“Bloody Crack” – the Legendary Sandstone Offwidth gets a Third Female Ascent
20. 07. 2020,
Every time I walked through Skalák area around Ocún tower, I couldn’t take my eyes off the route.“Bloody Crack” (“Kravavá spára” VIIc – that matches French 6a but don’t be fooled, editor’s note.) is an aesthetic crack line made by legendary Czech mountaineer Radovan Kuchař. It cuts through the upper right part of the Ocún tower. It’s also one of the few cracks in Skalák area that “lacks holds”. There are not many ladies who have managed to climb it. I know two of them personally – Zorka Prachtelová and Ája Bedrníková. These girls are local legends that hold in high esteem. That’s why it took me a while until I decided to climb the route. When Zorka climbed it, all the local guys stood in awe – even her husband Petr Prachtel couldn’t believe his eyes. Back then it was one of those Routes with big R, in which even some the elite climbers failed.
This year’s unplanned holidays allowed me and certainly many other climbers to spend a lot of time in the rocks. After I recovered from the last season and managed to heal some of the damaged parts of my body, I’ve basically became a full-time climber. When I came to Skalák for second time this year, I already wanted to try the “Bloody Crack”. I didn’t make it a secret and suddenly I had two mates joining me for the project. In the morning I warm up on some easier route and around 11 A.M., I’m already jamming myself into the “Lower Variant” of the “Bloody Crack” (a logical extension of the route graded VII/ca. 5b fr.).
In the first few meters of the extension of the route, you can find some holds around the offwidth but I cannot find a good place for a knot so I rather jam myself deeper into the crack. Suddenly I get stuck, I feel like I should be climbing the crack the other way around. Dan supports me from below and takes pictures, and above me, in the window under the start of the “Bloody Crack” itself, there’s another paparazzi, Peťa, who shouts at me: “I have the snack ready for you! Come and get it!” I somehow manage to solve this absurd situation, I turn around, jam the left side of my body into the crack, and continue climbing.
After all, I wiggle my way up the narrow chimney, and I emerge right next to the promised snacks. I hydrate myself, take a deep breath, place a first sling and carefully traverse through the fragile sandstone passage typical for Skalák area to the first ring of the “Bloody Crack” pitch. I clip in. “So, it begins,” I say to myself. I start climbing up from the ring. Standing in a wide split in the window, I’m trying to jam my upper body into the offwidth crack above me. There are some good footholds on the right side but the ring is on the left. I jam my right knee into the offwidth but the rope rubs on the rock and holds me back. I fight for a while and then retreat back to the split position to rest for a while. The second try is much more successful. Using the double hand jam technique, I manage to lift myself up a bit and turn around in the crack. Now that’s it.
I was afraid that my knee would not fit into the crack but fortunately the opposite is true. I enjoy the amazing straight crack that looks almost artificial – it’s an excercise including all sorts of offwidth techniques including the double handjam, kneejam and the heel-toe. I climb up to the only notch in otherwise-perfect crack hoping that there’s some good place for a bomber knot. No such luck – I only manage to thread some thin hourglass. Fortunately, the route gets easier here and I continue up to the top without any further problems. “Off belay!” I shout at the belayer and I enjoy the wave of euphoria from finishing yet another iconic route.
I don’t want to build an anchor at the belaying point left to the crack. “In case they fell out of the crack, they could take a huge swing,” I think to myself. So, I make the anchor right above the crack extending the anchor right on top of the tower. I throw my crack gloves to my fellow climbers and I start belaying.
But when Dan sits into the rope, my belay device disappears into the opening of the crack. What now? Fortunately, he yells at me: “I’m back at the ring.” I respond: “Great, could you clip into it for a while?” I shout at him from above and I try to find a way to get the belay device from the crack. Somehow, I manage to lift the rope up a bit and fish the belay device from the depth of the crack. Finally, I opt for the original anchor and I find out that it’s safer than I thought – you put the rope straight into the crack and it safely holds there, preventing any possible side swing. Dan prefers not to try my belaying tactics again; he focuses on a proper heel-toe technique and manages to get all the way to the top without any falls. Then we belay Peťa, who gives the new anchor a proper test. It seems to work.
We all meet at the top. I read some of the records from the summit book and then we rappel. Finally, a reward – a beer and a proper snack. We don’t celebrate for too long, though, as there are many other great wall routes expecting us today. The “Bloody Crack” however, remains to be the one, which we will remember for a long time.
Editorial note: The route (protected with only one ringbolt) was made by Radovan Kuchař in 1952. For a long time, everybody thought that no one is going to repeat the ascent. The second climber to climb the route was nobody else than the infamous Petr Prachtel in spring 1963 and on 29th June of the same year, he even repeated the route free-solo. (!)
So far we know about three ascents made by women. First one was made by Zorka Prachtelová in 1968. Her husband Peter Prachtel reminds: “She jammed herself into the crack as if it was a chimney and climbed the whole route smoothly without any hesitation. All the other climbers were shocked.” In 2018, Alena Bedrníková became a second woman to climb the route. She linked it together with the “Lower Variant” as well. Later that day, she sent another famous route “Overhanging route” VIIc/6a fr. on Ottovky towers. Third woman and the author of this article, Anča Šebestíková, climbed the route this year in April