Monday, October 13, 2014

Paklenica revisited

it all started with this, more than 10 years ago
After having done some multipitching in the past few months, I realized I wanted to do more of it. Paklenica has been on my list for some time now. I kept recalling flashes of what was probably my first climbing trip back in 2000 something?, I was probably age 8, and Celjski stup felt so high and exposed. Words like "Anića Kuk", "Velebitaški" and so on was on everyone's lips but I didn't really know what it was all about. I probably didn't even make the short approach path to see the big wall of Aniča Kuk.

Anića Kuk, north wall

Stepping outside your comfort zone has become a cliche by now, but we all know this is truly what we seek. I realized sport climbing doesn't always give me that thrill anymore. It's just hard to get into that perfect mode, conditions, physical shape... things have to align for one to send really hard and sometimes I end up doing moderates I already know I can do.
Paklenica really is a playground big wall, it's so well protected the fear factor is not that big in most routes. But the exposure is still here, the wall of Aniča Kuk is majestic and it takes some effort to climb it, enough to make the beer taste awesome in the evening,

setting off for a day in the big wall
When Kruder came up with the idea, I had already decided.
The first day we aimed high and took on one of the wall three hardest sport routes, Cupido. It features sustained climbing in the upper sixth grade with a crux technical 7b pitch and an 8a pitch, going through a gentle overhang.
The climbing was amazing. Feeling the air beneath, working hard, precise footwork on perfect limestone.
belay selfie :)

Kruder was able to cruise through the 8a pitch on his second attempt, while I came super close after trying really, really hard. It was a bit disappointing to be that close, but unable to claim the ascent, but I didn't care that much. With quite a few difficult, technical pitches still to go, in the end I was happy to stand on the summit, feeling totally worked with sore feet and crushed skin.
Kruder setting off for the 8a pitch
ouuhhh... this slab was a tough one!

The second day, we felt less confident and opted for an easier but apparently even more beautiful line. "Black magic woman" features 350m of great climbing in 5th and 6th grade and then a deciding 7b+ pitch in a nicely exposed arete, just under the top of the wall. I put my slab skills to use and managed to onsight the pitch. The climbing reminded me a lot of Ceuse, the beauty of the ambient too.
the great wall of Aniča Kuk (source:
Jumping in the pond beneath the wall was the cherry on top for this short trip. We had dinner at Dinko's with the nice crew from Celje and returned back to reality. Big ups to Kruder you strong bastard, we should do this again. Peace out folks :)

contemplation times at the belays

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Petzl Roctrip: The epilogue

Prilep panorama by Sam Bie

"Dude, I tell you, Balkan is the future" exclaims my friend Izi looking at me ecstatically. We are in Prilep and he had just tried the route he bolted the previous day and we are all feeling the excitement in the air. Rock everywhere, virgin rock, waiting to be climbed, no crowds, no polish, the rock is our playground. Find your line, clean it, figure out the moves, break holds, work hard on it, make vision come true.
Izi scoping up what later became "Punchline", now awaiting the FA. Maybe in the next expedition?

The Roctrip was a great opportunity. Travelling by my own, I would have never went to see that many different places by myself. The caravan created a unique, true roadtripping atmosphere and it was nice to discover these places with other people. Some sort of campground was provided in every stage and I was keen to jump back into the tent lifestyle. Reducing your daily routine to brushing teeth in the morning and evening and that's it... I love that. Our ride was a mess, however, but I didn't care. We would sort it out when we get back home (many thanks to my father for making this whole journey possible by lending us the car!).
As far as I know this is the aim of the Roctrip. Bring climbing into a yet undeveloped spot with great potential and plant the seed for the symbiosis - the local tourism and happy climbers from all over the world. Petzl is managing a visionary effort. It's a new age "climbing colonialism" in a totally good way. At every stage we met local climbers who told us more about each spot, its development and showed us around. All were really psyched about the Roctrip visiting - it really is an opportunity to showcase cool crags and put them on everybody's map.

Back to Izi. "I want all of this stuff bolted man. I'll keep coming back here until the job is done." The guy's motivation is endless, and sometimes overwhelming. He makes the usual climbers' rant about worn out fingertips look like a baby crying. Well, he's one of those I call climbing terrorists. But his psyche is infectious, and that is something I like most about a climbing partner.

The line he bolted goes through a huge overhang on a wall higher up from Balvanija, facing Dabnica below. It's a 25 metre sport route with great, diverse, powerful moves on huge slopy blocks and undercuts, something very exciting for us, having grown up on the limestone of Osp. After a while trying it I started to realize this is the kind of stuff we read about in magazines and so. It just reminded me so much of this route "Ganesh" in Badami, India that I kept looking at in the poster above my bed as a kid. So... is this like "we're living the dream"?  Maybe... Above all we are having a blast. A few days before that I caught a cold that drained my energy for climbing and exploring. Trying this route was a surge of psyche that finally cured me up. "Punchline" is now awaiting its' first ascent.
Izi in the bottom section

the crux is passing the few moves beneath the bulge

we tried it a lot...

In the evening, all was quiet. The caravan had left Prilep for Meteora. We would begin our return to Slovenia the next day. We quietly ate dinner and went to bed. I loved feeling my muscles sore again and fell asleep content. We were climbing amazing stuff and all was good in the world.

nearing the top with Prilep in the backdrop
We didn't head straight home, though. We went to see Mavrovo, a place in the west part of Macedonia where apparently "a futuristic cave" is being developed. We had lots of fun climbing there with Miha, Klemzy and Tanja.
The crag truly is quite futuristic! I accidentaly got on a project bolted by Klemen Bečan and experienced what climbing in the future will look like... respect to Klemen for bolting this. By the way, have you seen his new EpicTV video? He's known for a while the Balkan really is the future :)
the cave is not the only thing worth bolting in Mavrovo - there is lots of potential

shower! yeeee

the crag from below

We didn't send anything notable but it was fun trying all the routes without knowing what grades they are or their names. Everyone tried a route and then we compared what we would grade the climbs.

We split the journey back, took the opportunity and stopped in Niš to visit Slobodan Gejo and his wife Vesna and taste some climbing in Serbia. Everybody knows Slobodan, he's the father of Staša who is a very successful comp climber and a good friend of ours. They made our short stay very pleasant and memorable. They live right at the entry to the small canyon called Jelašnica which holds some of the best of Serbia's sport climbing. It is nice mostly vertical, grey limestone climbing in a miniature-Verdonesque setting. The day we climbed here was perfect, cloudy with a slight breeze. The leaves are changing colours and we enjoyed climbing in the smell of early autumn.

Dodaj napis
Me and Jakob had a gentle warm-up on Mono-lit, a 100m 7a max multipitch leading up a face which is literally 500metres away from Slobodan's house.
Later we repeated the testpiece "Starscream" 8a+ and made friends with some Belgrade climbers. In the evening we ate pasulj, drank rakija and listened to Slobodan's incredible stories from Africa and Himalaya. Having summitted Everest and as a local climbing legend, he has many up his sleeve...

mr. Izi on Starscream

Siciljanac 8a+
Many thanks to Slobodan and Vesna for their true hospitality! It was a cherry on top after the whole trip.

Besides that shout out to Izi and Jakob for coming along on this great trip! 
To Petzl for making it all come alive! I wish I take part in another Roctrip one day :) the trip shows the true face of the people involved in the company. It (and the climbing community) is still small enough that the people in charge of everything are at the same time people who are the most passionate about their sport, and at the Roctrip everyone comes together like a big family.
To everyone joining the trip who I met, and especially to the BELGIAN team you crazy nutters :)
and Miha Jarm and Joži Pavlič who are followin the trip all the way to Antalya, read about their adventure here.
To Klemzi, Tanja, Pope for dinners and some good times spent hanging out in Mavrovo.
To Treking šport, the Petzl retailer in Slovenia who supported us and allowed us to take part in the trip.
To Iglu šport who has supported me with some La Sportivas :)