Part I: Entering Paklenica
Note: I've recently returned from an amazing trip to Slovenia and Croatia. This next series of posts (if I ever finish them) will describe some of the highlights, primarily with a climbing focus.
Ok, you got me. It's almost 100% about climbing. Here's part one, Entering Paklenica.
The first day we drove into Paklenica was my second day driving our massive (especially for European Standards) Euro-minivan. The one-and-a half lane road quickly snakes through the valley, hugging the North side of the rapidly steeping valley. The sides of the roads are peppered with two types of signs: "Winnetou #N" or "_____ Kuk," the latter being listed with a climbing grade. We (correctly) inferred that the "Kuks" were sign posted multi-pitch routes; I (incorrectly) guessed that the Winnetou placards were Paklenica's unique method of marking parking lots.
We hit the parking lot. Like any able bodied American, I skipped the first open spot to find something a little closer to where the road ended... wherever that would be. That ended up being about 100 yards around the corner, where the road (and parking to the right of it), abruptly ended, leaving me with the opportunity to practice my new signature 8-point U-turn. Despite my trusty co-pilot brother's best efforts to get me to leave my mark upon the car--the 8m wide road/parking lot was sandwiched between a 20m rock face and a 1m rock wall--I pulled off the daring maneuver, found a parking spot, gathered our gear, and set out.
There are only a few things as surreal and as exciting as stepping into a place that seems to have been made for you. I would imagine pilots have the sky, and they enter this zone the second their wheels leave the ground. Skiers, when after a morning full of trudging through fresh powder, look down the line they are about to ski. And me, looking up the canyon, of a climbing mecca.
The Paklenica guidebook is 278 pages: ~50 that detail the area and the guidebook in five different languages (Croatian, German, English, Italian, and Slovenian), ~30 that present topos of the hundreds of single pitch sport climbing routes, ~150 that describe the various multipitch routes, and a healthy dose of stoke photography. We purchased the guidebook (180 Kuna) along with our 3-day entrance pass (60 Kuna each, you can get a one day pass for much cheaper) on our way into the park; I never had a chance to thumb through the guidebook before we were suddenly there.
It was amazing. Klanci, the main sport climbing sector starts where the parking lot ends. Immediately after leaving the parking lot, you have the option to hop on a 20m 6b. And it doesn't stop. For the next half kilometer, you can cherry pick the best lines you can find, on either side of 10 foot gravel road.
It's morning and the South-ish facing wall is the hottest? No problem, hop the small creek and climb in the shade.
You want to show off for the ladies (and tourists) on your new project? No problem, just climb the routes that start on the road, if you yell enough TSAT enough, everybody will be watching. Or climb over the souvenir shop; then the vendor may even stop to watch you.
You don't want anyone to see you warm up/take whippers on that easy climb? It's ok, cross the stream, you'll be shielded the trees, or go hike/scramble up 10 minutes, and admire the view.
You're afraid of heights and don't want to do anything greater than 10m? Well, there are some routes for you too.
You want to crank out as many climbs as you can in a day? Pick a spot, throw your rope down, send, lower, walk two feet, and repeat.
You want to hang out, meet cool people, and watch people crush a multi-pitch sport rout 100m down the canyon? Just look up.
If you threw out everything that sucks about climbing inside at a climbing gym, kept everything thats good about it, and put it outside, you might end up with a poor man's version of Paklenica. I've never been anywhere with such high route density and so many quality routes.
So ... what was the climbing actually like?
To be continued...