the adventure continues:- climbing in Croatia is both incredible and in some places humbling.

After nearly ten years of climbing across five continents with hundreds of different people on many types of geological formations, I guess I have developed a fair amount of good technique and a somewhat varied skill set when it comes to the sport I love. This is not an exaggerated view of myself but more a reasonable assessment of developed awareness.

Climbing in Croatia has been a truly humbling experience, particularly the Paklenica National Park.

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The epic limestone walls of Paklenica National Park……spot the two climbing teams.

The short slabby sports routes are super polished and your feet have to be perfectly placed to execute even the simplest of moves on these technical and sometimes run out vertical excursions.

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Bouldery slab climbing in Klanci Sector make you keep your feet neat. “Bella” 6a. Paklenica National Park, Croatia.

Shallow water droplet pockets test your individual finger strength and ability to trust yourself, whilst bridging across flat faces with both feet vertically positioned in water runnels.

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Karine smiling as she approaches the rest point on “No Dilly Dally” 6b Klanci Sector.

This place deserves respect or it will eat you up and spit you out quicker than you can say “Dobro dan” to the local park ranger. I have always worked on the technical aspect of my climbing, but nothing prepared me for the “Paklenica Experience”.

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Esther, Andy, me and Karine. This was the Croatian Climbing Crew.

Day one in the park we warmed up on a bunch of 4’s and 5’s at Klanci Sector. We were both very surprised at how desperate these routes actually felt. The rock was beautiful, yet sharp and the moves……well the moves were very unusual at times. I hadn’t experienced moves quite this technical for the grades we were climbing.

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Karine fighting through the rooflet of a standard 5b in the National Park.

We graduated to the creek bed area the next day and it was beautiful and cool. The place actually becomes very busy quite early on as the majority of people who are in the park during the week are there to climb. Early in the morning when you look up at the massive limestone walls, there are multi pitch maniacs everywhere. Its super cool.

The climbing in the creek was fabulous and still very technical. Easy grades still tested everyone there. I came off a 6b (19/20) that was balancy and thin. This vertical one move wonder became indeed crucial to my development :-)………it treated me with the disrespect I deserved.

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Post slab rest just before the technical crux on “Lu Lu” 6b. Paklenica……..

There were a number of moments across our time in the park where we were all treated with mild disdain. It was the best thing that could have happened as we all sucked it up and really dug deep to find our feet literally and figuratively. True growth only comes out of patience and learning. This was our new classroom and we were in kindergarten again.

The routes we were climbing were truly super fun routes. We would get there early and climb as much as we could some days. Other days we would do two routes and go for a burger and beer. We did however climb a lot and that was the best remedy for solving our experience issues on these type of routes.

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“Cochize” 7a Karin Sector, Karin Town Croatia.

I would go back to Paklenica for a long stay (6 weeks) just to improve my climbing more and more. It is a fabulous location with incredible climbing all throughout the park. I really feel like I had a great breakthrough in the time I was there. It wasn’t ticking big numbers, it wasn’t climbing big mountains…….it was doing good time on weaknesses that had not showed their faces previously.

Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble.

– Shah Rukh Khan

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the adventure continues:- Croatia…..where do you start with this beautiful place………?

How do you start to describe a place when it is so diverse and incredibly historically rich. I am actually not sure myself, but I will try to give you some sort of reference point when it comes to this stunning and arid landscape.

Right now I am sitting on the terrace of our apartment in Starigrad. I am starring at the dappling sunlight as it bounces of the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. There is a soft haze in the air and the heat shimmers off the distant hills. It is a dry and unforgiving landscape I am witnessing across the inlet.

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The view from our terrace…….its ok? no?

As the temperature reaches a high of 30 in the sun today, a cool breeze blesses us as we relax and contemplate a late lunch. The produce here is fresh and plentiful. Seafood is the local prize. Specifically Mussels and they are without a doubt truly incredible. The cuisine we have been experiencing when offered has been authentic Croatian fare. Our host Milka has been preparing meals, most unexpectedly for us.

We arrived home on the second day and Milka had prepared a very localised dish called “Hobobotnica”. It is Polenta covered in braised octopus in a very rich gravy like red wine sauce with potato and octopus salad with green onion leaves (don’t knock it until you have tried it). Next was Manestra, a minestrone like think stewy soup. This included local dried sausage and rich pepper flavours. OMG this place is incredible, we hit the jackpot as far as accommodation goes.

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Manestra………hmmmmm….heart food!
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Wild Asparagus in Bechamel Sauce with Homemade Pasta.

Milka also invited us for dinner one night and we dined on butternut pumpkin soup for entree, striped sea bass, blitva (like spinach) and potatoes with tomatoes with paper and salt in Balsamic vinegar. Dessert was wild strawberries for the local hills with chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

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Our host, unfortunately with a mouthful of food…..sorry Milka. She is divine and truly wonderful 🙂

This also included, grapa, schnapps and accompanying local wines, which are great by the way.

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Karine enjoying the sunset on the Adriatic Sea.

The changing geography of this remarkable country is something to behold. Driving out to Plitvice National Park we experienced mountainous regions for miles and then all of a sudden beautiful agricultural plains. The roads were scattered with market stalls of the local farmers. Selling their own brands of honey, cheese and organic fare. We stopped and purchased one and a half kilograms of cheese (thats the French influence on our diets).

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Local transport authority…….

We visited the ancient burial sights of the Velebit people. The customer is as follows: when the person dies, the body is then carried from its place of death to the local church and then up to the burial site. The body is not allowed to touch the ground until its final resting place. One thing did notice was how small the grave sites were and apparently the local people were quite small in stature. The place where the souls rest is called “Mirila” meaning “Measurements”.

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One of th many graves of the Velebit People (the author laying down to give perspective on size of people).

To really enjoy Croatia, I think is really important to be in the countryside and drive around a little. Thats what makes it such an amazing place to be.

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What can you say but……stunning!

Its about exploring cultures and understanding their origins that make travelling a deeper experience.

– The author

the adventure continues:- one requires a willingness to constantly accept critical feedback to grow and improve.

Recently while staying in the UK for a couple of months, I decided to get some real life coaching from one of climbings true coaching machines. I had decided to try and work on my weaknesses, but I thought I didn’t know enough about them to really identify what needed to be improved. So I spoke to Karine about this and she said she was genuinely interested in also having a couple of coaching sessions.

On the recommendation of some good friends in Kalymnos, Greece I decided to contact Neil Gresham. I had read a few of his articles in Rock and Ice Magazine on training, technique and diet regarding climbing. When Steve and Sue had mentioned his name I thought “ Ok lets do it”. As usual the net provides all sorts of wonderful ways to contact people, but finding Neil’s contact details was super simple.

http://www.neilgresham.com/training-coaching.php

I have always thought that you should just put yourself out there and make contact. Neil responded  extremely promptly and we began our dialogue with regard to what both Karine and I wanted to achieve. It was probably one of the best and most simple processes I have been through other than when I first met my first climbing coach Rob Hodyl. Karine’s sessions were definitely different to mine and I am not sure what they did as I was not present. It was their time and focus was the key element.

Note** The big questions for me were “what to” and “how to” train weaknesses whilst on the road and climbing a lot whilst not over doing it. I was very open to critical feedback.

Anyway, down to the sessions. This is the nitty gritty that we are all interested in right?

Pre Coaching Session: A simple questionnaire about your climbing life thus far including futures goals and outcomes (two distinctly different things by the way).

Session one: Assessment time.

Neil ran us through our paces in a bouldering session to assess our level of competency and basically look for any obvious technique issues. He asked a lot of key questions that were at times a little difficult to articulate answers to. This was a good thing as we had to seriously think about what we were doing.

Outcome: I need to focus my training on finger strength, bouldering and core engagement.

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Finger board training at Rock City in Hull. – photo by James Rennnardson.
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Bouldering at Wainstones in the North York Moors……Strength and Power training. – photo by Karine Deberdt

Neil’s Recommendations: Regular hang board sessions and TRX Suspension Training.

Session Two: Red-point Strategies and Projecting.

After warming up Neil put me straight on a grade that I had only tried two or three times previously. I had never really projected anything above about 9 shots before. Mainly because I am travelling and time in areas is limited to two weeks to a month and there are so many good routes to climb.

I worked the route on the first attempt, checking out moves and putting sequences together and then coming down and resting for about 40 minutes. I had never really given this type pf process a good go before and he was very honest with me about what I should be doing. This was what i needed……a fresh perspective.

Outcome: First attempt go draw to draw if you have to and work out what you need to do where and clean the holds. Try the harder moves a couple of times the way they work for you. However get all the way to the top. Long rest period, visualise the moves and recover well. Try the route again with a view to red-pointing it.

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The Visualisation Process……a very useful tool for red-point sends.

Neil’s Recommendations: Use this process with a view to succeeding though red-pointing routes. You will fail when projecting at your limit, but there will be successes and there will also be great periods of learning. Its important to embed the process, the moves, find the rests and push through hard sections to the rests and recover where you can.

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Rest and recovery strategies are a necessity.

My Recommendations:

Going and seeing Neil was a great decision at this particular point in my climbing life. I had lost a little motivation and felt I was plateauing and not moving forward. If you have any time to can fit in a session or two with him, it is only going to give you better insight and all be absolutely worth it.

After your sessions be sure to follow up with him and provide feedback…..I did! From the feedback I sent through, Neil sent back further information that has helped yet again.

I sent my project the next trip out.

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My red-point send of “Exo6″…..a goal achieved.

Thanks again Neil.

There has to be a willingness to constantly accept critical feedback and rapidly iterate to make things better.

– Sam Yagan

the adventure continues:- Unique and Stunning…..Plitvice National Park……….

As I stand atop our vantage point, I look directly down into the gorge and all I see is streams of white water cascading down hundreds of feet. There are people strolling along beautiful wooden foot tracks that rise ever so slightly above the torrent of turquoise blue water that powers through the greenery and then ebbs to a short lived tranquility…….welcome to Plitvice National Park.

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The view from the grand view point at the lower park entrance…..this is where we started our walk from…..

This is a UNESCO world heritage sight and for many reasons I completely understand this. The impact on the local eco-system if this place disappeared would be devastating. I had heard about Plitvice Lakes from a couple of friends back home and they had posted about it on Facebook. As Croatia was our plan B, I thought we have to visit this incredible sight.

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Another waterfall…….OMG!
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Lower level lake and limestone cliffs

There are several walks/hikes you can do around the area with the longest being approx. 8 kms. Karine and I decided on the 6 km walk though the park. It would take through the entire lakes system and include a boat ride across the main lake to continue to higher elevation.

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the great lake and surrounds
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Not another beautiful waterfall……just what we all need.

There is really no other way to describe how incredibly beautiful thins place is. It is filled with beauty at every turn. Apart from the cascades, the flora and fauna is truly stunning. The forests lush with life, fish in all the lakes, European brown bears, eagles, wolves, lynx’s, owls and many other not so exotic creatures.

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Crystal clear pools display their history stunningly preserved…..
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The cascades and tufa formations growing before our eyes……..incredible.

Scientists have so far listed 1,267 different plants out of 109 species that can be found within the area of the national park. 75 plants are endemic, which means that they have first been defined and classified in this area of the world or not far from it. This extract from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park#Features

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The lush forest and waterfall into the third major lake.
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The peace and stillness was inspiring.

I was just completely overwhelmed with the beauty of this place and only being there will give you the experience you need to take in its uniqueness.

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the last great vantage point from the top of this vast and beautiful park.

Or if you cant make it right now, start looking at some of the photographs on this page to wet your appetite.

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The colours are simply breath-taking……….

the adventure continues:- the wilds of Croatia open our eyes wide….

We left Split yesterday morning and headed for our next destination, Paklenica National Park and a little town called Stari Grad. This beautiful little place is located right on the shoreline of the Adriatic. It was to be our home for the next five days. We had an apartment booked and we were looking forward to going climbing  a lot.

We were scrolling through the guidebook just simply checking out the lay of the land and realised that there was no Paklenica section. We soon realised this is a separate guidebook and we would have purchase an additional one to climb in the park. So we decided to use the one we had and go climbing somewhere else for the first journey out this morning. Karine said she wanted to do a multi-pitch route as she had not yet done one, so we decided on a route and sorted out our plans.

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The Route……..

It was going to be hot today and we knew we needed lots of water and sustenance to maintain our energy. The route we had chosen was called “Slapovica” 5a. This amazing looking line started at the lowest point of this incredible formation that looked like the top of a perfect ice cream cone. It was an easy line but for both of us it would be an adventure together that we had yet to experience.

Part of the fun with adventures is finding the place. There are a number of factors that come into play. Vague information, foreign country and time. We took a wrong turn off the “highway” and ended up at someones house on top of a hill. they were very helpful and guided us to where we were headed. Finally locating the right hand turn down the dirt road we were on our way to our destination.

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Walking in along the gas pipeline road provided a beautiful vista…

Parking in the lay-away on the side of this narrow road and gearing up, the temps had started to soar. The walk-in was only about 15 minutes, but it was very much uphill and down dale to the designated area. It was a beautiful area with an alpine feel about it, the smells and the flora and fauna were all reminiscent of the high mountains. There are bears in Croatia and I was aware of this but not panicked.

At the base of the route we geared up and prepared for our journey into the vertical for a couple of hours. I said to Karine “just enjoy yourself and take your time.” I set off up the first pitch excited and  with no expectation of what was to come other than a little adventure. The first pitch was over in about four minutes for me. It was 25 metres of very straight forward scrambling. Karine followed me up about five minutes later.

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Pitch two was the main pitch and we talked about the slightly overhanging bulge that was about 15 metres above us. It was a well bolted pitch and didn’t appear to be overly strenuous. I set off again and headed up, looking back down I could see K smiling and it was wonderful. She was having fun and thats what its all about. I arrived at the next set of anchors and setup. The view was really starting to improve and the surrounds were glorious.

I looked up and there were more anchors about ten metres up, so I decided that linking pitches three and four would make for less work and improve our time overall as it was now 30 degrees celsius and there was no shade anywhere at all. The base of the route was bare as was the surrounding grassland.

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Topping out……..exhilarating!!

As I clipped the anchors at the absolute peak of the ice cream cone I felt a sense of happiness that I had not had for quite sometime. Climbing hard routes is one thing (believe me i love it), but standing high above the ground staring out across the mountains is a truly sensual and inspiring feeling.

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Karine joined me, completing her first multi-pitch and we sat there and looked out for a while just to appreciate where we were and how fortunate we are to be able to do the things we do. This was another first for us in our continuing story.

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When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view.

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

the adventure continues:- Our first decision was to settle in and see Split Old Town……

Waking up on Croatia felt a little strange after seven weeks in the UK. Everything was very relaxed there and here I was in a small suburb of Split called Lovrinac. We were perched high on the second floor over looking a market garden and what appeared to be some sort of scrubland. It was a beautiful little apartment that we had and we were super content just to be together again.

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The Adriatic lapping at the foreshore of Split creates elegant contrast…….

Breakfast on the balcony was the morning ritual and we would cherish the sunlight until the temperature hit the mid twenties at about 9:30am. Then it was inside to tidy up and get ready for our day. We decided to keep it simple and get the number three bus into Split Downtown and just wander around the area and checkout the sights.

Old town Split was a real treat and the history was incredible. Roman architecture, granite columns, ancient city walls and wondrous underground caverns where modern day flea markets and stalls were bustling with the tourist fervour that comes with the European summer.

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Roman cathedral tower in Split Old Town.
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“The Plaza”

On our first day we also decided to track down the local climbing/adventure outlet and see what the lay of the land was. As stated previously we located the guidebook and headed for the town plaza. The aroma of seafood filled the air, you could smell the herbs and spices coming from the kitchens of each restaurant. How could Miss K and I resist sitting down for lunch?

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Love this street……..super cute.

We were almost accosted by three locals with menu’s in their hands, stating “this is the menu for my restaurant and you should come and eat with us”. Finally submitting to one of the hostesses we sat down, ordered a local beer and scrolled through the menu. Deciding on a vegetarian risotto and  a local mussel dish. The cuisine is a Croatian/Italian mix. Completely understandable given the proximity of the countries.

After lunch we walked to the Marjan National Park via a string of local beaches, stopping for a swim in the Adriatic along the way and decided to try and locate the local climbing area. Walking for at least a couple of kilometres we located a park guard who informed us that we had to walk about two kilometres more to get to where we wanted to go. It was thirty degrees now and we were on a mission. Fortunately for us a short mission.

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The Crag in Marjan Park.

The cliffs were towering above (really only about thirty metres high) us now and as we walked we noticed buildings in the cliff faces. These were in fact built by local hermits 50-150 years ago to escape the city grind and retire to a more peaceful life of prayer and art. This seemed a strange thing according to some and public outrage ensued.

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A derelict hermit home in the face of the cliff
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Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows perched high on the hill….

Making our way back into town through the park was a beautiful way to spend our late afternoon. I cant talk about romantic sunsets and so on, because the sun doesn’t set until about 8:30pm at the moment but non the less a wonderful walk through the forest back into town.

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All roads lead to Split…..wandering back to town through the forest…….

A wonderful way to catch up with my love, start a new adventure and see a beautiful old place 🙂

the adventure continues:- Disappointment turns to excitement as Plan B unfolds……

These early mornings when you travel can surely take their toll. Its 5:15 am and I am saying goodbye to Michael, who had kindly gotten out of be to have tea together and bid me farewell from these sunny British shores. We chatted briefly about whats next for us both and smile saying “See you in Kalymnos in April 2017!” I hop onto my beastly hire car and head for Manchester Airport via Hathersage and Snake Pass. Two names that I love as they inspire thoughts of “tales of olde”.

Its dark and the road is narrow but, I am heading to meet Miss K and we are going to Croatia for three weeks. Our plans to go to China were quashed as my Visa Application was never completed. It took Miss K twelve minutes to get her visa for Australia, it took me 21 minutes to get my visa of the US. Three weeks of no response and I was charged 66 quid for nothing……I was a little pissed about it.

Anyways, there are more important things to be concerned with and to be looking forward to than worrying about bureaucrats throwing their weight around. We are heading to Croatia and its the end of summer. The weather will still be warm and we can look around an amazing country and see the sights.

Karine and I met in Frankfurt, reconnected and Plan B was afoot. There is only one flight to Split a day with Lufthansa and we booked the same flights even though we were leaving from different places. We even booked seats next to each other……super cute we are 🙂

Arriving in Split was great. We were both quite tired and needed a day or so to settle in. We booked a fabulous little apartment near Lovrinac just a ten minute bus (the number 3) ride out of town. It was clean, quaint, comfortable and ours for the next five days. our hostess was lovely……..so was the local beer.

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This beer was fabulous……its a must while in Split, Croatia.

It had everything we needed including a suspended bed that receded into the ceiling to make more room when we weren’t using it. We had pizza for dinner that night and some cheap local house wine to celebrate being on yet another adventure together.

Our plan is to head into Split town centre tomorrow and get the lay of the land, find the local adventure store and pick up a copy of the new 2016 Croatian Climbing Guide by Boris Cujic.

Right now its off to bed and time for some well earned sleep. A relaxing but active “US” day will suffice tomorrow.

Good night friends…..sweet dreams to you 🙂