**REFLECTIONS FROM HALFWAY: SEPTEMBER 7, 2019**
If everything went exactly as planned, life would be so boring.
We planned for a month of route development and climbing in Armenia. We planned to establish long multipitch routes. We planned the majority of our trip in September to take advantage of perfect weather – not too hot, not too cold, and before the rains of autumn would fall. We planned good meals with fresh food. We planned plenty of batteries and solar charging stations, with nearby places to recharge. With 6 of us bolting, we planned for ~80 bolts a person and expected to go through them swiftly and easily. We planned to develop routes in multiple cliff bands, preparing beautiful king (queen!) lines and long trade routes that would inspire other climbers and developers to also venture to this area. We planned to help put climbing in Armenia on the map, and lay the foundation for #ProjectArmenia to continue.
We are now more than halfway through our trip.
We still have plenty of time to pursue our goals, however we have been forced to accept that most things don’t go as planned. Time is running out fast. YES, we have established routes, we’ve explored several different sectors, and we are spreading the word about Armenia. People are excited, and the momentum feels real and tangible. But getting this far has not been without challenges, and we are much further behind than we’d hope. Almost every plan has faced a blip that has thrown us sideways, either holding us up or forcing us to rethink our course of action altogether. It has been great looking for ways to overcome these problems and forge onward as a team, but still it’s difficult to accept that we haven’t been able to do as much as we’d hoped so far.
There are two main cruxes that our project has faced…
The first crux is the weather.
It has been an unusually wet and stormy September, which has significantly hindered our ability to work as hard as we want to. We’ve had multiple rain and wind storms. Our tarp has ripped. Kim was caught on the wall in lightning and hail with a crowbar sticking out of her pack. We’ve had to bail off steep, wet grassy slopes. We’ve soaked our ropes and gear. We’ve sat huddled all together in a three-person tent as the wind and rain tore against the tent walls.
However, with cooler temperatures and wet weather has come some of the most beautiful skies imaginable. We’ve been camping at the top of the cliffs, and almost daily there are incredible cloud inversions that fill the valleys below like an ocean. In the evening when the sun is low and the clouds part the light is glorious, with layers of gold glowing amidst shadows of darkness from the clouds that remain. The fading summer heat also brings less haze, clearer skies, and more and more hills and mountains visible on the horizon.
The second crux we are up against is the scale.
Despite having photos and maps and scouting the cliffs, we were not prepared for the vast scale of these walls and this landscape. The “small walls” still require 150-200m of static rope to make it to the ground. We’ve established routes on two nearby cliffs in the same sector, yet the walls are still a 30 minute walk apart. This sector is only a tiny fraction of the available limestone, which extends in nearly a 360 degree circular escarpment, here in Dilijan National Park. And the rock in Dilijan? Only a fraction of what exists in this mountainous country of Armenia. While this crux certainly slows us down, it is also positive because it provides a glimpse of what is possible here.
As we prepare for the last stretch of the trip, we are watching the poor weather shave away days and opportunity. We know that combined with the scale, there is no way we can get to all the places we want and bolt as much as we’d hoped. But it’s ok. If everything went as planned, there would be no adventure. There would be no struggle, and with no struggle there is no room for learning and growth.
We’re off to make the best of what we can!