BD grassroots athlete Dawn Glanc reports on her climbing trip to Montenegro
Black Diamond grassroots athlete Dawn Glanc (who just won the Ouray ice-climbing competition last weekend) traveled to Montenegro this fall to check out the country’s climbing potential. Below is her report from the trip, as well as some excellent images from photographer Jeremiah Watt.
In October of 2009 I was thumbing through a National Geographic Travel magazine. The feature topic was 50 great places you had to see. A small blurb about Montenegro caught my eye. The photo of a small village near sapphire blue water was hard to miss. The blurb mentioned that Montenegro was an up and coming tourist destination, and that rock climbing had begun to be developed. I had been looking for a new and unusual place to go climbing, so I decided right then and there that I would make Montenegro my 2010 climbing destination.
Over the next year I gained motivation for the trip. I began to convince two other climbers that Montenegro was the place to go climb. It was easy to sell both Pat Ormond and Jeremiah Watt on the idea. Finally after almost a year of planning we made the trip a reality when we purchased our plane tickets.
When friends asked us what our fall plans were for 2010, I would tell them that we planned to travel to Montenegro. The typical response was, “Where is Montenegro?” Montenegro is a small country in Eastern Europe that is along the Adriatic Sea. I choose to go to Montenegro because the entire country is limestone. The possibilities for long routes in the mountains and sport climbing was all there waiting to be explored. Some climbing had been developed, so I figured we would travel off the beaten path to see what we could find.
When I began to research the climbing in Montenegro, I found almost nothing on the Internet. The one website that had information about the climbing was hosted by the Outdoor Club of Podgorica. I blindly emailed the club to see if they had some information to share. Luckily for me a man named Vanja Pejovic responded. Vanja turned out to be a savior to me. He was a tremendous help in getting our logistics squared away. We had so many email exchanges before the trip, I felt as if we were old friends by the time we landed in Podgorica. Vanja met us at the airport and continued to be a great host throughout our trip.
We were lucky to meet the local climbers in Podgorica. They claim there are only 15 climbers in the whole country of Montenegro, 10 of which live in Podgorica and climb mostly at Smokovac. We met and climbed with seven of the 10. Including the only woman in the entire country who climbs. The climbers graciously hosted us in their country and homes. They climbed with us almost everyday, and showed us around town as well. It was a unique and fulfilling experience to meet the locals and share climbing as our common thread.
Unfortunately for us, the weather did not really cooperate with our climbing plans. Our first day was beautiful and sunny, then every day after for the next seven days it rained. Our plans to explore the mountainous areas were rained out. We were able to climb at two walls while we were in Montenegro before getting totally shut down by the weather. The two walls we climbed at were Smokovac and Kolasin.
We spent most of our time at the area known as Smokovac, which lies just outside of the capital city of Podgorica. Because of the overhanging nature of the wall, we were able to climb despite the on-going rain. Smokovac had very unique tufa formations that provided very intriguing climbing that required us to use every technique we knew. The wall offered more than 30 routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.13b. The first routes were bolted by visiting Austrians, with a few more added by other visitors. The local crew has now bolted the majority of routes at the wall. Some routes had been bolted and still remained unclimbed. The virgin routes were offered to us almost as a gratitude for traveling to their home crag. In total we claimed eight first ascents. Eventually the rain saturated everything and we were shut down from Smokovac.
Once we were shut down from Smokovac, we began to wish for better weather. Finally there was a brief break in the rain, which lasted one day. The day the rain broke we awoke to a blue bird morning. We were so energized by the sun we drove the two hours up to the mountain town of Kolasin. There tucked away was a climbing area that had been developed by the local Podgorica crew and some Austrian climbers. The climbing at Kolasin was very different then Smokovac with crimps, edges and pockets being characteristic. It turned out to be a great autumn sport-climbing day. Then it started to rain again that night.
After many days of rain Pat, Jeremiah and I were ready leave Podgorica to see the countryside. Unfortunately the weather forecast did not look favorable. We decided to head north to Croatia because the forecast was only for a chance of rain. The three of us piled into our rental car and drove eight hours along coastal roads to the city of Split. That evening we took a ferry over to the island of Hvar. We finally arrived to our destination; the Cliff Base climbers hostel in the village of Sveta Nedjelja. We had arrived in the dark, so we had no idea what to expect in the morning.
Once we awoke, we quickly realized that the island of Hvar was the place to be. It could not have been more of a polar opposite to Podgorica. The Cliff Base hostel is built right into the cliff wall and is located only a few meters from the Adriatic Sea. The rock climbing was also ideally located. More than 100 bolted sport routes were within a stones throw from the Hostel. A deep-water soloing area was also a short swim or kayak away. The weather finally cooperated with us and we had blue bird days to climb and swim. All of the climbing was great and we felt there could be no place more perfect than Cliff Base.
Looking back over our travels through Montenegro and Croatia, I can say we truly had a great trip. It was a lot of fun traveling with Pat and Jeremiah. We were always able to laugh and find the humor in most situations. Somehow we even managed to stay focused and motivated for climbing even though it rained almost every day. We were lucky to meet the local climbers and to have the opportunity to climb unclimbed routes bolted just for us. I am very inspired to return to Montenegro someday to explore the mountains and all that they have to offer. I am leaving this trip feeling excited and energized for another adventure.