Mission Accomplished in California!


Carrying on with their  ‘Year Of Adventure’ after a fantastic result for Philippe in the Madagascar 4 deserts 25okm  race coming in 19th out of 250 competitors. The pair headed out to California in September with the aim of bouldering an unreal amount of routes alongside Philippe’s goal of running across death valley..

We are just back from California with very sore muscles but the satisfaction of a successful trip where we could achieve all our objectives; climbing 200 boulder problems in Bishop while running 200km in less than 20 days. To be honest this is a surprise knowing how challenging that was, especially in the context of our year of adventure. Also, last time we were bouldering was in Hueco Tanks ten years ago and we spent the summer mountaineering and running, not exactly the perfect training for bouldering.


Ten days before leaving for California, I was in the desert in Madagascar, running 250km, losing my arms strength. So to avoid the worst, I was doing pull-ups on the hotel door frames right before and immediately after the race…


A brief view into Philippes year:


Philippe & Anna Gatta trail running and climbing in California


We had to change our schedule to meet our  objectives; we took only one rest day in 3 weeks and were bouldering right after trail running days. The other challenge was the weather; we have been lucky and got clear skies most of the time but we had to deal with a wide range of temperatures, from 5c to 40c. We are relatively used to these extremes for running but for bouldering that was hard to manage so we started climbing at sunrise and stopped around 2pm, during these 7 hours the temperatures were rising by 27 degrees Celsius!




Planning to climb 150 problems in just 12 days felt pretty hopeless already on the third day as we had a miserable start. The two first days have been terrible as we climbed less than 8 problems in total and no harder than V4, probably the result of the jetlag (9hr), the extreme heat, the altitude (>2,000m) and lack of specific training. We kept going and at the end I succeeded 151 boulder problems up to V11 (8A Fontainebleau / B11 Peak district), more than 90% of them on-sight. Anna climbed 94 problems, up to V9 (7C / B9). She fought like crazy until the last minutes of the last day to send a V9 despite the heat and devastated fingers skin.


Philippe & Anna Gatta trail running and climbing in California




Here too we had to adapt our plans to the conditions and schedule. I am very happy to have been able to run 47km across Death Valley unsupported; from Badwater (lowest point of the US continent, 86m below sea level), to Telescope Peak (3,366m, highest point of Death Valley). This could have ended not so well though since I ran out of water half way while running off trail took me more time than planned. Since there is no mobile coverage in this area I couldn’t tell Anna where I was. We were supposed to meet on the other side of Telescope Peak at 4pm and Anna was to leave to call for rescue if I was not there by 5pm…


I knew that I was behind schedule but decided to climb the summit anyway and run as much as I could at the descent hoping to catch up the delay. On the way down, I saw some arrows drawn with stones on the trail and I knew that Anna was there earlier. I finally reached the meeting point 30 minutes after the deadline but fortunately Anna was still there!


The other trails have been less extreme even though we both didn’t take enough water during our second trail in Yosemite and finished totally dehydrated, not ideal when you have to climb the following day. We did another trail in Ansel Adams Wilderness and in Mammoth Lake. Unfortunately that was not enough to reach the 200km target… so I ran another 10km in an industrial area around L.A. airport, not very glamourous but I reached 202km with +9,040m. 🙂


Philippe & Anna Gatta trail running and climbing in California


We have just ten days to heal our shoulders and finger before heading to Kalymnos. It is another climbing trip but nothing like Bishop or Chamonix. Our target in Kalymnos is to climb steep overhanging sport routes in the 8’s. Knowing that we have been climbing sport routes less than 10 times in 2 years, it is going to be an interesting challenge too, where optimizing climbing days, warm up and recovery will be crucial.


To be followed…

Philippe & Anna.