He’s one of the few Czech sandstone-climbers who has climbed all the towers in Saxony, of which there are about 1200. Pavel Krupka lives in Litoměřice, but almost every weekend he heads off in the direction of the Elbe Sandstones – Tisá, Ostrov, Rájec, Saxony… and has been doing so since 1968.
A while back his partner Danka Kadlecová revealed to the author of this article that in the Autumn they had celebrated his 20,000th ascent. They were unphased by the cold and misty weather and went climbing… we’ll let Pavel tell us how it all went.
Can you describe ascent number 20,000 for us? I heard it was in Saxony on Rauschenstein. It was cold and miserable, so we chose the route ‘Alter Südweg’ from the valley-facing south side, which I had surprisingly never climbed before. It has two stars in the guidebook, and for a grade II route it was quite interesting. I would not want to climb it without a rope. (Laughing) It’s about 70 meters and made up entirely of gullies and weird slabs.
Any ringbolts? Yeah, there’s one. In the past there were none, but they’ve put in two belaying bolts. It’s climbed in three pitches.
How’d you celebrate? We didn’t really. (Laughing) It’s not exactly news appropriate, but we had some Becherovka (Czech ‘herbal liqueur’)… (Laughing) Anyway, if record-breaking is what you’re after, I had a jubilee-filled year this year. In June for my birthday, I did my 3000th summit, and a month later I had done my 10,000th route. (Laughing)
Wait 20,000th or 10,000th? I’m not sure I understand… I distinguish between summits, routes and ascents. You can climb a route three times, so thanks to that you can have three ascents. If I have 20,000 ascents and I’ve done 10,000 routes it means that on average I’ve done each one twice. (Laughing)
So you don’t count attempts? No. Only the routes I’ve climbed outdoors. I consider myself to be a bit of a lunatic-collector. When I started climbing in 1968, coincidentally I started bringing a diary with me. I’m not exactly sure why. I started doing this immediately from the moment I did my first route. It’s why I’ve managed to keep track of everything. Most people are disorganised and can only make estimates.
Does the diary still fit in your house? (Laughing). Yeah, it’s only a few notebooks. Half-a-meter’s worth approximately. It’s in my library.
What was your first route? Oh I remember that quite vividly: Prachov, Náprstkova tower via the ‘Old Route’ graded at I. (Laughing)
Well that’s impressive, you’ve managed to improve a whole grade in 50 years. (Laughing) I know right! (Laughing) It’s sort of reflective of the parabolic nature of life – growth followed by decline. (Laughing) (author’s note: at his peak Pavel climbed IX grade routes and Meisterwegs)
Was that parabola ever interrupted by a pause of some kind? Never. I climb constantly. But the amount is determined by all those years and by the fact that I’ve been messing about on practice crags for the past couple of years. When you climb in the mountains, the number of ascents doesn’t grow quite as quickly. But doing the most ascents is not the point of climbing. (Laughing)
What’s the point of climbing then? Fun. (Laughing)