Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sandstone cracks in Annot

Et bah voila,
I finally got around to editing the few bits of footage we took last year with David, Ante and Gianluca while climbing in Annot. I hope you enjoy my amateur efforts :)



Let me say a few more things. Since living in Grenoble (since September), I found out I now live a mere 3 hours and a half from Annot! A trip there was very much due then, for I remembered how much I enjoyed climbing there last year during my big climbing year. So we went to Annot two weeks ago, and upon coming home I re-viewed the shaky GoPro footage we took and thought the shots of David on the finger splitter are too cool to be left rotting away on the disk! There we go then, a little video, sadly my editing skills and/or creativity didn't allow for anything cooler, but luckily David puts on a fine display of his jamming skills. Without intending to be mean, my friend, I will just remind you that you haven't sent it yet, so I think you will have to go to Annot again.

On my recent trip, I put my fingers at the new hardest route of Annot, 'le Voyage' freed by James Pearson in April this year. I have tried it briefly last year, but signed it off quickly thinking it is both too hard and too serious for me at that time. Seeing that he did it got me interested again. After watching his video (look for it on YT, I refuse to post it here, mainly because it's way better than mine) I was very psyched in fact.
I worked it again on top-rope, but still I can't find my method for the two last moves of the crux. But I am quite keen to try it again, it's cool having such a mega-project which is not too far from you either! What I must say is my respect to James, the line is pure and hard, and myself I know I am going to pass a lot of Zen meditation before comitting to the runout on the sometimes-slightly-non-confidence-inspiring sandstone of Annot!

Oh and how amazing Annot as such is! It truly is a little sandstone paradise, sticking out of nowhere amidst of all the limestone of southern France. Every time I went there, I found the chestnut forest quite enchanting, the rock formations as if they were sculpted by some deity, and the climbing very unique and brain-stimulating. Plus, there's really good bouldering (like, seriously good) and some bolted sport routes as well (sometimes chipped).
Definitely keen to get back.
Thanks for reading, Pinti

Thursday, September 28, 2017

On est bien ici!

it's already two months since we've been climbing these badass Kyrgyz walls! time flies... i am preparing a few stories&photos for this blog, stay tuned
Sat down with a little glass of red wine to help me channel some of the pysche into the internets. It's almost a month now that I've been living in Grenoble, in the very west end of the Alps. I came here as part of an Erasmus exchange programme with the intention to complete most of my exams for my 5th year of medical studies. Yes, that future doctor guy is not that far away now anymore and it is both exciting and scary at the same time. So far it seems like it's been a good decision and I will learn a lot in my time here (I'm staying until June next year).
The decision to come here was no coincidence :) beside the studies, Grenoble is
a) really pleasant to live in
b) literally surrounded by mountains, with little outcrops of rocks and crags well within biking distance
c) 2 hours from Chamonix and Ceuse
d) full of like-minded people motivated to go climbing

So far I've been doing a stage in Ophthalmology which is very interesting and a great way to start. It's not too action-packed which lets me follow even despite my inadequate french level. I am so looking forward to my fluent French after a few months here... hopefully. So far I've mostly been observing but also learnt some examinations and gave a few injections in the eye, just to practice steady hands...
It's interesting to learn the workings of a different system. The french medical students begin their "stages" in their 3rd year of studies. They kind of become a helper hand, a level below the specialist of the service. They spend 3 months in certain departments of their choice, their presence is obligatory, they have some 5 weeks of vacation per year, but they also start receiving a small salary. It's cool because I think by the time you exit med school and are looking for a residency, you'll have already done a lot of practical work and know your way around. It seems to me on the contrary we (Slovenian students) might be better trained in theory and knowing the scientifical background.

hiked "la Grand Sassiere" in Val d'Isere on the way to Grenoble. At 3700m it was just a hike. Pretty cool!
student life in Grenoble
So, the climbing... ahem. I've been having solid sessions every week now. The move to a new enviroment is great - I have a whole new surge of motivation. There's new crags to climb at, a bunch of strong climbers, a whole culture built around it.
I love the little afternoon sessions squeezed in after work/school. You're doing your job (texting people on where to meet), finishing early (because you have an important meeting), next thing you're speeding down the road on the bike and in an hour since you've taken off your coat, you're tying in for the warm-up. A few hours later and 5 pitches in the bag you're packing your stuff with the sun setting behind the mountains, you're back in time for dinner and early sleep, just to do it again the next day...

I keep fond memories of several winter seasons in our beloved crags in Slovenia... the odd day off during the working week when there was nobody at the crag except for a few of the motivated friends. Those days of perfect conditions... I want to re-experience it this autumn in Grenoble and its wonderful surroundings. After almost two years of not really thinking much about sport climbing, I am finding it very exciting again. It is hard not to be motivated with so many new crags and psyched individuals around. I hope my physical shape plays along (I have to put in some hours on the campus board!).

One thing I really admire is the passionate french climbing scene. It could be a consequence of Grenoble's location between that many rocks, or simply the fact France has such a history in sport climbing. But still, it seems to me here, on a random day you are likely to meet more people than in crags in Slovenia... and then there's this whole culture built around sport climbing. Clothing brands (ABK), slang (a "falaisiste" is somebody who climbs mostly outdoors, compared to climbing gyms), a bunch of motivated people who bolt (Quentin C., himself a prolific "equipeur" in the area, once told me they bolt approximately 2 new crags every year only in the Grenoble area), and what not... it's a place with mountains in every direction and this city lives and breathes outdoor sports.
on the way to go climbing!
just a little afternoon session at Espace Comboire. Resembles Osp quite a lot...
crimping down at l'Abbatoir, THE hardcore crag of the Grenobloise... I hope I will become a local :)
projects, projects everywhere! 
my Czech buddy at the classic old-school crag of Les Lames (just next to the famous Bastille). Polished and tough grades, but still a must
he's from Adršpach!

Rocher du Midi - the local "big wall", just out of Grenoble
a cold day on Rocher du Midi. Haven't been that frozen in a while.
les trous, les trous, les petits trous
To inaugurate the arrival to France, I had to make a pilgrim voyage to Ceuse. I found few places in the world as inspiring as here, and despite having spent many days siting under this piece of rock, I think I will always want to return. The immaculate rock, the super aesthetic lines, the amazing view... words don't do justice.
This time, the summer buzzing has already weaned off - there were not many people at the crag and nature was changing into automnal colours. Together with my Czech Erasmus buddy Jakub we made a quick hitch hike to Gap and got to savour two days of perfect (even a little hot!) weather.
I've been wanting to do the mega classic Natilik for a while - the picture of the ramp stretching out to the sky looks so crazy, but the climbing is not really difficult. Even better, the rest of the pitches are beautiful too and the fact that it's actually a trad route (bring a set of cams and stoppers) makes for a perfect airy and exposed experience.
Apart from that it was just classic good times at the best crag in the world. I managed to send one of my old projects and was very pleased about that, but sadly I also got myself injured at the same time :( I think I partially ruptured my right hamstring - I was doing a wild heelhooking move and was really in the heat of the game, and then I heard the crack and it was pretty loud... I really hope the pain will go away soon so I can at least climb a little bit (pretty bummed about the fact heelhooks are out of question for some months now - how will I send anything then?). Gotta take care of our bodies... I heard red wine helps.


GAP! There we go, Ceuse is not far away, long live dirtbag style!


back to Ceuse after some years, hoping to get out there soon again!

Biographie, in that magical evening light. I just missed seeing the magic happen though (Margo sent 20 minutes before)




I think I have something in common with this guy
so good! it's like these walls, clean as mirrors, always expose your weaknesses... to climb well at Ceuse you really need to have an all around skillset. the grades are never given, but once you learn it, you crack the code, it's there for the taking, like a gift from Gods
approaching the traverse pitch on Natilik
is this speleo or climbing?! and yet the grade of this is 5c (there's a little crux at the end :P)
...and all the air beneath!
belly flopping like a seal
  
taking in the automnal colours at the top of the cliff... we'll be back!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sfinga

A few things happened that made yesterday kind of historical (for me):
- we broke one of the key holds in Obraz sfinge which makes this very historical, cult route now significantly harder and definitely ups the grade
- I completed a huge wall with no pain in my toes. I don't know what's going on, but this has really been a pain in the ass the last few years -> really happy!
- I went climbing in the Julian Alps for the first time and can definitely attest to their notorious chossiness. 

So me and David went to try and repeat what is supposed to be the hardest route in north face of Triglav, Obraz Sfinge. The line goes throuh the center of the formation called Sfinga - the Sphynx. Originally given the french 8a grade, the grade now seems to have settled around 7c. Well, we'll have to write the books again (after somebody repeats in in the current state!).
I was very excited to have a go at this historical route, free climbed back in 1995, it's had many repeats up to now and it is considered a hard classic.
Also I hoped to summit Triglav, the highest peak of Slovenia, for the first time, but sadly we took too long on the route (I'm getting closer :D).

Anyway we started at 4.30AM from the valley, scrambling up Skalaška, an easy classic route in the middle of the wall. We reached amfiteater at about 9AM and started climbing up the left side of Sfinga (Kunaver-Drašlar) and traversed right via three short pitches through uncharted terrain (the most horrible choss of my life - it took us two hours to climb 50 metres). After reaching Obraz sfinge, we played around the crux pitch. I sent it on my second attempt, thinking it's about 7c. David came really, really close on his second attempt and then realized one of the holds cracked while he was pulling on it. He inspected it and the jug just crumbled away. Ooops?! I checked out the moves on top-rope while cleaning the pitch and I think it will still go, but it definitely created another crux and will make it at least 8a (!). I wasn't feeling like trying it more (I'm not sure if I can still claim my ascent :P) since we were kind of running a bit late. Too bad for David, who actually passed the move from the jug on his go, and then fell a few moves after, right at the end of the pitch - having sabotaged a potential third go, anyway.
So Obraz sfinge received an unlucky makeover and will further remain a testpiece, which is ok, since the young generations are climbing stronger and stronger.

At the top we took in the amazing views and made the leg-killer hike down. Pretty battered after 1000m of climbing (even if most of it is easy). What an amazing day out, and not a single living soul, except a few solitary goats.

early morning approach to Triglav north face

Vrata


srčni mož

Sfinga - the right pillar, supposedly has the best rock of the whole wall and is the steepest. The rock is better, still chossy at times, much less things break, but the crux hold apparently had to go.

good thing he has an ice axe

changing conditions

David getting into the bussiness on the crux pitch - the roof. I was feeling really sleepy from the early start and not so psyched on the very chossy climbing we were doing before, but trying this pitch was fucking mega! I've heard people commenting they didn't like it, well I think it is a really fun and considerably hard pitch!

Dave  finishing up the second-to-last pitch

topping out to this beautiful sight

plush grass for my poor feet after a whole day in climbing shoes

his third time on Obraz sfinge, couldn't have been any closer to send, but still a very psyched David!

perfection




Monday, May 29, 2017

Alpine walls in Slovenia

climbing the wild 8a pitch in "Rajčeva" 

It seems as if I've had to travel half the globe to discover the amazing adventure that was lying right in front of me the whole time. I started climbing in a sport climbing enviroment and looking back now I think it's a bit of a shame I've neglected the endless climbing possibilities Slovenian mountains have to offer. I'll need a few seasons of catching up :)

So this year is the first time I'm out for climbing more serious, alpine trad routes in the Alps. Up to now I've done the classics in the big wall of Osp, the few all-bolts alpine routes, but none of the notoriously chossy and adventourous alpine climbs with no in-situ protection. Now, armed with a handful of big wall experience and a less than ideal rack of cams and nuts, I'm finally getting to taste the Slovenian limestone walls. Every climber I met who knows Slovenian climbing kept asking me what are the walls here like. I could really only reply: "errr... actually I wouldn't know... you'll have to come and see for yourself, but I heard it's really loose and chossy"

As soon as the snow started melting and the first walls dried up, David took me for an intro climb., which was a great time and also a good idea since we've got some synchronizing still left to do for our upcoming Kyrgyzstan expedition. We even established a new line, well probably a bit less epic than it sounds, but yeah, it was piton banging and choss climbing in all its infamous glory.
still hating alpine starts though

I think we severly underrated the last pitch! I remember I was pretty scared up there :P

Next up we were feeling all psyched and went straight for a hard one. "Nebeško zvonenje" in Golarjeva Peč shut us down appropriately :) it's a route from the previous generation, one by two legends - Franček Knez and Silvo Karo who almost completed the first free ascent, too. Routes like that are eye-openers to realize how much ahead of their time people with such vision are.
Let's just say I couldn't reach the ledge for the first belay, so we bailed and could only look at our route from the neighbouring, considerably easier classic "Orlovska",  grade VIII-. I'll have to go back...

Orlovska

amazing post-climb picnic at the picnic table

 The final dose of limestone climbing goodness was last Saturday in Kamnik Alps again. Friday I was lying in bed when mr. Kruder rang me up and saved me from the miserable reality of an approaching exam and the corresponding heap of studying. He's doing a bouldering World Cup in two weeks so I thought some aerobic training was in order! Predostenje Križevnika was the wall we chose, aiming for another high-level free climbing route put up 5 years ago by Andrej Grmovšek. I am constantly inspired by the vision and energy he had for putting in the work of creating such free-climbing masterpieces in our Alps and beyond!
thanks to Uroš Grilj for these photos, there was an iPhone at the right place at the right time
the line of the route. this wall is amazing! really good quality rock, it's overhanging the whole way, the climbing is unique and challenging... hats off to Andrej Grmovšek! (picture source grmoclimb.net)

The route was a full mental/physical package that left me hurting for the next few days, but definitely a great pleasure from bottom to top, really tickling that trad-climbing headiness/hard free climbing/amazing ambiance sense...
I fired the crux pitch onsight, thanks to pre-hung draws and some chalk on holds, it didn't go down without a fight however - really pleased with the good headspace I had, but on the other hand it's the only pitch that is completely bolted, which helped a lot with that :) the rest of the pitches (they are 7a+, 6c, 8a, 7b+, 6b+, 7b, 7a+) proved more difficult to solve and I missed the free ascent on the first and the 7b pitch. It would have been wild to climb this thing in a day...

In other news I've been agonizingly close to send the sport climbing Project at Čreta - I've been going at it in a very on-and-off fashion, so this spring I've been surprised to feel how much more doable it is. Naturally I got all excited and couldn't think of anything else, neglected stuff to do, including training, but hoped to send. After a few sessions I had accounted a number of great attempts but was left empty-handed. No biggie, I wonder when I'll get back to it though (I've abandoned it right now due to rising temperatures making it barely climbable and also I'm in a kind of a shitty shape), and wonder if it'll be done by then since it's receiving more attention from other guys too :)

I'm going to Kyrgyzstan this summer for some big walls - hoping to revive this blog until then! Me and David have great plans for some big wall free climbing, dreaming big as always :) stay tuned! love, Pinti

GRANITE SPLITTERS again, very soon! (from two months ago in Cadarese)


Saturday, November 19, 2016

The real type 2 fun

There's a lot to be said about why certain humans like to indulge from time to time in some of the good old fun of the second type. I now acknowledge I do belong in the said group and since then every time I feel  the impulse of doing it, it's become easier to understand. Sometimes a little bit of masochism will go a long way...
my friend David letting the magic happen
scarred from battling the Monster last year in Yosemite

Most of the time I'm pretty keen to sign up for different more-or-less purposeful type 2 adventures. Having been raised by enthusiastic cavers it was inevitable I would once change my bearings and go down instead of up. I have spent vacation in my childhood wandering around the Julian Alps with my mom while my dad was exploring underground and thus I have always considered speleology as a logical, natural activity. The Slovenian karstic landscape is littered with caves of all dimensions: big caves, deep abysses, huge caverns with a paradise of unique limestone formations. The exploration of caves follows a hundred year old tradition that has started to blend with the extreme endurance challenge as deeper, more technical caves were explored.

Fast forward 15 years; Matic from Ljubljana's DZRJL  persuades me to come with and "do some free climbing to save bolts" in a cave named 'Trubarjev dah' undergoing exploration in Pokljuka. After we descend to -600, we enter undiscovered sections of the cave and advance further. We bivouac the night at the cave floor and then jumar out on the fixed lines the next day which feels like a neverending nightmare. With a biceps that's hurting as if I'd just spent a week on the wall, I swear to keep away from any caving in the future half year, but as we exit and with every passing minute, the type 2 fun effect kicks in and I secretly start to like it. It's a pretty simple way to go for a full-on adventure.

the team that went into 'Trubarjev dah', my mom is looking fresh while I'm nearly passing out
After six months I'd already forgot the pains and hard work of caving and Matic suggests I should join in the expedition to 'Renejevo brezno' I am stoked! The cave is among the deepest in Slovenia and countless trips spread over 20 years have gone into exploring it, and I well remember the excitement when the DZRJL members were about to hit the -1000m mark in it. More exploration followed culminating in a major expedition that involved over 30 people carrying gear for a diver who explored the end syphon and eventually reached the -1300-something mark. This behemoth of a cave is far from explored yet, though - under the surface of the Julian Alps in Kanin region lies a swiss cheese-like network of tunnels where rain water carved it's way following the path of least resistence towards the valley floor. Only the water knows the passage downwards, but there is considerable draft through some sections of 'Rene' and the guys are mega psyched to find the continuation. It is an adventure, for science, for fun, and for the indescribable transformative experience that settles in when the sun warms your face again...
9 AM approach hike on the best bluebird day ever


Kaninski podi, littered with holes everywhere, some hiding giant -1000m cave systems!
I was part of the four-man team that carried supplies for the other, exploratory team that was going to attempt to find a passage further. We hiked to the cave on a bluebird Friday morning and after savouring a little bit of the nice breeze and still-warm sun, descended into the heart of Kanin. 700 metres of pretty much straightforward abseiling on fixed ropes took us to the first bivouac. Soon after, meanders and tight passages started, where the heavy haul bags slowed us down considerably. Some of the narrower sections were quite tight, but nothing too serious, and honestly the little boulder problems, funky squeezes and little free-climbing sections make it really fun (definitely more fun than hanging off a rope). I think caving essentially has never been regarded as a sport (in the sense of what climbing/alpinism is) so the focus is never on how one will pass certain sections, but rather where they will take you to and where the cave continues. Thus, anything goes and when necessary, cavers will use explosives or a chisel to make an unpassable section go (no strict ethics here). 
looking merry and clean at the cave entrance

After a considerable 14-hour effort we reached the second bivouac, ate a hearty dinner and passed out. Life in the cave has allowed me to better imagine what the World War one looked like, because I feel Rene well resembles an Orwellian picture of lying in a muddy trench. Most of the time it's pretty miserable, but as the saying goes, one gets used to everything, and nobody really minds it in the end.
The next morning we descended to as of now deepest point in the cave, the aptly-named Copacabana where an underground stream empties into the lake that then dissapears in a syphon. Then, we started to reverse the difficult passages from -1200 to -750 to reach the first bivouac, where we spent the second night. On the way we ran into the other team that came blasting past us, psyched to spend the next six days in the cave :)
at -1243m sunbathing on Copacabana

Lastly, on the third day, 750m of ropes separated us from the surface. Minutes felt like hours and every shaft looked alike as we inched upwards in what seemed like a slightly delirious bubble of thoughts and repetitive jumaring motion, interrupted by the occasional "Rope free!" from your mate above. Even though it felt like a real drag, I made the journey in only five hours - a considerable improvement since jugging the previous time in 'Trubarjev dah'! Suddenly, I felt a hint of breeze on my cheek. I looked up but couldn't see any light, but I knew we made it after all. Another 20 metres and the final tight squeeze and a blueish, piercing light of the midday sun shone on me. I busted up the last section of rope, staggered to the surface and a sense of intense satisfaction flowed through my brain. Eventually, the cave spat out the other three team-members and we packed up and hiked out to the valley for the well deserved pizza...

its a big cave!
Caving in 'Rene' blends the distinction between exploration and sport, between the 'casual' and extreme. While others may be driven by the passion to explore caves, I was above all just curious to see it and experience what it's like being disconnected for several days under the Earth's surface. It's pretty amazing actually - you are at least half a day away from sunlight, but chances of rescue if things go wrong are slim, so it's good to keep that in mind. And honestly, it's been a while since I've last done some offwidths and so I was also longing for some type 2 experience :)

Ever since doing the first more difficult cave this spring and being told about 'Rene' I've wanted to see it myself and see what goes into organizing an expedition like this. I wouldn't have joined this expedition if it wasn't for Matic and Špela thinking it's fun to let a caving noob learn the hard way and that going sub-1k right away is just a steep learning curve. So definitely thanks to the whole DZRJL team for putting up with me. I am hoping for some more caving adventures in the future! Also thanks for the photos, I've stolen most of them from here, where you can also find the trip report (in Slovenian).Whooo!


p.s. Also thanks to Treking šport for providing me with the caving essentials from Petzl - from the super solid helmet/headlamp combo, the back-up headlamp, ascenders and descender brake.