Back to the roots Vol. 01

balkancolours

Rock Climbing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Back

to the roots

R o c k c l i m b i n g i n B o s n

i a a n d H e r z e g ov i n a

Vol. 01


2

First edition, January 2021

Front cover © Illustration: Aleksandar Saša Škorić

PUBLISHER

Balkan Colours

Talijanskog bataljona Mateoti 6

78000 Banja Luka

Bosnia and Herzegovina

www.balkancolours.com

Copyright

Texts: Authors as noted, Balkan Colours

Photographs: As noted in the caption, if unspecified Balkan Colours

Graphic Design: Aleksandar Saša Škorić

Illustrations: Aleksandar Saša Škorić

Translations & edited by: David Lemmerer and Igor Vukić

SAFETY DISCLAIMER

The publishers, authors and editors accept no responsibility for any

activities for any consequences arising from the use of this magazine

and do not accept any liability for any damages or injuries occurred. Rock

climbing is an inherently potentially dangerous activity with objective

and subjective dangers that might lead to personal injury or death.

Corrections:

Although we have put every effort and have taken lots of care in

preparing this magazine, we cannot guarantee and we do not accept any

liability for the accuracy or completeness of the content due to possible

changes at the places showcased in this magazine.

Aleksandar Saša Škorić

Alberta University of Art and Design, BFA,

Calgary, Canada

Saša works across multiple disciplines including art direction, textile

design, illustration and graphic design. He established Saša Design in

Tokyo where he lived and it is where he started creating his wondrous

paper masks.

www.sasadesign.com


3 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Please visit our website www.balkancolours.com for updates and please drop

us a line at info@balkancolours.com if you find anything to be inaccurate or

missing. Your feedback, comments and suggestions are highly appreciated.

The creation of this magazine was realized throughout the “BiH Climbing

Fusion” project, which is funded by the Embassy of Switzerland in Bosnia and

Herzegovina throughout MarketMakers, a project supported by the Government

of Switzerland, implemented by a consortium of Helvetas Schweiz and

Kolektiv / Posao.ba.


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07

Back to the roots

11

KRAJINA REGION

Banja Luka and the

highlands

Bosnia and Herzegovina

19

A HITCHHIKE

THROUGH BOSNIA

It’s a love story!

25

Exploring my country

during COVID-19


31

Former young

talent turned old

fart

51

HERZEGOVINA REGION

The Bosnian California

with Mostar

69

Razor-sharp rocks

in the land of

homemade rakija

35

SARAJEVO REGION

The capital and its

mountains

47

FROM ZERO TO HERO

Building a Climbing

community in Northern

Bosnia

61

FIRST ASCENTS AT MT. VELEŽ

AOB mountaineering camp

2020

41

CLIMBING,

CAMPING AND

COFFEE

A Year in Bosnia

and Herzegovina

55

BLAGAJ STORY

Gem of the south

5 BACK TO THE ROOTS


6

Bosnia and

Herzegovina

The small rocky country in the heart

of the Dinaric Alps remains one of

Europe’s last climbing secrets


Back to the roots

7 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Rock climbing and climbing tourism became a global

trend. Gone are the days of scruffy basement bouldering

gyms. High-end climbing gyms are popping up even

in the most rock-forgotten places. That doesn’t come

without a downside - in the trendier climbing areas it’s

becoming increasingly anonymous and crowded.

In contrast to this highly saturated climbing landscape

in Western Europe, climbing in Bosnia remains a small

subculture, although recently there’s been

a real boom. The small, tight-knitted

climbing community enjoys an

unexpected luxury: Compared

with any other country,

Bosnia probably has the

highest number of routes

per climber. Seventy

percent of today’s 1500

routes were bolted

in the last 5 years!

The bigger crags

easily match similar,

well-known climbing

areas in Croatia or

Slovenia in terms of

rock quality, versatility

and character. The big

difference to most other

climbing areas, more often

than not, one has the whole

crag to themself.

As for so much in Bosnia, the reasons for

this lie in the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia.

While sport climbing experienced a real boom during the

late 80s and early 90s, the mountaineering and climbing

scene in Yugoslavia completely collapsed.

The wars in Bosnia and Croatia (1991-1995) left a

devastated, divided country still struggling with poverty

and corruption.

Many stories testify to the post-war Bosnian climbers

passion and their do-it-yourself spirit overcoming a lack

of finances, material and knowledge. Climbing gyms were

built with donated materials in ruined buildings, garages

and basements equipped with self-made holds. A usual

bolting modus operandi in the early days was

to bolt half a route with a cable-powered

drill. The rest was bolted half a year

later when more bolts could

be organized from friends

abroad.

The small annual cult

climbing festivals

(Pecka, Drill & Chill,

Blagaj) and the

first Guidebook

for Bosnia and

Herzegovina (2018)

attract thousands of

international climbers

each year. Today a new

generation has taken

over the drill, scratching

the surface of an enormous

rock potential that still lies

undiscovered in Bosnia’s forests,

canyons and mountains.

They increasingly receive funding from

international donors who support this success story for

both climbers and local businesses.


8

If you’re planning your next trip, we hope you

consider coming to Bosnia for an unforgettable

experience, while it’s still as original and quiet as it

is today! It’s as close as Croatia, the rock is excellent,

varied and unpolished, with well-bolted routes

mostly in the 5 th -7 th french grades. Hard movers

will find enough test-pieces to destroy their skin

on, adventure-hungry climbers and bolters also

won’t be disappointed by the potential. In addition

to a relaxing climbing trip in the midst of unspoiled

nature, in a week you can explore a whole country

with a fascinating history and a real southern

hospitality. Have we mentioned it’s extremely

cheap for a western wallet?


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Village life

In the following pages we present the best crags around the three main

cities, Banja Luka, Sarajevo and Mostar. For colour, we added a few

travelers stories and dispatches from the locals.

Hope you’ll enjoy your trip,

see you at the rocks!

David & Igor


Naslov

420 m highline at the Drill & Chill Festival, Kanjon Tijesno

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Krajina region

Banja Luka and the highlands

11 BACK TO THE ROOTS

The north-west, the Bosnian Krajina, is a much underrated region. Good

news is it has the highest climbing density in Bosnia! The sparsely

populated area that has been shaped for centuries by its strategic location

on the border between Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Thickly

forested hills alternate with picturesque highlands crossed by spectacular

wild water (Una, Vrbas, Sana & Pliva rivers) and some of the largest

limestone caves in Southeast Europe.

Pecka


Banja Luka, the capital of the

Republika Srpska (RS - the part of the

country that was established during

the war with a Serbian majority) is

a tranquil, green city with 200,000

inhabitants. It’s a great base for a

climbing trip with a big range of

areas within a short drive. On rest

days, the many cafés (Kafic), bars and

restaurants (Restoran) are never far

away, there is also a small club and

cultural scene and a well-equipped

climbing gym run by Climbing Club

Extreme on the University campus.

Follow the main highway along

the Vrbas river south for twelve

kilometers - after a sharp curve you’ll

stare up into the 350 m deep Tijesno

canyon. Currently, it has 450 pitches

which makes it the largest and most

diverse climbing area in Bosnia. On

two kilometers there are several long

ridges, most reaching down close to

the road. Between them are highfriction

limestone walls with technical

face climbing and juggy slabs, steep

cracks and wall climbing, and 70

meters high tufa overhangs...

The multi pitches are all plaisir style

climbs with a length of up to 200

meters, mainly in the sixth French

grade. Almost all routes were bolted

since 2015 during the annual “Drill &

Chill Climbing and Highline” festivals.

There are also a few fine sport

climbing sectors that offer routes in

the 5 th -7 th french grades and some of

the hardest routes in the Balkans in

the 100 m high Amfiteatar sector.

12

Kanjon Tijesno

Not far from the canyon is Kameni

Most. The natural arch known as the

“stone bridge” is extremely scenic

and offers interesting, technical

climbing in all grades and orientations.

A maximum exposure game is the

curious Živjeli (7c), which starts on

top of the stone bridge and traverses

through the highest point of the arch

(next double page).


Banja Luka

Vrbas river

13 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Klekovača

Sana springs

An hour’s drive south of Banja Luka, near a small village, lies the Bosnian pocket

climbing paradise Pecka. The south-facing cliff band is up to 40 meters high and

stretches for a few kilometers through a hilly landscape. Over 100 closely bolted

routes in all grades offer pocket climbing on gray slabs and bellies and steep,

powerful overhangs. The Pecka Visitor Center, located in a former village school

is a good base, as well as the bed & breakfast in the village Ubovića brdo. Just

as worth a visit are the Sana springs or the Zelenkovac Eco Zone, a rustique café

and small gallery which has been lovingly built by a local artist.


14


Živjeli (7c) at Kameni most

15 BACK TO THE ROOTS


Interklemezzo 9a, Amfiteatar, Kanjon Tijesno © Sebastian Wahlhuetter

The news about the rock quality

got through to Adam Ondra. In a

few days in September 2018 he

climbed Interklemezzo, Bosnia’s

first 9a and, in the four days that

followed, he bolted and climbed

“Highline”, a 50 m extension of

Bolts for bitches, 8b+, which he

graded 9a+/b and recommends

highly.

DRILL & CHILL FESTIVAL

ADAM ONDRA BOLTING AND

CLIMBING BOSNIA’S FIRST 9A

AND 9A+/B

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Kanjon Tijesno

17 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Amfitetar, Kanjon Tijesno


18

Pecka


A hitchhike through Bosnia

It’s a love story!

Maren Pfeiffer and Claudio Giesen

19 BACK TO THE ROOTS

We are sitting on a small balcony in the heart of Sarajevo’s old town. The

copper-colored roof of the nearby Sebilj fountain protrudes from behind

the roofs. We have a cup of coffee and play a game of Kniffel. Our eyes

wander incessantly over the expansive scenery: a sweeping canopy of

leaves, the narrow minaret of a mosque, countless houses, forested hills

loom behind. It’s good we’re here.

Baščaršija - Sarajevo old town

Sarajevo


We owe our trip to unknown Bosnia

to a cultural scientist from the

University of Hildesheim, Germany. In

her doctoral thesis, Marija Đorđević

examines the monuments in the

Balkans that were built in honor of the

partisans’ struggle against fascism.

Even those who visit it without any

scientific interest will be amazed by

their size! In particular, the memorials

in the Tjentište / Sutjeska National

Park and in the Kozara mountain range

are significant testimonies of Yugoslav

memorial architecture. Thanks to their

location in the midst of vast national

parks, visiting cultural highlights can

be combined with excursions into the

mountains.

After a week in Central Bosnia, the

end of the excursion takes us to the

town of Banja Luka. This turns out to

be a lucky coincidence, as we want

to spend the remaining time with as

much rock contact as possible. One of

the best sport climbing areas in Bosnia

is just located in the nearby Kanjon

Tijesno, which has been a household

name since Adam Ondra’s visit in 2018.

Tjentiste

Sutjeska National Park

Jajce

20


21 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Pecka

So after ten days of cultural vacation,

we fill our backpacks to the brim with

all kinds of edibles. Because we don’t

have our own car, and we don’t have

enough local knowledge, we take a

taxi which takes us to a quiet village

called Rekavice. There we are greeted

by a gentleman who later introduces

himself to us as Vito, who points out

the drink offerings from his hikers

cafe - the rakija going on the house

depending on the mood. Needing to

scout a suitable camp spot and the

nearby climbing rocks we postpone

this appointment to the evening.

In terms of climbing, the Tijesno

Canyon has a lot to offer: Thanks to

the internationally known “Drill and

Chill” festival, a multitude of sport

climbing routes in different parts of

the canyon and multi-pitch in various

difficulties, lengths and styles await us.

To start with, we choose a moderate

multi-pitch slab. The rappel anchors

are quickly found and a few meters

of descent follow - Is that the “Verdon

feeling” that people talk about?

In the next few days we deal with

the Amfiteater and Krilo sectors,

which should keep climbers busy

for a few days.

During the evening rounds in

Vito’s Kafana, we relax our bodies

as much as possible. Due to

inadequate language skills on

both sides we improvise with all

the gestures and creativity we

have. Vito’s notebook also helps

with communication - significantly

more than his German fragments

from his time working in Germany.

After our provisions run out after

a week, we move on. Thumbs out

and off we hitchhike to Jajce. One

hour of waiting time is rewarded

with a direct connection. In Jajce

we book a hostel on the outskirts

of the city on the picturesque Pliva

river. If we are otherwise rather

stingy with rest days, we treat

ourselves to two full relaxing days

without climbing.

Our last week we spend in Pecka. Our

travel guidebooks warn against public

transport, especially away from the big

cities. So how could it be otherwise:

Started with a lot of delay, the bus

lets us get off somewhere along the

road. We walk the last kilometer to

the bus station in the town of Mrkonjic

Grad, where we learn that we missed

our connection - i.e. the last bus. Our

thumbs and a good dose of luck

finally get us to Pecka.

It’s already dark when we are picked up

by a helpful ornithologist couple in the

small logging town Baraći. As climbers

themselves, they recommend the

Pecka visitor center for the night. So

we get in the car, drive down the hill

and a few bends later: Pecka. We can’t

believe our eyes: a three-story hostel

in the middle of nowhere, the ground

floor brightly lit and inviting, a warm

welcome at the door. Later, of course,

an alcoholic welcome too. We are the

only guests and yet food is served

here at a late hour, food!


After an evening in front of the fireplace, we decided to

spend the night under the roof of the small music stage

out front. The next morning we marvel at what we missed

in the dark and pick up some background information:

The Visitor Center, once an abandoned and ruined village

school, has been painstakingly renovated since 2014

and given new life as a leisure and educational center.

It serves as a hostel with comfortable beds, a common

room, a big kitchen, a veggie garden and everything

else that goes with it. It is mainly attended by school

classes and knowledge-hungry mushroom pickers. Or

by climbers looking for shelter, coffee, a shower and a

washing machine.

Why are we here again? Ah yes, climbing. For anyone

without a wheelchair, the approach from Pecka visitor

center means a 1.5 kilometers walk up the hill. The

distance information has always been doubted since the

signpost was installed. In other words, it’s a sweaty and

exhausting affair, especially with our big backpacks. But

at least orientation is easy. The rocks are in sight all the

way from the valley.

Praised as the “Bosnian-Margalef” we are excited and

curious. Without having been to the Spanish original,

we guess that the rock there must be steep and very

pocketed. As always, the first thing to do is to set up a

weatherproof camp. We find something in a small forest.

But after a first night under the tarp in heavy rain, we

prefer to move under one of the numerous overhangs -

better safe than sorry.

For the first time on our trip we meet other climbing

tourists. They also speak German, how could it be

otherwise. However, except at the main fireplace, we

rarely see them. The selection of rocks and routes is

not to be despised. Most of the beautiful long lines are

available from the 6th French degree onwards. Those

who prefer to climb in lower grades have mostly shorter

lines that can be powerful for the grade. But with a little

commitment you can tick off an entire sector within a day.

Apart from that, most of the things have already been said

about the climbing: The steepness varies, the sharpness

of the unpolished holes does not.

Kanjon Tijesno

Pecka village

22


Pecka Visitor Center

23 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Although the way home should be easier a week later

with almost empty bags and downhill, Boro the owner

of the Pecka visitor center seems to have sympathy with

us shouldering our huge backpacks and lends us his car.

For the first time in three weeks we can enjoy the comfort

of our own car. After we had another Bosanska kafa and

covered it with honey, it is time to leave. Once again we

witness the Bosnian willingness to help: of course we

don’t have to walk to the next station. And even the bus

to Banja Luka surprisingly picks us up on time. Freed from

our luggage, we relax and let the landscape of the Krajina

pass by under the windows one last time.

Maren is a cultural worker and art enthusiast. She

likes climbing, reading and gardening. She loves food

and feminism. Her favourite color is blue.

Maren and Claudio

Claudio is a handy woodworking craftsman. He

started climbing in his early twenties and isn’t intending

to stop. Moreover, he is interested in community and

exploring new sights.


24

Pecka


Exploring my country

during COVID-19

Melina Hrapovic

25 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Even though the small country where I’m from only covers around 51.000

km² (slightly bigger than Switzerland) of this, at the moment, unreachable

planet Earth. Somehow I always knew, in theory, that there is so much to

see, feel and learn about.

Of course, the best way to do that is through climbing, hiking and skiing!

Klekovača


Melina at Pecka

Klekovača

26

The sad fact is that all the desire

we have for exploring the world,

we usually project less on our own

country. It’s not at all in the sense of

borders or nationality. It’s in the sense

of your origin, your biological and

geographical destiny. One could travel

the whole world but never discover all

the beauties of one’s own ground.

Corona hit us like some crazy futuristic

movie we still can’t believe actually

happened. At the same time it gave

me a different perspective about

my country and the opportunity to

explore it deeper.

When all the craziness started, I was in

the climbing area Blagaj, my second

home spot. It started to get really

hectic out there, so I went back home

to Sarajevo.

The first super-strict lockdown, I

could do for a month. Then, little

by little me and some of my friends

who were „crazy enough“ started to

go on climbing sessions on spots

around Sarajevo (Bukovik, Špicasta

stijena, Dariva) and also camped a

bit at Drežnica.

We also went to a climbing spot

near Olovo, Memagića stijena.

It’s perfect for beginners and the

landscape is really pleasant for

the eyes. I have to admit that it was

somehow especially magical to be

in nature - with all that craziness

around you in the world. These

climbing spots were kind of like

safe areas - we felt really at peace

there. I often watched the beautiful

nature around us and wondered

about the big contrast in people’s

minds and in nature. During

summer, the people in Bosnia and

Herzegovina got a bit more laid back,

even though the restrictions didn’t

change much. We decided to go on

a road trip to the Northwest of the

country, a region known as Krajina. I

only used to pass these regions when

I was younger, while going to Croatia

or other countries in the EU with my

family. This time, filled with only a

desire to explore, we loaded all our

climbing gear and without much of a

plan drove up.

Pecka, the first place amazed us so

much that we spent a whole month

there. What a place! A place that has

the most special horizon, where the

village life is really slow, good smiling

people offering you the best rakija you

could find! You can buy it from the

farmers in the village, along with fresh

bread and cream cheese (Kajmak).


For me, Pecka has the best set-up so

far: It’s the only spot which I know of,

that you approach from the top. With

no artificial lights at night, you have the

best star gazing nights! The area also

is very famous for picking mushrooms

(Boletus is a specialty!). Because of

it’s wilderness you can witness the

magical animal world in its untouched

flow. I saw a lot of big owls, foxes,

deers, skunks and many others.

27 BACK TO THE ROOTS

The Pecka visitor Center is a 15 minute

walk down the valley. The people from

the Center did an amazing job and

transformed the former elementary

school into a meeting place that will

warm your hearts.

Pecka transport system

Here you can find all the info that

you possibly need about this region

in any sense, and you also have the

opportunity to meet some inspiring

people. The climbing style in Pecka

is super unique. Fun and enjoyable

pocket climbing with a lot of variations

and constant moving from the easiest

grades to the hardest!

It’s a good place to improve your

climbing technique and get

stronger fingers.

Because I was there during August,

of course I was always looking for

some swimming spots. My friends

and I enjoy the challenge to swim in

freezing waters, such as the source

of the nearby Sana river. Another good

refreshment after climbing is the

public pool in a nearby village.

Nearby there are other beautiful

waters, such as lake Đol and Plivsko

lake. For me the best swimming spot

is in the city of Jajce, on the beautiful

river Pliva. Amazing freshwater and

lovely little cascades.

Klekovača


We continued to the mountain

Klekovača, which has Bosnia’s

highest climbing spot, at 1700

m. What a place! It was good to

feel the freshness of a mountain,

somehow with a very different

vibe than the mountains around

Sarajevo. We cooked dinner on

the peak and witnessed a vibrant,

colourful sunset. I looked at that

sea of pine trees and thought

to myself that most humans

don’t even experience the

greatness within the borders of

their countries. Just imagine how

elusive the greatness of the world

is! That night I experienced an

astral phenomenon - the biggest

shooting star I ever saw in my life.

We spent the night at the mountain

hut and met the guys from Climbing

club Extreme and Balkan Colours

who were bolting the day after.

The following day we ticked off a

whole sector. Such a good rock,

fun routes, awesome friction and a

magical ambient. A special surprise

was finding a rare beautiful plant

called ‘Leontopodium alpinum’ in

the middle of one of the routes.

Klekovača

28


For the rest days we stayed on a little

river island on the Una river, in a place

called Bosanska Otoka. Super chill!

Kayaking on the river Una is starting to

become quite famous and is a great

summer experience.

After a little break in Sarajevo, our

hometown, we continued southeast

to Ozren, a climbing area near Foča.

It’s very good for camping at the rocks,

with a drinking water source. We

checked out the nice-looking routes

but since the rocks are positioned

south it was way too hot to climb.

We continued to hike and relax in

Sutjeska National park. My eyes

almost couldn’t take in all the

amazing views. I wondered what I

had been doing my whole life, why

I didn’t consider all these spots that

are only 2 hours from home?

The day after we went on a hike to

Velika Vlasulja (2337m) the Volujak

mountain range’s highest peak.

What a lovely walk. Such an open

space, a whole new world left

unseen. We looked to the hills and

mountains around and imagined

how beautiful it might be for ski touring

when it’s covered with snow.

As I write this text, flashbacks

are coming in. All these places,

sunrises, sunsets, rocks, rivers, lakes,

mountains, huts, people, moments. In

such a small time frame, so many lives

lived.

What a beautiful world, I think to

myself, from its micro substance,

from this small country, reflecting the

greatness of the beauty left unseen.

29 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Una river

Melina, young explorer from Sarajevo, B&H. Enjoys

learning about the world, in pursuit of living a simple

and happy life. She studies archeology and French.

Loves outdoors sports.

Melina


30


Former young talent

turned old fart

Vuk Maric

31 BACK TO THE ROOTS

The story goes something like this: Two best elementary school friends from

Banja Luka went climbing. One was skinny, even by the trainspotting standards,

and had a technique based climbing style. Not because of proficiency but rather

because only perfect style could get him up those sixth and seventh grades.

Thin and bony fingers were his only strong side, so cheating his way up by heel

hooking and sticking the whole body to the wall was the only way he could

manage.

Skubalj, Kanjon Tijesno


The other one, a leader, was the epitome of the the day and regularly watches me fail pectacularly.

word warrior. With a body created to hunt grizzlies or

something. He could fall, but only if multiple holds broke

simultaneously. He used to muscle up everything there

was at the crag, build a dam on the nearby stream and

dig a trench. Casually, all in one afternoon. So yeah he

Nikola, the young wanker, puts a few holds together and

absolutely smashes. As of 2021 he is ready for 8c routes,

I am sure of it. Only sneakiness and hard core tactics are

keeping me on top as a King (not really haha).

was kind of strong. His name was Dino, a local

strong man and to this day a legend.

Žela the dungeon master, gym

supervisor, beard of wisdom, the

The other one was me, and as

the title says, in the meantime

I took up a few kilos.

one with the book of debt. He is

always around, like a good spirit

that puts a smile on the faces

of newcomers and gym rats.

Enough of the jokes, I get

them all the time in the gym.

Addicts that are year round

there, four times a week.

Body shaming in Banja Luka

has, hmm, a slightly different

role. Let’s say that humiliation

is a kind of virtue with sensitive

rules of conduct that brings

Let’s wrap up the story with

myself since I was tasked with

writing something about this

old climber of 26 years. There

people together.

From formal conversation one can learn

about people, but mean comments can take

Zvečaj bouldering

is no fun in naming hundreds or

thousands of routes I did on lead.

But have you ever top-roped with a

clip-stick? Now comes the controversy. A

a person from the place of knowing to somewhere closer quickdraw attached to an old broom is clipped from

to the heart. All the gyms in the West are plain overstuffed bolt to bolt. With some practice one gets quite fast, in 10

hamster wheels if one has no true connections. In a minutes or so, the rope up to the anchor.

typical evening of training Ševa comes up with a slab of

Extreme climbing club gym

32


33 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Sector Maršal, Pecka

Svinjologija 8a+, Pecka

Some may call me an absolute disgrace. Even more so

because I regularly proceed to top rope the routes I stickclipped.

Projecting in this fashion last summer, I climbed

Minutes to midnight, 8a (being on the lighter side I ripped

off the jug) and East is the beast, 8a (easy).

All I can do at this point is to recommend a superb article

“Freedom and individualism on the rocks” by Dane Scott. It

covers the ethics of our foolish endeavor called climbing,

and I think everyone should think about it for himself. Top

rope can be a way to go and the rocks surely don’t mind.

Cheers!

Vuk Marić is a climber from Banja Luka, Bosnia and

Herzegovina. Bouldering, easy solo on a scramble

and anything with bolts is what he love to do. His plan

is to find a new multi year project and barely manage

it in some 10 years.

Vuk


Bukovik

Vuk

34


Sarajevo

The capital and its mountains

35 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina (400,000 inhabitants), has

the oldest and most established climbing scene in Bosnia. The city is very

conveniently located not only for climbers but also winter sports enthusiasts

and mountaineers. The Sarajevo basin is flanked by 2000 m high mountains

and canyons filled with plenty of rocks that stretch right to the edges of town.

Sarajevo


Sarajevo has a unique character,

formed by its position on a historical

crossroad between East and West.

It has traditionally been referred to

as the European Jerusalem because

of its openness and diversity.

Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Venice and

especially the Ottoman Empire and

Austria-Hungarians left their mark on

its customs, architecture and culinary

art. From a tourists’ perspective the

city offers any kind of benefits one

might expect from a capital city: Hip

bars, cafés, a few galleries, museums,

cultural institutions and a busy

nightlife. Strolling through the old

town Bašcaršija in the bustling stream

of tourists, it’s difficult to imagine that

Sarajevo, like many parts of Bosnia and

Herzegovina, was almost completely

destroyed 25 years ago.

From the old town it is only a short

walk along the river promenade

to Dariva, the largest of Sarajevo’s

three climbing areas and one of

Bosnia’s first real sport climbing

crags. Roberto Ferrante, an

Italian EUFOR-officer and alpinist

stationed in Bosnia after the last

war, organized the first bolting

action in the late 90s. Since then

the evolving Bosnian climbing

scene has met here every day and

established about fifty routes.

The 40 m high rock has a good

mix of short, easy routes and

demanding, longer routes in the

mostly 6 th French grades and

above as well as three test-pieces

in the 8 th grade. Dariva is one of

the few areas in Bosnia where you

can be sure to always meet other

climbers. It’s very family friendly with

a nearby playground and generally

has a great inclusive living room

atmosphere.

On a rest day we recommend checking

out the old town or a hike to the

nearby highlands. Bjelašnica mountain

behind the city holds an olympic ski

resort and Bosnia and Herzegovina

highest permanent settlement - in the

village of Lukomir (1500 m) people

still live in the old ways, even though

tourism significantly started to pick up

over the last years. For hot summer

days there’s an interesting variation

to Lukomir through the Rakitnica river

canyon, involving short swimming

sections and very easy downclimbing

that climbers won’t have trouble with.

Kafana Promaja,

Bukovik

36


In memoriam Armin Gazić, Dariva

37 BACK TO THE ROOTS


Spijonik bouldering area

For active regeneration we recommend a trip to the

relaxed bouldering area Spijonik on the Visocica mountain

range which combines an easy hike with a few moves in

an amazing landscape. During summer, you are in good

hands in the climbing area Bukovik, which is located a few

kilometers north of Sarajevo on an alpine pasture at an

altitude of 1200 meters. Three sectors offer 40 routes from

5 to 7c, all of which require a good dose of technique.

And in the evening Dragan’s hut Kafana Promaja awaits

with hearty snacks and a big range of excellent, self made

rakijas.

38


Climbing area Ozren near Foča

39 BACK TO THE ROOTS


40

Blagaj


Climbing, Camping and Coffee

A Year in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nathan Cahill

41 BACK TO THE ROOTS

We arrived in Sarajevo on a winter evening, the call to

prayer echoing from minarets around the city. The drive

from the airport to what would be our new home for the

next two years took us past gray buildings pockmarked

with bullet holes from the war 25 years ago. With my wife’s

work, we move to a different country every few years,

which gives us a chance to explore parts of the world

where we might not have ended up otherwise. Before

arriving here, I’d heard rumors about a bit of climbing in

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), though I’d only found a

smattering of information online.

After living two years in the Sonoran Desert of northern

Mexico with absolutely no snow, I happily spent the first

winter skiing the two Olympic mountains on either side of

the city. But the thing that kept catching my eye as I drove

the winding roads up to the slopes was the vast amount

of rock. Everywhere. The country is mountainous, with the

Dinaric Alps, a karst mountain range, running the length

of the entire country. Limestone cliffs tower over the roads

at every turn.

Sarajevo


Preodac

42

As the weather got warmer, we started

to explore the climbing. We had found

a crag on Google called Dariva, a

small limestone cliff only a 10-minute

walk from the historic Baščaršija

bazaar downtown. Partially bolted as

a training area for a youth climbing

club, it has a healthy number of 4s,

5s and 6s. It can definitely feel like a

gym, with topropes shared around

and draws hung on every route.

Despite the polished holds on easier

routes, Dariva quickly became our

after-work hangout, and we started

making friends in Sarajevo’s small

but passionate climbing community.

Moving around the world every

couple years, climbing communities

are a social lifeline for us. It can be

challenging to make friends in a new

country and to communicate in a new

language, but the stoke for climbing

transcends those barriers. Projecting

and trading beta at Dariva, working

routes like Vizija (7a+) or the

testpiece Zen Majstor (7b+), the

original “hard route” when sport

climbing was just getting started in

BiH, I started to feel at home.

I picked up the country’s guidebook

at an outdoor shop in town and

was blown away by the amount of

climbing in the country.

The guidebook lists around 1000

climbs over 34 areas, most of

them bolted recently. And the next

edition will have almost double

the number of routes! As small as

BiH is, it has a huge variety of rock,

from the remote northwest crags in

Krajina to the Mediterranean tufaladden

overhangs of Herzegovina

and the tall multi-pitches of Tijesno

Canyon. When the pandemic

hit, closing borders and cancelling

international trips (along with most

of my work projects), I suddenly had

the whole summer to explore more

remote parts of the country.

Climbing friends put me in touch with

the crew at Balkan Colours and I hit

the road with them for a month, living

out of my truck with my two dogs,

climbing, bolting and filming around

BiH.

Preodac was one crag that really stood

out. After a long drive on dirt roads, we

were rewarded with a beautiful valley

and the ruins of a 15th century castle

peering over the cliff. Sadly, the valley

was ravaged by the war and most of its

farmsteads are abandoned and falling

down. Only a few farmers remain, but

they happily shared their homemade

dairy products and rakija with us.


Past the farms, we followed a faint path alongside

a bubbling stream as the valley narrowed and cliffs

appeared on both sides. Twenty newly bolted routes,

ranging from 5a to 7c, extend along the cliff face below

the ruined castle. We climbed there until dark, returned

to the cars, and gorged ourselves with fresh cheese

on slices of tomato by the light of our headlamps. We

camped alongside the creek among huge pine trees

and I can’t wait to get back. Pecka was another incredible

area I fell in love with immediately. It could be the future

of hard sport climbing in BiH. The rock is beautiful, full

of steep, pocketed pitches similar to Margalef in Spain.

Another couple climbers already had a fire going when

we got to the campsite at the top of the cliff band. We

shared beers and rakija from a plastic soda bottle around

the campfire well into the night, trading stories about

climbing and traveling. No matter where we were in the

country, we experienced the hospitality and selflessness

that BiH is known for. Complete strangers would invite

us in for bosanska kafa or homemade rakija (the local

equivalents of turkish coffee and grappa), no matter the

time of day.

43 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Preodac


Back in Sarajevo, on a run in the

mountains with the dogs, I came across

a beautiful cliff face with overhanging

orange, white and gray limestone in the

village of Nahorevo. Throughout the rest

of fall I slowly cleaned and bolted new

routes as the leaves changed colour

around me. Only 15 minutes from the city,

it’ll be a great addition to the climbing in

the region. One of the first pitches I bolted

there is named Bubamara (6b), after the

huge nests of ladybugs I found on the

cliff face. Leaving some routes of my own

seemed like a perfect way to give back

to the climbing community we spent so

much time with.

When winter arrived, the yearly Sarajevo-

Zenica valley inversion created a wall of

smog throughout the city. Most homes

burn wood or coal for heating and the

air pollution gets terrible, so I used every

opportunity to travel towards clean air.

Warm, sunny Herzegovina is only a twohour

commute toward the coast.

Nate in action

Some of the most impressive climbing

there is located in a stunning canyon

above the town of Blagaj. Huge walls of

limestone tower above a spring where

an entire river surfaces, freezing cold,

from the foot of the canyon. Classic

Mediterranean overhangs with orange

gray limestone and incredible tufas,

including a prominent line I’ve been

projecting called Powerline (7a) rise up

along much of the cliff. After climbing all

day in the sun, I’d head back to Sarajevo

or camp at the Eco-center in the canyon,

hanging out with local climbers and

sharing the stoke for climbing.

Preodac

There’s been so much bolting and

route development here, yet we’re just

scratching the surface of BiH’s potential.

Although neighboring Croatia is already

a big winter destination for European

climbers seeking warm weather, BiH is

still relatively unknown and off the beaten

path.

44


45 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Nate’s discovery Nahorevo climbing area

It is starting to pop up on the climbing radar though. While

2020 did not play out as any of us planned, I’m happy

for the chance to explore and climb around this beautiful

country that I currently call home.

Nate is a climber, route developer and outdoor

photographer living aboard and exploring the lesser

known parts of the world with his wife and two dogs.

Instagram: @climbingnate

Nathan


46

Srebrenik


From Zero to Hero

Building a Climbing community in Northern Bosnia

Admir Andelic ‘Tomba’

47 BACK TO THE ROOTS

2014, Tuzla Canton, population 400,000. Number of climbers: 1, number

of sport climbing routes: 0, number of climbing gyms: 0.

I’m Admir Andelić ‘Tomba’, I’m from the town Živinice near Tuzla, and I’m

the only climber in the whole region.

After completing the alpinistic courses from the traditional Sarajevo school

of Alpinism, i set out to promote the sport in my region. I found some rocks

right next to the road, that later became the Stupari climbing crag. The

beginning was extremely hard because I was alone in everything, but I

managed to bolt a few sport climbing routes.

Kladanj

Stupari


48

I soon I realized the challenges of working alone, so I

started to popularize climbing, which isn’t easy without

any kind of support. I continued equipping routes

for myself in Stupari where I trained for the

big walls, because I am actually more into

mountaineering and alpine climbing.

After a while I met Amra, which became

my wife. She stuck to climbing

and learned quickly which made

everything easier. Bolting the

routes together was much faster

and training was more fun

as well. Winter was always

a problem for us because

there is no climbing gym

in our region. So we

decided to solve that

problem. I extended the

roof of my garage to 5

m height and built the

first climbing gym in

Tuzla Canton. At the

beginning we didn’t

have light or heating

during the winter.

But we were very

happy to have the

opportunity to train!

Slowly all the hard

work, effort and

persistence pays off,

rock climbing is slowly

expanding in our area.

A few years ago, we

started to explored the

municipality of Kladanj,

which I like to call the

Chamonix of Tuzla Canton.

Kladanj, at the foot of Mount

Konjuh with the wild river Drinjača,

is a town known for its many

speleological objects. Thank god, that

means many opportunities for climbing

in our regions. In the Drinjača canyon, a

few kilometers from Kladanj, there are two

Tomba’s home gym

I needed to come up with a way to get some institutional

support for developing that great potential. A Via Ferrata

would have high chances of support, so we wrote a

project and received a small grant by the Italian

NGO CISP. So after we finished the first Via

ferrata in our region, we also bolted a few

routes from 10 m to 150 m, in the grades

between 4 and 7c.

After the Climbing gym in my

garage was finished we started

with climbing courses, where

we have the opportunity to

train in a heated room. We

have children’s and adults

training sessions and we

are working on a real

training for climbers. I’m

very happy to see that

it’s happening, that

slowly sport climbing

is finding its way into

At Visočica

our part of Bosnia and

Herzegovina.

Hundreds of hikers

and mountaineers

passed through the

Via ferrata, we had

some competitions at

Kladanj and even more

routes were bolted.

Currently, there are 10

sport climbing routes

and 5 multipitches, with

a potential for a hundred

more. Kladanj is a beautiful

town, where you need only

15 euros a day plus 10 euros

for food, there’s beautiful

nature, rural tourism and now

even climbing. Now it’s 2021.

Tuzla Canton currently has around

20 climbers, 5 climbing crags with

over 50 routes, and one climbing gym

in my house where everyone’s welcome

to train. I have a lot of projects in my head

for the future, we’d like to see hundreds

large walls: Hotanjki krš and Brateljevićki krš. As

more climbers, hundreds of routes and a first

soon as I saw these rocks for the first time, I knew

children’s club that will have all the support from

that I found the huge potential I knew must be hidden an early age to improve the sport.

somewhere.


49 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Kladanj rocks

VIA FERATA PAOLO DIECI IN

KLADANJ HERE:

I plan to create the first artificial outdoor

lead climbing in my city, 16 m high and 15 m

long, so that we can organize competitions

and improve children’s climbing skills. Who

knows - maybe someday there will be

world-class climbers from this region who

compete in the world championships, climb

some big walls, and most importantly enjoy

the most beautiful lifestyle they could live.

Wishes and dreams... Backed by hard work

and determination anything is possible!

Greetings from us!

Tomba’s life revolves around Alpinism and all his future

aspirations include it. He most enjoys first ascents in

big walls with bivouacs on the wall and climbing in the

freezing cold. When ice covers a rock face is when it’s

most interesting to him - paradise or hell depending

on the conditions and the mountain’s attitude.

Admir


50

Drežnica


Herzegovina region

The Bosnian California with Mostar

51 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Herzegovina truly is rock country, with the potential

for a few new Leonidios! Mostar’s reggae band Zoster

painted Herzegovina in one of their songs as the

Bosnian California: A mediterranean climate with tropical

summers, plantations of grapes, tangerines, wild figs and

pomegranates, extensive rocky landscapes, and a relaxed

southern vibe. This is particularly true of the southern

Neretva valley around Mostar. Northern Herzegovina

around Konjic has a lush mountain jungle and Bosnias

largest mountains ranges (Visočica, Čvrsnica, Prenj and

Velež), all with a long mountaineering tradition.

Mostar (105,000 inhabitants) is the cultural heart of

the region and is best known for its historic 23 m high

bridge from the 16 th century, which was for a long time

the national symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today’s

post-war Mostar has a Croatian and a Bosniak (Muslim)

character with a well-preserved, beautiful medieval old

town from the Ottoman period. There are lots of good

restaurants, cafés, a few pubs and a wide range of

accommodation that makes it a good base to explore

the surrounding areas. Climbing club ASPK Neretva has a

great bouldering gym on the university campus for rainy

days. Although you’d have to be really out of luck since

Mostar is the sunniest place in all of Ex-Yugoslavia.

Mostar


Drežnica

52

Drežnica makes the podium for the

most beautifully situated climbing

area in Herzegovina, surrounded by

wild alpine surroundings. It’s also

one of the oldest, largest and best

climbing areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina

established by Sport climbing pioneer

Edin Durmo and friends. It is located

at the confluence of the Drežanka

Canyon with the famous Neretva river

valley, which National Geographic

Travel recommended for good reason.

The rocks are situated in a park which

is a national cultural monument - it

houses several rare rock engravings

from the 14 th century which are located

just next to the routes. A multitude

of routes in medium grades run

through the porous, gray and white

limestone.

The main sector, Kuk Ciklame is

up to 40 meters high and has an

incredible exposure over the valley.

Blagaj is the future of Climbing

in Bosnia! It’s one of the newest

climbing areas that, thanks to

the great efforts of a highly active

Blagaj climbing club and the Blagaj

Eco center, quickly grew into a

diverse Climbing area covering a

huge terrain.

Thanks to the shady canyon you

can climb all year, the rock quality is

excellent, the potential seemingly

endless. The town Blagaj and the

Blagaj eco center, with its cosy camp

and the artificial lead wall, are a great

base for a few days.

New routes are constantly being

bolted, currently there are 140 pitches

spread in 11 sectors, mostly sport

climbing but also a few multipitches

up to 200 m.


53 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Blagaj

Above the camp there are 5 sectors with excellent

tufa- and technical face climbing. The canyon offers

long multipitches, relaxed sectors for summer climbing

and powerful, steep sport climbing up to the french 8th

grade. A Via ferrata leads you through the Canyon and

an incredible system of eroded rock walls, to the Sector

Rebro on top of the Canyon. It has 20 m high rock ridges

shaped like a shark’s fin, which can be climbed on both

sides.

Drežnica

In the evening you can cool off at the many restaurants

along the river next to Blagaj’s main sight - the Tekija Buna.

It’s a 16 th century Dervish monastery (And a Unesco world

heritage site) at the base of a 200 m rock wall, where the

Buna river emerges from.


54

Sector Šube, Blagaj


Blagaj story

Gem of the south

Melina Hrapovic

55 BACK TO THE ROOTS

The geographical position of Blagaj, together with the pleasant climate

and the sectors’ orientation, have created perfect conditions for almost

all year long climbing season in Blagaj. A variety of grades will satisfy all

climbers, there are old school slabs with small crimps that require maximum

precision and finely tuned leg work, to completely modern athletic

overhanging routes. The Rebro and Šube sectors can be climbed all year

round. Sectors Pejotl (A), Pčelinjak (B), Ljut (C), Crvena stijena (D), Duga

peć, Karantena and Vučije točilo are excellent for winter, because they

are mostly in the sun and if the wind is not too strong you can climb in a

T-shirt.

Tekija Blagaj

Dervish Monastery


During the summer, it becomes

unbearably hot in these sectors

after 10 o’clock, however sectors C,

D and Karantena offer shade a bit

longer, until noon or 1 pm. When

the sun becomes too strong,

you can move on to the canyon

sectors Hladovina, Publika and

Ispod-Vodopanac which usually

have little wind and offer different

orientations that provide shade.

If you are still feeling the heat, you

can go and visit the nearby dervish

Tekke and the source of Buna

river to cool off. It is probably one

of the coldest waters you will ever

swim in. If you have an affinity for

slacklines, at the beach on Bunica

river, there is a possibility of setting

up a waterline around 60 meters

long, which is great fun for hot

summer days.

Rebro

56


57 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Rebro

Blagaj

The gentle grove (blagi - gaj) attracts many travelers,

adventurers and climbers because of its special

atmosphere and ambience. In addition to the richness

of cultural and historical heritage, richness of flora and

fauna, nature has fascinatingly played with geological

forms, which provides a real playground for all ages when

viewed from a climber perspective.

In a relatively short period of time, the canyon and the

Blagaj rocks came to life. Many young people who come

from the area, and did not know climbing as a sport,

become aware of the enormous potential that this place

has. In addition to tourists and foreigners who come to

Blagaj more and more often, it is a significant awakening

of the local scene and that young people who live there

are beginning to use and learn how to appreciate the

beauty that is at their fingertips.

Climbing in Blagaj

Climbing in Blagaj offers equal enjoyment both for

beginners and experienced climbers. For beginners,

compact fours and fives are reserved, and for more

experienced and stronger climbers, a wide range of

different climbing styles is offered, with routes in 6, 7 and

even 8 grades!

Blagaj currently has about 140 climbing routes, with

that number growing almost on a daily basis. In 2021

it is expected that a total number of routes will reach a

milestone of 200 routes with new sectors to be opened

in this year.

Also, in case you have never tried multi-pitch climbing,

this is an ideal place to try in a safe and comfortable

environment. The DUGA PEC sector, which has only

multi-pitch routes, is located just above the source of the

Buna, the largest karst spring in Europe!


Camping in Blagaj

In the area of the Eco Center, a

camping area is provided. The

center offers everything you need for

camping and climbing.. The center

offers a bar, kitchen, toilet and 2

outdoor showers (water is heated by

the sun), as well as free Wi-Fi and a

seating and social area.

Camping is also possible Lazy bar

next to Buna. The Lazy bar is only

open during the warmer months, and

after September it is generally quite

cold to sleep by the river, so this camp

is recommended only in the summer.

There are also other camps and

numerous private accomodations in

Blagaj.

Local initiatives

Bolting new routes - The local crew

is always trying to expand existing

sectors with new routes and to

open new sectors. During the

COVID 19 pandemic, new sector

Karantena was develop with 7 new

routes, all of them classics in their

grade. The potential is huge! Just

between Blagaj and Mostar there is

a potential for bolting thousands of

routes. The only limiting factor are

the funds for materials. Hopefully

with the help of the international

climbing community this could be

changed.

Bivouac at sector Rebro – the

idea for building the bivouac

came from Vedran Ugljene and

it was supported by all the local

climbers who volunteered during

the construction but also helped to

collect the funds and materials need

for building the bivouac. Such a great

construction required a lot of work and

dedication, a lot of challenges were

successfully accomplished thanks to

skillful and hardworking hands.

MarketMakers training program - for

guides and tourist guides at 4 climbing

areas (and Via Ferrate) in the area of

Herzegovina. The program lasted 5

weekends and provided participants

with basic knowledge about Ecology,

Flora, Fauna, First aid, History of the

region and Presentation skills and

safety. As a result of this project new

tourist tours are created and are

available at:

www.blagaj-climbing.com

Rebro bivouac

58


MORE FROM SPORT CLIMBING CLUB BLAGAJ HERE:

59 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Via ferrata,Vulin potok


Velež, a mythical mountain.

many are still not sure

whether it is male or female,

whether it is named

after the ancient Slavic god

Veles or originates from

the period of Roman rule,

but in one thing everyone

agrees - The 13 km long

rock ridge with 600 m walls

and the highest peak Botin

(1969 m) attracts any climber

at first sight.

Mountain Velež

60


First ascents at Mt. Velez

AOB mountaineering camp 2020

Igor Milošev

61 BACK TO THE ROOTS

From the main road passing this quiet region, this mountain is hidden from

the view of random passers-by. As you enter the Nevesinje karst field towards

the village of Lakat, a view opens over green plains and pastures,

a greenery of leafy and coniferous forests under these magnificent gray

rocks that give the impression that there is no end. The seemingly endless

ridge attracted the first alpinists back in 1968, in the 70s Bosnia and Herzegovinas

alpinists increasingly visited this mountain and held climbing

championships there. On two occasions, in 1982 and 1983, Slovenian alpinists

led by Bojan Polak came to Velež and left a big mark in these rocks

with over 40 climbed routes, most of which are first accents.

Sector Tri sfinge


62

“Okno” - the eye


Unfortunate events in our area have led to this mountain

slowly going into oblivion, but with the enthusiasm of a

few climbers, it is slowly regaining its old splendor. The

first post-war mountaineering camp of BiH alpinists

was organized in 2017. During 2018 and 2019, there

was a series of ascents - first ascents and first

repetitions, as well as the project “Heart

A fire which we alpinists all feel while we are high on the

rocks, but the global situation has greatly influenced our

plans to stay local, not to say to remain more modest.

Usually our desires take us far away, into new, unknown

mountains even though in front of us are equally magical

places where we can also enjoy and realize our

aspirations.

of Velež” which included equipping a

500 m Via Ferrata. The mountain

We came up with the idea of

was finally opened, and “tamed”

organizing a mountaineering

for visitors, but in its heart it is

still wild and unpredictable.

camp on Velež - we got

organized quickly, tried to

balance dates and free

This year, 2020, means a

lot to us from the Alpine

Club of Belgrade (“AOB”), 70

time, although it is difficult

in the age of this fast-paced

lifestyle.

years have passed since the

first enthusiasts founded the

So, we arrange the transport,

Department, started educating

equipment, explore the

young alpinists and achieved

mountain, prepare ... and finally

their first ascents on the rocks of

Serbia, Yugoslavia, Europe and the

World.

Mountain Velež

gather under the glow of the stars

and the shadow of Velež rocks to

modestly mark the jubilee, 70 years of

existence and work of our club.

We had great ideas, big plans on how to mark and

celebrate our continuity and thanks to these first people

who passed that fire from generation to generation.

63 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Stećci, medival tombstones under Velež


We move slowly, out of respect for the

mountain, and fear of what awaits us,

we climb “Camp route” III/IV, 340 m,

next to it “Surprise route” IV/V, 330

m, we have already freed ourselves

and enter the “harder” routes such

as “Davor’s route” V+/VI 340 m, we

are doing the first repetitions of

some routes from 1983, such as “Kik

‘83 route” IV/V 370m, and “Sonja’s

direction” III +/IV + 375 m and for the

end, as part of our jubilee, me and

Edin Zuhrić climb the championship

route through a striking shaft, giving

it the name “70 years of AOB” V+ 360

m and thus leave a small mark on this

mountain. “AOB was here” but with a

happy ending. We climbed a total of 8

routes of 300+ meters and we are very

happy with the camp’s success.

Not everything turned out as ideal as

planned. The mountain is still harsh,

and sometimes it decides what to do

and how to behave, so we had rain,

ice, thunder, we felt the pain of early

alpine starts and the long, daily hours

of approach to the rocks. We got better

at climbing without climbing shoes,

were bitten by bees and wasps, and

learned how to distinguish them, that

time on the mountain flows in its own

way and, most importantly, the old,

popular belief that thunder doesn’t

strike in nettles proved to be true.

All this would not have been possible

without our friends from Nevesinje,

mountaineers from PED Zimomor,

the Tourist organization of Nevesinje,

the Municipality of Nevesinje, the

Forest Farm “Botin” Nevesinje and all

the good people who made our stay

on the mountain easier and made

us feel at home - because under the

mountain we are!

Camp participants:

Predrag Zagorac, Srdjan Bosnić,

Darko Daljević, Dragan Djordjević,

Nikola Djurić, Pavle Kosutić,

Dušan Starinac, Ljiljana Matić,

Ivana Rogić, Aleksandar Vuković,

Edin Zuhrić, Igor Milošev.

WATCH MORE HERE:

64


65 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Sector Amfiteatar

Igor is a guide, alpinist, climbing and Via ferrata

developer. He works as a sales manager and lives

in East Sarajevo. He’s also a nature enthusiast and

hobby photographer. With his work he tries to show

the natural beauties of the Balkans to other people.

Igor

Instagram: @igor_milosev


66

Piton somewhere at Mt. Velež


The new and first (2018) Guidebook for

alpine climbing in the Velez mountain

range starts with general information

about the massif and it’s rock barriers

north walls.

The core of the book is a full account

of all classic and recently established

routes with photo topos, descriptions,

and approach info. This section is

followed by a chronological overview

of ascents and developments on

Velež in the period from 1955 to 2018.

The historical part concludes with

five stories of successful alpinists of

Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Velez Alpine

Climbing Guidebook

A5 format

144 colour pages in local language

40 routes with photo topos

The Guidebook costs 13€ and can be

ordered directly from

the authors:

draganilic567@gmail.com

+387 61 083 773

e.hukic@gmail.com

+387 61 722 997

67 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Emira Hukić is a pedologist, alpinist and

nature lover. She feels very dedicated

to preserving the history of alpinism in

Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was her

main motivation to work on this guidebook

with Dragan.

Dragan Ilić is a passionate alpinist who

started climbing in the beginning of the

80s. He holds many first ascents across

big walls of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He

did more than 300 alpine routes across

the globe from the Dinaric mountains and

the Alps to the Himalaya and Andes.


68

Kameni most


Razor-sharp rocks

in the land of homemade rakija

Miriam Pult and Ben Miroux

69 BACK TO THE ROOTS

After two weeks of climbing around the Croatian Adriatic,

our Bosnia trip almost felt like adventure:

Vacation becomes travel, sea becomes mountains,

beach days become adventure, sun becomes wind...

After we cross the border everything suddenly looks and

feels different. We roam Bosnia-Herzegovina in search of

nice climbing.

Well, almost ... It’s 2020, the year of the pandemic, and

before we can even go to Bosnia, a PCR-test awaits us

in a Croatian test center in Split. After a plastic stick was

lovingly rammed into our cerebral cortex and our germs

were processed through a centrifuge in a split laboratory,

we received the result a few hours later. Now nothing

stands in the way between us and Bosnian rocks. We are

heading straight for the border.

Prenj Mountain


Our first destination is Banja Luka in

the northwest of the country. This

region is the Republika Srpska, a

republic within the republic, so to

speak. In the area around Tijesno

canyon, a few sport climbing crags

have been discovered and developed

recently. At the bottom of the valley

we climb at Skubalj between the rain.

Excellent rock quality with a focus on

medium grades awaits the motivated

climber. The area is fairly new, no trace

of polished holds. If future climbers

clean little patches of grass from

the pockets it’ll be even better. Clear

recommendation!

As the weather becomes more stable,

we explore the Kameni Most climbing

area with its impressive 50 m high

limestone arch. The crag is a home

spot for Banja Lukas climbers and a

must-visit for a climbing trip through

Bosnia. The climbing tends to be

rather long and in the medium grades

and above.

We move on to the Amfiteatar sector

in the middle of Tijesno canyon. An

impressive rock face in the canyon,

which can only be reached from

above (at least on foot). A ledge

leads directly into the wall. For the

most part, you can walk unsecured,

on the narrower sections there’s a

fixed rope. The climbing offers an

impressive exposure and scenery, but

it’s consistently demanding and just

as tough graded as the rock is sharp.

Overall, it is an impressive spot!

This area of the canyon also has

various beautiful multi-pitch routes,

which can be reached partly farom

above and partly from below.

Especially during the warmer months,

a jump in the Vrbas River as well as a

portion of Ćevapi and a cold beer at

the numerous restaurants at the side

of the river beckon after climbing.

Well ... and then what happens to

almost every tourist in Bosnia also

happens to us. In every village, it is

said, there is a guy who fills tourists

with homemade rakija (brandy)

and bills the whole thing under

the motto “rakija povezuje ljude”

(rakija connecting people). Not

malicious, rather full of pride for

his drinks and in a very amicable

manner. Of course this also applies

to the village we were staying in.

We suffer through the next day and

learn quickly.

We continue to Pecka - a wonderful

place, so incredibly idyllic and quiet, in

the middle of nature. Ben writes in his

diary: “I have seldom visited such an

idyllic place. I am deeply impressed!”

The Pecka Visitor center, is a meeting

point, where people come and go,

hang out and enjoy conversing. It is a

feeling of home that is felt in Pecka,

that we almost feel melancholic

when we leave. The region is rich in

mushrooms, so we spend a day in the

forest and enjoy our dinner with fresh

mushrooms from the pan.

70


71 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Neretva river valley

The climbing is razor-sharp, steep

and full of holes, of a technical and

sometimes athletic nature - wonderful!

The rock quality is impressive, we’ve

both never seen this type of rock

before.

Towards our way to Sarajevo we stop

in Central Bosnia in a crag called

Pršljanica. The climbing reminds us

of a lot of our local limestone areas

in Germany, technical and crimpy,

according to the motto “hold on and

don’t let go”.

It’s probably not Bosnia’s most

impressive crag, but worth a

detour!

Sarajevo - the charm of a capital

that you won’t soon forget! A clash

of cultures, a city shaken by war

and suffering. The climbing area

can be reached on foot from the

city center. We skip the main sport

climbing crag area Dariva and do a

short (historic) multi-pitch on Babin

Zub (grandmother’s tooth) which

overlooks the whole city.

Sight-seeing climbing, so to speak.

The sunset view from the summit over

Sarajevo compensates for the “wild”

climbing on sometimes dubious rock

quality.


Bivouac at Prenj

72

From cold and wet Sarajevo we are drawn to the south

of the country. We are particularly looking forward to

the Herzegovina region and are excited. The landscape

changes, it becomes more, much more mountainous.

Deep valleys with azure blue, water-rich rivers dominate

the landscape. If it gets wider and flatter, the mild

Mediterranean climate allows for wine growing. The

summers here are barbarously hot, but we don’t notice

anything. On the contrary - there is always wind!

We head for the climbing area Drežnica. The drive leads

us through the narrow Neretva canyon to a delta where

the river Drežnica joins the Neretva. The landscape is

breathtaking, we really like it here. We have a nice and

flat parking spot for our van right at the water and a small

restaurant with good Bosnian coffee is around the corner.

The climbing is varied and beautiful, with a meadow to

linger and the whole thing even in the slipstream. We stay

a few days and let climbing determine our daily rhythm.

After a few days, a bad weather front became apparent.

We decided to use the remaining good weather to go

hiking in the Prenj massif across the climbing area.

The tour starts in the nature park Rujište and takes

us to the highest point of Prenj, the summit of Zelena

Glava (2155 m). It’s a long walk and in hindsight we

recommend an overnight stay in the hut or bivouac

called Bijele vode. The mountains of Herzegovina are

lonely and rough, a perfect rest day program! (Prenj is

still mined in some areas - get informed and stay on

the marked trails!).

The next day the cold front comes as promised, and

we rush to Mostar to lick our wounds in a small hostel.

We check in at Taso’s and are his only guests. We

quickly become friends and he takes really good care

of us, making a great breakfast for us every morning.

Three more or less rainy days follow. We are tired

and spend the days between the sofa, a restaurant,

walking around and napping.

On our last day we’d like to climb in Blagaj,

unfortunately it rains buckets, so we had to drive on

without rock contact. It’s a shame, Blagaj is an absolute

climbing pearl. Well, we have to come back to Bosnia-

Herzegovina anyway.


Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque

73 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Bosnian coffee

On our last day, before we continue to Montenegro,

Taso takes care finding a lab for us - after a delicious

breakfast of course. A quick poke, two coffees and a bit of

packing later, the results are there and we drive towards

Montenegro. But that’s definitely another story...

Drežnica

Miriam and Ben

Miriam and Ben are a travel and mountainenthusiastic

couple from Allgäu, Germany. They love

to explore, whether it’s mountaineering with a bivouac,

ski touring, alpine- or sport climbing. A cappuccino

before the tour and a piece of cake after are at least as

important to them as the actual tour itself. They visited

Bosnia-Herzegovina in autumn 2021 during their oneyear

mountain trip with their VW-van “Guschtl”.


Travel info

For further information and updates on new routes check

www.balkancolours.com

Best time

The climate in Bosnia is continental

to Mediterranean, with relatively

mild winters and hot summers. Many

crags have a main southern orientation,

therefore March to June and

September to November are best. In

winter you can often climb in a T-shirt

during warmer periods, especially in

Herzegovina. In summer, climbing is

also possible with a careful selection

of areas and sectors.

Getting there

You are most flexible with a rental

or your own car, as some areas

are far off the main roads. There

are long distance bus connections

from all over Europe to Banja Luka,

Sarajevo or Mostar several times a

day and the local bus network is

well developed. Hitchhiking to remote

areas is quite possible and

common. Low-cost airlines fly to

Sarajevo, Tuzla, Banja Luka and

Mostar.

Accomodation

The touristic infrastructure in the cities

of Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka is

very well developed and mostly, like

everything in Bosnia, very cheap! More

remote areas are often less prepared

for international guests, but language

barriers can often be overcome with

a few words in German and English..

There are lots of private rooms, apartments

or camps available on booking

websites or by just asking around.

Climbing

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the

largest karst areas in Europe, which

for climbers means there’s an enormous

limestone rock potential that

runs through the country. There are

currently around 1500 sport climbing

routes, 70 % of the routes have been

bolted in the last 5 years with high

quality material and are mostly bolted

in a very friendly manner. There are a

few bigger multipitch climbing areas

and even a few bouldering spots. Information

about trad routes and alpine

climbing is sparsely documented,

again a big potential awaits. Due to

the low number of climbers, it’s always

advisable to wear a helmet, should

holds break and to take a bouldering

brush with you.

Safety

Bosnia Herzegovina is a very safe

country with a lower crime rate

than the EU average. In the cities,

especially in Sarajevo, it is advisable

not to leave any valuables visible

in the car and to park on paid

parkings who have a guard. The

Bosnian War ended 25 years ago

- Even traces of the war are still visible

in many regions and there are

still mines in remote locations - 99

percent of the time this does not

affect traveling climbers! No climbing

area is affected by mines, more

details are described in the Climbing

guidebook, mine warnings are

specially signposted and known to

the locals.

The drinking water quality is excellent

due to the abundance of spring water.

Traditional food is a mix of Turkish (burek,

baklava, Turkish coffee ...), Austrian

(pastries), local grilled and stews.

International fast food is widespread.

Vegetarians and vegans find increasing

menu options in the traditionally

meat-oriented cuisine. Like the whole

of the Balkans, Bosnia is particularly

well-known for its abundance of

schnaps (rakija), depending on the region,

for example from plums (šljivovica),

pears (kruška), quinces (dunja),

grapes (lozovača) or apricots (kajsijevača)

and Turkish coffee.

74


Rock climbing guidebook for

Bosnia and Herzegovina

75 BACK TO THE ROOTS

480 pages, English and local language

4 regions, 32 climbing crags, 2 bouldering areas

Foto topos and individually crafted maps for each area including points of interest for each climbing crag

25 page Travel and country info section

Extensive climbing culture section:

History, gyms, festivals & 8 interviews with local developers

Local phrases section for a smooth travel experience

Get it here https://www.balkancolours.com/guidebook/

or ask for it at your local Climbing shop!

MORE HERE:


The Fusion project

This magazine is part of the “BiH Climbing fusion” project, which fuses the existing

elements and transforms the status quo - in terms of usability of Climbing areas

for local climbers and tourists, a stronger national recognition for climbing as a

sport and economic chances for local communities.

As of 2020 Bosnia and Herzegovina had a handful of larger climbing areas of

regional significance with well-marked, logical approaches, a high density

of well bolted routes in all grades on solid rock. At the same time there are

many small crags scattered all over the country, often with only a dozen routes,

sometimes hard to find with old, corroded bolts.

Bolting at Klekovača

76


Standardization

A handbook for the Gold standard

of sustainable Climbing Crag development

was published in the

local language and distributed for

free to all bolters in Bosnia and

Herzegovina.

Signs for ten climbing areas

77 BACK TO THE ROOTS

Rebolting Han

Derventa

Upgrading of Infrastructure

10 Pilot areas received beautifully

designed info tables and complete

trail markers with references

to points of interest and local

businesses at Bastašica, Dariva,

Drežnica, Duman, Kameni most,

Kanjon Tijesno, Klekovača, Pecka,

Preodac and Pršljanica.

75 new routes were bolted in

4 existing crags (35 routes),

expanding and diversifying a

low number of routes at Duman,

Kameni most, Klekovača, Kozara

and Pršljanica 2 new crags (40

routes) in a region (Kanton10)

which has only few Climbing areas

Bastašica, Preodac.

The forgotten, overgrown and

defunct Climbing area Han

Derventa next to Pale/Sarajevo

was completely rebolted (28

routes) with chain and double-ring

anchors, 12mm bolts in A4 steel

quality and cleaned up.

Promotion of Climbing tourism

This magazine covers all 4 climbing

regions and is distributed for free

in climbing gyms shops and with

multipliers all over Europe.

A Video series presents 8 climbing

areas in the 4 Climbing regions,

promoting Bosnian Climbing on

Social media, both regionally and

throughout Western Europe.

The project was funded by the

Embassy of Switzerland in Bosnia

and Herzegovina throughout

MarketMakers, a project supported

by the Government of Switzerland,

implemented by a consortium of

Helvetas Schweiz and Kolektiv /

Posao.ba.


Balkan Colours

Throughout the last 15 years we established a dozen

climbing areas and a few hundred routes all over BiH.

As much as generating Climbing infrastructure, we

worked on creating an interconnected Climbing

community through international climbing festivals,

workshops, publications and promotion in all Climbing

channels.

Balkan Colours is our commitment to a careful

development of some of the last wild places in Europe,

with a focus on best-practice quality and education.

Our vision is a regional development that’s driven by

expanding sustainable outdoor recreation and a healthy

outdoor lifestyle as a means to protect the natural jewels

and revive rural communities.

Adventure

Festivals, events & touristic tours in

outdoor sports.

Communication

Changing the perspective on this

region and its potentials both local

and abroad.

Development

Sustainable rural development

through adventure tourism.

Media

Creating Outdoor media content

- Social media campaigns, video

marketing, print publications and

cooperations with Adventure

sports media.

Ecology

Protecting nature through

sustainable development and

rising environmental awareness.

Learning

Spreading a culture of competence

and openness by sharing knowledge

and resources.

David Lemmerer

Igor Vukic

78

David is connected to Bosnia and Herzegovina since

2009. Fascinated by the small country, and it’s climbing

scene, he’s been an avid ambassador of BiH in Western

Europe through publishing of numerous articles, photo

and videography and the creation of the Drill & Chill

festival.

He bolted many routes throughout the country and made

the first Climbing area development handbook in local

language.

David has a Master’s degree in Social Work with

a background in Sociology, Urban studies and

Neighbourhood work. He currently lives and works in

Innsbruck and Banja Luka.

Igor became a member of the Banja Luka “Climbing

Club Extreme” in 2004 and shortly after started

working with media, fundraising sponsors for the club,

organized international work camps, climbing festivals,

competitions, various seminars and workshops,

bolted many climbing routes and helped build the first

climbing gym in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He managed

numerous projects expanding climbing areas all over BiH,

connecting climbers through various interethnic projects

(“The Outdoor Connection”, “Hello Neighbour”, “Highland

Heritage”).

Igor holds a Master’s degree in Economics and Finance

and has been working in finance for a few years. Currently,

he works as a web developer and project manager in

Banja Luka.


6 7

Sebastian Wahlhuetter

David Lemmerer

30 31

Photo credits

Morski Vuk

Stefan Gajić

Vuk Marić

David Lemmerer

Matko Šrepfler

54 55

Claudio Giesen

Judith Zauner

Antonio Radić

79 BACK TO THE ROOTS

8 9

32 33

56 57

Leon Buchholz

David Lemmerer

Igor Katalinski

Midhat Mujkić

Antonio Radić

10 11

34 35

58 59

12 13

Luka Tambača

Archive TOBL

Ljiljana Doroslovac

Igor Vukić

Boro Marić

36 37

David Lemmerer

Adi Kebo

60 61

Igor Milošev

Sebastian Wahlhuetter

Mugdim Čolić

Nathan Cahill

Igor Milošev

Velija Hasanbegović

14 15

38 39

62 63

Sebastian Wahlhuetter

Luka Tambača

Leon Buchholz

Nathan Cahill

Midhat Mukić

Velija Hasanbegovic

16 17

40 41

64 65

Ulysse Lefebvre

Igor Vukić

David Lemmerer

Igor Milošev

18 19

42 43

66 67

Maren Pfeiffer

Samed Žužić

Ulysse Lefebvre

Antonio Radić

Igor Vukić

Nathan Cahill

Christian Dorsch

Dženad Džino

20 21

44 45

68 69

Boro Marić

Luka Tambača

Boro Marić

Muhamed Gafić

Admir Andelić

Unknown

David Lemmerer

22 23

46 47

70 71

Amar Melez

David Lemmerer

Aldin Milunić

Admir Andelić

Ramo Ramić

Miriam Pult

Ben Miroux

24 25

48 49

72 73

26 27

Matko Šrepfler

Amar Melez

Boro Marić

David Lemmerer

50 51

Igor Katalinski

Archive TZ HNK/HNŽ

74 75

David Lemmerer

Dino Zjakić

David Lemmerer

Tina Dervišević

Antonio Radić

David Lemmerer

Igor Vukić

28 29

52 53

76 77


www.balkancolours.com

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