United States of Awesome


words and pic by Teodor Iliev

What is the Trad Exchange?
It’s a rock climber’s wildest dream come true! Imagine experiencing the most exotic, thrilling and awe-inspiring scenes from mountaineering stories you’ve only read about. Say yes, jump on board! Travel to an unfamiliar breath-taking wilderness with spectacular climbing, epic scenery, and genuinely hospitable locals.
In March 2017, an elite team of AAC (American Alpine Club) members made their way to sunny South Africa. They had the time of their lives climbing on the impeccable sandstone rock. During their stay, the American trad climbers were warmly hosted by a group of MCSA (Mountain Club of South Africa) members headed by team leader Charles Edelstein (Snort).
In response, the American climbers were to host a dozen South Africans for a period of two weeks during late spring in May 2018. This is what transpired!

Boarding my first flight from Cape Town, I was so excited I almost forgot to pay my bill at the cafe before boarding. And after a long flight, my arrival at the international transfer at Vancouver airport, was greeted with a, ‘Agh hmm’ the US border control cleared his throat, ‘Mr Iliev?’
‘Dammit’, I swore under my breath.
Swiftly, I was frisked, emails and phone privacy violated. The border policemen laughing together. ‘Is that a real job’, they giggled. With my tanned gypsy appearance, I couldn’t blame them. I managed to convince them that mountain guiding was a real job and didn’t involve establishing secret bunkers in deserted escarpments. Smiling, he handed me back my passport, and I walked away, relieved and with a spring in my step.
Excited, I hopped onto my final connecting flight to Denver, and after landing, made my way to Boulder via a midnight bus. Boulder is a small town nestled in the Rockies overlooked by the most iconic 300-metre-high protrusions of The Flatirons. This was our meeting point for the trad exchange.

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