John L. Horn Climbing Grant

At the end of July I opened my e-mail inbox to find something far more exciting than the news headlines I tend to ignore or the various black diamond and REI ads- I received an e-mail from the American Alpine Club, informing me that I was chosen as a recipient of the John L. Horn Climbing Grant. Okay, rewind. What’s the American Alpine Club, you may ask? The AAC is a non-profit organization that has the vision of creating a ” united community of competent climbers and healthy climbing landscapes” and a mission to ” support our shared passion for climbing and respect for the places we climb.” The AAC is driven by members- you pay a small fee to join and receive a wealth of benefits. Among these benefits are  a $10,000 rescue benefit insurance package (which was my primary motivation to join) a bunch of discounts on a lot of gear, access to a pretty extensive guidebook library and discounts on lodging around some of the nation’s best crags. Another lesser-known yet pretty tantalizing benefit is the ability to apply for a variety of AAC grants. Basically, the AAC has a series of grants that range from those which fund highly experienced climbers seeking to tackle a never-before climbed alpine peak to those designed to for amateur climbers seeking some moo-lah to get them to the Red, for example. The John L. Horn Climbing grant is a very special grant because it is only available to members in the Sierra Nevada Region of the California section of the AAC who are between 18-26. In addition, it emphasizes sport climbing in international locations. The grant was established in memory of John L. Horn, an experienced climber who climbed around the world in places like Spain, France and Thailand as well as here at home in the states. I applied with the goal of using the funds to travel to Croatia and climb in Paklenica National Park, an area abundant with limestone walls set in a scenic gorge along the Dalmatian Coast. Paklenica is particularly well-known for its abundance of sport multi-pitch routes, a style of climbing I’ve always been attracted to as it combines the endurance and adventure of traditional multi-pitch climbing with the die-hard “a muerte, climb as hard as you can” mentality of sport climbing. Here in California, we don’t have an abundance of sport multi-pitch, and what we do have tends to be bolted pretty badly or on some major slabs. The idea of doing some more physical climbing 200 meters off the ground on some superb limestone highly appealed to me. However, what attracted me to Paklenica was not just the climbing, but the history. I was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of the former Yugoslavia, but my family fled the country due to the civil war and genocide that raged there from 1992-1995. I was only two years old when we arrived in the states. Since then I have visited Bosnia, Slovenia and Croatia but my detachment from the area in general remains strong and has weighed on me all of my life, affecting all corners of my personality and sense of self. I felt that by practicing my passion in the areas which my parents and my relatives all called home, I could continue to construct a bridge between the life I lead here and my fragmented cultural identity. The idea was that I could get to know the country and the people through an activity which I deeply love and which, by its very nature, bonds people together. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear that my dream would come true and I would spend the end of September climbing in Paklenica. I returned from my trip two days ago with plentiful experiences, a sore body, rough hands (That rock is SHARP!) and a hard-drive full of images. Over the next week or so I plan to update my blog with tales of my trip. In the end, I managed to spend 16 days in Croatia, 11 of which I climbed, mostly in Paklenica. Prior to that I was in Bosnia, mainly visiting family, though I managed to escape to three different climbing sectors. I hope you enjoy my stories and that my trip motivates you to explore this region for yourself and experience the warmth of its people, the richness of its food , the beauty and of its natural heritage and uniqueness of its climbing scene. Also, if you are a climber I urge you to consider joining the American Alpine Club; you can check out the organization for yourself by clicking here. As a member you would be supporting a noble mission that I think any climber can identify with and would enjoy a wealth of benefits for a small price. I want to emphasize that no one asked me to write this; I honestly believe it is an organization every American climber should join. Stay tuned. Photos of Paklenica/Anica Kuk

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