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.

Vardarska sahara

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

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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 :).

 

Marjetica

Hi fellow readers of levaticbros! After a long silence, we finally have some news to share with you. This weekend I climbed Marjetica (8b/b+) in Mišja peč! I’m very happy about this one, since I didn’t do a route this hard in a while. Also, I’m super syked to try harder start of Marjetica which bumps the grade to a holy grail number of 8c 🙂

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Entering the crux of Marjetica. Photo: Stefano Staffetta

From the beginning of the Mišja peč season in November, I started trying Marjetica seriously. With each visit, I was making good progress, however, this came to a sudden stop in a form of loud cracking sound from my knee. Diagnosis: dislocated knee-cap. Luckily nothing was broken, but climbing was out of the question for a while. On the positive side, this happened right before Christmas, so I could enjoy vacations in peace, without the usual itchy climbers’ fingers. Fast forward one month, and I was back on rock – of course without even thinking about knee-drops. It still took some time for Marjetica to happen – doing the upper crux when climbing from the bottom was harder than I thought. Lesson learned: no matter how easy the moves feel, doing them pumped is different story. Lesson two learned: get some endurance!

There is a good month of training left before the after-work season of climbing starts, and I’m keen to make it count. It is really surprising what one month of hard, thought-out training can do – check this for inspiration: https://fullpsycheahead.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/the-return-of-the-masochist/

Thank you for reading,

Cheers,
Jurica

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:

The first 50

Few days ago I climbed a route named Independence (8a+) in a small crag Preddvor near Ljubljana. According to my 8a.nu profile, this is my 50th route in the 8th grade! I’m mathematician, so I should know that numbers ending with zero are equally (non)interesting as the ones which don’t end with zero, but nevertheless, it’s nice to achieve such milestone.

I will post the list of routes below if somebody is interested. When going through the routes  in my head, I still remember most of the moves on every single one.  Once a geek, always a geek :).

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A route which is not on the list, but I hope it will be one day – Chuck Norris (8?). It’s the only one missing from my Pokojec tick-list. Initially graded 8a+ by Čorko – it took me 3 years to do the moves. Foto: L. Tambača

P.S. Careful reader might notice that the other counterpart of the Levatić bros is missing in the last few posts. Well, Perica was preparing like a mad man for the BWSC this year, and he burned all the gas in the tank of motivation. But, he is back on track now, psyched & training hard. So, stay tuned for the new adventures from the Levatić bros. We have a couple of (crazy) ideas emerging in our minds, now all we need is a firm rakija-driven hand shake to start bringing them to life.

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.

Learning how to climb (normal) again

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Finalists: 1. Borna Čujić, 2. Luka Kivela, 3. Krešimir Morić, 4. Nikola Kramarić. 5. Ivan Pevec, 6. Jurica Levatić. Photo by Ivana Kuštek

Croatian bouldering championship

Merely two months passed since the BWSC competition, but it seems like a year. After the BWSC, there was no time to waste, Croatian bouldering championship in Pula was just two weeks ahead. I did a couple of training sessions on plastic to remind myself how to pull hard, but after 3 months of 6b-jug-climbing, it felt like my body will fall apart. It amazes me how quickly and efficiently the body adapts: you train, fell like super-fit speed climbing machine, and suddenly “normal” climbing starts to be awkward and strange. I left to Pula without big expectations. I was hoping to enter the finals, and did exactly that – just barely squeaked into. At the end, I took 6th place – sturdily :). Happy with the result, but to do better next year, a bit more (or a lot more) training is needed. Young-guns are becoming really strong. I really enjoyed the competition, this is always a nice opportunity to meet friends from all over Croatia.

Climbing around Slovenia

After Pula, it was finally time for some normal climbing again, without competition, pressure and stopwatches. My girlfriend Petra and I, were eager to make use of the benefits of living in Slovenia. There is a ton of crags, and most are within 1h driving from Ljubljana. One day you can climb in beautiful alpine setting, and the other enjoy sunny sea side. We visited some of the regular climbing spots, but also some of the less traveled ones – Slovenian friends are still making fun of our choices :). Particularly interesting was the crag named Pod Sušo. A relict from history, with plastic and drilled holds here and there, red restricting lines and hard-as-hell vertical routes. Anyway, it was good for getting back in shape, and I managed to send a few 8as and onsight a 7c (not at Pod Sušo 🙂 ).

Huge anchor at Pod Sušo.  Photo by Marina Jašić

Huge anchor at Pod Sušo. Photo by Marina Jašić

First ascent of the last project at Vranja peč

Two weeks ago, I decided to check out an old project at my home crag, Vranja peč. Vranja is a small piece of rock deep in the Zagorian forest, where mosquitos abound and gentle 0.5 promiles of alcohol are in the air :). The routes are just like the local drink rakija: short and intense. Only one line remained unclimbed there, an old project Igor Čorko bolted about 6 years ago. I was fumbling with this route for years now, but just couldn’t do the moves. This time I envisioned some very unobvious beta – and it worked! It features probably the hardest shoulder move I have ever done on rock.

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The move. Photo: L. Tambača

Next day, I returned with my brother, and suddenly, after a huge fight, found myself going for the last hold. The combination of excitement and exhaustion made me flying down. Damn! We were back two weeks later, but with no climbing in between due to work. Expectations and confidence were not high, but somehow, I stuck the shoulder move. I knew that there is no chance to do it again that day, so I was determined not to let go this time. And I didn’t. I named the route Pravi Muži. “Muž” is a typical Zagorian man: strong as bull and with remarkable drinking skills :). Grade? For sure the hardest at Vranja peč, so I will go with 8a+, one step at a time. Luckily, excellent photographer Luka Tambača was there, enjoy photo gallery: