20 Apr 2011

Slovenia climbing

Also posted on Summitpost.org here

A happy meeting and good rock

On a family trip to Lake Bled in Slovenia, I had the opportunity to meet Borut K., who I’ve known on SP for a few years and been impressed with his knowledge of technical climbs in Slovenian mountains. He met our family for a pizza dinner by the lake and we had a great time talking about music, history, climbing and topics more interesting to the kids. We planned to meet up and climb two days later, for which my wife granted me a morning off of kid-wrangling. Borut, a true alpinist, didn’t mind getting up godawful early. He even rode the train from Ljubljana to Bled to make it easier to meet. In a dozen little ways like this, Borut proved himself thoughtful beyond measure.

Since the nearby mountains were sadly socked in with rain and clouds, we drove south to the sea. Parking at the campground in Osp, we walked up to the base of the impressive wall over the town. Our climb for the morning was Prečenje (meaning, “The Traverse”), 5 pitches snaking from the lower center right to the upper left of the wall. Borut sent me off first with a few pieces of gear in addition to some quickdraws. I actually used two cams too, slowly getting used to the rock, which looked kind of scrappy but was solid and well loved but not polished.

Borut set off for an improbable-looking traverse of about 50 meters. We were now positioned to the right of a bat-friendly cave, and he traversed above it on narrow ledges that occasionally petered out. He ended beneath a thin crack that went from vertical to overhanging.

Borut, hanging improbably above the bat cave.

Me on my way over there...

I enjoyed the traverse, then started up the crack. Fun climbing at the start, but by the third bolt it was clear the climb was way beyond my pay grade (Borut said 5.11d). I pulled on some pins and bolts as the crack withered away to nothing and a real climber would be finding greasy smears for the feet and small edges to lieback. The last meters allowed me to climb free again, and had their share of exciting moves. I’d say I probably climbed it 5.10b/A0.

Just before A0-land...

I belayed a bit left of the line on a ledge, then Borut took off for another traverse, slightly descending this time. Then he turned back up at a shallow chimney, climbing about 30 meters up a very nice pitch but which must have had terrible rope drag due to the angles. He climbed along a crack that had been visible from the ground, and was easier than it looked but just as much fun as expected. I finished the climb with a kind of “leftover” pitch of scrambling up grassy rock steps to a trail at the top of the wall.

Borut along pitch 4

Michael following the pitch

The whole time we talked about good traditional climbs in the Julian Alps, which he knows so well. I’m definitely excited to come back and do some exploratory climbs in this range with Borut. Later, we met up again and went to the climbing shop for a lecture from the friendly girl working there on picking wild asparagus and strawberries that had my mouth watering. I got the sense that the climbing community in Ljubljana is small but very enthusiastic and it is catching. Can’t wait to go back!

Kris, the kids and I also managed to climb a few other pitches at the Bohinj Hotel Jezero crag (“Jezek” (Fr 3), “Spela” (Fr 3)), and an unnamed route on the really nice looking Bohinj crag right by the lake. Kris declared that one too cold to belay and went in to the warmth. I soloed the route with a clove-hitch belay, then let the kids top rope it. Great way to stay warm on a cold and misting afternoon. Just a few paces walk to get some fries and a cappucino…nice. There is a lot to do in this area…

Michael and Borut

The sea!

You can run but you can’t hide

See you next time dude!