melissa i strong

rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily

Switzerland 2015

see more pictures and videos at  or click on gallery, overseas travel, switzerland



Ah vacation land—what can I say, boast about the amazing rock in the Ticino Valley, about the beautiful scenery, about the nice people, about the delicious wine, pizza and gelato, about our mini vacations from our vacation?  Or complain that I popped my knee day three in Chironico (week 1 of the vacation), that I have a huge cut on my finger, that I am not as young as I once was and have to take more rest days, that it has rained, that life in dream land is not inexpensive?  Or a bit of both…

I have said it before but Switzerland has been a dream of mine ever since my first overseas adventure to Fontainebleau, France.  The beautiful forest of Font littered with blocks of sandstones sleeping giants was my first climbing trip abroad.  Usually you train, plan and execute—not in Font—I trained, planned and struggled!  Unless I move to Font (one of our many dreams is to retire in Barbazon, France) I will always struggle there—searching for the intermediates that are never there while barely standing on polished technical feet—I panic, I am suck and I simply do not excel, epically with only having a month to climb and learn in-between rain.  Despite its challenges I love Font—it is a magical forest (that yes has some strange elements like a healthy prostitution ring servicing the busy near by trucking route).  After three challenging trips to Napoleon's hunting grounds and many useless, annoying, extra pounds I packed on with lack of self control around fresh baguettes and plenty of croissant amandes avec chocolate I really wanted to climb and travel somewhere else--and Adam listened!  Yes he wanted to go back to Font.  I do too but next was Switzerland for us--and here we are on our 51 day vacation in the land with granite blocks!

We are staying in the small town of Claro, Switzerland about 10 minutes south of Cresciano, 35 minutes south of Chironico, 1 hour southeast from Magic Wood, an 1 & 1/2 hour west from Brione—not forgetting to mention 30 minutes from the Italian boarder and 1 hour to 3 from the abundant Italian rolling hills of the Piedmont vineyards.  We are in a nice little apartment with surprisingly good internet run by a pleasant German couple, the Stillhearts.

Besides TREMENDOUSLY missing our beloved pets life is great!  The rock is amazing, the texture is some of the best granite/gneiss I have ever clamped my fingers on—it is steep and has crimps— it is my style!  Out of the car and off to the races I am not disappointed.  That started (the disappointment that is) with the loud popping noise my knee made when I stupidly engaged an aggressive heel/toe cam day 3 of climbing.  The psych was high, my shoulder felt good and I was feeling strong and wham-O.  In the end I am very lucky.  I am not completely screwed.  My knee swelled and is not happy but I can walk, function, and try to climb.  I just had to take my short list (and yes short list was established in just a few days) and reconsider a few right heel hooking problems.  I continue to have fun and climb tons new easier problems but what I was psyched on--a few harder climbs for me, I put on the back burner.

This week I am already seeing some progress and hope.  Some ibuprofen cream combined with rock tape plus I am figuring out what heel hooks I can get away with—I consider myself very fortunate.

The weather has been stunning but lately it took a turn to the damp side.  Honestly we cannot complain about it too much—our aging bodies need some extra rest when we can get it.  With this latest bad weather spell we are making another dream trip come true to the Piedmont vineyards.  We are leaving tomorrow with a big wine adventure—which I think should be it’s own blog post so enough about that.

Layla Mammi, a long time friend from Germany, is also vacationing here and has helped show us around!  It is a true gift to have less days of being complete lost and instead steered in the right direction.  I am very fortunate to have a good friend who knows me so well--Layla has basically made my short list—taking me straight to things that are my style with beta—I cannot explained how lucky I am for this great gesture of kindness and friendship.  Plus she has introduced us to locals and plenty of German friends who have been fun to climb with (see the switzerland gallery for pictures of Layla, Barti, Tebea, Chris, Kathrin & Line)!  Our friend and co-worker Andrew Rothner joined us last week and recently Colin Barns too (pictures and videos of these fools in the swiss gallery too).

Off to Piedoment tomorrow and more to come from the Ticino valley soon!



see more pictures and videos at  or click on gallery, overseas travel, switzerland




Adam the day he send Le Pilier after climbing it 5-6 times.  Last burn, tired and bloody--Thanks for the encouragement Barti and Tebea!

Tebea Schwab working out all of the moves on Le Pilier

Swiss rooftop


Accuracy issues!  But one I can still heel hook on!!!

one try too many!

the Stillheart's


spring in around the corner

Swiss tree work

right: screen grab from Rothner sending Freak Brothers

below: view from Cresciano