over the sea near Cassis and La Ciotat.
Linking the French, Swiss and Italian Alpine passes of more than 20 kilometres, a good challenge for our first real two-wheeled trip together.
These trips were not only training runs for this climbing and cycling trip. But also tests to make sure that Adam liked cycling. And of course to evaluate the feasibility of carrying all the climbing equipment in our bags. The only time we left with the idea of training was in June 2016. Adam had decreed that we were able to go around Mont Blanc in two days. 330km, 9000m of altitude difference between France, Italy and Switzerland.
A good training for the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, the second highest road in the world. In other words, with our bicycles loaded, the challenge was huge. In fact, we ended up calling our bosses to ask for an extra day off to finish this loop of hell!
What is your journey and how long will it take?
Our basic idea was to cross Europe and Asia from west to east. Then to go down from Alaska to South America before going up to Africa to return to Europe, all while trying to climb as much as possible along the way. On the day of our departure in October 2016, we thought we were gone for 2-3 years. But it’s only been 28 months since we left. And we’re only in Canada!
What place does climbing occupy in your climbing and cycling trip?
Ideally, you try to spend as much time on the road as on the cliff. In reality, it doesn’t always work the way you want it to. When we left in October 2016, we thought we would be able to discover the German, Czech and Croatian cliffs before winter. Our optimism was short-lived. Because snowstorms only stopped to let rainy weeks pass. We managed to spend a few days on rocks in Croatia. But it was only in March once on Kalymnos that we were really able to get back to it.
Then you experimented with the concept of climbing and cycling in Asia?
And yes! From November 2017 to March 2018, we spend 4 months climbing in Thailand and Laos with a 10-day bike break to reach Crazy Horse Buttress in Thakek. Then in April, we take off for South Korea, where traditional climbing on magnificent granite in a totally exotic setting and reasonable distances to pedal between each cliff, South Korea wins the golden palm of the cyclo-climbing paradise.
For two months, we have a rhythm of five days on a bike, five days on a cliff, three days resting in the rain.
The ideal. At the end of June 2018, we landed in Canada. And we set up the tent in the Squamish forest for a month and a half exploring the Chief’s cracks, with the objective of training to go big wall at the Yosemite. The size of the North American territory forces us to take the road again two months before the season in Yosemite. But the Canada-California trip is worth it!
So, how was it, climbing and cycling, at the Yosemite?
In Yosemite we manage to do three big walls although we have lost the endurance gained in Squamish. Overnight in portaledge, hoisting the bags, artificial climbing, in two months on site we perfect our big wall systems on Liberty Cap, Washington Column and Mount Watkins.
Winter finally catches up with us again. And we pedal the 900 kilometres to Joshua Tree in two weeks before spending the last two weeks of our American visa there. It is the train that brings us back to Canada, where we took out a subscription to the local climbing gym for the first time in five years. Climbing and cycling: it will be necessary to wait for the return of the sunny days!