Ever since early 60s climbers from Croatia and abroad used to gather in Paklenica canyon for the Labour day holidays. The tradition of Big Wall Speed Climbing started in the year 2000, with an idea of becoming a stage where the best big-wall climbers will test their skills. And indeed, no other climbing event in Croatia can boast with such impressive list of participants: Stefan Glowacz, Leo Houlding, former world champion Tomas Mrazek, Dani Andrada, and a line-up of slovenian aces Lukič, Grmovšek and Silvo Karo, to name a few.
The story of women’s field is rather simple – well known Croatian climber, Sunčica Hraščanec, won every competition so far (ok, except one in 2009 when she attended the expedition to Mt. Everest). Sunčica climbed with several partners: Irena Vrsalović, Maja Roboz, Biljana Težak and Inga Patarčić – we have a local joke that who ever ties in with Sunčica will win, but nevertheless, to make a strong team you need two strong climbers.
In the men’s field, the beginning of the BWSC competition was marked by the domination of Marko Lukič. He took 6 straight wins with various partners, all of them being top alpine climbers: Silvo Karo, Erik Švab and Andrej Grmovšek. With Andrej he set the record of 22:58 in 2005. During that period, the competition was sponsored by Red Bull, which meant top-notch organisation and big money prizes. Elite international climbers, like Stefan Glowacz and Tim Emmett were regular visitors of BWSC.
After Lukič and Grmovšek retired from competing in 2005, Croatian aces Igor Čorko and Ljubomir Sakač took over. They were unbeatable for 3 years, which culminated with them setting the record of 21:23 in 2009. That period was also marked with the world’s very best climbers coming to compete in Paklenica. BWSC was sponsored by Mammut (main sponsor), Trangoworld and Ocun, which all sent their best athletes to compete. Dani Andrada, Cedric Lachat, Tomas Mrazek and many others tested their skills against Čorko&Sakač, but none was able to take the title from them.
After setting the record of 21:23, Čorko&Sakač announced retirement in 2010. This meant one thing – first place was open for taking. Many domestic teams lined up, but Slovenian brothers and super strong climbers Klemen and Jure Bečan won the gold. Unfortunately, 2010 was the last year with Mammut as the main sponsor of BWSC competition. After that, BWSC was left without big sponsors, which meant fewer famous international climbers and smaller prize fund.
Local climbers didn’t let the BWSC fire extinct, and in 2011 Paklenica’s local Marko Marasović and Emil Mucko showed that the Čorko&Sakač record (for which everybody was thinking will going to stand for a long time) is no longer safe. They won with a time a little bit over a minute slower that the record. Next year, motivated by their achievement, we took the game more seriously, and after few months of specific preparations, managed to win and set the new (and current) record with the time of 20:49.
During this period (2010 – 2012), the organizers of BWSC, National park Paklenica, were getting demotivated by the lack of sponsors and small number of participants. They were seriously thinking about stopping the event, but luckily fierce competition and enthusiasm of the teams which remained faithful to BWSC helped them change their mind. So, instead of shutting the event down, they decided to take it to the next level. In the year 2013, the program was richer than ever, and alongside the title event Big Wall Speed Climbing, many other events were organized, like climbing marathon, trekking competition and top-rope competition – in other words, something for everybody.
We hope the tradition of BWSC will remain strong for many years to come. BWSC had its ups and downs, but we have to remember that it always remained what it was from the 60s: a gathering of people bond by common passion in one of the most beautiful places a climber can think of – Paklenica canyon.