The formative years of cutting edge rock climbing: 1983&1984

1983 arguably ushered in the term ‘power’ – thought by some to have previously not existed until then. Routes like Jerry Moffatt’s The Face (8a/8a+) – the first of that grade in Germany – clearly required a new level of bouldering strength.

Steep limestone was the new ‘in thing’ – and bolts began proliferating the crags – though mainly on the continent. The first 8a’s were introduced in France with Reve de Papillon (8a) in Boux and Le Coeur est un Chasseur Solitaire (8a) in Mouries, both by Marc Le Menestrel; Ca Glisse au Pays des Merveilles (8a) by Patrick Edlinger; and Crepinette (8a) by Fabrice Guillot. Unknown at the time, Dave Cuthbertson from UK did the route Requiem as the world’s first 8a+, then graded E7 6c.

Marc Le Menestrel on Chimpanzodrome (7c+), 1983 in Boux.

Australia kept up (just) with the likes of Slopin’ Sleazin’ (originally 7c – now 7c) and the aforementioned India.

The first recognized 8a in Britain came in at the hands of new kid on the block – Ben Moon. A fully bolted sport route, Statement of Youth (8a) indeed made a statement in the more ‘traditional’ line of thinking Britain. This was overshadowed soon by fellow compatriot Jerry Moffatt’s offering – that of Revelations, which at solid 8a+ was recognised as the hardest route in the world at the time.

In a period of intense development, such a title wouldn’t hold on for long. the big news was to be had at the end of the year – when a new name hit the press with the boulder problem extension route of Kanal Im Rucken – and a new grade – 8b. The man responsible was Wolfgang Gullich.

France got introduced to the 8b grade with Tribouts’ Le Bidule (8b) and Edlinger’s Le Boule (8b). Carrigan finally solved the mystery of Masada – giving it 8a+/b as well (later downgraded to 8a).

Also of note at this time was a first ascent by an American women – who over the next decade was to become the top female climber the world had ever seen. Tourist Treat (7b+) was at the time a fine effort by a young Lynn Hill.

Moffatt meanwhile demonstrated his virsatility by onsighting The Phoenix (7c), Pol Pot (7b+/c) and Chimpanzadrome (7c+), the latter on the day of his 21st birthday.

The formative years of cutting edge rock climbing: 1981&1982

I always loved climbing history, and especially the early days of sport climbing. Over the next few months, I will be covering the 1980-2000 period of rock climbing, with republishing of an old article by Steve Kelly from Australia (credits below). Hope you enjoy the stories!

1981 came along and the Edlinger put up Medius (7b+) in Saint-Victoire – the hardest route in France. Equalling it though was the efforts of American John Bachar – who cheekily visited the Frankenjura (Germany) and established a new line which he called ‘Chasin’ The Train’ (7b+) – supposedly a reference to the state of Euro climbing versus its American equivalent. (Years later Bachar denounced this claim – saying that it was merely a reference to the well known jazz musician Johnny Cochrane).

Most of the routes (if not all) were being put up in a style known as ‘Yo Yo’ – the accepted norm at the time. This involved no pre-inspection – but climbing up to your highpoint – falling off – then lowering back to the ground (without working the moves) and starting again. The climber left the rope clipped into their highpoint – thereby essentially toproping the section on their next attempt.

First to use what would soon become termed ‘redpoint tactics’ was the German Kurt Albert – who in the same year (’81) had put up Germany’s first 7b+ with Sautanz. His new ethic was to ‘free climb’ routes (in the now standard practice of today) and then mark the base of the climbs with a painted red dot – signifying that they had been ‘freed’.

Kurt Labert on Sautanz (7b+), Frankenjura, 1981.
Photo by Thomas Ballenberger.
Wolfgang Güllich free solo on Sautanz, 7b+, Frankenjura 1986

Strangely, the first nation to really take up this new game were the French, who embraced it whole-heartedly during the early ‘80’s. As a result, the levels of hard climbing took off in France – as now the hard sections of routes were worked – rather than left as ground-up affairs – which led to a massive increase in strength and talent.

Despite this soon-to-be-embraced-revolution, the word was still ‘yo yo’ – and the routes that fell courtesy of this style were very impressive indeed. By the end of ’82 the grade of 7c had all but been consolidated with routes such as Cobwebs (Moorhead), Fenrir (7c – Edlinger, pictured in the first post), La Haine (7c – Berhault) and Little Plum (7c at Stoney Middleton– by a young new comer – Jerry Moffatt).

Jeffy Moffat on the first ascent of Little Plum in 1981. Photo by Geoff Birtles

If you are a total history bum, you might want to go even more in the past and read about the heritage od climbing at Stoney Middleton in the 1970s, with characters like Moffat, Pollitt and many more doing things probably unimaginable by today’s standards of comfort.

Here are articles about Stoney Middleton climbing history, with part III telling the story of Little Plum and the rare photo of a climber during the actual first ascent in the 1980s (something we take for granted today).

Also that year Carrigan claimed the big grade of 8a with India, which was the biggest news to date, and probably still holds that grade today for Carrigan’s original sequence. Law meanwhile quietly put up the much unheralded Slime Time (mainly because he graded it 7b! (now 7c). Carrigan consolidated at the grade with the amazing Ogive (7c) at Bundaleer.

Dave Fearnley grapples with the classic India (28) at Mt. Arapiles. Photo by Mark Sedon.

Meanwhile, Ron Fawcett’s ‘heir apparent’ – Jerry Moffatt – paid his first visit to the States, and promptly flashed one of their hardest routes – Supercrack (7b).

Published with kind permission from Climbing Club of South Australia. Original article from the The BOLFA Newsletter: “A window on the past: The formative years of of cutting edge rock climbing Part 1 (1980-1990) by Steve Kelly”. Note: text was minimally modified for 2020. Images were added with personal pre

The formative years of cutting edge rock climbing: 1980

I always loved climbing history, and especially the early days of sport climbing. Over the next few months, I will be covering the 1980-2000 period of rock climbing, with republishing of an old article by Steve Kelly from Australia (credits below). Hope you enjoy the stories!

Patrick Edlinger “Le Blond” on Fenrir in Verdon. 80s. Photo by Robert Nicod.

Back in 1980 the small world of cutting-edge rock climbing was mainly a world of hard-end trad routes and skimpy multi-coloured tights. Top climbers of the day were names such as Carrigan, Fawcett, Bachar, Yaniro and Edlinger – and thus unsurprisingly the hardest routes of the day were mainly their own creations.

If you wanted to make a name for yourself, then you could do no better than visit Wales (Tremadog & Gogarth), the US (Joshua Tree) or Australia (Arapiles) – all three destinations responsible for harbouring the hardest climbs in the world at the time.

The level at this time was hovering around grade 7b+, with only half a dozen routes having been labelled a harder grade. Routes considered to be the top of their class were things like Strawberries (7b+), Yesterday (then 7b+), The Phoenix (7c), Equinox (7b) and Supercrack (7b) – the latter three all residing in the States.

Ron Kauk, October 1976. 2nd ascent of Supercrack, The Shawangunks. EB’s, swami, and nuts.

Very unknown at the time and somewhat largely ignored due to the tactics used on the first ascent (probably the first true redpoint of any route) was Tony Yaniro’s line Grand Illusion – which at first was given 5.12+ – but later regarded as 5.13b/c (8a/a+) – a route WAY ahead of its time.

Tony Yaniro on Grand Illusion. Photo by: Heinz Zak.

Australia was holding its own – mainly due to the efforts of the hard working Kim Carrigan, but also due to people like Mark Moorhead and Mike Law – who were both operating in the 7b grade bracket (2 grades off the world standard).

Probably the most famous climber of the time however was Patrick Edlinger – a French superstar – notably because he had struck a deal with a television producer and had a film made of himself – climbing (and sometimes soloing) routes in the Verdon Gorge and environs. Edlinger though – wasn’t just any old climber – he was one of the most naturally gifted.

Published with kind permission from Climbing Club of South Australia. Original article from the The BOLFA Newsletter: “A window on the past: The formative years of of cutting edge rock climbing Part 1 (1980-1990) by Steve Kelly”. Note: text was minimally modified for 2020. Images were added with personal preference and due credits.

Chamonix!

Friends who live in this magical place were inviting me to visit them for years, and now that I’ve been there I can only say I was stubborn not to visit earlier!

I went climbing in Cham with my climbing and business partner Viktor for a week in August, with a few of his friends being already there (working from home during COVID redefined both work and home for many people!).

History of alpinism

Chamonix is the birthplace of alpinism, and the history of mountaineering is visible on every corner here. Mont Blanc was first ascended in 1786, and already in the early 1800s people were paying experienced mountaineers to guide them on glaciers or explore the mountains. The mountain guiding industry was born in 1821 right here in Chamonix, and I am proud I am able to contribute to this industry with the project I am working on with Viktor, 57hours.

A descent from Mount Blanc in 1787 | Christian von Mechel via Wikimedia Commons

It is astounding to realize that a small village in the middle of the mountains became a touristic attraction in 1800s. Hotels were being built for people who wanted to walk on glaciers, ascend Mont Blanc or just admire the scenery of the Mer de Glace at it’s peak in the 1820s. Seeing images of traditionally dressed people walking on ice with the extinct alpenstock just makes me smile for some reason. To fully grasp the history of alpinism and how conquering high mountains became a thing you can consider doing professionally, I warmly recommend a visit to the museum of alpinism.

Point Lachenal and the Contamine route

For our first objective we teamed up with IFMGA guide Jeff Witt of High Peak Adventures who we are working with on the 57hours project for a while now. We went straight up the Aiguille du Midi (3800m) with a cable car, where you are entering the Géant Glacier straight from the door. I was glad Jeff is with us, as walking on glaciers can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing like me. We roped up, put on crampons and ice-axes, went through some basic techniques and started walking over snow and ice. After about an hour of walking on ice, jumping over a few crevasses and getting used to being both hot and cold at the same time, we reached the bottom of the super-classic Contamine route.

The route is following a series of beautiful granite cracks on Pointe Lachenal (named after the famous alpinist Louis Lachenal). It starts with a few pitches of 5c before the crux of two sustained 6a+ pitches, and eases of at the end with a few more easier pitches. All this might sound easy to a sport climber, but keep in mind there is snow (and rain) looming, you are climbing at 3500m elevation with a full backpack, and not to forget there are no bolts except on belays! Since I did not climb any trad routes since Yosemite, I was climbing as second while Viktor and Jeff exchanged leads on perfect granite that rewards you with footholds outside of the many cracks (unlike Yosemite).

The view from the 3rd pitch on Contamine route of Pointe Lachenal

Two pitches below the summit of Contamine we decided to start rappelling down due to the incoming bad weather (and we had some rain during the abseil). We went straight to the Cosmiques Hut for a refreshing dinner and much needed rest. Or it would be refreshing had I been able to eat it – I got suddenly struck by altitude sickness and could not eat at all. I had symptoms like vomiting, headaches and brain fog until 5am, when I finally woke up fresh and feeling normal. By morning I was surprisingly ready to go, and our plan was to climb via the easy but very photogenic Cosmiques Arête route to the Aiguille du Midi station, and then take the cable down to the city. This time bad weather and danger of lightning got us to bail and head straight to city for a lunch.

Les voies des Druides

After a good days rest, the weather window opened for another classic route. This time we teamed up with Viktor’s friends Theo and Killian, who were honing their Chamonix skills for a few months. The route of choice was Les Voie Des Druides in Les Moines. We crossed the famous Mer de Glace glacier on our way to Charpua hut, a small climbers-only hut with only 12 places, but a lot of history and charm (and Tiramisu for dinner, unbelievable!). It took us 3.5 hours of walking to 2700m elevation but all I can say is one sunset from there is worth the effort. The best part of all was seeing the host family in the hut – they are a young outdoor couple, and they have their 1.5 year son with them in the hut from Jun-Sep. What an amazing way to raise your kid!

It was all action the next day: wake up at 6 for a 2 hour approach to the route (one section is a legit grade 3 climb in your approach shoes with no ropes). I was climbing with Theo, who is a real badass climber, and he was gracious enough to lead all the pitches and show me how a real high-level mountain climbing looks like. He was cruising all the various terrain confidently and gracefully, placing gear and basically owning the climb. I was lucky to be able to belay him and experience the many perfect pitches of this climb in a very stress-free enviroment. From the first few cracks you will arrive at the first crux pitch, a 6c slab with literally no handholds in the second half of the pitch (the angle is so low your feet hold all the weight, but the pitch is the most strenuous and the only one I did not climb free).

This is followed by a superb 5-star 6b layback pitch before going into an airy and scary 6a+ on loose rock with only one bolt in the middle. Before yet another classic 6b+ the best pitch arrives: a very technical and precise low-angle 6c finger crack. Theo led this masterfully, placing just as much gear as needed, and generally cruising the very technical terrain. After that you only have a short but very exposed 5c pitch before reaching the summit.

And the summit is finally a proper mountain summit for me, where you are sitting on a 1m ledge at the very top of the mountain in perfect setting, with a 360° view of the entire valley. This super climb was done, but the day was far from it’s end. It took us two more hours abseiling, and another two to get back to the hut. For a guy who walks more than an hour three times per year, I was more tired than ever while climbing, with the entire body hurting except the forearms, but the setting, scenery, climbing and a renewed taste of (any) food in that state of mind and body made it all more than worth it!

Back to Croatia

The plan was to climb the second day as well, and I will say my hurting body was ecstatic when the bad wether came and we decided to bail and head home. The walk back was a lot more casual and easy, with a big smile never leaving mine or anyone else’s face. After returning to Chamonix for a nice dinner with the Croatian in Chamonix, Ena Vrbek (ski mountaineering champion and Everest conqueror I might add), the time came to go home. This place has climbing in its very heart, and coming back became a must even before I left.

Special thanksgoes to Viktor for making me go, Jeff Witt for a great day in Lachenal and Theo&Kilian for leading us into serious free-climbing terrain.

Absolutely stunning sunset at the Charpoua hut

Secret of Cetina

With the beautiful river Cetina coming into the Adriatic sea and surrounded by miles and miles of perfect limestone of all sizes and shapes, it is hard not to get inspired in Omiš. We spent two weeks there in mid-June, with the first week spent working from home, followed by a week of only climbing and being a tourist in Omiš.

The trip was kind of a climbing renaissance to both Ana and me – we did not have a proper climbing trip in over 3 years, and I did not have a climbing trip where I was not at least 10 kilos overweight for more than 6 years. We cannot brag about being in super good shape, but we were certainly super motivated and ready to climb a lot. And it turned out motivation is by far the most powerful asset in climbing.

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On Top of Secret of Cetina (6b+) with Viktor.

Road cragging

One of the best things in Omiš is being able to park your car 5 meters away from the climbing sectors. There is a good number of sectors where you can do just that, with routes ranging from 4a to 8b. It is refreshing when you can give your project a try in a 3 hours window you might have between meetings. Back in Zagreb, 3 hours is barely enough for a proper gym session.

The three best routes I would recommend here are:

  • Droga (7b): amazing tufa climbing with a nice and slightly scary top-out.
  • Satarluk (7a): interesting 3D climbing with a technical crux that will make or break the climb for you!
  • Linea (6b): intriguing and interesting 6b that will require a lot more effort from you than the grade suggests.

Secret of Cetina MP

Secret of Cetina (6b+, 300m) is probably the best multi-pitch route in Omiš, but I wouldn’t know it as it’s the only one I climbed. I first tried the route more than 10 years ago, and a fall in the crux section of 6b+ on low-angle slab climbing left a vivid memory of the overall route difficulty. I teamed up with the always-motivated Viktor for a 7am ascent before the sun hits the wall at around 11am. The climb turned out easy this time and nothing was scary about it. I guess I can say there is at least a little bit of progress that happened with my climbing in the last 10 years!

The real secret of this route is the magical 4th 6b+ pitch, where the slab crux follows into 20 meters of climbing on brown crystals that look like they will break if you even touch them too hard. What you need to do is put your full weight on them for half of the pitch length, and balance your way through in movement resembling a well practiced choreographed dance. The gift of the day came when Viktor’s kids Jakov and Nika came with a drone and got some amazing footage of us and Omiš surroundings.

Naklice are the best

Our initial idea was to spend a week in Omiš, and follow-up with a week of traveling around the south of Croatia. One day in Naklice was enough for us to decide to spend the traveling week in Omiš, resting just enough to perform well in Naklice. If your level is 7a to 7b+ and you like overhanging 3D climbing, there is no better sector than this. Routes are short (12-18m), overhanging, bouldery, characterized with a flowy and creative climbing you will not be able to get enough of.

Routes I would recommend here? Literally all of them. Every single route on this wall is great, with some like Kor (7a+) or Raumerovo Zlato (7b) making it 5+ stars. If you are nitpicky, the only bad thing about Naklice is having to walk 30mins to the rock in the mid-afternoon heat. But I have the perfect solution for this problem:

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Heat-protection from the umbrella worked a lot better than expected!

Where is the secret?

All the things you can do around Omiš might not be a secret, but what they could mean to you in different stages of life and career certainly were to me. The secret was how easy it is to go climbing when you are living in a place like Omiš with climbing walls all around – you can literally be out of the house and in a route in less than 5 minutes.

I always had the belief that if you really want something, you need to do it regardless of circumstances. While I still believe this, I have found that altering circumstances in your favor helps a great deal in achieving your goals! Being motivated is great, but being motivated in the right circumstances is so much better.

My tick-list:

  • Raumerovo zlato (7b) FL, Naklice
  • Gatski san, (7b RP) 2nd go, Naklice
  • Droga (7b), Visoke Pole
  • Aminokiseline (7a+ hard), Naklice
  • Kor (7a+) 2nd go, Naklice
  • Trnoružica (7a) OS, Visoke Pole
  • Satarluk (7a) OS, Vojan
  • Porodica Zlikovsky (7a) OS, Mila Gojsalić
  • Pajumba dum (7a) FL, Naklice
  • Osmi mart (7a) 2nd go, Naklice
  • Secret of Cetina (6b+, 300m), with pitches: 5c, 6b+, 6a, 6b+, 5a, 5c, 5c.

Ana Pavic tick list: 

  • Satarluk (7a) RP
  • Pajumba dum (7a) RP
  • Čunga lungs (6c) FL
  • Šut (6c) FL
  • Žaba samoubica (6b) OS

P.S. Ana Pavić had her moment of glory when she flashed the route Šut (6c). While the grade is not that high, an interesting fact is that literally all of the 7b-climbing guys there went for the flash or onsight after her, and all fell in the crux (including me, twice!). I am pretty sure all of us underestimated the route after seeing her succeed and we got our very appropriate ass-whooping after these assumptions. Thanks for leveling us to the ground Ana!

Enjoy the photos!

More great views from top of Secret of Cetina (6b+, 300m) with Viktor:

 

Ponte San Quirino

Ponte San Quirino is a small climbing area in the Natisone river, with several sectors scattered in the riverbed, amounting to a total of around 100 routes. It is very local, with seldom visits from “pro” climbers – probably because of relatively poor rock quality and being a bit far away from all other climbing areas. The climbing style is conglomerate, with huge overhangs and brilliant juggy and reachy climbing.

Here is where the amateur climbers can feel like the pros! There are 10m roof routes with nothing but jugs, and 6a-6b climbs with huge overhangs and unusually reachy movement for the grade. Sometimes you need to do a full dyno only to get on top of a 6b! And to second this great climbing style, scenery and ambiance is simply beautiful. If you get hot or tired of climbing, simply jump in the chilling river water for a different kind of fun!

The overhangs in the river

A local climber told us of another “secret” spot, with secret meaning forgotten in this case, called Premariocco – Le Betulle. It is not in the guidebooks anymore, as it was last regularly climbed more than 20 years ago. Now the local heroes are changing the bolts and cleaning the moss from the overhangs (they actually cleaned the entire roof of moss with a mini-wash in a single day :-). There are five sectors here, each with only a handful of routes, but they are all the best overhanging climbs in the 7a grade range you will ever find.

Admittedly, the rock is not of the best quality, as the holds can get dirty. During the spring, the water rises to second or third bolt, and the holds often get full of dirt or moss (the locals even have the end of a broom left at the rock for cleaning the bigger muddy surfaces :-). But if you look behind a bit of grass or moss, you will discover a real playground of moves in the overhangs! The good routes do get cleaned quite fast into the season. As the rock is conglomerate, on-sighting is often not easy, but as the season progresses, the most climbed routes get white with chalk.

Except the very interesting climbing, the whole Natisone Valley is a small heaven to be in. There are many places in the river to take a swim in, many beautiful walks to have and small cities to explore. And just an hour drive away there are many beautiful mountain hiking walks. And everywhere you go the famous dolce vita the Italians are living will follow you – there is something sweet waiting for you on every corner. I could easily recommend Ponte San Quirino for an extended summer weekend getaway to any climber.

This was the first time we were here for more than a day, and the whole trip here really is amazing. If you want to explore a super-local climbing area, with a lot of interesting things to see, and pretty unique climbing, look no further and plan an extended summer weekend getaway here.

Find a tick-list of the trip, gallery and more info on the climbing areas below.

My tick-list:

Revoultion rock (7b) RP
Lupo de lupis (7a+) OS
Mafalda (7a+), second go
Linea verde (7a+), second go
Dance on the river bed (7a+)
Passo Falso (7a), second go
Senza tregua (7a), second go

Ana Pavić tick-list:

Polvere di stelle (7a)
Obliqua (6c)
10ish routes from 5c to 6b+

Climbing in Ponte San Quirino is possible rom April until October, but the best time to visit would be July and August if you want to have the complete summer experience.
Guidebook for most sectors there: http://www.webandana.com/crags/ud/natisone01.html

Except the climbing, I highly recommend visiting these establishments in Cividale del Friuli:
Pizza Al Sole: the best and very interesting kind of pizza
Zuckerfee: the best icecream, ever

P.S. Beers are good everywhere in case you were wondering!

Yosemite 2017

A year ago I visited Yosemite for the first time, and the trip was so great me and Viktor decided to repeat it again this year. Yosemite Valley is truly mesmerising the first time you visit, and equally amazing the second time as well!

This time we had two more Croatians with us, Siniša and Ivek, the team from PK Vertikal (they stayed 3 weeks). The first day we all headed to the famous Cookie Cliff, where Ivek and Škalec jumped on single pitch routes, while we practiced some aiding, hauling and jumaring skills. After the first day, with taking both our aiding speed into consideration and the the fact we only had one week in the Valley, we decided to go for a 2-day mixed (aid and free )ascent of the South Face of Washington Column instead of the originally planned Nose route, which takes 3-4 days for “normal” people.

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The Croatian team

The first big-wall experience was great – we did some aiding, we hauled our stuff up (that part is not so much fun), we slept on the ledge tied to the rope (so you don’t roll over), and met some cool people in the route. There was 7 of us sleeping on the ledge!

The second day we had to wait for 3-4 hours for other parties on the wall before being able to continue with the climb, as popular routes get (really) crowded here. This is unfortunately now very common in Yosemite, and can be a legit reason to bail the climb. And so did we – after a few more pitches of aiding, we realised there is no way we can make it in time to the top of the climb before night, so we rappelled down. On our way down there were 10 more people waiting to do the climb (there was 5 people in the 4th pitch alone). Chose your next routes carefully, echoed in the head.

The next three days we spent just free climbing, or attempting to free climb a few routes. We did two 5.9 multi-pitches, the very aesthetic Absolutely free, where by some luck we were alone all the way. The next day we almost got stuck in the mega crowded Superslide (5.9), where we waited for people, raced past some and tried to enjoy climbing in the whole mess of people – I think there was more than 15 people in this 5 pitch route at once!

The last day we decided to test ourselves in something a bit harder than our current levels. We went to Serenity Crack, a 10 pitch route with multiple 5.10a to 5.10d sections. We got scared, took our very first falls on gear (yikes!:-), aided (this time not because we wanted to), finished the route in the dark, and returned to floor dead beaten but determined – we will be back and free climb this thing! Aiding is fun, and it was very useful for us. We learned a lot about placing and trusting the gear, but free-climbing this perfect hand and finger crack is the proper way to do this climb!

We will be back.

In the meantime, enjoy a few pictures from Viktor (thank god he loves taking photos 🙂

Yosemite 2016

I went on to write a small report for my Yosemite trip this year (2017), only to realise I have an unpublished draft from the 2016 trip waiting for some final editing! So, here is the report from the last year’s trip to Yosemite (only 13 months late :-).

In September 2016, I visited Yosemite for the first time, and I certainly did not expect to go there on only 10 days notice as I went, without any preparation for trad climbing at all. But don’t miss an opportunity when you have it, even if it is not as you imagined it!

I was there on the International Climbers Meet organised by American Alpine Club with my “American” climbing partner Viktor (we climb in Croatia also). People from Grahorova gym will remember that Viktor and Karmen used to come with their kid Nika (now a grownup), and this kid was all over the place. The International Climbers meet is a  week of climbing and socialising between 50 climbers (usually about 2/3 of climbers are from US, and then people from all over the place, like Croatia, UK, Pakistan, Norway…), with clinics during the day and some lectures during some of the evenings.

Before going to Yosemite I managed to repeat a local test-piece Maskirni Keks (7c). A week later I was barely climbing up a 5.10d (around 6b+) on top-rope in Yosemite. The difference in climbing styles is huge – it’s more like starting climbing all over again. And without bolts, which we are so used to, the game becomes like a completely new sport all of a sudden.

Climbing cracks is first and foremost super interesting – you are holding yourself on without actually holding holds! You are jamming various body parts (from fingers, hands to arms, feet and legs, shoulders or even your entire body) between rock surfaces, and you expect it to hold you (or in my case as a beginner, this feeling could merely be called hope). Climbing on top rope is interesting, but the game really starts when you start to lead, and place your own gear. In trad, climbing on pre-placed gear is more or less considered like top roping or practicing for a valid ascent.

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The gear on display at the trad protection clinic.

I always wondered why do we as climbers have so many different scales to measure difficulty of a climb. Now I understand it totally makes sense to use a new scale when you are climbing something completely different in style. While translating the ascent of 5.10a to 6a might not sound as impressive as a 7c, I consider that grade in trad a bigger achievement than red-pointing 7c.

One other thing that is different, except not having bolts and jamming yourself instead of holding yourself, is the approach to climbing and what is a good ascent, or a good day of climbing. For instance, when trying a multi-pitch routes in Paklenica, the first question you would hear is: “Did you (free) climb it?”, while here people will ask you “How was it?”. In Europe we might get a bit too obsessed with climbing stuff free, while with trad climbing, and it seems to me even more so in Yosemite, the point is to go out and have a bit of an adventure. Did you manage to get to the top? How was the gear placing? How was leading pitch XX on the climb? People don’t really ask if you did the route free – it is more about having a good day of adventure. The difference between doing the route and doing the route free seems a lot smaller in Yosemite.

Enough small talk, here is the action we did day by day:

Day 1: top rope practice and hanging like a potato in 5.10d climbs on top-rope.

Day 2: I went on a gear placing clinic, where I finally began to understand what is a good placed cam or a nut. After the clinic I did my first single-pitch 5.6 lead, followed by a 3-pitch of the same grade.

Day 3: We did the great 5-pitch climb, After Six (graded 5.7).

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Power at the top of After Six 🙂

Day 4: The day 🙂 We went to climb a very famous route, the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, an amazing 10-pitch route just in front of the Nose of El Capitan. Except being listed as one of the top 50 classic climbs in North America, the entire day of climbing you are rewarded with an amazing view of El Capitan.

This was the first really serious climb we did – it’s a climb with continuous 5.8-5.9 climbing (it’s the grade where joking around stops, and stuff gets a bit more serious, at least for me), and there is a pitch of 5.10a face climbing protected with 3 bolts and 2 cams in total. Needless to say, I was scared shitless. But off we went, and finished the climb. I consider it to be my best and most difficult climbing I did in 2016. The grade is only 6a translated to our scale, but it does not compare to other ascents I did that year (I redpointed a 7c, onsighted a 200-meter 7a and did the BWSC speed competition in 20 minutes the same year).

But climbing without bolts, on new rock where it is quite easy to slip in fact, is completely different. The level of control and consciousness in a climb is well beyond pushing physical limits on a hard sport climb. There is a lot more decision making during a climb, and a lot more of your willpower being used.

Day 5: rest 🙂

Day 6: we decided to go “cragging”, which means climbing single pitch trad climbs. We went back to the place where we top-roped the first day, to see how much we learned. I went straight to a 5.10a that seamed easy the first day on top-rope. And before I knew it, I was half way up the climb, pumped as fuck, and too scared to fall on my own gear. So I placed an extra cam and sit in it. Although in retrospect I see that well placed cams in Yosemite are as good as bolts, sitting on gear for the first time scared some fucks out of me, and I was done for the day. I also realised that one day of rest might be good enough for the body, but it certainly was not enough for the mind. I simply had no willpower to win a fight with fear again.

Enjoy some photos by fellow international climber George Cave and my US climbing partner, Viktor.

The first 100!

Dear readers, it’s been a while since our last post – it seems this sentence is becoming a tradition for opening new posts :). Well, the lack of posts does not mean that we do not have anything to write about, contrary, the ideas abound, but we are to busy (or sometimes to lazy, to be honest) to translate thoughts to words. I just realized that I have a nice occasion to resurrect this blog which does not require a lot of effort to write. Also, currently I’m a Croatian pro climber (unemployed, living at parent’s house), so I cannot hide anymore behind I’m-busy-excuse. So, the occasion is: I climbed my 100th route grade 8a or harder!

Some times ago, I posted about reaching a milestone of having climbed 50 routes graded 8a or harder.  It took me 10 years to go from 0 to 50, and now a bit less than 3 years to go from 50 to 100. So, by extrapolating this trend (double the number in 1/3 time), I should reach 200 in a year 😀 Yeah, right. With a recent habit of Croatian corporations to go bankrupt, I think they employ similar math when they plan their income 🙂

In the 50 8as post, I dreamed about climbing Chuck Norris (8b+) on Pokojec. I am glad that, in the meantime, this route made it to my tick list, as well as my first 8c, 8a onsight, and 8a multipitch. This time, I will also put a picture of the route that I dream will make it to the tick list, it almost did, but well… it didn’t.

I will let you guess the name of the route 😉

For those hard-core geeks, like myself, below, you can find a list of my 100 8as.

¡Hasta luego amigos!
Jurica

P. S. Spanish is not here by accident, but more on that later 😉

 

The list:

2007

1. Rosna Ljubičica (8a), Pokojec, 5.7.2007.
2. Guernica (8a), Kotečnik, 7.7.2007.

2008

3. Urbanova (8a), Mišja peč, 16.3.2008.
4. Mala sirena (8a/a+), Pokojec, 10.5.2008.
5. Kill Bill (8b), Pokojec, 11.9.2008.
6. Samsara (8a), Mišja peč, 7.12.2008.

2009

7. Giljotina (8a), Mišja peč, 23.1.2009.
8. Čao bejbe (8a), Mišja peč, 22.3.2009.
9. Every hole is a good hole (8a/a+), Kalnik, 6.6.2009.
10. Hooker (8a+), Golobove pečine, 12.7.2009.
11. Genom (8a), Vela stiniva, 24.7.2009.
12. Jurek&Maca (8a), Vranja peć, 5.8.2009.
13. Zagorski tarzan (8a+), Pokojec, 3.9.2009.

2010

14. Mjesečina (8a+), Pokojec, 9.5.2010.
15. Rumpel štilski (8a), Pokojec, 7.7.2010.
16. Bruchheinzi (8a), Peggauer wand, 13.10.2010.
17. Oxa (8a), Pokojec, 30.10.2010.

2011

18. Mrtvaški ples (8b), Mišja peč, 30.1.2011.
19. Huda čudovišta (8a, FA), Vranja peć, 24.2.2011.
20. Albanski konjak (8a), Mišja peč, 26.2. 2011.
21. Gorilko (8a), Vranja peć, 31.5.2011.
22. Anthrax (8a), Zia, 24.9.2011.
23. Enigma (8b, FA), Pokojec, 28.9.2011.
24. Prste lomim živci mi krvare (8a), Pokojec, 11.10.2011.
25. Marmots at work (8b), Pandora, 23.12.2011.

2012

26. Snoop Boggi Direkt (8a), Pandora, 9.4.2012.
27. Winnetou (8a), Paklenica, 15.4.2012.
28. Paštašuta (8a/a+), Vranja peć, 29.4.2012.
29. Psiho (8a), Pokojec, 25.5.2012.
30. Kompresor (8a, FA), Pokojec, 13.6.2012.
31. Specijalist za življenje (8a+), Kotečnik, 24.7.2012.
32. Disleksija (8a+, FA), Pokojec, 21.9.2012.

2013

33. Corto (8a), Mišja peč, 30.5.2013.
34. SPK Direkt (8a), Čuturaševa peć, 9.6.2012.
35. Che Guevara (8a), Bitnje, 6.7.2013.
36. Modern art (8a), Goltschach, 11.7.2013.
37. Ledena doba (8a), Čreta, 18.9.2013.
38. Sonce v očeh (8a+), Mišja peč, 13.10.2013.
39. Reve de papillon (8a), Buoux, 5.11.2013.

2014

40. Es ist vollbracht (8b+), Pandora, 17.1.2014.
41. Los compadres de puta madre (8a/a+), Paklenica, 5.4.2014.
42. Ženska za nagrado (8a), Bohinjska bela, 20.5.2014.
43. Pune bombe v ovinek (8a+), Čreta, 3.6.2014.
44. Pravi muži (8a+, FA), Vranja peć, 28.6.2014.
45. Placcoman (8a), Barratro, 16.7.2014.
46. Gojzr party (8a+), Ter, 9.7.2014.
47. Chiquita (8a), Mišja peč, 22.7.2014.
48. Iglu (8a), Mišja peč, 11.9.2014.
49. Alexander (8a), Goltschach, 28.9.2014.
50. Independence (8a+), Preddvor, 30.9.2014.
51. Antuan Pirulero (8a), Siurana, 29.10.2014.

2015

52. Marjetica (8b), Mišja peč, 21.2.2015.
53. Vizija (8c), Mišja peč, 6.5.2015.
54. Active discharge (8a), Osp, 16.5.2015.
55. Brdavs (8a), Retovje, 28.5.2015.
56. Porosenok (8a), Demir kapija, 10.6.2015.
57. Zabushant (8a), Demir kapija, 11.6.2015.
58. Neox (8a), Buzetski kanjon, 21.6.2015.
59. Šefka (8a), Buzetski kanjon, 25.6.2015.
60. Too late (8a), Buzetski kanjon, 25.6.2015.
61. Ritem v zraku (8a+), Bohinjska bela, 9.7.2015.
62. Rock’N’Rolla (8a, FA), Golubinjak, 19.7.2015.
63. Sex and candy (8a+), Skedenj, 5.8.2015.
64. Nina (8a), Skedenj, 12.8.2015.
65. Love story (8a), Bohinjska bela, 16.8.2015.
66. Dubbio finale (8a+), Baratro, 18.8.2015.
67. Pokraculja (8a), Retovje, 3.9.2015.
68. Leite di burra (8a), Statte, 4.10.2015.
69. L’artiglio di Dorica (8a), Statte, 4.10.2015.
70. Agente naranja (8a), Chullila, 28.11.2015.

2016

71. Blood, sugar, sex, magic (8a), Mišja peč, 27.2.2016.
72. Sreča vrtnice (8b), Mišja peč, 27.2.2016.
73. Treče tisočletje (8a), Mišja peč, 2.3.2016.
74. Strta srca (8a+), Mišja peč, 20.4.2016.
75. Cigo (8a), Paklenica, 29.4.2016.
76. Corrida (8c), Mišja peč, 14.5.2016.
77. Tekila (8a), Mišja peč, 15.5.2016.
78. Agricantius (8a, 200m), Paklenica, 22.5.2016.
79. Chuck norris (8b+), Pokojec, 1.10.2016.
80. Ptičja perspektica (8a+), Mišja peč, 13.10.2016.
81. Happiness therapy (8a, flash), Smrka, 30.10.2016.
82. El patator (8a), Smrka, 1.11.2016.
83. I believe I can fly (8a), Smrka, 2.11.2016.
84. Brač a gauche (8a), Smrka, 4.11.2016.
85. Olive holds (8a), Smrka, 5.11.2016.
86. Sveti Duje (8a), Marjan, 6.11.2016.
87. Pikova dama (8b), Mišja peč, 13.11.2016.

2017

88. Dreamworld (8a+), San Vito lo Capo, 2.1.2017.
89. Roof rabbit (8a), San Vito lo Capo, 4.1.2017.
90. Variante robin (8a+), San Vito lo Capo, 6.1.2017.
91. Adelante (8a), Val rosandra, 22.1.2017.
92. White power (8a), Mišja peč, 8.4.2017.
93. Paradise lost (8a), Preddvor, 28.5.2017.
94. 366 dni (8a), Snovik, 2.7.2017.
95. Wasser vaga (8a), Kanjon Rječine, 7.7.2017.
96. Happy end (8a, onsight), Vranjača, 10.7.2017.
97. Devica light (8a+), Vranjača, 16.7.2017.
98. Aglaia (8a), Paklenica, 20.7.2017.
99. Spirit of Rock (8a+), Vaganac, 21.7.2017.
100. Dogma (8a+), Šeginov potok, 20.8.2017.

Happy new year!

Dear readers, first of all, happy 2017! We wish you that all your dreams come true!

It’s been a while since the last post, so I decided to write a little update on what’s going on recently.

During the past months, my life pretty much revolves around finishing my PhD thesis. Since 2013, I’ve been enrolled on a PhD programme on machine learning at the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, and my time as a PhD student is coming to an end. Maybe I can use the opportunity to brag a little bit. Recently, I was a part of the team from Jožef Stefan Institute that won the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Power Challenge. Among the other competitors, we made the most accurate model for prediction of power consumption of the Mars Express satellite. This happens to be very important for ESA and may extend the life of the satellite. That is, this extraordinary satellite may stay in orbit around Mars a bit longer due to our solution. How cool is that! We were invited to ESA’s Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, where I gave a lecture about our solution. The event was recorded, so if anyone is interested it can be seen here: https://livestream.com/ESA/mexopendataday/videos/140338623

Space exploration is cool, but let’s go back to important topics: scaling up rock faces for no apparent reason 🙂

I reckon that the most important thing to improve ones climbing is motivation (or to improve any skill, as a matter of fact). For me, it is much easier to stay motivated if I have a clear goal, so each year I try to come up with some challenge. For example, 2 years ago it was doing 50 routes 7c an harder in a year. Last year is was simple, to do an 8c. For 2016, I decided to take Gorazd Hren’s the four eights challenge: 8c redpoint, 8a multipitch, 8a onsight and 8A boulder. By the way, Gorazd completed the challenge by climbing Cupido (8a, 350m) in Anića kuk on 31st of December! Anića kuk is not really a pleasant place to be during winter.

With Corrida and Agricantus the first two objectives were ticked off. In November, I went for a quick trip to Smrka – the new amazing crag on the island of Brač. Smrka was bolted in 2015 by the French “team excellence” and it’s definitely one of the best crags in Croatia. Tufa climbing at its finest, with amazing up to 50m long routes. Smrka is packed with 8as, so my best opportunity to onsight 8a in 2016 was there. To cut the story short, I did 6 8as but none of them onsight. I got close a few times, but no cigar. However, I did one 8a flash, so a flash will have to do it :).

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Smrka, Igor Čorko (try to find him) in one of the best routes ever Happiness therapy (8a), we both flashed it. Photo: Sunčica Hraščanec

Next, December was reserved for 8A boulder. Luckily, 20 minutes from Ljubljana, near Zalog, there is a hill with a small granite outcrop on top of it. They used to carve millstones there for many centuries. Now, boulderers found a totally different use of this abandoned quarry. Zalog is a home to a few legendary Slovenian classics, including Urh Čehovin’s masterpiece The End, with the mighty grade of 8C. I set my eyes on another Urh’s notoriously crimpy testpiece: Cvile Gumijo (8A). In December, the temperatures started to drop below zero, so the strategy was to have crashpads ready in my car, hit Zalog for a quick session when the sun appears (which is not too often in Ljubljana during winter), and then back to writing PhD thesis. I was really close on a couple of occasions, almost sticking the finishing jug, however, the right conditions, with me being there felling strong, did not align enough times until the end of 2016. So, the 2016 challenge is not completed, but it served its purpose. Anyway, I’m happy that 8A boulder is within reach, hopefully it will happen in 2017.

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Sunny day at Zalog

With a bunch of friends from all over Croatia, and my girlfriend Petra, we wrapped a year with a trip to San Vito Lo Capo. At one moment, there were 17 Croats in San Vito, which must be an all time high. San Vito is one of the classical European climbing destinations, a must for any serious climber. Much recommended. However, due to vicinity of sea, pay attention to rusty bolts and anchors. The local are rebolting diligently but there are hundreds of routes and some are not in best shape. Our main activity there was eating ridiculous amount of mortadella and ricotta, and watching the Godfather series. As we were told, Italians live to eat, not eat to live, so as a part of a cultural experience we pretended to be Italians for a week 🙂 This resulted in getting few extra kilos of fat, however, fat can be lost, but the taste of cannoli siciliani will stay forever 🙂

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The San Vito crew (from left to right): Petra, me, Ivo, Lija, Sandra, Franko, Malik, Enna, Luka&Cocy the dog, Inga, Sunka and Gogo. Niksi, Tamara, Branko, Moco and Iris arrived later.

On the way to Sicily we stopped in Bari to visit our friends. It was so nice to meet the Bari crew again and to climb in Laterza and Pulo. I miss this place, the amazing energy in the Kankudai bouldering gym, the gelato after training, foccacia, pizza… My projects in Laterza and Pulo stayed projects, but at least I have additional reason to return. Preferably when I loose the fat I gained, the routes in Bari are no joke.

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The Bari crew: Sara, Piero, Antonio, Marco, me, Petra, Inga and Luka.

While I was busy with chasing my 2016 goals, Perica changed his job and went to a business trip to USA. While he was there, he did a bit of climbing – in Yosemite valley 🙂 The visit was short, but the impressions have been made, and the seed was planted. We will see what will grow out of it, but I must say that it is sprouting 🙂

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Perica enjoying the granite slabs of the Valley, with El Cap in the background

OK, this little update turned out not so little. Thank you for reading (for those of you who endured until the end). Below you can find a few photos and a list of routes I did in Smrka and San Vito Lo Capo.

Cheers,
Jurica

Smrka tick-list (30. 10. 2016. – 6. 11. 2016.):
– Happiness therapy (8a, flash)
– El patator (8a)
– I believe I can fly (8a)
– Brač à gauche (8a)
– Olive holds (8a)
– Sveti Duje (8a, Marjan, Split)
– Brač le Bol (7c+)

San Vito Lo Capo tick-list (31. 12. 2016. – 6. 1. 2017)
– Variante robin (8a+)
– Dreamworld (8a+)
– Roof rabit (8a)
– Mega dave (7c+, onsight)
– Christo (7c+)