Five days in Yosemite Valley, three days climbing in the Owen’s River Gorge and one glorious coffee at Looney Bean café has created the perfect conditions for a new blog post – exhaustion and wifi.
Now, rewind a month. In Bosnia, all of the research I did concerning local climbing pointed in one obvious direction – Pecka. Pecka is a climbing area near Banja Luka (where I was born!) and about a three hour drive from Sarajevo. Pecka also is the site of an annual climbing festival, hosted by the Bosnian climbing club extremebl (www.extremebl.com) and houses the most potential for future sport climbing development in Bosnia, or so I have read. So, with the help of my father (who chauffered me there from Sarajevo) I thought I would go check out the place for myself. The idea of climbing somewhere so close to where I was born also appealed to my more emotional side, always grasping for the “real” motivation behind my actions- and always overanalyzing everything to try to reveal some sort of “deeper” significance. With my mind a raging torrent of thoughts and motivation, off to Pecka we went!
Of course, the first thing I had to do was find a partner. I tried for a few weeks, e-mailing whatever contact I could find on the internet and posting to the extremebl facebook group. Alas, my efforts paid off as a local young climber facebook messaged me, telling me he would be more than happy to come from Banja Luka and show me around. We picked a date (and crossed our fingers it wouldn’t rain) and when I arrived I was warmly greeted by three climbers from Banja Luka.
Just like in Dreznica, I was stunned by the surrounding landscape. To get to the climbing area we had to do some off-roading (in our rental car- oops) but eventually arrived at what was the “parking” – a lush, open green field surrounded by tall, broad trees and the occasional stray cow. A short hike lead to a fork in the road, where we encountered very nice signs marking which path you needed to take to reach whatever sector you were looking for. We started in the sector “plaza.”
When we reached the rock (after a 5 minute hike), my experience in Pecka began to differ drastically from my experience in Dreznica. The first two ingredients were there – friendly locals and beautiful countryside; however Pecka also contained that vital third ingredient that makes everything come together for a great day of climbing – quality lines. Just looking at the rock reminded me immediately of my favorite rock climbing sector that I have ever been to- Margalef, Spain. Now, I don’t mean to compare them at all because Margalef is much more developed, but like in Margalef Pecka’s limestone walls were clean and featured many pockets. I enthusasitically accepted my host’s gracious offer to let me climb first and warmed up on a 6b. The routes we warmed up on were exactly my style- moderate to long in length (between 20 and 30 meters), sustained and slightly overhung. I found the rock quality to be excellent and could sense that Pecka housed a lot of potential. One key difference between Pecka and other sectors like Maraglef is that there was literally no one else here, and it was Sunday. While the climbing is in general better in Margalef, I may have spent part of the day standing in line.
After doing a few climbs here we walked over to another sector called “Pramac”, passing through a huge roof where Bosnia’s hardest route (9a) can be found.
To end the day we first went to the sector “Sumski” (“suma” means forest) since it was shaded nicely and the sun was particularly strong. Here I tried a hard, bouldery climb that I onsighted and another climb that I found completely brutal on the skin and also not particularly fun in terms of moves (it featured a lot of monos and crumbly rock). My last climb was a very fun, long route in the sector “krijumcari macica.” Here we met two Czech climbers- the only other people here, from what we could tell- who also were enjoying themselves in Pecka.
Afterwards we all decided to have a late lunch eating some lamb, but stopped along the way on a hill overlooking the cliff we had just been at. Beyond the developed sectors lie many, many more limestone cliffs perching from the dark forest, begging to be explored.
In general, I was pleasantly surprised by Pecka. The routes are well bolted, the rock quality is good, and the entire area is well organized and friendly to newcomers. It is not crowded at all and you can camp right outside ( in that open field I mentioned) for free. The entire area, while it doesn’t reach the quality of more popular crags I have been to in Europe, boasts a solitude that often can be hard to find. The lack of crowds and wild scenery, when combined with its nice diversity of routes, definitely make it a place worth visiting to any climber who happens to find themselves in the area.
Now, time for a random divergence from the current topic – You see, what I am doing here is connecting my introduction with my conclusion; my high school English teacher would be so proud.
Some quick updates from my current climbing trip; In Yosemite we passed our time doing some easy trad climbing (my friend had never trad climbed ever), my favorite being the 5.8 multipitch climb “After Seven” in Manure Pile Buttress. The first pitch is truly a gem and definitely had me sweating! After two rest days of hiking (one of which included an 18 mile day, hiking from the Valley Floor to Glacier Point and back down via the Pohono trail – highly recommended) we traveled back to the East Side, enjoying a glorious sunset after exiting the park and descending down Tioga Pass toward the US 395. We spent 3 days climbing in Owen’s River Gorge. I tried to on-sight a 7b (5.12b) called “Darshan” and though I found it very, very hard to onsight, I got very close to sending it on my 2nd go, giving it a total “a muerte” (to the death) go, only to fall heartbreakingly at the final hard move because I made one key error and didn’t have enough gasoline left to correct it and keep going! However, I did manage to on-sight the beautiful line called “Sex” in the Upper Gorge (goes at 7a, or 11d). “Sex” was one of the best climbs I have ever done, hands down. It is a long, sustained crimpy/pockety climb on a continuos overhung wall. I moved excellently and without hesitation- all culminating in one of the best onsight goes I have ever had the pleasure to experience. I reached the anchors completely worn out- one more move and I would have fallen. “Sex” is challenging for an onsight and I definitely have been basking in the “post a muerte onsight” glow ever since.
Today, a rest day (which started off with a beautiful, short jog) and tomorrow we head to the Buttermilks for a change of pace with some bouldering!
I hope everyone else is enjoying life as much as I am right now.