#ItsGreatOutThere – Stone and Water

#ItsGreatOutThere – Stone and Water

A southern deep water microadventure

A story from and with

Sv. Katarina, one of the best deep water spots in Istra.

#Microadventure – A short trip into the wild away from your daily routine. A getaway back to the roots of what we love to do most. Be outdoors, because #ItsGreatOutThere. For some time an idea was brewing in my head. With snow gone and summer here, why not head south for a change. Climb some walls .. directly above water. Get wet trying. Croatia`s Istra seemed perfect. After some research I had a rough plan. I put a little post on Instagram to see if anyone would be up for a random adventure…. got a few reply’s from my followers but for all but TWO, the idea was a bit to extreme :P…so two days later we were off… 

“I saw a post on Instagram, it was an invitation to an adventure. A short adventure to the seaside where we would climb in local climbing spots. And I thought to myself, why not, let’s go, let’s give it a try. That can’t be bad. I contacted Aleš, the organizer, and asked him about the details. Climbing, deep water solo and sleeping in a tent. The rest is history.” Jan

“After a long week of work coming back from Canada I saw Alešes call to action and just could not resist. Climbing has been my sport of choice for a while now but I had never done deep water before. After learning what he had planed I was on-board. It was epic how flexible we were because there were so many destinations to choose from!” Musti

The plan was clear. We were heading south, over the boarder to Istra. Initially our plan was to head to Rovinj first and then Pula, spend Saturday climbing a deep water spots and maybe a normal rock spot for warm-up. Later we would head to the area of Buzet for camping overnight and climbing regular rock at one of the best climbing spots in the area on the next day. I had done my homework with a lot of good information coming from climbistra.com, a cool portal about all the spots in the area. I even went as far as to upload all interesting spots parking GPS data to my Suunto Spartan Smartwatch. With that done we were super flexible.

After picking up Musti in the morning the two of us headed out to gather up Jan at the other side of the Slovenia. Being summer it was far to hot to climb in the middle of the day so we took it nice and slow. But we did not account for one thing. Holiday traffic and summer road works. After a bit of creative navigation we finally reached the Adriatic sea near Rijeka, but our destination lay elsewhere. The southern tip of Istra. We decided to head to Pula first. Heading trough the local Mountains and the Učka national park we finally cleared the traffic and reached Pula.

The Istra tourist map. Click it for the whole GPS track!

Not far from Pula an abandoned quarry is the perfect climbing playground.
Not far from Pula an abandoned quarry is the perfect climbing playground.

Not far from Pula an abandoned quarry is the perfect climbing playground.

Pula is the biggest city of Istria. It is known for it`s nice green pine-trees, stony beaches and used to be a Roman city with a huge Amphitheater. That is also it`s biggest attraction. But little do most people know that in the surrounding hills you can find special stone, used throughout history, even ancient Rome and Venice. The Romans build large quarries called “Cave Romana” from where they extracted these stones to build large monuments and structures like the huge Amphitheater. These quarries of old time for us would prove to be the perfect playground.

A huge playground.

As we were driving down to Pula from Rijeka we still had not made up our mind entirely on what spot to check out. Since days are long in the summer even as we arrived in Pula at 5 pm it was still 30 degrees. We decided to skip a spot half way down the peninsula named Pazin and instead check out this old roman quarry named Vintjan. Jan had packed a new climbing guide, for Croatia fresh from the press. Lots of pictures told us we would find anything from a 5a to a 8a. After sitting in the car with the heavy holiday traffic we were eager to get started. After all ItsGreatOutThere 😛 As we were approaching the final kilometers I turned on my Spartans Point of Interest navigation to guide us to the location. A few minutes later we drove up to an empty parking lot in front of one of those signs explaining local history to tourists.

Romans started all this.

As we took our gear out of the car and examine the area our eyes were glowing. There was everything here. Old roman stuff, industrial relics from the Yugoslav days and lots of different lines to climb. We found some ancient wheeled device that we tried to turn. The strength of three 😛 well it was not super successful. We blamed it on the vegetation stuck in the bearings 😛 Jan and I made an extended round of the quarry. The walls ware high and flat. Lines with different kinds of problems lay on all sides. Some in the sun, some in the shade.

Strong men move wheels haha.

While we were scouting the back of my head was already looking for a place to sleep. After all we wanted to sleep outside and I had not have had the time to find a good spot on google maps. Camping sites were abundant in the area but still that is not the same as the wild. Also in Croatia sleeping in the wild is some what of a gamble. For that to work one needs a location away from anyone. I noticed a ledge high up that looked like a giant balcony. If I could only get up there. Stubborn I took the way up trough dense vegetation. After a bit of Indiana Jones style exploration I had made it to the top. It was perfect. My mind was already set. We would sleep here.

As I made my way back down to the boys, Jan was already ascending the first route. A 6a. Musti was belaying him, but he did it with such ease that he might as well have free climbed it. Unlike Musti and I, as we learned, Jan used to compete in competitive climbing. His level was far above ours and as we were playing with our 5c-s 6a-s he was already eyeing an overhanging wall on the other side with a ton of 7-ish lines in them. If you are not familiar with the numbering system of climbing difficulty, the higher the number the harder the line. Everything above 6a is considered hard, so if you do 7s for so so… you are in good shape :P.

The stone on the walls was really nice to climb. Quite different from what we are used to. I did a line that partly looked like a inverted roman column. It looked as if the whole thing had been carved out in one piece. After that Musti claimed that one as well. Then while a few Italians had come to the overhanging wall, Jan was standing in front of it and eyeing a line. He took his time. I have not had seen him concentrate like that for a while. Musti and I were making jokes while I was unsuccessfully trying a detail on a line just a bit right from the mentioned roman column. Then suddenly he blinked and said he wants to do a 7b+. I knew it was time to take out the big camera. He was fast. Smooth moves, every single one where it should be, where he saw it. After a good two minutes he was at the top. Climbing is funny. When your technique reaches a certain level it looks really effortless.

Seeing him Musti and I were getting more motivated. We wanted to get to the top of my previous failed attempt. This time thou. I took a smarter approach. I actually looked at the whole thing I started. My problem, next to sloppy foot placement is also concentration. Being somewhat of an ADHD guy I find it very hard to concentrate on one thing. After carefully examining the line I suddenly made a good effort and bum. It was done. It is funny. When you have someone around to push you, even by only trying to repeat moves not claiming the top, I find it a great motivator. You improve faster. It definitely was like htat for Musti and I. After a few more lines the sun was starting to set. There was one more thing left to do. Throw our selves into the water at sunset for a cooldown.

We drove down to Stoja Camp, where we would explore the great deep water cave the following morning, and jumped into the water. To our surprise it was not as cold and refreshing as we had hoped. At the beginning of the week, when I was planing out the rough details of our trip, the water temperature was a mere 20 degrees. Since it was sunny for the whole week, that had climbed to somewhere around 22-23 already. Not a lot cooler then the evening air. We fooled around a bit ducking and diving in the sea. It was great to be a kid again haha :P. All of us should do that more often. After the sun set and the daily mosquito storm descended upon us, it was time to go. Claim our sleeping spot and make dinner.

Our chill sleeping spot. On the edge… as always.

As I had told the guys about my planed sleeping locale there was a bit of skepticism. Not of the location but more on how to get there in the dark. Fortunately we all had our headlamps with us. I had never been in the scouts or anything but even without those crucial navigation skills we made it just above the balcony ridge with all our gear, and a tent. Of course as usual I had picked the hardest way to get to the top. As I will later have learned there was a nice smooth path form the other side of the quarry. But we were on an adventure after all. To get to the balcony platform we had to climb down the last part. To lover all our gear down safely we made a makeshift loop on which we could fasten the tent, food and most importantly our beer.

Time to eat.

There is nothing like a good cold beer after a long day of climbing. To keep it cold we even took an extra detour to a gas station to pick up some ice. I had packed some Tegernseer Spezial, a local beer from Bavaria that I tend to pick up in transit on my travels to the mecca of winter, Innsbruck. Musti had also packed a special Slovenian brand so we were well stocked. Being a bit dehydrated the beer made us funnier and hungrier. It was time to cook dinner.

Being an adventurer and having spent quite some time outside sleeping at altitude most recently on my #biwipowroject I was well stocked. A month earlier I had won a sweepstakes by Swiss outdoor survival equipment maker Katadyne group. I had a brand new OPTIMUS VEGA stove and Terra pots with some ready Trek’n’eat gear to try out. In fact I was so impressed by the gear that I wrote a short review about it. But before we started cooking with beer in hand one thing became apparent. We forgot the lighter in the car. And we needed it to light the stove. By this time it was already around midnight. The moon was almost full and a nice warm breeze was in the air. The boys had already given up on playing midnight adventure but I was hungry and determined. I was not gonna go to bed without at least one warm meal that day.

Good morning Istra!