Well, it’s been a while but I still remember that failed attempt quite vividly. It was one of my first ones in Adršpach. Everyone remembers the first steps on sandstone, right? You arrive, run straight into the rocks full of enthusiasm, and suddenly you feel so small that you would fit into a matchbox. You have no clue where to start and so just keep wandering around until you meet somebody, who recommends you this “amazing classic route” ideal for beginners.
This story begins with a recommendation just like that. Somebody sent my friend Martin to an allegedly great wall at Zrzek tower, and me and Mára thought that the would be some nice crack nearby as well, so we joined him. And indeed, we found one.
The rest of climbers usually avoid wet, dirty cracks, but for some reason, these lines always lure me. I wrapped myself in a ton of slings and started climbing straight away. The bottom part was just fine – comfortable, soft mossy hand jams. The upper part, however, was much less of a treat. The slings were too small for the crack (if I remember correctly, it was a kind of open “chickenwing”). When I thought about falling, I couldn’t discern if it still was the “broken bones” case or a good old “straight to grave”. But then I recalled one picture from the old printed issue Montana magazine. In the photo, there was a guy using his helmet as huge cam. Back then, I was still a helmet fan, so I did not hesitate for a single moment and tried placing it… It didn’t go exactly according to plan, though. After some desperate tries, I realized there was no way I could place it, threw it away and just climbed on. I think it was my first off-width crack. When I got to the top of the crack, not only ma ankles were bleeding but my face as well. That was because I used the almighty “headjam”.
And that’s still not the end of it. What waited for me above the crack wasn’t the top of the tower but an inviting dark chimney. I knew I couldn’t bear to continue, so I prepared a cunning plan. I didn’t want to give up so I decided to belay Mára up to the top of the crack. There was only one problem. No anchor. I had plenty of slings and knots but there were useless. And then the moment of enlightening came. Climbing Shoes! Wrapped in enough tape, they would make a bomber anchor! Well it wasn’t exactly the safest idea, but what would you expect of a 16-year-old boy scared to death?
“Marek! Off the belay and you can climb. We’ll swap at the anchor!” “A what’s the anchor, duuude??!” “Chill, there’s a ring that would hold a bull or two!”
You should have seen his face when he climbed up to me and realized I sort of made up the ring. He wasn’t particularly happy. In fact he was quite angry. Anyway, he decided to climb on. His attempt didn’t take long, though. There was a patch of wet rock, his foot slipped a bit and as you can imagine, he wasn’t really stoked about the route anymore. Fortunately, we were quite lucky. There were some friends down there, who got much bigger balls than we did (big monkey fist knots) so they sent up those, we placed them and somehow managed to rappel down from them.
That was my first experience with such an epic bailing. Rapelling from a knot was probably even worse then using climbing shoes as an anchor. Well this route brought me many first-time experiences… One of them being my trousers getting completely climbed through, all the way to my buttocks.