Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Panoramic View of Paradise

I've officially been out of the US now for almost a full week. Two of those were eaten up with travel and time zone leaps- but the other five days have been enough for us to recover from jet lag, explore the town and climbing of Split, meet up with Nathan and Cheri, ride the ferry to the island of Hvar, and climb for a day-and-a-half at Cliff Base ( And take a rest day.
Dean, Heather, and I arrived in Split on the afternoon of June 10; Nathan and Cheri would not arrive in Croatia until the 13th, so we decided to kill a few days in the town proper, sleeping away our jet lag and checking out the local climbing.

Turns out that Split is an awesome town. It's downtown is definitely a bit touristy, but in an abnormally digestible fashion. The architecture of the town is an amalgamation of old and new-- and it's pretty apparent that the town has not seen any kind of tectonic activity in the last 1000 years, looking around at all of the towering and aged stonework. 

At the heart of the town, right on the coast, is an old Palace into, onto, and around which many newer structures have been built. The town is a maze of architectural entropy that has actually turned out to be quite beautiful. Tall and narrow buildings are fitted into, on top of, and around each other at odd angles and impressive heights. 
As for the climbing in Split- we didn't have a car, so were restricted to climbing within walking distance of the town. (We were too jet lagged to try to rally the bus system.) It turns out that the walkable climbing was more than enough. 

The crag we went to is called Marjan. It's on a peninsula west of the downtown, and is just a 30 or 40 minute walk from our "hotel" (or: room in the basement of a random building). Though the climbing looked less-than-stellar, each route we did climbed quite well, and we learned that the ratings here a full-value. 

Climbing seems to be well-accepted here. At the base of the routes were enough names lacquered  to the rock to help orient you, and park-style wooden benches were scattered along the base of the crag. Even given the nearness of the climbing to Split, the beautiful scenery, and the fun climbing, we still never saw another climber. 

On the 13th, Nathan and Cheri arrived and we hustled them through our version of the Split tour. We downloaded to them all that we had learned: that the ice cream wasn't as good as it looks, that pizza-by-the-slice is not as good as it looks, that the palace has a really cool dungeon underneath, and that you walk directly up hill from the popcorn vendor to get to our room. 

The next morning, we hustled to the pier with our crazy amount of luggage- climbing gear, photography gear, dismembered bodies... and rocked the two-hour ferry ride to the Stari Grad on the Island of Hvar. We took a taxi immediately to Cliff Base (, a privately-owned seaside climbing mini-paradise with nearly a hundred routes, a climber hostel, and deep water soloing. 

Miroslav, the owner of Cliff Base, has been there for seven years- and over that time has developed what is a high-quality limestone crag with nearly 100 routes. Though many of the routes are very, very near each other, each still climbs well and seems to take its own line. Most of the routes are long, too, at 30 to 40 meters. An 80 m rope is the recommended length here! But you can get away without one, as most long climbs have a mid-way anchor. 

Cliff Base is located in a miniscule town with one small food market, one restaurant (the local hang, for sure), and one bar. Miroslav knows everyone, and we've been introduced to the big local vintner, the owner of the restaurant (who is also the owner of our apartment, which is located directly above the restaurant)... Turns out that speaking German is super handy here. Equally as many people speak German as English- so between the two languages, we have been able to cover almost all of our interactions with words!

The climbing is great- usually very solid at the grade. Mostly vertical, technical, and highly dependent on trust-of-friction. There is a small selection of slightly steeper climbs- but most of these are juggy, globby, gaping deep-water solos. 
This is my first go with deep-water soloing, and here it's incredibly fun. The water is beautiful- clear, aqua blue (no way!), and and the perfect temperature. 
We've climbed for 1.5 days here at Cliff Base. No projects yet- all onsighting. But soon I'd like to get on something a bit harder. 

We all agree that today is a mandatory rest day. Muscles tired. Skin shot. Shoes and chalkbags wet. (Deep water soloing!)

The nights I've gone out have been really fun. In Split, I went out with our restaurant hostess, a Croatian girl Yelena -we went to a pier of super cool open air, seaside clubs w/ DJs. 

In Hvar, I got to celebrate by eating a lamb roasted for the women's soccer team who won the year-long, island-wide tournament. When the lamb was eaten (in the town's only restaurant), the party moved downstairs (to the town's only bar). Ended up staying late, listening to the Croatians sing their croatian songs as loudly as possible, joked around, and, predictably (but also understandably), fielded questions about American foreign relations. Slapped high-fives to all the familiar faces around town suffering from hangovers the next day. 

Looks like we'll probably stay here for another night or two- then head off to climb at the island of Brac, and then possibly onto mainland Croatia- Possibly to Paklenica?
Bye from Christine (and Dean, too).

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