Let’s put it straight: Serbia has never been a place in our mind to visit, neither for sight seeing nor climbing. But this changed mid 2016, when Josh has been contacted by Outdoor Collective, an NGO based in Belgrade, to attend the Reel Rock 11 Tour premieres in Serbia and do some clinics for the local climbers. Financed through the American Embassy, he spent about 10 days in November (actually while Charlotte was in Greece with the Alpine Club), traveling from town to town and discovering the gyms and the cliffs that the small country offers. When he came back from his stay, it took him about a week (Charlotte speaking here) to come back to “real life”… his head was still with the kind people he met and in the beautiful gorges he climbed at. So after talking a bit more about it, it was decided: Serbia would be our second destination of the trip.
We first reached out to Djuk at Outdoor Collective, to offer our help for anything like clinics, talks, slideshow, clinics. In the little community, it was a great opportunity for the climbers to learn and discover a bit more through our eyes and experiences. Thanks to the American Embassy in Belgrade, willing to help and promote the development of climbing in Serbia, we got some budget to come over and tour in the Country. The planning was to spend the first week in Belgrade, our weekends in gyms for some events, and move to a town called Nis, in the south, where there is plenty of climbing and developing to be done.
A WEEK IN BELGRADE
When we arrived, we were welcomed by Simone, who offered to host us for our stay in Serbia with his wonderful wife Aleksandra and daughter Milena. Our (their) place was right downtown, with a stellar view on the Saint Sava Temple, which was quite enjoyable to look at from the living room window. The family of three was absolutely adorable and we felt just like home, spending some great times with them.
The day after we arrived was Josh’s birthday, and we met up with Outdoor Collective and a bunch of friends and head to have a late pizza lunch on a boat restaurant. The local prepared a surprise for Josh’s birthday, with a big cake and gifts (Rakia!!!), which was really awesome and a nice opportunity for Cha to meet everybody.
In the next days, we visited different gyms (clubs and personal walls) in Belgrade, trained, coached a bit and did a talk downtown to introduce us and the trip, and do a slideshow about Social Media and sponsoring. It was quite interesting to brainstorm together about it and propose a didactic presentation. A week later, we went to Krucevac to do a clinic, and later on, the Serbian Federation asked us to set the bouldering nationals, which we did and it was a lot of fun !
We also went to the outdoor sectors around Belgrade :
We spent most of our time in Serbia next to a main town called Nis. A bit to the east of it, in Niska Banja, we had a small apartment, a bit old, smelly and not really at the norms. The best (worst) part was the bathroom, which had no shower but a hose coming out of the sink, with a power outlet a few centimeters away, and naked wires on the top of the wall. We will for sure remember it !
Climbing in Sicevo and Jelasnica
For discovering the place and getting some video content, we climbed a few days in the Jelasnica Gorge, which is probably the oldest and biggest climbing area in Serbia. It’s a narrow pretty gorge surrounded with short cliff bands and cliff towers, made of mostly a nice compact grey limestone. There, Charlotte sent “Future Land” 8b which is, as for today, the hardest route in the gorge.
However there are few projects sprinkled along the gorge, and judging by their difficulty when we tried a few of them, Future Land will not remain the hardest route for a long time.
We played in two other sectors: in the obvious little H2O cave, where Josh re-sent “H2O”; and in a beautiful slabby pillar where Cha climbed “Zilet”.
To the North of Jelasnica is the Sicevo gorge, which is also known for climbing in the area, but it’s much bigger than Jelasnica and has much more potential and diversity. We spent a nice day climbing here with Jonathan, Djuk, Velko and Alex, and Josh went up to film a beautiful 8a+ we sent last year : Eagle’s Milk.
Developping a new area
Actually on the first day we drove down in Nis area, Djuk and Veljko gave us a tour of the Sicevo gorge, so we can put an eye on some potential to develop. Our eyes were caught by so many untouched cliffs and pillars of all forms, but our heart was instantly trapped on a massive cave that we could see for only a tiny part of the day. It was decided : that would be our mission for the rest of the trip.
The first difficulty to start developing the cave was simply to reach it. The road is across the river from it, and the river is not just a “jump across” type of river. Our first try was to drive on a tiny old road to reach the top of the hill. We arrived on a very old village where we asked for some kind of directions towards the cave, but they actually had no idea about it. So we parked and meandered our way through. When we got close enough to the top of it, we realized it would be too steep and too long to go down, especially to go back up.
So we turned around and decided to go back on the main road, and try to cross the river anyway. Josh sacrificed and we were then able to set up a tyrolean with a fixed rope. We then made our way through the bushes and up the steep hill, crossed a rail track (pretty cool) and kept walking up the steep hill side, up to the cave. Our first word was WOW ! It was much bigger than we thought from the ground, and you could already here us saying the many obvious lines we were thinking to bolt!
In the next few days, which Daniel (a local climber/bolter) we created the trail, which required some serious switchbacks, we put up few fixed ropes to help going up, and we installed a real cable tyrolean to replace our rope. It was a fun challenge as neither Josh nor I had ever done that before. Good thing we could find all the gear and tools necessary at a hardware store down in Nis.
8th route : it is not done yet, but it’s gonna be a nice team work between us and Daniel, as we put the first few bolts, and he promises to finish the bolting when he comes back.
We’d have to say, the cave is hard ! We only sent 1 route out of the 5 we bolted.
Our stay in Nis and in Serbia in general was totally highlighted by the people we got to spend time with: Climbing with the Belgrade crew, working at the cave with Daniel, hanging out with the Casettas, barbecues at Nesa’s and Gaga’s, diners at Burka and most importantly , spending a lot of time with Djuk and Velko… Thank you all for these times!
First rule of fight club, 7a+, C and J
Zilet, 7b+, C
H2O, 8a, J
Future land, 8b, C
Cheese bread (don't know the name)