Sport climbing in Montenegro

Durmitor at sunrise

Considering Montenegro has mountain in its name there are surprisingly few options for rock climbing on bolted routes. Things just haven’t developed that far yet. Which in a way is a very good thing. Just means that if you’re more serious about climbing, rather than having it as a sideshow distraction, you should do it the trad way. In that case you’ve got nothing to worry about.

MontenegroClimbing.net is definitely the first place you should check out, whichever way you swing. However, to find some more useful topos, head over to Geoquest Verlag and do some searching for the relevant PDF file. Those Germans developed and equipped several very nice routes around Gusinje (Prokletije mountains on the border with Albania) and Kolašin.

Pirlitor

Curiously there’s no information online about a nice little spot called Pirlitor, high above Tara Canyon in Durmitor national park. We stumbled on a poster describing the access and route topos outside of tourist info in Žabljak. It turned out to be a very welcome find and a fabulous place to camp for the night. Just don’t drive all the way if you don’t have a 4×4.

Pirlitor access (poster shot, click to expand)
Pirlitor access road, ©Jonna

Access navigation is straightforward. From Žabljak drive towards Đurđevića Tara and turn left on a gravel road after about 8km (there is a sign). Follow the signs from there and park the car when you get to the pass from where you first see the wall 200m away (see photo below for the reverse view). Do not make the mistake of driving down to the wall in a regular road car. Unless they fixed the bumpy road (unlikely) you will get stuck trying to get back up (likely). Just below the top there’s a steep section where your wheels will most likely spin without traction on loose gravel and at best there’s going to be a hail of stones flying around while you go nowhere, further damaging the road. At worst you break the car.

Pirlitor east wall and camping meadow ©Jonna

We (should probably write I) learned the hard way. I gave up after several unsuccessful attempts with increasing run up speeds (and trying not to feel sorry for abusing the car), which at best got me perhaps one meter farther than first time. We unloaded most of the heavy items from the car, I made another fast run as high as possible where we changed places and I then pushed as hard as I could which eventually made the difference and we were free. Will. Not. Repeat.

after accepting that car was indeed stuck ©Jonna

Anyway…there are currently two walls to be climbed in Pirlitor. From the looks of things the Italian team that developed the area did it within the past couple of years. There’s still some clearing to be done and loads of potential for new routes around.

Pirlitor west wall (poster shot, click to expand)
Il cetriolo 5b/c

The west wall is the harder of the two with 14 routes from 5b/c to 7b+. We didn’t spend much time on Durmitor in general and only climbed two routes, Il cetriolo and Red Berries (both 5b/c). I remember the odd loose rock section but were otherwise OK.

Pirlitor east wall – route names reversed L-R (poster shot, click to expand)

East wall is entirely for beginners, tourist day trips or climbing schools with 6 routes in 3-4 range. It won’t entertain you for long but it’s good for practice or just warming up. We climbed Adrenalina (4) and Mamma Mia (4+) for a photo op.

pirlitor east and west wall above, canyon below

Kolašin

Kolašin parking spot with sectors 1 & 2 (Scorpion wall)

Kolašin is a short drive north from Podgorica and the climbing area is just outside town on the left side of the road towards Bjelasica. You can’t really miss the parking spot and the topo poster. Sector one is just across the river and the larger Scorpion wall is 10-15min uphill and to the right.

Altogether there are just over 30 routes of which we did 3. Worn out under unrelenting sun we gave up quite soon. After a hard meeting with the wall coming down from Dancing with Šega I really didn’t feel like doing more. The guidebook might lead you to believe there are a bunch of routes graded 4 and 5 but neither of the 3 we did came even close to that. Pop stone is supposed to be 4+, we’d give it a 5b. Dancing with Šega and Dancing with cetka are graded at 5- but they deserve a 6b and 6a+ respectively. Quite a difference, especially for those climbing on the lower end of the scale. Another problem with both of these is the very probable huge swing right into the opposing wall after you unclip the final quickdraw while clearing the route on the way down. At least I couldn’t figure it out and it ended quite painfully after losing my grip and eventually footing.

Pop Stone (4+/5b)

Gusinje

Gusinje is in a lovely area close to Plav on the Albanian border in Prokletije mountains. There are several independent sectors in two neighbouring valleys for you to explore. As we spent our night in Grbaja valley we climbed on a few boulders and one larger monolith called Domačin (sector 6 in Geoquest topo) with several easier warm up routes in the 4 range.

moonlit 1st meadow in Grbaja valley
Albania on the other side, Grbaja valley

We then moved to Ali Pašini izvori (Ali Paša springs) in the valley closer to Gusinje with the much larger choice of routes of very varied characters. We started with sector Platten in two beautiful routes Scheherezade (5c) and Fairytale of friction (6a). We then moved to Central sector and routes Kosovonaut (6a+/c) and Das Mädchen m.d. rauen Händen (5b+/c). Kosovonaut was falling apart at the slightest touch and I was very happy to be doing it on top rope. I also believe it’s significantly harder than the topo makes it seem. Judging by how many holds came off in my attempt alone it must be vastly different than when it was conceived.

climbing wall next to Ali Pašini izvori, Gusinje
Scheherezade (5c)

Slideshow part 1 – Durmitor

Slideshow part 2 – Kolašin, Prokletije & Kosovo

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  1. […] where do I begin? It’s funny how the previous post about Pirlitor & Kolašin got picked up by some French web climbing directory as the […]

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