The competition route follows a line in the Debeli kuk, an impressive 200m wall rising in the middle of the Paklenica canyon, and is named accordingly: Big Wall Speed Climbing.
In the competition we climb the first five pitches of total six, which adds up to 160m of height with grades as follows: 5c (33m), 6a+ (22m), 6c+ (43m), 4a (20m), 6b (42m). Each pitch has it’s own characteristics:
First pitch starts with a chimney, followed by strange climbing in a corner, where it’s not simple at all to be fast, and extra strength does not help much – you cannot climb it like a ladder, but you have to use your feet precisely.
Second pitch is our favorite. It starts with a bouldery crux of 4 moves, and then continues as a ladder of jugs – where you can pull like crazy with hands and be minimalistic with feet placements (but like this you burn out faster).
Third pitch is the longest, the most vertical, and the most demanding – after 35 meters of jugs (placed far apart and often in vertical side-pull positions) you get to the crux, which involves a hard jump from a sharp crimp to a jug with slippery footholds. The challenge in the third pitch is not to burn all your power, but still be fast.
After that comes the easiest pitch, 4a – but the most scary pitch in case of a fall. This short and easy pitch has mostly big sharp radiators in it – a typical type of holds in Paklenica. Falling there would not be funny at all (when being fast, you have to be very loose on the belay, and this extends every fall for an additional 2-3 meters).
Finally, last pitch has a fast juggy start, but second half changes into a very tricky chimney where again you have to be very precise with the feet – which is not simple at all when being fast, and by now breathing very heavy.
Climbing the route in competition
During the competition we have to exchange leads in the route, as simultaneous climbing is forbidden for safety reasons. This puts a a significant emphasis on the first climber, as he leads the hardest pitch. This got a bit harder during the last few years, as the tactics changed and no longer include stopping at the 2nd anchor (more on racking up and tactics in a later post), so the leader has to sprint through the second pitch, then follow with almost equally fast tempo through the third pitch all the way to the crux – this adds up to almost 60 meters of sprinting on jugs before the crux jump.
Jurica took the challenge and responsibility of being the leading climber from the first year we are competing, and he is doing it this year with more zest then ever. As a second climber, Perica has a lot more work with gear on the anchors, and generally should go faster in the long pitches as he is climbing on top-rope and starts the hard pitches after a rest on belay.
Interestingly, during all these years Perica never led the third and hardest pitch, not even once during training – he was always climbing it on top-rope – so, technically speaking he never officially climbed the route, in spite of holding the record, and climbing the route probably a 100 times!
Training for the route changed a lot through the years – from occasionally climbing the route and maybe a few runs to help with the cardio – to a 3 months siege of the route, with specific 2-phase training, and memorizing each hold, each move and each clip of the route.
During the first phase, our training involved doing a 7 weeks to 50 pull-ups program, coupled with endurance climbing in the gym, exercises for core and antagonist muscles, and light running to prepare for the cardio based second phase. We also spent three full weekends in the route, practicing the moves and finding new, faster sequences.
Unfortunately, we never tested our max pull-ups, because our cardio phase already started as we were finishing the pull-up program, and now there is too much other training going on to afford additional training stress on the pull-up bar. The most important thing is that we feel strong – so I guess the program worked!
In the second phase, which is more simple but a lot more intense – we do three things. First is interval running, involving an exchange of sprint and normal speed running sequences in a single push. Next part is basically doing the first part on the rock – let’s call it sprinting vertically. The third and most important part of training is making speed attempts in the route itself – where we basically do 2 speed runs in the route per day during a weekend. This phase is especially difficult because of strong emphasis on cardio – it involves very brutal training sessions, where feeling nausea or being close to puking is not excluded, but rather a frequent part of the training.
The bar is high in 2014
The speed limit is off this year, as the teams competing for gold are both training very hard, and are more prepared than anyone has ever been for this competition. Our rivals shook things up additionally last weekend, with a time of 20″ 56′ in training – only 7 seconds slower than our record from 2012, for which we trained a full two months. Yes, we did scratch our head a couple of times!
Next day it was our turn. Fueled by fierce competition we sprinted up the route. In spite of many technical mistakes (e.g., Perica fell in 3rd pitch, which didn’t happen in 5 years) the clock stopped at 21″ 20′. The race is ON!
During the weekend, we also made a nice photo session with Luka Tambača. Thank you a lot Luka! As always, he did an excellent job, as you can see in the gallery: Training for BWSC 2014.
For more work from Luka, visit his personal page: lukatambaca.com.
Tune-up next week for a complete history of BWSC competition!