lunedì 4 novembre 2013

Macedonian experience. Bouldering in Prilep

Baba and Balvanjia. Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria

The first time I read about bouldering potential in Macedonia was more than one year ago. I don't know why, but after the images I saw, I began to wonder how the climbing would have been down there and my curiosity became higher and higher the months later. I was curious for many factors. On one hand because the area is still not so frequented and not so well known by the most part of the climbers. Secondly, Macedonia sounds strange for a climbing destination and it leads to a small taste of exploration. For the last cause, my geographic passion brought me to check this country, which I have always seen on the maps and I would have never thought to visit. Last March, it was in the list of the places where to go with Giulia, but Vastervik won and we choose a totally different region . Otherwise, this fall, My brother (Rudy) and I decided to take two weeks off in order to go to check this Balcan region. In this way, I could have clarified all the doubts and all the curiosity I had for a place that I hadn't heard so much before. My motivation was focused in searching for new problems and try to put new FAs in this new area.
It doesn't feel so simple to start to describe what we have seen, what we liked and what we hated; the positive and the negative points it has. What it is sure, is that a new area not so famous and with new potential, has definitively a unique aspect; everything is probably more linked to a personal discovery, beyond the normal fact to go to a spot full of people and with the all the boulders established. In this case, many problems had already been put up, but I think its potential could easily double them and this reason let us a big part of discovery to image new possible problems.
The area was born on the bucolic hills outside the city of Prilep, the 4th biggest city of Macedonia, and when you arrive you can see a lot of rock that cover these rural meadows. The first impact when we came from the Skopje airport was good and the place seemed immediately lovely. We reached Prilep where we met Hristo, our home keeper, who took us to the house and showed us the city. Our Macedonian experience began.

Obviously, I would like to describe the climbing experience first, then few words concerning our staying. The few negative aspects we found concerning a bit The rock where we climbed. It isn't in the top quality range: it is often really sharp and composed of big grit. The problem was that sometimes, while we were brushing new stuff, it crumbled a bit. Fortunately it is not all like this. The area develops from the bottom of the hill until the top; the boulders are present also over the end of the topos I had, and the higher you go onto the hill, the better the rock is. The first sector, called Baza, is personally the worst one under the rock aspect. The last area, named Balvanija, is totally different. The rock is always sharp, but in the last sectors it is really more solid than Baza and better to climb and to brush. This is the principal negative topic I would feel to say. The second one doesn't regard the place but our planning. In fact we found a really heat October, with warm conditions and 25 degrees basically all days. We knew before living it would have been not the perfect season, but we didn't aspect some moments so hot. Next time I will come in December or January with cold; this could be also a good reason to climb more and to preserve more skin, since some holds are similar to knifes. Many evenings we had burning hands despite some full days of rest and not so much climbing.

Now I gladly write many positive aspects we felt, and the reasons that will give us the motivation to come back in this particular spot. I usually give a lot of importance to the natural places that surrounds boulders where we climb. So I thought many times that this valley is really nice and perfect to climb: Great stones with egg shapes, green grasses where sheep browsed and good mix of colors and lights. The shapes of the boulders are fantastic and the climbing style is often physical, crimpy and conditions dependent. We had an amazing staying in Hristo's House, who accommodated us really kindly; Many people are nice and tried to help you if you need. You can find everything in the super markets and all the stuff is cheap including the food in the restaurants. The last point, maybe the best, regards the big rock potential that it has.

The first day of climbing, Hristo carried us to discovered a sector called "Sesernik" and I found possible lines to free. The first problem I brushed was the line that Rudy and I called "the brick project". It is not the best line I found here, but it is a good overhang with a cool feature in the middle i.e. a horizontal brick pinch hard to catch with your hands. After having brushed it, the logical start seemed to be from the crouching position; two sidepull for the hands, then moving into a gaston to go to the crux brick-pinch as low as I could but I never locked it. The first day there was the best conditions we had, It was cloudy with 12 degrees, but I was anyway able of doing just one of the four moves on this piece of rock. I said to come back during the trip, but the temperature started to grow up and I hadn't the right occasion to try it anymore. The brick project was left, but the following day I brushed a cool traverse which I sent in the same session. After a easy intro session on cool huecos it logically deviates to the right on good quality crimps to end on a slab with slopers. We called it "balconi balcani", and it could be maybe around 7C+.

Balconi Balcani, First ascent. Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria
The first day Hristo showed me also a big egg of granit which hit me with its beauty: It seemed perfect. It was only half cleaned, but I was sure that brushing some holds, a possible line would have come out. It deals of the line I was looking for, since it has good features: awesome shape, developing in height, easy jugs intro, crimpy finish, slopy mantle and great moves. It also has jump start and a logical line which climbs this rounded arete without nothing else around. The third day I put the rope and with some hard times I was able of going down from the top with the brushes. I brushed the part below the mantle and I was syked. There was everything you need and I hoped that the crimp wouldn't have broken. After the first cleaning I came back to remove the moss for the slopy top out and after some attempts without rope I sent it. I was happy for this piece, It probably regards my best FA and I hope it could be also liked by the future repeaters. The name chosen was "The chickens academy" and it could be a bit harder than "Balconi balcani".

Another FA which I would like to describe is "Calgary '88" in Balvanija sector. The boulder is big and it is the same of "Velika Smekta", a classic tiny holds line put up by Urh Ceovin. The first day we were there I was completely dazzled by this line which wasn't brushed yet. So the day after I took the rope and I brushed it in all its height, since it develops on a big rail 8 meter high until the upper part of the boulder. For the right hand the big rail is basically really good, while for the left one is possible grab nice holes until the last part. After having brushed it I was aware it would have not been so hard and I opted to attempt it from the bottom despite its height. I was anyway a bit tense. Maybe not so much for the height but more for some possible breaking even though it looked solid. Fortunately It pass over fast without fails and it made me happy for such an unexpected cool FA.
The fourth FA I did, it isn't a new boulder, but simply an addition of a sit start and a top out of the line of "Hueco jack", which is for sure better to climb from the low until the mantle. Besides these lines, I also tried other Three projects which I was not able of finishing, like the brick project and other two cool lines that I hope to try again when I will go back in the future. 

The chickens academy, First ascent. Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria
Calgary '88, First ascent. Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria
Full line of hueco jack, Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria
Beyond few FAs I put up, the brushing days I had and the attempts I dedicated on hard projects; I also tried some lines which were already established before our stay. Here a list of Boulders I climbed with personal grades and personal beauty opinions (5stars).

The French egg 7B **
Tup-Tup 7C **
All in 7C **
Super Sila 8A **
Velika Smekta 8A **
Welcome line variant 6C ***
Kajmak 6C ***
Cocoon 6C+ ***
Machedala 7A ***
Marinaio di vent'anni 7A ***
Unknown 7B+ ***
Gotham city 7C ***
Predator 7C/+ ***
Marshal 6C ****
Pelargonja stand variant 7A+ ****
Mala smetka 7B ****
Marmalade 7B/+ ****
Kula Sheika Bula 8A+ (flash) ****
Yellow snake 7C *****

Besides the climbing matter, also Macedonia itself has been nice, curious and particular for my habits. Prilep is a nice city, clean in the modern part and typical. We have been in the outside market in the square, where there are a big quantity of vegetables, fruits and spices which grow up there and they make big varieties of colors in the market. Really cool to see and to smell their scent. The people looked friendly and kind, and even if they are not so rich they seemed happy and quiet. The city is concentrated in a point and around it there are just tobacco plants, grass, crops e rural environment with no houses and some typical farms. Buying food or any other stuff like drinks, clothes, cigarettes, souvenirs and so on is really cheap and if you don't want to cook in the evening, many restaurants can offer good and simply stuff at low price. Also the flight was cheap and we arrived in Skopje, half an hour of car from Prilep, where the roads are deserts and engulfed by bushes which were completely colored by the autumn. I would say thanks to Hristo, our house keeper who was always available and kind. There, you can also rent the pads if someone don't want to pay the bags with the low coast companies. Anyway, also the experience outside of climbing was good and we hope to come back soon, maybe with 20 degrees less :) 

Here few links:

Full album photos on FB:

Macedonia bouldering:

Video will be edit soon.

If anyone would be interested in more info, descriptions, topos or article just contact me.

Welcome line variant 6C, Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria

Predator 7C, Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria

Prilep, Photo Rudy Ceria

Rudy climbs "Buy in" 6C, Prilep.

Super sila 8A, Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria

Ohrid market. Photo Rudy Ceria

Yellow snake, Prilep. Photo Rudy Ceria