Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Adventure Sport Climbing in Croatia

Checking out the views on top of Anica Kuk
Jonathon and I knew little about Croatia when we picked it as our September climbing destination.  We later learned that it became an independent nation in 1991 and their economy is highly dependent on tourism.  We learned that they make wine and grow lavender and are really into their homemade moonshine.  We also learned that they have tons of great limestone climbing and its a fun European climbing vacation.

Lunch break in Hvar
We began our trip by checking out the island of Hvar.  The island is located off the southern coast of Croatia and it is a beautiful two-hour ferry ride from the port of Split.  The next day we walked along the ocean side trail for about 20 minutes to the crag called Cliffbase.  It is a private crag and there is a small fee to climb there.  The owner is a rather eccentric man, who was really mad at me because we had chosen not to stay at his apartments as they were a little primitive for us.  While his actions did discolor the experience a little bit, the climbing and the setting more than made up for it.  We enjoyed 35 - 40 m bolted climbs right out of the water.  Every route we climbed was great and the views of the rocky Mediterranean coastline were beautiful.  Swimming around the rocky limestone boulders was also a highlight. We spent two days climbing there and then packed up and headed a bit north to Paklenica National Park.

View of the Adriatic Sea from the hike to the crag on Hvar
Jonathon on the hike to the crag on the island Hvar

Checking out the town of Jelsa on Hvar
Seeking shade at Cliffbase

As one of eight national parks in Croatia, Paklenica is home a variety of large and small limestone formations with over 400 routes from grade 3 to 8b+ from single pitch to multi-pitch.  The park is uniquely beautiful consisting of two broad limestone valleys (climbing is only allowed in one of them) and filled in with pine and beech forests.  As you climb higher above the valley floor, views of the Adriatic Sea begin to peak out in the distance.  The park is well maintained and there is one wide walking path that leads to the majority of the climbing.  We rented a small apartment in the little town of Starigrad at the base of the park for 30 Euro/night.  We spent our first few days dodging rain showers and sampling some of the cragging in the Klanci area and some of the shorter routes on the nearby formations.  On my birthday we climbed the 4 pitch 6a+ Karamara Sweet Temptations on Veliki Cuk and then cragged at Crljenica high above the clear, blue Mediterranean Sea.

Finishing up the last pitch Karamara Sweet Temptations

Topping out on Karamara Sweet Temptations just before the rain

Unknown climber on one of the 5.11 tufa climbs at Crlgenica
When the weather got nicer, we sampled some of the routes on the bigger formations.  First up was the 4 pitch, 120 m Domzalski on the Stup of Anica kuk.  At 6a, it was some of the best limestone slab and edging climbing we had done.  After lunch, we checked the unique Bears on Toast (6c+) climb which ascended the very distinct water runnel formations up the limestone face, typical of the karstic limestone commonly found in Paklenica. While the bolts were big and new, we were finding that the bolting was a bit sporty forcing you to climb at the grade.  It definitely kept things exciting!

Jonathon enjoying the slabs at the top of Bears on Toast

Starting up the third pitch on Domzalski

The next day, we climbed on the famous Anica Kuk formation.  This 350 meter limestone wall is the jewel of the area.  There are hundreds of routes on the formation raging from 6a to 8a.  We started up the classic Klin route.  Prior to starting up the route, I mumbled that I hoped we wouldnt get lost, as it was a huge face with tons of bolted routes intersecting all over the formation.  Jonathon just laughed at me and responded that all we had to do was go up.  As if I foreshadowed the day, route finding was a bit challenging on the lower angle and grassy terrain but eventually we found our way and things were going pretty smooth.    The climbing was fun despite being a little wet.  After I lead up the crux pitch, we somehow managed to get ourselves completely off route and begin climbing up a very steep route up the center of the wall.  After getting worked on what was supposed to be a 5c traverse, we started to think that maybe we had traversed onto the 7b Zenith.  We continued up wildly exposed terrain to the top and had a good laugh about our poor route finding skills on the summit.

Midway up Klin on Anica Kuk

Steep and exposed terrain somewhere on Anica Kuk

Jonathon starting up the final pitch on Anica Kuk

After a rest day checking out the historical city of Zadar, we spent our final day climbing up numerous formations in the park.  We first checked out the 200 m Senza Pieta (6b+) on Debeli kuk.  It was a fantastic route up the sunny face with some really fun slabs, edges and over-hanging terrain.  After finishing up that route, we decided to run up the mellow Sjeverno Rebro on Veliki Cuk's West ridge (4b+, 170).  Still not quite tired out, we cragged a few more pitches at Klanci for a total of 450 m of climbing and 14 pitches.  It was a great end to a fantastic trip in Croatia.

Traversing across the crux pitch on Senza Pieta

On top of Debeli kuk

Checking out the historical city of Zadar

View of the harbor in Zadar
That night we enjoyed beers by the Adriatic Sea, a big plate of meat and of course the complimentary schnapps at the end of meal. I would highly recommend a trip to Croatia.  Logistics were easy, most people spoke English and it was not overly expensive.  The food was good, the scenery was beautiful and the people were accommodating.  Life was simple and easy.  Sleep, eat and climb.  That's what I call a good vacation! 

Sunset in Starigrad

View of the Stup and Anica Kuk

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