Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Petzl Roctrip stage 2: Vratsa

walls of Vratsa in the morning sun

"Can you see the third bolt?" my friend Alexis is yelling from below. I'm overgripping the small edges partly out of fear and partly due to hands sweating in the sun. A foothold just crumbled away almost making me fall. And I'm only ten metres off the ground.
I'm thinking fast but I know my judgement is pre-conditioned by the circumstances, my physiological state. The last two days we have spent sitting out the bad weather and psyche was high to go climbing again. In the morning, we were sitting at the camp enjoying the morning idleness and pouring endless coffee that is now making my heart beat faster than I'd like it to. When Alexis suggested doing "Terminator" - 7a, 200m, I was instantly psyched. That's why I now feel I'm risking more than I should, given my big wall experience... I would have retreated earlier if I wasn't that psyched.
The guidebook we have is very exhaustive, but one should never rely solely on it. In our case, it said some cams and nuts are needed to better protect the route. Hmm... ok. I've done this before - once. I can see a jug-like feature that could take a big-size nut. I fiddle the set of nuts around and manage to get one in.
"Do you trust it? Better test it well!" I don't trust it much so I'm definitely keen to test it, I'm feeling nervous and I pull on it violently with both hands, fuck the ethics I need something reassuring right now. The nut pops and I come flying down. finally stopping with my feet touching the grass while Alexis slowly lowers down from the first bolt. "Err... this was a good start."

After finding the line, we somehow managed the first pitch. Pitch 2 offered more engaged climbing on crumbly rock but was easier. After more messing around with gear we reached a ledge after the second pitch which felt like heaven. Due to having spent so much time on the first two pitches, we ran out of time to complete the route and rappelled down from the fourth belay, leaving two pitches on top undone but still feeling happy we have pushed that far after all the epics.

We were stupid, inexperienced, this route wouldn't have posed a problem if we knew what to expect. The climbing was well below my limit, all under control, but the crumbly rock made it very engaged.
However, I was super psyched we had done that. Experience was the best teacher in this case, and the bigger than usual dose of adrenaline and fear made our eyes glow in the evening and the dinner taste incredible. Moreover, the big wall just reaffirmed my wish to do more of this stuff in the future. It's so exciting to discover that - I sometimes feel my sport climbing is somewhat stuck around some projects and not really progressing, so doing something different is refreshing.

Alexis doing the nina caprez

The rest of the days in Vratsa we spent doing some sport climbing in the incredible rock of the Stinite Stegi sector. Vratsa didn't disappoint us in terms of quality of climbing, and apparently we didn't even get to see the best of it (the cool overhanging sectors were wet due to heavy rainfall the previous days).

Izi on an 8b in Stinite Stegi, thanks to Sam Bie for the photo!

Alexis in Stinite Stegi, pic by Sam Bie

We are now well immersed in the Petzl Roctrip vibe, and it's all getting more and more exciting. After a short stop in Rila (Bulgaria) - we cut it short due to bad weather - we are now in Prilep (Macedonia), a place very dear to us. The boulder fields above the town offer a great climbing experience. There is so much potential, it's really a boulderer's playground - just pick a line and clean it and have fun.
Anyone that's taken part in an expedition here knows what I'm talking about. We are excited to show the people around the place. The first official guidebook of the place is fresh out of print and the authors, Miha Hribar, Joži Pavlič and Miha Jarm are here with us. Check out if you want to know more about it!

Prilep WE'RE HERE!

More on Prilep and rest of the Petzl Roctrip later, now let's go climb some boulders! KULA SHEIKA BULA :)!

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