Part II: An Afternoon in 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 two, An Afternoon in Paklenica.

Route Summary (out of four stars):
Vaginalna Manipulacija, 6a+ (20m): ★
Gerovit, 6c+/7a (14m): ★★★ (Awesome short route. Probably a fantastic warm-up for its neighbors)
Butter Keks, 5c (18m): ★ (I don't remember this route, but know I climbed it)
Crni Gad, 6b (20m):  ★★★★ (So good. Oh, so good).

It's 1 pm, Martin and I are baking in the sun, and we haven't matched any of guidebook topos with walls. We're staring at this small, flat metal triangle drilled into the base of a seemingly blank, overhanging wall. Enscripted on the triangle is a route name and grade: Il Maratoneta, 8b+.

We're not climbing this.

We hike uphill a little farther, and discover another triangle across the creek: Moskito. This route climbs the massive underside of a boulder protruding over the valley's creek. I see maybe two obvious hand holds, but can't figure out how to clip the 2nd clip. It's 8b.

We're not climbing this either.

A few minutes later, we've reached the end of the main single-pitch sport climbing area, Klanci, and we haven't found a single route we want to hop on. Something's wrong, and its probably us. 50 pages of topos, and hundreds of people can't be wrong.

Let's rewind. My brother and I had just arrived in Paklenica about an hour ago. We've spent less than five minutes looking at the guidebook. We're spending the next two days here. We've also come up with the following route constraints:
  • The route must be in the shade.
  • The route should be in the 6ish range.
  • The route must be epic.
  • The route must be short.
It turns out that epic routes are rarely short.

A few facts: my brother is a very strong boulderer. Probably Stronger than me. For reference, the highlights of my bouldering career include flashing a V4... and my current project, a V5. My brother? He's climbed a few V6's, sent a V7, and most recently sent a V8. We're on different playing fields.

Later on the trip, I was cajoling him into climbing a multi-pitch route, when he turned to me and said: "... every time I go sport climbing with you, I'm not sure I'm coming back."

Turns out, he is deathly afraid of heights. We didn't do any multi-pitch.

Which brings me back to my previous point: epic routes are rarely short.

In spite of my gratitude at having a climbing partner willing to hop on sport routes nearly every other day for the past two weeks, I was still secretly hoping that he would turn a new leaf, renounce his bouldering ways, and see the sport climbing light.

Nope. I'm not complaining though, I'm super glad I got to climb with him.

At the time, I was also complaining. I was frustrated: all I see is magnificent cliff line, and we're not willing to air out a little. This is like going to Disneyland and not being allowed on the roller coasters. Like being allergic to water and going to WaterWorld. It sucks.

Somehow, we agreed on a route. And when I say "agree," I do so in the loosest of terms: I agreed to hop on the next warm up one of us found (being a little less picky, I had a hunch I'd find one first). I did: Vaginalna Manipulacija, a 20m 6a+. I'll lead it, he'll follow.

The route was an interesting introduction to Paklenica: the bottom had a few difficult moves, the middle was relatively straightforward, and the finish ended with some hard, cryptic moves (avoidable by  using the crack line two feet to the right of the anchors (I know from experience)). Holds were small, but sharp. You stuck. My brother followed the route, and then proceeded to let me know how much he doesn't enjoy 20m routes on the way back down. 

He picked the next area: Hram. Even the guidebook topo made it look amazing: the area, Hram consisted of several bolted routes going up, around, and under a massive arch. In spite of the long (15 minute) arduous (class 3 scrambling) route finding to get to the arch, We were not dissapointed. The massive arch was tucked away from sight of the valley floor, but provided a fascinating vista to the massive faces of the valley. Two lines under the arch were perma-drawed: Funky Shit, 7c+ and Mrakan, 8a. If you climb the grade, or near it, these lines definitely look worth the stop. 

We don't climb 7s (yet)--unless they are are followed by an 'a'. We found such a route: Gerovit. The guidebook stated it was a 6c+, the triangle placard indicated it was a 7a. Perfect.

Gerovit climbs up the right side of the downhill leg of the arch. It's a short route, only 14 m. The first two clips (spoiler alert: massive beta dropping ahead) are a jug haul, complete with unnecessary no hands rests (if you're lucky, you'll also meet the 6" moth a foot to the right of a juggy sidepull). They're followed by three clips worth of sharp underclings, sidepulls, and some rare, small, positive hold, which get you tantalizingly close to being fully underneath the arch; before going back up and culminating in a big, powerful move to poor intermediate hold, inches away from a massive jug rail. Five more feet of jugs, and you clip the anchor. Holds are abundant, sharp, and chalky until the crux, where they are only sharp and chalky. The exposure, is sneaky and magnificent. It's not until you turn around and look down that you realize that the valley floor is 200 ft below you; that you're surrounded by stunning rock faces in an idyllic setting.

From the bottom of the route, you can tell where its going to get hard, you're going to be right. 

On my onsight burn, I got stumped by the big move (I hadn't deciphered it yet), pumped out, and took. With a bit of convincing--I said this route is my brother's style, and I stand by it)--and a guarantee that I would clean the route after him, I got my brother to climb it on top rope. My gut hunch is he liked the route, but not exposure: the next route he picked was at the bottom of the valley: Butter Keks an 18m 5c, about 15' to the left of the souvenir cave/shop entrance.

In all honestly I don't really remember this route. Martin lead it; I don't remember if he had any problems with it, did it cleanly, fell, or enjoyed it. I even climbed it too. But everything was overshadowed by the route two feet over, Crni Gad.

Crni Gad (6b) (Black Snake in English), starts slightly to the right of a black, 6" thick, 30 ft tufa column. The majestic tufa, protruding 6" out of the wall, is slightly too big to be pinch-able and has no obvious holds on either side. But! You don't see the tufa and not want to climb it. It is hypnotizing. The guidebook said it was a 20m: but I was too mesmerized by the tufa to scout the other two thirds of the route. It looked like there was a good rest after the tufa... but after that? Who knew--who cares?--there's an awesome tufa on a 6b and we're going to climb it!

I hopped on it. (Warning: beta-dropping ahead!). And after making a few moves to get on/near the tufa, discovered that tufa climbing is hard--especially with no obviously chalked holds. The tufa's texture was as if someone had filled a 30' 6"x6" square with popcorn and coated it with tar. Smooth, but not slippery; porous, but not sharp. Side pulls, pushes and body tensioned ensued; I desperately clipped the 2nd clip, and fell, exhausted and baffled. A little inspection discovered that I had the right beta and I just wasn't trying hard enough, and I continued from where I left off. A few moves later, I had pulled through the cruxy bottom section, and tried to rest.

After unsuccessfully trying to get it all back, I decided to try to push through. The next section was unreal: consisting of side pulling massive 10" diameter partial cylinders hollowed out of the rock... for the next 40'! And the finish! At every clip, I didn't think I was going to make the next one--but the holds were just good enough--just-barely-good-enough--and the movement--and the climbing--too good to let go!

After lowering, I thought it was just me: sweaty, destroyed, and delusional. But when my brother came down, equally sweated and equally destroyed, I decided I wasn't delusional. The route was that good.


  1. Sounds awesome bro! I'm starting to get excited to train again. More pictures! Did you guys do any bouldering while you were out there?

    1. We didn't do any bouldering (unfortunately). There's definitely some routes, a few of them are noted in the guidebook; but we didn't have any pads with us. Not going to lie--it tough to boulder when your surrounded by majestic cliff faces on all sides... but my brother definitely had the urge, and I would've definitely been down had we had pads.

  2. Ah ya, I've tried to imagine what'd it'd be like trying to check a crash pad in at the airport. I hear some people rent them from a local gym if they can find one. Good point though, it would seem foolish to not take advantage of the cliffs! Ugh side pulls and pushes haha, my Achilles heel. Where are all the dynos ;P


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