Thursday, September 25, 2014

Petzl Roctrip: the birth of a king line

Prilep is becoming a world class bouldering spot. The Petzl Roctrip stopping here is a landmark opportunity that is about to truly put the place on everyone's must-go map. Along with the occasion of the first official guide publishing, it's all coming together. Rok Šisernik, the leader of the first expedition here and Slovenian climbing legend would have been proud to see the place blooming now. Having tragically passed away in 2011, we can see this as a monument to his endless drive and passion to push climbing forward. The vision remains!

A lot has been developed and people are strolling deeper in the woods to find new good looking blocks of granite, waiting to be cleaned and climbed. Yet sometimes a king line awaits right in front of us. Maybe it's by coincidence, maybe it's waiting for the one strong climber who will see the potential line and have the balls to do it.

Miha Hribar and Izi scoped such a line on the Maršal block yesterday. It has previously been put aside due to a serious landing and exposed, high climbing. This time my friends were looking for that extra bit that will make the new ascent a real king line.

We got to work today, we cleaned the landing of bushes and Izi and Enzo ticked the holds, brushed away the moss and made sure the holds are solid, not breaking during an attempt.

We stacked a lot of pads to try and secure the fall. It was still engaged and serious as hell. In the evening, everything was set for the First Ascent..

David Firnenburg was on a streak today. On top climbing form from the previous competitions, he was quickly repeating Prilep's hard classics on his first day here - Velika Smetka 8a flash and Batman, 8a in a few goes.

A crowd of observers and spotters gathered to watch the breathtaking ascent. David was looking strong and everything was under control. We tried our best to protect it but a fall from the top could still be serious.

It's name yet unknown, the problem is rumoured to be around the 8A mark. It's now awaiting a repetitor, someone strong and bold enough!

David setting off
... and claiming the first ascent of a king line!

Let's see what else happens in our short stay here! Stay tuned for more news and also the movie that is being made by Petzl, which will include footage of David's ascent!

A big thanks once again to my sponsors Iglu Šport and Treking Šport - Petzl Slovenia who made this trip possible!

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 :)!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First stage: Baile Herculane

Aaaand... finally we hit the road! I was really looking forward to the journey itself because this time, we had our own transport (car provided by my father, my longest time sponsor :)) and the trip was going to take us down south to the Balkan. I haven't seen much of the land that all used to be Yugoslavia back in the day, and I was always missing this because it is in a way still part of our culture. On a related note, our parents still speak good serbo-croatian while I would preferably speak English to somebody from ex-Yugoslavia when I couldn't express myself in Slovenian.
Anyway we decided to make a pit-stop in Belgrade for the first taste of the Balkan. Kafa jebomajku!



Izi a.k.a. Zupanator needs no introduction, we have climbed together on trips countless times. Number one guy to make your trip fun and unpredictable.

Jakob Šparovec, kind of keeping under the radar but always climbing hard stuff in the eight grade. Together we did the Ceuse and Fontainebleau trip last year which was some good times!

We crossed the Danube and drove the winding road uphill into Baile Herculane (The Herculean Baths). It is a historic town famous for its baths set in old Roman (?) architecture. The post-communist ownership issues have left much of the old buildings un-restored and they are slowly falling apart. Next to them, huge hotels dominate the skyline that were built in the communist era to expand on the mass tourism.
Hercules in front of an old town building

On both sides of the valley there's rock faces promising some good climbing. The Cascada Venturatorea is the best sport crag and that's where the Petzl team has focused most of their bolting. The area has been under constant development by the Romanian climbers, but due to its location (far from Bucharest and other towns), it has been rather slow.

Mr. Fabian Buhl, better known as a boulderer, tied in to send this classic 8a tufa line in Surplomba sector

Anyway there's lots of potential, at least in the Veturatorea crag. The first edition of the topo has been published this year by AlternativeTM. The bottom line for me, though, is: the climbing is good but not exceptional, its the hot baths that make the trip here worth it!

the impressive 100+ meter tall Vanturatorea
Izi flashed this 8b right after the Petzl team athletes
this is me on Strength and Honour, an 8a in the right part of the crag

Now the Roctrip caravan continues its journey in Vratsa, Bulgaria. We got stuck in Baile Herculane for another day after massive rainfall caused floods that pretty much blocked the way out. Romania has no highways... We agreed this is one thing Ceausescu should have looked into while he was building the post-war Romania.
Hopefully we can make it to Vratsa today. I am psyched for more climbing. The places there look VERY promising. More and more people will be joining the trip. The forecast says sunny. Let's go!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Leave your mark

Good memories from the summer. Hanging out between the trees in the still warm air. Fontainebleau trip with the PCL crew. This is me on the Isatis classic "Little Karma", photo by Anže Klarič

Since coming back from the Frankenjura trip, I have dedicated about three weeks to passing the one exam I had left. I've moved in to the new flat in Ljubljana, got back to work in PCL. I've done lots of training in Poden with Urban, Vezi, Fređo, Jure and Martin - this was good motivation. I've kept up my shape and ticked some classics in Mišja Peč and Baratro like Gorenjski šnops, 8b and Il Musico, 8b. Shout out to the rock climbing team, too! Also my sponsor mr. Blagus for the free rides to the crags.

I really enjoyed coming back to Ljubljana. After the hard work studying it was so good to go partying again with friends. We went to see GRAMATIK last Friday and it was fucking NUTS!

The gig was in Križanke, the coolest open air venue. I was curious to find out more about the guy becuase I've been listening to his music since longtime, so I went to listen to his talk the night before the event. He's a simple guy, staying down to earth and not taking his success for granted - in today's internet era with all the music being so accessible and so many talented artists posting it through the social media, success has more than ever been a matter of luck, or, shall we say, being in the right place at the right time. The gig was part of his Leave Your Mark tour. The philosophy behind this is trying to inspire people through music and make them get on something creative themselves - after you're gone you want to look back and see you've left your mark.

I have spent countless hours hanging at the crag or the gym with friends, banging some chill Gramatik tunes and getting the totally good vibe from it. I was soo looking forward to this night, I knew it was going to be awesome. Gramatik blew the roof!
It's been a real inspiration. Everyone with the creative drive and motivation, this is it, go out and leave your mark!

So here it is...
Tomorrow we're hitting the road for Romania to join the Petzl Roctrip 2014. It's going to be one hell of a ride through the Balkan and we're SUPER syked on that. The team is me, Izi and Šparovc and one Peugeot 207.
This trip will be made possible with the support of Treking šport, the Petzl retailer in Slovenia, Plezalni center Ljubljana and my sponsor Iglu Šport. We are very grateful for being given the opportunity.
Let's do this!

Luka Tambača is one of the guys always motivated to go climbing or jumar up high to take amazing pictures. In this one it's me on "Achtbe" in our favourite Austrian crag.
Peep more of his work here:  Thanks Luka!