Corrida

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 🙂

DSC_8685

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: http://lukatambaca.com/.

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!

Jurica

Advertisements

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

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

IMG_20150610_154741

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!

IMG_20150609_084551_2

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 :).

Pengari

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 :).

 

Vizija

A breath of cool air today in the morning was followed by a usual thought: “Conditions in Mišja must be great now”. Another part of the brain quickly responded: “It doesn’t matter any more”. It still feels like a dream, and I have to say it out loud to believe it: Yesterday I climbed Vizija (8c) in Mišja peč!

DSC_1470

At the top of Vizija. Photo: L. Tambača

Yesterday’s day was crazy. With 28 Celsius in Ljubljana, and my friend Rok feeling sick (thank you Rok for coming along!), we nearly canceled climbing. At the end, we decided to go, and almost turned to Baratro, because of heat. However, some inner feeling and clouds above Primorska region, led us to the parking lot of Miška. At first, it felt perfect, cloudy and cool sea breeze. However, after the first warmup, the clouds cleared and sun hit the rock with full blow. The heat was simply unbearable. I was already saying goodbye to Vizija until the winter, but then, at one moment, the clouds reappeared. At least, I had to give it a try. After a one week of rest from Vizija in Paklenica, I was feeling light&strong, and more importantly – fresh in mind. I made a mistake and feel in the crux, but that feeling of “zone” mindset started to creep in. For the second go, I waited until the very last sun rays of the day. I just barely made it through the crux, and had to fight for life in the rest of the route. At the end, the ascent of Vizija took everything I got, down to the very last atom of energy – just as you would want your hardest climb to feel like 🙂

DSC_1290

In the middle of the crux. Photo: L. Tambača

I have to thank all the friends for words of support and positive energy. When the rumours that I’m close on Vizija spread out, all of a sudden, I started receiving messages of support. Thank you everybody, it means a lot 🙂 I have to quote my experienced friend Lija: “Don’t forget to enjoy the time before ascent, even if it lasts long”. Of course I had to go trough all the phases of a hard redpoint, like anger, frustration and despair. But the words from Lija reminded me to put a smile at the end of a day, and bring home something positive from each visit to Mišja. I was breathing, eating and sleeping with Vizija on my mind for the past two months, and it would be really impossible to endure this process without being positive.

DSC_1446

Vizija is beautiful line, right in the centre of Mišja peč.

Last but not least, this ascent would not be possible without the endless support of my girlfriend Petra. I imagine it’s not easy to live with a totally obsessed climber, but she can sense when the things get serious, and then switches to full support mode. We went numerous times to Mišja before work at ridiculous times, just so that I could give a try or two in the shade. At the end of the April, as Mišja started to feel like an oven, I was ready to stop torturing us, and wait for the winter. But Petra quickly made sure this was out of the question with words: “We will go to Mišja until you climb this thing”. Thank you Petra for being wonderful!

Big thanks goes to our sponsors: Bim Sport d.o.o. and Petzl. Ultra-light Petzl Volta 9.2mm rope was essential to climb up this 30m route, without feeling any rope drag!

I almost forgot to mention, happy birthday bro! What a great timing to climb a route, one day before my brother’s birthday 🙂

Enjoy photo gallery by Luka Tambača – big thanks mate!

BWSC 2015

Another round of speed climbing, along with climbing marathon and film festival, was underway last weekend in Paklenica in what was the 15th installment of Big Wall Speed Climbing Paklenica. Resting on the laureates of last years victory and record, we arrived in the canyon for the first time this season only one week before the competition, so we had no idea what results to expect. We also did not do any specific training before, as we realized we could not summon the motivation necessary for another go at the record after last years crusade.

Only arriving in Paklenica brought back some nice memories, of many training days and sometimes insane efforts to win (like doing 100 pull-ups before going climbing might have been). But insane efforts can also squeeze out willpower to repeat the same thing again – so both brothers turned to other projects (Jurica to hard sport climbing, and Perica to projects outside of climbing). But even without specific training, we decided to support the competition with a recreational effort.

DSC_2592

Going at it in 2015

Our first go at the route surprised us a lot – we knew all the moves instantly (I really mean all the hand and foot placements and every quickdraw in the 160m route), like we were practicing the route a week before. But in our second try, we did realize that lack of specific training (or lack of any training in Perica’s case) brings it’s tolls with it, so we could not really expect anything close to the record braking 15 minutes and 16 seconds.

Come day of the competition, the conditions were nowhere near perfect – heavy rain all night made the route completely wet, and even doing the competition was in jeopardy. But, the route eventually dryed just enough for all of us to agree competing, but it was still really wet, with wet stripes all over the route, and even a small waterfall at one point before the crux.

DSC_2009_2

Pevec in a completely wet crux

This all meant quite slower times than expected (we thought we might get around 20 minutes), but at the end managed to do 24:34, just 17 seconds slower than our victorious friends from Zagreb, Ivan Pevec and Siniša Škalec, who finished third last year, and decided to train a bit more this year. In the end, we were satisfied with our effort and speed given the current form, and also got our confidence up if we ever decide to attack the record again (as we see it is not that far out of reach).

We would like to thank our sponsor Bim Sport and Petzl for their continuous support – we promise a new first place soon!

Medalists from the competition:
MEN – route BWSC (Big Wall Speed Climbing, 6c+/160m)
1. Ivan Pevec/Siniša Škalec HR 24:17
2. Jurica Levatić/Perica Levatić HR 24:34
3. Luka Mudronja/Luka Trumbić HR 40:00

WOMEN – route Karamara Sweet Temptations (6a+/110m)
1. Sunčica Hrašćanec/Inga Patarčić HR 15:58
2. Maja Rakić/Lada Lukinić HR 22:16
3. Charlotte Durif/Jerca Miklič FR/SLO 28:44

In other events, Paklenica was this year visited by teams from Spain, France and Ukraine, and the best thing was that all nationalities won at least one medal. You can read more about foreign efforts in spanish climbing magazine Desnvel article: http://desnivel.com/escalada-roca/sc/jesus-ibarz-con-alvaro-lafuente-y-juana-gonzalez-con-arnau-julia-ganan-el-paklenica-2015-international-climbers-meeting

Our shout-out also goes to Siniša Mataić and his great animated movie Off Belay, where we won the best movie award.

You can check the gallery of the competition from the excellent Luka Tambača here:

P.S. on the fun note, here is how friends cheered for out-of-shape me this year:

Meeting with the greats

Last week both Levatić brothers visited 9th Mountain Film Festival Domžale, where we went to hear and meet two true legends of the sport. Let’s go in order of appearance:

Lynn hill

Legendary climber Lynn Hill from America had a lengthy lecture about her life as a climber (and lately as a mother), in which she covered all her periods of life – from risky trad climbing beginnings to competitions, TV fame, then sport climbing achievements, to the ultimate – first person ever to free climb the famous route Nose in Yosemite. Now being a mother, she is still involved in the climbing world, giving lectures and doing appearances in Petzl roc trips.

She covered a lot of ground with the lecture, showing quite a few rare photos, and even mentioning she was earning more money from climbing back in the day than the pros of today – she managed to buy a house in France and pay for the expensive education in America all with only climbing.

IMG_20150225_222040

Levatić brothers with Lynn Hill. What a moment!

Lecture left me with a strong desire for a long one-on-one conversation about climbing and life in general with Lynn. She really has a lot to tell, and an hour plus of lecture is too short to convey her greatness – which is probably only matched by her simplicity and approachability.

More about Lynn:
Lynn Hill website
Interview (in Slovenian language)

Maurizio Manolo Zanolla

As he is called in Italy, Il Mago is a man from different era than today, both in climbing terms and as a human. He is a type of man who will no longer come by, and even his stance while waiting for the lecture to begin – is different and old school. He was born and raised in the far mountains, and in his early climbing photos he looks more like a caveman than a climber, being somewhat strange compared to our shiny pros of today.

The most fascinating fact about this man is that he achieved his peak in his 50s – he climbed the hardest grades in the world (8b+) in the 80s, and then pursued other climbing and outdoor activities. Then in 2000s, intrigued by the simple question “Where are my limits?”, he went out to seek them. And found them he did – he climbed 9a on a pure slab at 51 years of age, along with a list of other hard ascents.

IMG_20150227_215019

Il Mago sharing his magic!

Maybe the best explanation of this man is a simple fact that the answer to the question “What motivated you to seek your personal best at 50 years of age?” from the audience (asked of course by us) is the fact that his answer lasted for a good 15 minutes – and it would probably be going on all night had he not realized there are other people with questions waiting.

During the lecture, words often used by Manolo were creativity and curiosity, both of which are beautiful things to drive a man (or woman) forward. Climbing is an immediate creative experience – once you step foot on a rock the puzzle starts. Somebody can tell you how to put the pieces together, or you can try the pieces by yourself, or you can even create the puzzle by yourself – but the creative part is always there with climbing.

More about Manolo:
Video story of Manolo’s ascent of Eternit (9a)

Conclusion

Meeting and listening to such great personalities of our sport was inspiring, and quite worthwhile. Impressions I got from both were that their motivation for climbing was first and foremost personal, and internal.  They were both grateful and very approachable, and interested in people around them.

It was an honour to witness the simplicity of greatness in this exceptional man and woman, two traits which don’t really come together that often.