This trip to Turkey was a surprise to me. I had considered arriving Geyikbayırı in the winter but between bills and bouldering, I couldn’t justify the expense. When the opportunity to go arose, I felt more hopeful and excited than I would have ever predicted. I reserved my plane ticket a little less than two weeks in advance and flew via Moscow on Aeroflot to Antalya.
In the Red, from October to December, I wasn’t as cheerful and upbeat as in the summer. Even so, the extent of my unhappiness with myself didn’t start to really stand out until I arrived in the Chattanooga area in the winter. I left my sublet in Bend in August with an unavoidable desire to be on the move. Like an unquenchable thirst, I felt unable to sit still. In the summer, my first summer in the US since 2012, I was unable to relax into sleep and yet often felt exhausted. In my five years out of the country, I grew and changed a lot. Returning to the states was more challenging than I had ever imagined in ways I still cannot fully grasp or articulate. Ten months after returning, I still felt like I had just arrived and that I hadn’t found what I was looking for. Nor had I achieved or completed or accessed or whatever it was that I was doing; some undefined task was incomplete. It was emotionally taxing to be back, but perhaps if I met the challenge, I would come through it stronger and wiser. In Chattanooga, I wasn’t on the move and something about staying still for a long minute seemed both inevitable and the worst choice.
Faced with the opportunity to leave the country again just ten months after returning, I feared I was running away from obstacles that I would do well to face and, hopefully, overcome. So, I left my affairs in such a state that I would have to return. Essentially, I tricked myself into coming back within a reasonable amount of time (Grandma doesn’t want that truck in her backyard forever, you know). From the first moments on my flight, chatting with a talented, gangly composer from Latvia across an empty middle seat, the grey that had blurred my vision the past few months started to fade.
When I started traveling in 2012, I packed my climbing shoes just in case. Besides a few days of padless bouldering on choss in the stunning wonderland that is SW Morocco, I didn’t climb over the next three years. After moving to Berlin, it took me a solid two years before I began to boulder in the world-class gyms there. Despite the clean holds and fancy features, the environment felt so cold and unfriendly that I didn’t frequent the gym. When I first went to Geyikbayırı, Turkey in February 2016, I had only been bouldering indoors again for a few months. In many ways, it was like starting from null all over again. It was the perfect place to reintroduce myself to the sport; the valley below Geyiksivrisi hosts seven camps for climbers and some thousand single pitch sport routes within a 20-minute walking distance. A common destination for solo travelers, I think it’s the easiest place I’ve ever been to for finding partners after arriving.
I always pick the business with ‘garden’ in the name. Tree, flower, garden, whatever. While it might seem kitschy, it’s always worked out for the best. So when I arrived in Turkey in 2016, I stayed at the Climber’s Garden. The place was better than I would have ever expected, with its communal kitchen and hippie-punk livingroom (there are photos of the new location on their website). I returned to Climber’s Garden this year and felt immediately at home, despite the fact that I was in a building that was newly constructed.
The consensus is: this is an easy place to be happy.
Every morning, I woke up more excited to climb than the day before. While I do tend to get excited about climbing, I’m also the slow one in the morning, hitting snooze, bumbling through breakfast and coffee, getting distracted, even if I later regret it. In the past, I’ve always felt like the stoke of my partners outweighs mine, and I’ve tended to turn down the opportunity to do a final cool-down route, for example. Something switched, something changed. Almost without fail, I climbed in my dreams each night and woke before my alarm filled with energy.
There are two main reasons for my newfound levels of psych that I can distill from the soup of influence. First, I had been to the crag twice before and had a solid idea of routes that I wanted to try. Some routes I had touched before and felt like now I had a chance at sending them. Others I had just watched people on, too intimidated by the moves to try myself despite an itching curiosity. Feeling stronger than the previous year, both mentally and physically, I was ready to put myself out there. Second, this year I didn’t have a fixed climbing partner. This meant that I was entirely independent when it came to projects, goals, and plans for my time there. While I love climbing with a partner with whom I have a lasting friendship, with whom I can trust to support me in my mostly fruitless efforts and I enjoy watching someone benefit when I return the favor, I think that being climbing with lots of different partners allowed me to focus on my self in a superbly beneficial way. Moreover, varied partners means a diversity of tempos, betas, habits, and continuously changing motivations.
Arriving in early March was still too late in the season; chasing shade is the name of the game. Some of the routes I was most interested in getting on were out of the picture; too hot or wet (the irrigation and tufa drip patterns changed and the extension of Colonist stayed wet for two months). Luckily, I was able to get on Daddy Cool in Anatolia before it got too hot. My favorite sector for this type of weather is Rüzgarlı Bahçe [Windy Garden]. Shady from 2:30 on and a continuous breeze cools the rock quickly. Last year I did Animasiyon Otomatic and loved the power endurance crimping on mini holds (compared to other routes around). Murat Sevindik, the developer of the crag and the man to thank for the best routes there, bolted the line furthest to the right a few years ago. The holds on Monkey Business are nothing like Animasiyon, long moves on big pockets and tufas bring you to a techy crux on tiny holds.
At the end of my third week, after a double rest day due to rain, pain shot through the palm of my hand while I cranked off a two-finger pocket in Metallica. I stuck the next move and continued on to high point, falling from the super frustrating last hard move – a dyno off of terrible holds. After lower, I felt pain all through the inside of my left arm. We retreated to the veranda of Peak Guest House and drank tea while I rolled a water bottle over the swollen forearm. Complaining and wondering what I might be able to do to continue climbing. The fingers didn’t hurt, so it can’t be serious, right?
Instead of taking the rest of the day off, I belayed my partner on Poseidon Tavan, and went up myself to feel out the moves on the roof. It’s mostly big holds, no small pockets, and very few crimps. To my surprise, I did all or almost all of the moves! In the evening I iced my forearm and hand, listening to any and all advice about how to recover quickly. Unfortunately, the most common recommendation was ‘rest’, and I was hoping to hear something different. The flexor tendon seemed to be strained, not an uncommon occurrence and certainly better than a popped pulley or something else severe.
Poison is a 7b that ends in the center of the roof. Its extension, Poseidon Tavan, traverses the wall on the left and exits through the center. Rated 5.13c/8a+, and a comment on 8a.nu from Tobias (the owner of JoSiTo) reads: “reachy!”. Yet, I was able to do nearly all the same moves as my partner, a gangly 6” plus climber.
I became focused on this route, orienting my injury recovery around climbing this baby roof. Somehow, I felt comparable in difficulty to Monkey Business, which is in the update to the guidebook as 8a. Sevda Geyik, a Turkish university student and local climber, and I worked the route together for two days. We tried to communicate in Turkish, attempting to share beta. Because she had already been working on the route for a week or two, we had drastically different solutions to the crux. For one of the first times ever, my solution involved fewer moves! My third day-on in a row, I decided to try the route anyways with Sevda. Ozturk Kayicki, the guidebook author, was there to take pictures of her for the new edition. After some miscommunication, he realized that I was going to try to send it too. He asked me to take my shoes back off and wait till he jumared up with his camera. I got on the route without warming up, resting extra at the mid-way point, overcome by a sense of calm.
Somehow, I found myself growling as I exerted my hip muscle to pull my right foot out to the ideal location for me to stick the final big move. As I held the jugs above the crux, I realized I had never been to the anchors before. It’s easy climbing, but I went slow so as not to make any serious mistakes.
As I lowered, my only thought was that I really, really wanted Sevda to send too. When she sent late in the day, I finally felt the satisfaction and elation of our mutual success. I really enjoyed working on a project with another woman.
My remaining twelve days in Geyikbayiri were filled with trying new routes, sweating profusely in the sun, and enjoying learning new moves and beta without trying too hard on any one climb. I am looking forward to returning earlier in the season next year so I can climb more in my favorite sector (Sarkit!) and spend more time in the remarkable community that gathers in the winter months.
Now that I’ve had had a chance to step back and reflect, I think that Turkey is the most beautiful country in which I have spent a significant amount of time. Geyikbayırı, the most popular climbing area in the country, is on the Mediterranean coast. Turquoise and orange are everywhere. Need I say more? This is just one region, one type of beauty. The whole region is stacked with topographical diversity and after a mere 15 months in the country, I still have so much more to see and explore.