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!

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+)

 

Stories from the south, part II: Bari

After almost 3 months of being on the road, I’m finally settled back in Ljubljana, which by now got embraced by its regular winter companion – fog. This makes for a perfect opportunity to recount the sunny memories from the south.

As a visiting student, I spend two months in Bari, capital of the Puglia region in Italy. I must admit that this chaotic port city didn’t seem very attractive at first. However, don’t judge the book by its covers, they say, and they couldn’t have said it better! After two months spend there, Bari took a special place in my heart. I’m sure it will find its place on my itinerary many times more.

Being climber at heart, of course the first thing I did was to look for a climbing gym (which was not a trivial task at all). The only bouldering gym in Bari is Kankudai, which I learnt, dates as far as 25 years back. It reminded me a bit on good old Podsused. My first training session there I spend completely alone, wondering if there are any climbers in Bari at all. Then, two days later, I found the place completely packed with psyched climbers! It turned out, they train on Mondays and Thursdays, and everybody train together. Immediately they embraced me as one of their own. I was taught rules of the gym: flash doesn’t count if you touch holds other that the starting ones; after climbing we do body workout; when climbing sequences, hell hooks and toe hooks are not allowed, and for God’s sake don’t do knee bars :). Oh man, I just love places with character, and this place has one!

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Kankudai bouldering gym

Bari has small, but extraordinary climbing community. I didn’t felt that kind of energy in a while. No matter how hard you climb, your effort will be cheered, and your success will be applauded. In today’s shiny new climbing gyms, more and more often people tend to mind their own business and don’t interact to much with each-other. However, in Bari the true climbing camaraderie is still alive.

As you can probably tell, I’m absolutely trilled about training sessions in Kankudai, but of course, we did some outdoor climbing as well. Around Bari, there are a lot of beautiful places to climb. Statte, Laterza, Pulo di Altamura, to name a few. I have to single out Statte, the unusual place where pockets meet tufas, two types of holds I like the most. Simply brilliant routes! I managed to repeat some local classics: Leite de burra (8a), L’artiglio di Dorica (8a), Omaha lunga (7c+), CaH di LumH (7c), Bong (7b+, OS), Superskunk (7b+, OS), and some more easier routes.

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Good company and good overhang, what more can one ask for?

I owe largely to the local climbers, for the wonderful 2 month experience I had in Bari. They were not just climbing partners, but great friends as well. So, from the bottom of my heart, I have to say: Grazie Baresi!

Part of the Kankudai team, “training sessions” would often last well after midnight.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for the 3rd Spanish chapter of Stories from the south.

Jurica

Stories from the south, part I: Macedonia

Our travels are usually motivated by climbing, but invitation to a wedding in Macedonia was opportunity to travel Petra and I happily embraced. We packed suits and dresses, and hit the south (of course we left some room for climbing equipment).

The wedding itself was extraordinary experience: wedding in the ancient orthodox mansion, traditional music, oro dance, slapping money on musician’s forehead, ordering rakija and having served a full jar of it – all night long… I could go on and on and easily devote the entire blog post just to the wedding, but this blog should be about climbing, shouldn’t it?

Climbing-wise, Macedonia is most known for its world class bouldering venue Prilep. However, summer is way too hot for pulling on extremely sharp granite in Prilep. So, as an attractive sport climbing alternative, the local climbers suggested Demir Kapija.

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Entrance to the canyon

Demir Kapija is a small town in south-eastern part of Macedonia, sitting on the bank of Vardar river. The river has carved a narrow canyon through the mountain, which earned the town its name – Iron Gate (from Turkish Demir Kapı). We had four days to explore climbing sectors scattered through the canyon – and we had a great time. My favorite sector was Vardarska sahara, yellow, slightly overhanging wall, with incredible routes up to 30m long. The climbing there is technical, crimpy, and super-sustained – one of the most sustained routes I ever climbed on.

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Vardarska sahara

With all that rakija consumed during the wedding party powering me, I had no choice but to do most of the hard routes in Demir kapija 🙂 Here’s my tick list: Porošenok (8a, 2. go), Zabushant (8a, 2. go), Kalabaster (7c+, OS), Drozzi (7c, OS), Jamal (7b+, OS), Jelat (7b+, OS), Crna 2 (7b, OS), Chekor po chekor (7b, OS), Skapa žena (7a+, OS).

Petra did her second 6c in just few goes, and skipped few grades in onsight style by doing a notorious 6b+ slab, where the crux involves literally no handholds, and only one downward facing foothold.

If you travel to Demir Kapija, don’t expect huge rock faces and hundreds of routes, but there is a decent amount of well bolted, quality routes. However, what will you get in return is a memorable experience of Macedonian lifestyle, pristine nature and awesome (and cheap) food. I have to advertise restaurant Kutchkin where čevapi were out of this world! A man to search for is Alex Klenov. A Russian guy with permanent address in Demir kapija, who runs the Rock Land Camp, and knows everything you need to know about climbing there. Fun fact: he competed in BWSC 2006!

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Camping place – we had the entire place for ourselves

The »Stories from the south« is about to have a second chapter: Two days ago I arrived in Bari, a city in southern Italy. I will stay here until mid-November to work on a common project between Jožef Stefan Institute and University of Bari Aldo Moro (not to be confused, the project is about science, not climbing :)). Hopefully, I will get to try some local climbing as well, or at least do some quality training time. For sure it will not be boring, since the first hour spend here involved breaking into my car… More on that later 🙂

After Bari, another southern adventure is on agenda: We booked tickets to a Spanish climbing paradise – Chullila.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Jurica

There is no place like home

When the holidays arrive, we climbers often feel almost obliged to travel to some distant place in search for “the best” crag that ever existed. We sit in a car, drive as far as humanly possible in one push, climb a few routes, then reverse the driving torture, catch some sleep, and endure that cursed Monday totally wrecked at our jobs. Sometimes I wonder, why I just went to a place with 500 routes, only to climb 20 of those? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against visiting places like Rodellar or Ceuse, but my point is that maybe sometimes it is possible to please climbing appetite at your doorstep – as good as in Spain or France.

Driven by the former “wise” philosophical discussion, the day before departure to our dream crag 500km away, Petra and I decided to head for the good old Buzet instead. Istria is slowly (or maybe not so slowly?) but surely becoming a world class climbing destination. There are numerous high quality crags, with different orientation, making it possible to climb all year long. Also, historic Istrian towns, like Grožnjan or Motovun, are absolutely charming way to spend rest days, or just to have a coffee between morning and afternoon climbing session. As an added value, there is a good chance to bump into old friends, which know all the beta, and will help you to send your project faster :).

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Pengari sector – it doesn’t get much better than this!

Climbing-wise, I was feeling in a great shape. By some miracle, I could crank hard crux moves, while being totally pumped. I can’t remember the last time I had this quality – or when did I acquire it :). I managed two 8a routes 2.go in the same day (Too late and Šefka), which is my new personal highlight. Also, I onsighted absolutely phenomenal 7c+ called Skitalica, and a bunch of routes in 7a-7c region.

Enjoy few picture from our Istria trip, and see you at some (domestic) crag :).

 

Siurana

Siurana is a piece of climbers’ heaven in the heart of Catalonia in Spain. I briefly visited it few years ago, and was completely blown away by the place. That time, we also visited other major crags in Spain, like Rodellar and Margalef, but Siurana, with its magical atmosphere and rich climbing history, left the biggest impression on me. Yes, I have an itch for places from old climbing movies and consider that the early Masters of Stone series are the best climbing movies ever made :). This time we decided to devote the entire trip just to Siurana. My girlfriend Petra, and I teamed up with the crew from Zagreb: Pavao, Nikola, Sven, Ana and Ljubo – the psyche machine, for a two weeks of climbing.

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The village of Siurana sits on top of the cliff, surrounded by endless amount of yellow and gray rock.

The climbing in Siurana is more on the old school side: technical routes on gentle overhangs mainly with crimps and pockets. More than 60 sectors scattered around and 1000+ of routes, can keep you busy for years (or lifetime if you surname is not Ondra). Today, you can often encounter a phrase ‘Spanish grades’, but the locals are vigorously guarding Siurana from soft grades. The grades are not super stiff like in Buoux, but you will rarely find an easy tick, and if you do, it will likely be downgraded in the next guidebook issue.

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Anabolica, one of the most classical 8a’s in Siurana.

We ended by taking just 2 rest days on the entire trip. This was not optimal for climbing performance, but the psyche was too high for sitting in the camp. I climbed around 45 routes up to 8a, with several 7c onsights. My Siurana highlights are: Antuan Pirulero (8a, 2. go), Skateboy (7c+), Pequeño saltamontes (7c+), Solos a solas (7c, OS), Boys don’t cry (7c, OS), Der palo torete (7c), Malcarat (7c). We also visited nearby climbing area Montsant, where I onsighted amazing 50 meter long 7c called Kamaleon.

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Nice interior decorations in Bar Siurana 🙂 As always, thanks to Bim sport d.o.o. and Petzl for support.

It’s been three weeks since we are back, and I’m finally starting to recover from the post-rock-trip depression :). We flew from golden Catalonian sun directly to the season of endless rain and fog in Slovenia. Sometimes you get a desire to drop the job and spend few months dirtbagging under the cliff. It amazed me how many people are actually doing exactly that. We meet numerous people from all over the world who are traveling for months just visiting top climbing venues. Climbers are really innovative when it comes to traveling cheaply and fitting jobs around climbing. I met a guy who is doing (a part of) his PhD in Siurana! Well, it’s time to start ‘innovating’ :).

Thank you for visiting Levaticbros! Until next time, Jurica.

Photo gallery from Spain: