FIRST TIME IN ADRSPACH
“I look up to the anchors and see the belayer smiling. His gleeful grin makes me try again. But with every ten inches up, I slide down almost the same distance…” In the world of climbing, Adršpach is just another universe.
When I learned that I am going on a trip to Adršpach with the team of young alpinists of the CMA (Czech Mountaineering Association), I felt a bit humbled. „What the hell am I going to do there? I am no crack climber,” I said to myself, imagining hanging too high over the last protection in a sandy crack and my palms immediately started sweating. After pondering these dark thoughts for a while, I finally concluded that this is exactly the style of climbing I had to practice.
EXPECTATIONS AND REALITY (DAY I.)
Ondra Hašek and I arrive at Zámecká just before the official opening of the event, but the other members of the team are nowhere to be found. All we are seeing are the local legends waiting for the young aspiring climbers, silently sipping on their beers. The sun-rays still feel warming but it’s not too hot anymore. Therefore, we conclude that the others are using the ideal evening conditions or are still on their way. So we decide to check what’s on tap in the pub and join the locals at the table.
In the evening, a large group of more or less well-known climbers gathers around. Together we make plans for the summer and the following day. Since I would like to be fully functional in the morning, enjoy some overhangs instead of hangover, I decide to go to sleep early.
I vs. cracks
I haven’t climbed too many cracks so far – I don’t usually aim for them but when they do appear in the middle of a route, I can stick a hand jam or even a fist jam when the size is fitting. I’ve even tried a double hand jam and a chickenwing but I don’t consider myself a true crack climber at all.
I vs. Adršpach
I’ve never climbed in Ádr before. But of course, I’ve heard plenty of scary stories about it – they say its mostly crack climbing but you can occasionally find some wall as well. I certainly feel a lot of respect for the area but I might try some moves in the cracks.
FIRST FORAY INTO AN OFFWIDTH (DAY II.)
In the morning, we split into groups and set off into the rocks. It’s quite warm, so I only wear shorts, a T-shirt and I put a jacket in my backpack. At that moment, I have no idea how much I would regret that idea later. We walk in the direction of Milenecká hora to the recommended route „Polická“ VIIa at the Hrad tower. Ondra has already climbed in Adršpach a few times, so he ties to the sharp end of the rope and begins to climb. After a while, I hear: “Off belay!” and then: “You are on belay, you can start climbing!” In the first part of the route, I enjoy a nice wall climbing with an occasional hand jam. Above the third ringbolt, though, the crack suddenly widens to a size I have not encountered yet.
Exhausting my brief arsenal of crack techniques, I have no choice but to climb inside the offwidth where I find a restful position to be able to continue climbing. I look up to the anchor and see my belayer smiling. His gleeful grin makes me try once more again, but I’m not really sure whether I’m not trying in vain. With every ten inches up, I slide down almost the same distance. After a long and fierce fight with the help of a few holds, which I found probably thanks to God’s mercy, I manage to get all the way to the top. I feel like I’m running a marathon after a long night’s party –except I wasn’t actually drinking last night! Fortunately, after a while, this suffering turns into amazement at the beautiful surroundings and the joy of reaching the top.
We rappel down and go join the others at the Hadí tower. After checking out the routes in the area, I decide that I’d rather not climb on the sharp end of the rope. Anča is just about to finish “Hra o život” VIIa/5b fr. At first glance, it looks like a nice line, a sharp corner in the bottom and then something between a chimney and an offwidth, which gradually narrows down to a regular crack. „Okay, that could work, I can climb chimney, after all,“ I say to myself as I put on my climbing shoes. I do a few brisk moves on small holds that suddenly disappear. I am leaning with my hands on one side and the feet on the other in a chimney that can not be climbed this way at all. „You have to use your knee,“ I hear somebody’s advice from below.
Since I haven’t chosen my outfit too wisely (wearing just a t-shirt and shorts), I’m not so keen on jamming my bare legs into the gritty crack, but I have no other chance than to follow the advice. Eventually, I manage to do a few moves. I don’t know if the adjective “climbing” is suitable for them, but the moves definitely feel demanding. After a while, I’m exhausted and I have to wedge my shin into the crack ruthlessly, gripping on one side with my shoe and on the other with a knee. I try to lift myself a bit higher but the hand jam on the left is too shallow. Knee jam on the right? No way. I’m slowly losing hard earned centimeters, trying to save myself by pushing harder. I feel grains of sand digging into my skinned knee and then I fall into the rope. I make one more futile attempt and, humiliated, I let the belayer to lower me back to the ground.
Right after that, I get the opportunity to regain at least some self-confidence following Ondra Mrklovský in the crack named „Dubčekova spára“ VIIa/5b fr. Fortunately one of the senior guys from the group of young mountaineers takes a pity on me and lends me his sturdy crack pants. He claims that proper clothing is half the battle. Unfortunately, I only take over the pants, not his experience. If I did, I’d wear gloves. But alas, I’m too lazy and suppose that I can beat the crack without the gloves as well.
After the first few meters, however, I find that it is even harder than I expected, and after a while, I slide out. After falling into the rope, I realise that the gloves would be a good idea after all. So I turn to the onlookers: „Please throw my gloves from my backpack!“ The guys are evidently having fun. With gloves, I also get a modest dose of deserved ridicule. In the end, I manage to climb the line, even without falling, but it requires more effort than many walls of the grade Xa/7c fr.
I vs. Adršpach
I’ve already climbed in Adršpach. That place is infested with offwidths. I respect people who know how to climb such stuff and like it, but I don’t really get them. It’s a terrible, hard toil and what more, it’s as far from the aesthetic, elegant climbing moves as it gets. I hope that tomorrow we go to Teplice for some nice wall climbing.
JAMMING HIGH AND WIDE (DAY III.)
So we go back to Adršpach – to climb some classic routes. After yesterday’s experience, I pack some long pants. Along the way, I’m trying to glimpse at least a hint of wall climbing, but in vain, the cracks are just everywhere. We arrive under the Zrzek tower, and I find two ring-bolts in a wall full of ferrous crimps. „Damn, that looks nice,“ I imagine the nice move in the wall in my head, but then I remember yesterday and calm down again. Plus, the route’s named „Minimum Rozumu“ („Minimum Reason“!) The VIIIb/6c fr. grade is also not so inviting either. I start the day with Óňa Mrklovský, at the route „Domino“ VIIa/6a fr. It’s a beautiful route with a gap you have to reach over to the finishing wall.
I’m starting to feel confident about leading the “Minimum Rozumu”. After a while, I tie a sling into the thread and roll over the arete into a wall full of ferrous holds. I’m climbing carefully up to the first ring bolt as I’ve heard that the holds might not be as solid as they seem. After a few meters, I find that it feels better than I’ve expected, so I drop my nervousness and still slightly cautiously climb to the top. In the evening, I learned that it’s supposed to be a line with an exclamation mark. (Exclamation mark is used in the local guidebooks as a mark of an overly dangerous route.) I ask: “If that was a line with the exclamation mark, which route in Adršpach isn’t?”
Well, I was literally begging for an answer and I got it just a few minutes later. Standa recommended the „Stará cesta“ VIIa/6a at the Bakchus tower. There was three of us, crack greenhorns standing under the route. Since I’m such a pro at rock, paper, scissors, I won, and got a chance to send the route on-sight. Finally, I had a chance to use yesterday’s suffering and managed to lead my first crack in Adršpach.
I vs. Adršpach and cracks
Looks like there aren’t just crazy offwidths in Adršpach, I’ve managed to lead two routes so far. One of them was even a wall! I guess there’s not many of those around here, but when you find them, it’s totally worth it. The other one was a crack that convinced me that not all cracks are so hideous and that I might even try another one soon.
CHILLING AND SENDING (DAY IV.)
Finally something I’m good at. Šimon, a member of the previous team of young mountaineers, comes up with a great program for the third day of climbing. Since I’m already fed up with the cracks, the Ostaš trilogy sounds really tempting. First, we arrive under Karbaník tower, where Šimon already tries a Xa/7b+ route named “Skat”. It is an overhanging wall with holds. Something I could not find for the last two days. So I don’t waste time waiting, briefly discuss the beta, warm up, and go climbing.
We then spend the rest of the day climbing grade X lines and resting between the attempts. Šimon and I manage to send the whole „Ostaš trilogy“ („Skat“ Xa , „Total brutal“ Xa and „Hranomat“ Xa), and Fanda Bulička even adds „Arachnophobia“ Xb. I on-sight two of the routes and then spend some time mastering the “Hranomat” route. (In Ostaš, Xa is 7c approx. and Xb could relate to 7c+ fr.)
SPORT CRACK? (DAY V.)
On the last day of climbing, we go back to Adršpach to enjoy some more crack climbing. Standa did not disappoint again and chose a beautiful line called „Kolo nebo lezení“ VIIIb/6b+ fr. Then we join the rest of the team, who are working on the legendary “Tenké psaní” VIIIb/6c fr. at Pošťák tower. For me, this is one of the few routes in Adršpach I had heard about before I went here and I never thought about trying it out during my first trip to the area. „Those fixed slings are solid!“ assures me Fanda who managed to lead the route. All right, I pull down the rope and tie to its sharp end.
Right at the start of the route, I am immediately surprised by the corner offwidth. Fortunately, I almost immediately find a way to get through it and then get a good hand jam for a right hand which gets me to the first ringbolt. Then I continue over the edge into the overhanging traverse which drains all my remaining power and send me flying all the way back to the corner. I try few more times, falling into the fixed slings which are, fortunately, solid, and then I finally get to the second ring. Some say it gets super easy from there on, but for me, it only gets harder. The crack narrows down to a wide hand jam, in which I manage to do a few moves but then I start slipping out. I find myself hanging in the rope with a feeling I haven’t had in the last few days – I’m terribly pumped!
I vs. Adršpach and cracks
I spent only three days climbing in Adršpach but even such a short trip was enough to change my perspective on the area. Especially thanks to cracks. In the end, there will be something about scraping up through the cracks, and I feel that I definitely want to experience it again, so I plan to return to Adršpach some day.