Rock Climbing in Paklenica
15. 09. 2011. comments: 0
You can think of this as an unofficial on-line climbing guide to Paklenica. Here you can find a short overview of the rich history of climbing in Paklenica and how it became what it is today. If you are planning a visit, you can get an idea of what to expect in terms of types and difficulties of the routes available as well as recognize how big this place actually is and why having the latest official climbing guidebook is a good idea.
Paklenica – the making of
In the late 1930's when climbing in Paklenica first began, climbers were already aiming for the biggest lines they could find. Being the highest cliff around it was of no surprise that Anića kuk was the primary interest of some of the best climbers of the time. The first climber who attempted to climb the 350 m high main wall of Anića kuk was Dragutin Brahm. Tragically, he died during his solo attempt in 1938. The first route on Anića kuk was climbed two years later by Slavko Brezovečki and Marijan Dragman following the line attempted by Brahm and named it the D. Brahm route. Today it is one of the easiest routes up the main wall of Anića kuk while still holding a respectable free climbing grade of F5c or YDS 5.10a.
For some years to follow Croatian climbers were the ones putting great classics on the main wall of Anića kuk. The routes like Mosoraški – F6a (Boris Kambič and Boris Kulić in 1957), Velebitaški – F6a+ (Davor Ribarević, Nedjeljko Jakić and Matija Mlinac in 1961), Klin – F6c+ (Miroslav Pleško, Stanislav Gilić and Nedjeljko Jakić in 1966) and Funkcija – F6c+ (Nenad Čulić and Ivo Kaliterna in 1969) were established using primitive climbing gear and big balls. Since the routes are bolted climbers can now get away with only a set of quickdraws and much smaller balls (optional) but even so, the routes are still regarded Paklenica's greatest classics! The last of major accomplishments by Croatian climbers of the time were the routes Jenjavi – F7a+ (Marijan Čepelak and Dragan Vučidolov in 1971) and Brid klina – F7c (Borislav Aleraj and Marijan Čepelak in 1973). Needless to say all of these routes were first climbed using aid so their first free ascent belonged to the future.
Slovenian climbers played a major role in "the making of" Paklenica. The most active were climbers from Ljubljana adding their own difficult routes up Anića kuk and Debeli kuk. Routes like Vražji – F6c, Diagonalka – F6a+ and Forma viva – F6a+ waited many years for a free ascent. In the later 1970's Franc Knez first visited Paklenica and raised the game to a much higher level. He climbed some very demanding routes by aiding and free climbing at the highest grade imaginable at the time. In fact, he was accustomed to using a closed grading system (UIAA I-VI) while climbing much harder, in effect making his routes grossly under-graded. Franc Knez is the name to be on the look for when choosing routes in any climbing guidebook from Paklenica to Patagonia.
Another notable Slovenian climber of Paklenica's late 1970's is Iztok Tomazin. He accomplished difficult first free ascents of routes like Brid za mali čekić – F6c+ and Velebitaški – F6a+, pushing the free climbing grades in Paklenica higher than UIAA VI for the first time. With his climbing partner Matjaž Ivnik he also added beautiful new lines like Albatros – F6c+ and El condor pasa – F7a on the main wall of Anića kuk.
The 1980's brought even more Slovenian climbers to Paklenica. Hard new aid lines were climbed: Čarovnica (Janez Sabolek and Franc Knez in 1980) and Črni gavran (Janez Sabolek and Lidija Painkiher in 1981). A fast link-up of 6 routes on Anića kuk was made by Janez Sabolek and Janez Skok climbing Funkcija, Bukov, Ljubljanski, Velebitaški, Fanikin and Mosoraški in a day. Classical routes on Anića kuk were equipped with massive cemented rings on the belays, other difficult free climbs were established while existing aid lines were freed. Free climbing aid routes like Klin, Vražji, Funkcija, Šubara, Jenjavi, El condor pasa, Rio, Cvrčev stup and even the Brid klina spelled the names of Knez, Tomazin, Škamperle, Painkiher, Kozjek, Skok, Slabe and Rehberger. But as the old aid routes were being climbed free, even harder new aid lines were established: Spomin – A2 (Silvo Karo, Janez Jeglič and Franc Knez in 1985), Rumeni strah – A4 (Silvo Karo and Pavle Kozjek in 1986), Tango vertikal – A3 (Silvo Karo and Simona Škarja in 1986) and Jogananda – A4 (Miha Praprotnik and Matjaž Ravhekar in 1989).
The late 1980's marked the beginning of sport climbing in Paklenica with one of the first single-pitch sport climbing routes, Il Maratoneta – F8b+ by Maurizio Zanolla still being the most difficult one in Paklenica. The second most difficult, Mosquito – F8b was climbed shortly after by Gerhard Hörhager.
In 1990 the Rémy brothers, Yves and Claude came to Paklenica and climbed Rajna – F7a and Welcome – to Hell or to Paradise? – F7c. They equipped the routes from the ground up placing bolts on the lead with the aid of a battery-powered bolt gun.
In 1991 the war started and Paklenica was closed. Not until late 1995 did climbers return and the adventure continued. Lots of routes were re-equipped and made safer, many new routes established. Italian climbers Paolo Pezzolato, Sara Gojak, Aldo Michelini and Laura Ortolani contributed with many beautiful routes of medium difficulty. In 2003 the route Spider – F8a in Anića kuk (first free ascent by Marko Lukič) became the most difficult multi-pitch free climbing route in Paklenica.
The most notable Croatian climbers of the later years were Croatian climbers Boris Čujić and Ivica Matković who acted as climbing supervisors in the National Park Paklenica and together established and bolted many difficult free climbing routes. The route Zenit – F7b which they climbed in 2004 is regarded their crown achievement in Paklenica and one of the most beautiful routes on Anića kuk. Still today you can catch them with a smoking (bolt) gun and they recently made it clear that they are barely half way through. In 2012 they climbed another route on the main wall of Anića kuk and named it 50 and life to go – F6c+, even made a short video about it. Among the most successful and most diverse Croatian rock climbers very relevant to Pakenica is Igor Čorko who established Himalaya sport – F7c+ (with his partner M. Marasović) on Anića kuk as well as free climbed almost all modern multi-pitch free climbing routes in Paklenica.
So what about the hardest multi-pitch route in Paklenica to this day? The credits are once more handed over to a Slovenian climber. The route is a re-equipped 1985 classic, already mentioned above as an aid route. It is Spomin – F8c and the first free ascent belongs to Luka Kranjc who managed to climb it free in 2017 after two seasons and 27 days of on-route effort.
In conclusion, development of climbing in Paklenica went through various stages and the bar was raised again and again. Currently there is some 300 single-pitch (sport climbing) routes, short of 250 multi-pitch routes of various nature and increasingly more boulder problems being reported, 50 and counting. With the free climbing grades ranging from 3 to F8c and aid up to A4 there are routes for everyone from beginners to experts. For the best of the best there are hard aid lines still waiting for free ascent, blank walls still resisting to be scaled at all. But every now and then impossible is redefined so stay tuned.
Getting to Paklenica
Several airlines fly daily to and from Zagreb. Other airports to choose from are Rijeka, Split and Zadar with flights somewhat less frequent. On top of that there are budget flights (RyanAir, EasyJet, FlyBe...) that anyone can afford, even me. :) Once you get to Croatia you can rent a car and be in Paklenica in 2.5 hours. You can find a detailed map and addresses on the Contact tab.
Paklenica is governed by a Mediterranean climate with mean summer daily temperature between 24 °C and 26 °C (75–79 °F) and mean winter daily temperature around 7 °C (45 °F). These are the 24 h means so one must account for daily maximum temperatures of up to 38 °C (100 °F) in the hottest days of the year. The best time for climbing is April to October with end of July and beginning of August only good for climbing in the shade. On the other hand, temperatures on calm, sunny winter days often reach 17 °C (63 °F) but nevertheless it's not what you would call a high climbing season because those days are few.
So temperatures not being too much of a concern what about the rain? Summer is the driest season and winter is the rainiest. The good thing about Paklenica is that after the rain stops the rock dries rather quickly. After an all-night downpour slab routes are often dry by the early afternoon.
And finally a word about the winds. The most frequent wind in Paklenica (and Dalmatia in general) is the south-easterly "jugo". Blowing in autumn and winter it carries warmer and moister air from the sea to the land and can bring rain with it. "Bura" on the other hand, is a cold, dry wind blowing from the mainland in sudden gusts with a record speed of 304 kmph! The erratic nature of bura can be deceiving so please be very careful if driving in such conditions. Often some critical roads will be closed at wind speeds as low as 100 kmph due to vehicles getting blown off at certain clearings. For climbing in bura and having fun at it you really have to be of a special breed. Or maybe you just want to train for your next trip to Patagonia?
Obviously, you can stay at our guest house where we rent rooms and apartments to climbers and other visitors as well. We can provide you with all the climbing information before you even leave home and when you get here you will find the most recent climbing guidebook at your disposal. We also provide climbing courses for beginners and more advanced lessons for those who want to take their climbing a step further. You simply get the most climber-friendly place out there, so please contact us in advance.
On this interactive map you can find placemarks for all the cliffs in Paklenica that are open for climbing with some route names mentioned beside them. The approach is typically a short walk along a marked trail while descents usually require some routefinding skills and can involve easy scrambling or abseiling.
The location of our guest house apartments is shown yellow.
Below is the most up-to-date list of all the multi-pitch routes open to climbing and their official grades. Nb, in Paklenica there are many more routes established then are officially open for climbing. The closure of entire cliffs was necessary to protect the bird-life while some routes were closed out of concern for the safety of tourists and sport climbers immediately below them. This list refers only to the routes officially open for climbing, so please keep that in mind. For the routes I climbed myself and had a camera with me at the time I provided links to photo galleries and trip reports (in Croatian) but no guarantee that I actually took pictures of every single route I climbed on a particular trip.
Please note: this page is and always will be work in progress.
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