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.


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.


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:


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:

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!

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!

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


The list:


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:

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 :).


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.


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 🙂


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.


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 🙂


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.


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+)


Chuck Norris

If Pokojec was University, its final exam would be the route named Chuck Norris, and Igor Čorko would be the profesor. After many years and huge amounts of effort I finally passed all the exams Pokojec had to offer, including Chuck Norris. Can I apply now to become assistant of Prof. Čorko, instead of his pupil? 🙂

Back in 2009 when Igor Čorko did the first ascent of Chuck Norris, it was yet another route on Pokojec, and it didn’t receive much attention. He didn’t do himself a favour by grading it 8a+. With time, however, it became evident that this route is something special. Special in a way that it is bloody hard. Much much harder than Čorko has initially suggested. His effort back then was much more impressive than the modest grade he gave the route may suggest.

Years have passed and the route hasn’t seen a repeat. Few people have actually tried it, I can name maybe one or two besides myself. There is not many fans of relentless mono pulling out there, so the queues were not forming under the route. When I first tried it, I got spanked big time. There is no tricks on this route, just plain hard moves. Mostly on monos, and one campus move from crimp to crimp with desperately bad foothold. After few seasons (not days!) of trying it, I finally did all the moves. However, linking the whole thing seemed light years away. I had serious doubts whether I will ever be strong enough to do Chuck.


If you plan to try Chuck, bring your mono skills!

Fast forward few more years of countless fingerboard and campus sessions and monos on Chuck started to feel comfortable rather than tendon breaking hell. This year I realised that I’m ready to do the route. This realisation was probably more satisfying than actually doing the route. Chuck Norris was my measuring stick for years. Each year I would evaluate my progress as a climber on it. Getting confirmation that all the hard training is paying off is what really matters, climbing the route was just a cherry on the top. Actually, I would not mind few more seasons with Chuck.

So, how hard it really is? I will stick my neck out and say 8b+. It is harder than its neighbour Kill Bill by a good margin, so adding a plus to Bill’s grade seems logical. But I really don’t have any other similar route to compare with. Well, it’s time to go to Frankenjura to calibrate our Pokojec grading scale 🙂

While we are at Pokojec, I have to mention my brother Perica who recently climbed the classic Maskirni keks (7c).  Doing Maskirni is nothing new to him, but his latest ascent was the most impressive. First time he did it with 60kg, second with 70kg, and now with 80kg. I hope he will not go for 90kg ascent 🙂

Fun fact. Did you know that Chuck Norris is also a climber? He climbed Mount Everest twice. First time it took him 15 minutes, 14 of which he spend building a snowman at the top. The second time, he climbed it by accident, while sleepwalking.

A picture is worth thousand words, while a picture of Chuck Norris is worth two thousand words, thus I shall stop writing and let you enjoy the photos, as always, taken by Luka Tambača.


For few years now, I’m dreaming of doing an 8a multi-pitch in Anića kuk. So, after finishing the Corrida project, I switched my focus to that. Who would say that only one week after Corrida, I would tick-off this thing as well from my life time list? So, yesterday, I did Agricantus in Paklenica! It’s 200m long route, with 7 pitches: 6c, 5c, 7b, 7b+, 6a, 8a, 7b. You can read below few words about the whole experience.


We were too busy with climbing, so I only have this blurry photo from the top of Agricantus.

I’m so happy to share another news – Perica finally did some climbing as well. He did Johnny (7a, 200m) in Debeli kuk. And he did it in superb “Huber” style: leading all the pitches onsight. Heck, he even improved the “Huber” style, he had two ladies belaying him 🙂


I think Perica’s photo is miles better than mine 🙂

About the Spider-Agricantus experience:

On Saturday, with my friend Uroš, we went to try the legendary route Spider in Anića kuk. We were making good progress, but the 8a pitch stopped us, and we retreated. I actually managed to flash all the pitches up to the 8a (2x6c, 7a+, 7c, and 7c+). Also, I came agonizingly close to flash 8a as well. The victory jug was within reach, but I got scared and fell while I was trying to clip the bolt from wrong holds, instead of going for the jug. It’s a bit different when you have 200m of air below your ass :).

I was quite disappointed, only once in a lifetime you get a chance to flash Spider. Well, with 3 more 7b pitches after the 8a, Spider is far from over, and who knows whether I would be able to pull it off. In any case, it would have been an epic fight, and I’m sad I didn’t get a chance to indulge into it.

The next morning, we were both feeling shattered and super tired. However, we went to check Agricantus, with the plan to climb until we were feeling it, and then abseil down. I first checked the route few weeks ago with Siniša Škalec, and wanted to remind myself the moves for a proper try next weekend. The first go in 8a pitch was disaster, just barely climbing from bolt to bolt. However, the next go, something happened and I entered the pit-bull state of mind, and screamed myself Ondra style to the top of the pitch. I hope somebody didn’t call the rescue service :). The whole Spider experience actually helped in this case, during the ascent I had one thought in my head: “F**k it, I let Spider slip away, I will not let this one go”. It’s amazing how far the mind can push the body.

But it was not over yet, there is one more 7b to the top, which I didn’t check before. I’m so lucky I didn’t brake anything off and managed to onsight it. This pitch is horribly fragile. It was an epic onsight, with cramps in my body all over the place. All the suffering was compensated by the beautiful moment, when on the verge of exhaustion, I pulled over the lip, the sun hit my face, and I realized it was over.

Big thanks go to Uroš! I know it was a suffer fest for him when I did the 8a pitch and we had to go to the top. I hope I will be able to return the favour soon!

Thanks people for reading! Stay strong and motivated!



Power bars are a fraud, Kosana mast (aka Zaseka) rules! Thanks Marjan!



It happened today, I climbed Corrida, my second 8c! Of course, the route is located in the temple of climbing – Mišja peč. It was almost exactly one year ago, when I did my first 8c. It seems other people’s off-season in Mišja is my season in Mišja 🙂


The crux move of Corrida. Photo. Luka Tambača.

This time, the path to success was a bit easier, especially from the mental aspect, but still it was a bumpy one. Again, I had to go into full on projecting mode, obsess over the route, lose some weight and pilgrimage to Mišja peč few times a week for a couple of months. I even stopped eating sweets for 2 months!

However, since I went through similar process last year, this time I was better mentally prepared for all the tricks Corrida has prepared for me. For example, one day I fell 0.5m from the anchor, then the next two or three visits to Mišja, I was nowhere near that point. What a mind fuck! But, I knew it’s just a natural rhythm, you cannot operate at you maximum all the time. It happened in Vizija as well. Just be patient, and you will arrive at your high-point again. And indeed, eventually I fell again 0.5m from the anchor. Then once more. Then once more 0.25m from the anchor. Then once more in the lower crux… Today I finally managed to stay relaxed enough, not get over-excited when pulling through the last moves, and clip the anchor. Actually, I felt quite solid, with still some gas left in the tank at the top.

In retrospect, I was probably pushing it too far, often going to Mišja peč when the body was not rested enough, and more importantly, when the mind was not fresh. Each try required 100% focus, and it’s not easy to push the body and mind to their limits day in, day out, for weeks. Eventually, the brain will start to scream “Not again!”. Trying the route at your limit will stop to be fun at one point, but I’ve learned that, rather than giving up, you have to overcome that barrier. The success is usually very near on the other side of it. Sometimes it’s not. But anyway, are we here to have fun, or to send hard routes? 🙂

At the end of the day, I’m really grateful to be in this position, living 1 hour away from Mišja peč (and a ton of other great crags), and having a flexible job which allows to escape to climbing at odd times. And most of all, I’m grateful for having a loyal (climbing) partner. It would not be possible without Petra, and her endless support. Recently, she also send her big project: Rodeo, her first 7a! It’s the first pitch of Corrida, so it was really nice experience to project the route together. Sometimes she was even more psyched to go to Mišja than I was. Try to find a girlfriend like that!

As always, author of the photos is Luka Tambača. If there is no Luka, who likes taking photos as much as he likes climbing, most probably me (and better part of Croatian climbers) would’t have any nice climbing photos. You can check his work here:

Hmm… now the question is, whether to eat that chocolate cake, or to find a new project while I’m still fit? I guess I know the answer. Who likes chocolate anyway? 🙂

Thanks for reading people!


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!


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.


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.