- 10/7 Departure Day
- 10/8 Arrival Day
- 10/9 Zagreb Exploring and Drive to Buzet
- 10/10 Vela Draga Climbing
- 10/12 Čepić Climbing
- 10/13 Plitvice National Park
- 10/14 Multi-pitch in Paklenica
- 10/15 Rain Day in Paklenica
- 10/16 Easy Multi-pitch and Single Pitch in Paklenica
- 10/17 Drive to Omiš and Čikola Climbing
- 10/18 Visoke Pole Climbing
- 10/19 Via Ferrata and Planovo Climbing
- 10/20 Ilinac and Visoke Pole Climbing
- 10/21 Drive to Zagreb
- 10/22 Fly Home
- Closing Thoughts
It is more common now than in our parents generation to take a honeymoon well after the wedding. To me, this makes a lot of sense since there is a lot going on to plan a wedding. Adding the complexities of a honeymoon on top of that seems silly to me. Carly and I did take a short vacation immediately after the wedding to decompress from the crunch of events, family, and friends. That was only an extra long weekend though and not an out of the ordinary trip, nor did it take any planning. With the intent of a more typical honeymoon in mind, we planned a trip to Croatia to climb, sightsee, and enjoy the food of a different country about a year after our wedding.
The trip focused on three zones where we’d stay for 4 nights each. Each zone had some high quality climbing areas near it allowing us to go to different cliffs each day if desired. Rest days would be travel days. The three regions we’d stay would be:
- Buzet. Istria bordering Slovenia and Italy.
- Starigrad Paklenica. Central coast
- Omiš. South-central coast
Getting between these is best done by car, though there are extensive bus routes around the country. However, in October it is the beginning of off-season so many of the buses are on greatly reduced schedules. Our trip would include a rental car.
10/7 Departure Day
Going to Europe from SLC is pretty casual start to the day. Flights typically leave during midday and arrive the following day, usually late morning. That makes for long day on the end, but not very stressful at the start. Our flights were SLC to Paris then a 3.5 hour layover before flying to the capitol of Croatia, Zagreb. While the major health risks of Covid have gone away with vaccines, treatments, and prior immunity, getting sick still could put a major downer on our trip. So we opted to get the latest booster a couple weeks before our trip as well as wear masks for the duration of our flights over there. Wearing the masks was uncomfortable for the long flights, but it seemed like worthwhile insurance for this trip.
10/8 Arrival Day
I haven’t flown internationally since prior to the pandemic and I noticed a big change. Delta’s flight seems to have lost some of the in-flight services. There used to be more drink and snack runs. We got one meal, a little too quickly after takeoff for me. There was also a “light breakfast” served an hour or two before landing. Between those there was one snack that I can recall. As a result I landed hungry in Paris. With the longer layover we had plenty of time to get food though. But not before doing the get off the plane, go through Customs and re-do security. Not sure why Paris airport needs you to go through security again, but that’s what we had to do. On the return trip we didn’t need to do that.
The plane from Paris to Zagreb was smaller of course and luckily we didn’t have to gate check our carry-ons. We traveled with our big and medium sized Patagonia roller bags for checked bags. I had my Mountain Equipment alpine pack as carry-on. Carly had the 18L Blue Ice pack for carry-on.
After getting to Zagreb we headed out to the rental car lot and got our car. Rather than planning to travel on our arrival day we booked a hotel in Zagreb (with points!) so we didn’t have to stress about driving far after a long flight. This turned out to be a great plan since it allowed us an evening and half of the next day to explore the capitol city.
10/9 Zagreb Exploring and Drive to Buzet
To get ourselves on local time we set an alarm to get up around 8am so that we could explore before heading west to Buzet. Days are a bit on the short side this time of year; sunrise at 7am and sunset a little before 6:30pm. We headed out to roughly follow a walking tour in a Rick Steves book we’d borrowed from the library. From the hotel we headed northwest to Jelačić Square. We got some pastries and micro coffees (the first of many tiny coffees on the trip) and walked around.
We wandered over to the funicular. This funicular only goes vertically less than 100 feet so we walked the steps. While not a large amount of relief it did afford some skyline views of the city. We didn’t have lots of time, nor did we want to spend too much time inside a museum, we opted to stay outside during our exploring. Although there are some interesting museums around town we didn’t see.
We circled around a bit through an old park where there have been some archaeological digs over the years finding interesting bits of the storied past of the city. Under the park are some pedestrian tunnels which offer a quick way to avoid the distractions of traffic and shops on the surface. They also avoid the elevation gain of the hill too. On top of the hill is the wonderfully colored St. Marks Church. The roof is made from brightly colored tiles arranged in patterns, they almost look like legos from afar. It didn’t appear that the church was open for tourists while we were around so we only saw the outside.
Croatia’s last couple millennia are full of conflict. The history is too complex to summarize other than many cultures and empires controlled the lands at various times. As a result many of the oldest towns in Croatia were constructed as walled cities for better defense. Zagreb’s walls and gates have been lost to progress except for a few bits and pieces. The Old Gate which now has a shrine to Mary is one such example we visited. The gate is for pedestrians only and it is mostly filled with tourists. Croatia is largely Catholic and the shrine has many spots to pray and an area to light candles.
After some lunch we continued on to a large market square were lots of fresh foods were being sold. It would seem that many people get their fruits and veggies from markets like these rather than a store, although grocery stores did have many of the items in the market we saw.
From the market it was a short walk to the Zagreb Cathedral, which was under reconstruction. Despite this it was easy to appreciate the detailed stonework on the front entrance. There’s some fountains and a statue of Mary opposite the entrance where we sat for a few minutes to enjoy the surroundings. There’s a small section of ancient wall from when the city was enclosed too.
On our walk we noticed a considerable amount of graffiti and tagging exists in central Zagreb. I can appreciate artistic graffiti, but tagging doesn’t really fit that definition. This brought down our overall impression of the city unfortunately. I didn’t notice any tagging on churches, at least front entrances, but it was on nearly every street level wall of any building. It is too bad since the city is clean otherwise.
Another unexpected event during our walk was discovering a telecom store advertising local SIM cards for phone that included unlimited data for 10 days for 10 euros. This was a huge benefit for us since our US plans would cost at least $10/day for limited data and voice. We picked up a couple of these so we could have internet, maps, etc for the trip. I’m not sure how anyone could travel before internet and smart phones, but obviously they did. But when you do have the internet in your pocket, the challenges become much easier to deal with, like directions. Once you have Google maps, worrying about getting lost goes away.
After checking out we headed west toward Buzet. Most of the drive is on tolled highways, but on one section through Rijeka we got directed off the highway and through some tiny city streets. Google thought there was a highway closure, but it seems like that was untrue. We did get warmup of the tiny roads we’d be driving on in the near future though.
The drive is about 2 hr 45 min and we decided to stop in of the national parks we’d drive through to do a short hike. It was nice to stretch out, but also nice since it took us away from the highway onto smaller local roads. The roads, which are typically well maintained, but comically narrow and windy in many cases, are a driver’s dream. Similar to our previous experiences in Italy and France, the narrow windy roads don’t limit other driver’s speed much. They really rally on the roads. We often pulled over, if we could, to let drivers pass since they wanted to go faster than us.
We completed the drive from Učka National Park to Buzet on one such local road before meeting our AirBnB host, Emanuel, at a gas station below Old Town Buzet. We followed Emanuel up the windy streets to the hilltop old town. The entrance to the walled town was a really small gate which set off all the parking sensors on our Ford Focus. Immediately after the gate is a nearly 180 degree turn on steep cobbles. Even in our car, if we didn’t turn slightly right after the gate we wouldn’t make the tight left turn without making it a 3-point turn. From there we went (slowly thankfully) along the passages and streets to our tiny house. Parking was a mess in this area because nothing was designed for cars originally and there was construction taking up space. The house was great though. Just a studio with a small kitchen and bathroom. Everything was newly renovated and worked great. I wish I’d asked when the house was built, but forgot.
We arrived near sunset and after putting our bags in the house we walked over to one of the nice hotel restaurants of Old Town. The hotel faces west and between the town wall and the hotel is the street we drove up, which has little traffic. Along the wall the hotel has seating for dinner. The location and setting were fantastic, sun setting, wine glasses and nice tableware and not busy. We had a wonderful dinner laden with truffles, which Buzet is known for. Many of our dinners in Buzet centered around truffles, even on pizza.
10/10 Vela Draga Climbing
Istria is more of a fall, winter, and spring climbing zone. Normally our timing in mid-October would have been great for climbing many of the south facing zones around Buzet, the most popular being Kompanj. But our arrival was during a warm spell and it was too hot and humid to climb in the sun. However, we thought we could get away with it and went to a small crag with some interesting tower features. We quickly realized we had made the wrong choice on the zone but stuck with it anyway and just climbed what we could find in the shade rather than the best climbs. We didn’t get to the tower routes which was a disappointment.
Realizing that the next day we’d need to climb in the shade we scoped out the approach to a north facing crag close to town. It wasn’t quite walking distance, but from the edge of Old Town we could see the crag a couple miles away.
10/11 Buzeski Kanjon Climbing
This local park runs along the Mirna river, or what would be when it has water. I’m not sure if it is common, but many of the rivers and streams we saw around the country were dry. The one mile approach was along the river canal along some outdoor bodyweight gym equipment, leg press, shoulder press, bars, etc, and then to the shady side of a hill.
This is definitely a destination worthy crag. This one wall was littered with high quality difficult climbs. There were other good walls we didn’t get to sample. This one though was filled with steep blue and tan limestone with tufas in some places. The most memorable route was Joker (6b+, 5.11c). The went up some technical face holds for a couple bolts then into a giant ear tufa. Between laying back, camming, and other moves through 3 body lengths of the ear then onto a tricky slab for a move before then some steeper but positive holds to the chains. It was a great route and took me three goes before getting it clean. While the grading was more or less on par for us, it was a little different type of rock. Bolting was new and normal modern spacing for the most part. The anchors for most climbs, not just at this crag but for the whole country, tended to be vertically offset, with a chain between the two and a single burly lower off hook with stiff gate on it. We didn’t see any worn lower-offs.
10/12 Čepić Climbing
While Buzeski Kanjon had lots more climbing, it was mostly harder stuff and the slightly easier wall didn’t get shade until a bit later in the day. So we headed to a little crag off the beaten track. Čepić is a small village about 30 minutes from Buzet. The road getting up to it was typical, only wide enough for a single car on the pavement, but two-way traffic. It wasn’t busy and Carly only needed to pull off into the grass a few times.
The crag isn’t overwhelming, but what it lacks in stature it made up for in the quaint setting. After getting through the village of perhaps a dozen buildings, there’s a signed grassy parking area. The land is apparently privately owned but the owner approves of climbers using it. A short quarter mile walk down a gently sloping dirt road that skirts the forest and some meadows. A split in the land where the road goes through forms the climbing area. At the base it is just wider than the dirt track and on either side are 40′ limestone outcroppings. Each side has a plethora of climbs of different grades. This was a fun spot and we got over a dozen routes in given their size. It was a fun spot and we didn’t see another person all day.
On the way back to Buzet we stopped quickly in Motovun, another very popular walled town in the area. We didn’t try driving into town, just taking a peak around the outside for a little while before heading off to the spot we had picked for dinner. Again truffles were the main focus. A dish of slow-cooked beef, cheese ravioli with a dark gravy topped with truffle shavings was the winner.
10/13 Plitvice National Park
While we really enjoyed Buzet it was time to head south away from the inland climbing and cuisine to the coast. Along the way we stopped at Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the most popular tourist spots in Croatia. Plitvice is a natural wonder. The limestone and karst (cave) geology of the country culminates into a unique harmony of water, stone, and plants.
Half of the three hour drive was on tolled highways, but then Google brought us on a back road into the park. Windy, steep, and narrow of course. It would be fantastic to do a motorcycle trip around Europe because of the roads. As we got closer we wondered how tour buses get to the park since it would be impossible for them to drive on the road we were on. Just a few miles before the park entrance our tiny road met the main road that the buses come in.
We’d hoped to trail run around the park and get a bit more in than we could see by walking. However that was quickly set aside when we saw the number of visitors. Despite that school is in session we had a fair amount to contend with. For the most part we had two types of people at opposite ends of the spectrum, field-tripping jr. high schoolers and pensioners from the UK.
Despite the crowds the park is pretty amazing. The combination of the limestone and water creates a unique landscape of mineral deposit created lakes that overflow in hundreds of waterfalls. The clear, bright blue water supports a lot of plant life, particularly around the waterfalls. The park’s infrastructure allows visitors to see the falls up close. Boardwalks wind around the shores of the larger lakes and across lush grasses and even over or around waterfalls. Most of the waterfalls are less than 50-60′ but the largest one is 87m high. This comes from a tributary stream rather than the main lake system that feeds the falls in the park.
While most of the photos online are probably from spring or summer I really enjoyed seeing the park at the beginning of autumn. I don’t think their leaves change quite as vibrantly as they do in New England or even parts of Utah, but they do take a yellower tint and some sporadic reds and oranges. Part of the entrance fee includes travel in the park’s boats and/or shuttle buses to help get you around the park. From the end we entered we got a good view of the lower parts of the park, but a boat ride or a 2.5 mile trail would be needed to see the upper sections. The line for the boat had to be at least an hour or more long so we opted for the 2.5 mile trail run. This turned out to be a great part of the park for me. There were very few visitors hiking it around and we were able to run as the trail wound around the shore of the big lake. It felt much more private than the first section. We wrapped up our time in the park with a bus ride back to the entrance and got back in the car for the remaining couple hours to Starigrad.
Starigrad is on the coast, but on a large inlet so not quite full Adriatic Sea. The AirBnB we booked is an apartment building on the main street in town and a short walk from a few restaurants and a large grocery store. It doesn’t have the same quaint feeling as Buzet’s Old Town but still a nice vibe. While waiting to get into our apartment we met the local kitty (mače) and a kitten that were both friendly. We also found some street kitties hanging out at the patio of the restaurant down the street where they hoped to score some handouts or scoop up some fish that fell from diners’ plates.
10/14 Multi-pitch in Paklenica
Paklenica is probably the most famous climbing area in Croatia. It has some of the longest routes in the country and there’s a mix of sport and trad climbing as well as single and multi-pitch climbing. The park is set up around two parallel canyons with the northern one focusing the climbing. Paklenica is also know for its runouts on easier ground as well as its sandbagged routes. The information we’d gotten was to not assume a sport route only needed quickdraws, and to assume a single rack would be needed to supplement the bolts. We found the sandbagging to be particularly true.
Wary of the grading we did a ridge climb as our first route, Sjeverno Rebro, and it was graded 4b+, or around 5.6. I felt the grading to be fair and there were runouts I protected a little, but for the most part it felt pretty casual. Despite the park having very quick approaches for the most part, we botched ours and took over an hour before finding the start of our route, which should have taken 25 minutes or so. At least the 70 year old guys that beat us to the base were nice enough to let us start first since we’d be faster on-route. The route was interesting climbing along a ridge with the final pitch heading up a face using a crack and ledges. Overall the rock was sharp, but with a little polish in some spots.
After Sjeverno Rebro we moved across to a beautiful feature adjacent to the biggest wall (Anića Kuk) in the park. Karabore (5b) was a great four pitch route, but I’d say it was 6a (5.10a/b). The route started up some very polished but positive and steep holds. That lead to a main feature of the route which was a water groove/chimney. I climbed on either or both sides of this groove for about 50m and then belayed below a wider section of the groove. This steepened and then the line moved right and into a crack which proved to be the crux. Just above the steepest section was a bit tricky and runout, if you had no cams, section before stopping in a cool water pot erosion feature. The crack was pretty good, but spiky in spots and awkward enough that I though it was way sandbagged at 5b.
From the water pot belay I moved right along some really nice water grooved features that are common in the park to a finger traverse. This could have been much harder but there were some good feet. From there it was face and groove climbing to the top of the column. Super fun route, even if sandbagged.
One of the great things about Paklenica is the access. The wide trail from the parking lot goes up the canyon and there’s a learning center that is tunneled into the rock. I would have like to check it out, but it was closed when we had the opportunity to see it. This infrastructure also supports full toilets and a souvenir/ice cream stand. Pretty nice amenities for between routes. To wrap up our day we did some single pitch routes from this trail.
10/15 Rain Day in Paklenica
To this point we’d had good weather, as forecasted. Should the forecast continue to be right, Sunday we could expect rain. It started lightly raining in the morning and we took the car to a pekara (bakery). They had covered outdoor area for us to chill while we ate. We found most of the ladies working pekara’s to be impatient and didn’t like indecisive English speakers. I’m sure that isn’t what they actually were like, but it seemed that way to us. On the topic of English speakers, in general most people have some amount of English, particularly younger (under 40) people. While Americans aren’t as familiar with Croatia as a tourist destination, Europeans are, so the common language is English. This made for pretty easy communication.
Our normal breakfast on the trip was a burek, pastry and coffee. Burek is a cheese or meat filled filo dough pastry. Usually it was rolled in a spiral, but the (enormous) ones we got in Buzet were simply layered. Of course it is nearly impossible to get a coffee as Americans think of it, even americano’s were tough to find. Usually everything was small and has some variation on latte, cappuccino, and or macchiato. Espressos were common as well.
While we went from the car to the pekara the rain really started to come down. We continued to eat and get another coffee and watch the buckets of rain coming down. The street in front of the shop flooded and water started coming up out of a drain grate. It was kind of a low point there so it made sense. The flooding seemed commonplace enough that there was no concern of it entering the shop, but being rain deprived in Utah it was impressive to see. We probably spent over an hour hanging out and getting more coffee and another pastry while waiting for the rain to let up.
We decided to hike around a little near the other entrance of the park but we weren’t able to get far before another bout of rain came in. We ended up driving around a bit and then chilling in the apartment for the afternoon. As predicted in the forecast it did clear up a bit and we hiked up the main canyon to get a look at Anića Kuk which looks amazing. I took a panorama of it from the trail but the scale is impossible to capture and I didn’t publish it here. As the forecast predicted it got windy during the day as well and we saw that despite the heavy rain the rock was quickly drying. We would be able to climb the next day, even despite getting another deluge overnight.
10/16 Easy Multi-pitch and Single Pitch in Paklenica
Since we figured the driest routes would be ridges and single pitch climbing we did that. We picked a very easy route that was a stone’s throw from the parking area—literally a 60 second approach. This route was very easy, but fun and got us nice views from the other side of the canyon than the first day of climbing. On route we met some Slovenians who had said the previous day they drove about 1.5 hours south and had been able to climb at a place called Čikola Kanjon. This place was on Carly’s list as a potential spot between Paklenica and Omiš.
After the casual morning we opted to do more single pitch climbing and got on some really good, but sharp and sandbagged routes. A couple were great routes that I 1-2 hung and I probably could have gotten clean on one more attempt, but they were just too sharp for me to feel like it was worth it. While having ice cream bars after a pitch we got to watch the donkey’s that supply the mountain hut about 1.5 hr up the trail go by with their huge loads. The donkey’s know that people often have food and were looking in unattended packs until their handler gave them a shout and a snap with a switch.
10/17 Drive to Omiš and Čikola Climbing
While there’s so much more climbing in Paklenica we needed to move on to our final, and I think what turned to be our favorite spot, Omiš. Along the way we stopped at Čikola Kanjon. There’s a shady and a sunny side. When we arrived to Čikola it was mostly clouds, windy and cold so we opted for the sunny side. Of course as soon as we got to the base of the climbing the sun came out in full force and the wind died. We did a one route before leaving to go to the shady side. The conditions apparently didn’t dissuade more than a few other parties to come in while we were on the way out. Not sure why they were so keen to roast.
The shady side requires getting in the car and a 20 minute drive around and down a short dirt road. This then leads down the border of two plots of private land to the climbing. The cliff is not as tall as the sunny side, but it had a lot of character. The purple, blue and tan streaks in the rock highlighted tufas and grooves similar to Buzetski Kanjon.
We got on an easier route in a corner which got us access to the anchor of a 7a (5.12a), the hardest route we tried in Croatia. The route wasn’t super tall, but packed in some great movement on sharp holds. One nice aspect of this type of rock is it had good friction, so even mediocre feet often were really good so the sharp hands could be managed by moving the feet around. I would have liked to spend more time on that climb (Tanđara), but I don’t think I could have gotten it on lead without a few days of attempts. Instead we moved to some other routes that we had a better chance of on-sighting. Overall a great zone and I’m glad we stopped.
Back in the car and continuing on we again found ourselves winding along impossibly narrow streets with two-way traffic. One stretch through a string of villages had a 2′ deep concrete ditch as the right border of the road. This was not a rolled edge transition either, it was 90 deg edge down into the ditch. Or it was a rock wall as the road edge. Either way it required careful passing of oncoming cars.
The final stretch into Omiš was memorable, it winds along the edge of a steep mountain switchbacking down. In one area theres a stretch of old tunnels. These tunnels aren’t wide enough for two cars and have wider spots on either end to allow oncoming cars to pass and yield right of way. As we moved lower on the mountain we got to see the view from the pictures online, a greenish-blue river piercing massive gray cliffs on its way to the sea. On the other side of the cliffs is the town of Omiš.
Paklenica and Čikola Gallery
10/18 Visoke Pole Climbing
We met Boris, our AirBnb host, who has a lovely little apartment in Old Town Omiš so he could show us in. The apartment was an old home that was again fully updated inside. The entry door at ground level led to a covered seating dining area and a “summer kitchen”. Open-air stairs lead to the apartment itself. From the small patio of the apartment we could see up to Maribella Fort, which is a 13th century structure built on the foundations of an even older Byzantine Empire fort. The fort looks over Old Town. Inside we had more space than we needed and two bathrooms. While we didn’t do any cooking during our trip, this would have had the best scene to have breakfast or dinner from.
Unlike Buzet, this Old Town as no car streets at all, but it doesn’t have a wall anymore, nor is it on a hill, so the edge of Old Town is bordered by bigger roads that allow easy access. Omiš is a touristy town and the biggest we’d yet stayed in except for the capitol. The town is on the edge of the sea is at the mouth of the Cetina River. The modern town splits both sides of the river and is ringed with 700-800′ limestone cliffs. There is a ton of climbing around Omiš, and of all grades and lengths.
For our first day we headed to a single pitch zone about half a mile from the apartment. Along the way we passed not one, but two other crags. Visoke Pole faces the Cetina and between the crag and the river is the road. This is truly a roadside crag if there ever was one. A couple of picnic tables and a trash bin really make it as cush as one could hope. While the road occasionally was noisy it was not generally a problem.
Visoke Pole has a bunch of routes mainly in harder 6 and up range, but a number of easier ones to warm up on. The left side of the cliff is mainly gray and less than vertical with similar runnels, slabs, positive pockets that we’d known so far. Towards the center and right sides the angle steepened and there were tufa columns. After warming up on a 5c and 6a we made our way to the middle of the wall to try the long tufa Kastracija ili masturbacija (6c+). This route works directly up a long tufa, requiring straddling it most of the time. At the top there’s couple layback moves to get into a chimney feature under a drip in the tufa. From there you pull up over the roof of the drip and across the rounded top of the tufa before clipping the chains. It is a great route, but hard. It also is a heady lead, not because of the spacing between bolts, which was tight, but because of straddling the tufa puts some increased severity of slipping a foot making for an uncomfortable fall—the route was named well. After I got to the top, with 2-3 hangs, Carly TR’ed it and I gave it a TR as well, which I got clean. If I’d been able to dial in the moves a bit more I would have lead it. We’d had a slow start to the day and so we only climbed at this one spot, but still got six pitches in.
10/19 Via Ferrata and Planovo Climbing
The zone I really wanted to climb is a multi-pitch area we could see from Visoke Pole, but the weather on Thursday was questionable for diving into a 6+ pitch route. After we got breakfast (angry pekara lady and micro coffees of course) it started to drizzle and the wind picked up. Obviously a bigger route wouldn’t happen so we decided to do the via ferrata. The start to this was actually in the same parking lot our car was in. This route isn’t super hard and if the weather had been nice, I wouldn’t have thought twice to scramble it without harnesses. However given the drizzle and wind we harnessed up. The route takes the striking ridge from the river up to the 860′ summit where there’s another fort. The route is very easy, but being clipped in was nice in spots especially when it started to rain.
At the summit we explored the fort and got out of the wind, which had picked up. The fort has a commanding view of the sea and river’s mouth and I can see that it would be a prime spot to defend the town should an armada of ships try to sneak up on you. Omiš is famous for being a pirates hideout, there’s a lot of pirate related imagery around the town.
We took the normal hiking trail back to town. As it dumps you into town we got to see lots more street kitties. One friendly kitten and another shy, but still curious adult cat (mačka). When we got to the old cemetery cats just started coming out of the shadows to say hello and get some scratches. We spent probably 30-40 minutes with them and saw I think 6-7 different ones by the end of our stay.
After we got back to the apartment we went over to another climbing zone about 5 minutes from the apartment and got a few pitches in before the weather seemed like it would turn and it was getting close to dinner anyway.
One of the best things about the place we staying in Omiš is that everything was walkable. Food, drink, climbing all was outside our door. The longer multi-pitch zone of Ilinac, our objective for the following day, was close enough to walk to, but we took the car since it shaved 30 minutes off walking there.
10/20 Ilinac and Visoke Pole Climbing
One of the prime routes in Omiš is Secrets of Cetina (6b+). On top of being well reviewed online, our friends that had been to Croatia also enjoyed it. Unfortunately the weather looked questionable and the grade was a little harder than I wanted to jump into given how much we’d been climbing and that it is an 7 pitch route. We swapped our intentions to a 6 pitch route that was easier. However, when we finally got to the base the weather just didn’t look like a good idea for a bigger route. Dark clouds were whizzing by the tops of the nearby peaks. While the wind wasn’t bad on the base, I assumed that it would be worse higher up.
Instead we opted for a 3 pitch route, which turned out to be grossly incorrectly described on Mountain Project. Actually MountainProject’s Ilinac page is very incorrect, I’ve posted some correctly, but not sure if they will be incorporated. Anyway, we did the 3 pitch route, 101 Dalmatians (5.9+), it wasn’t all that great though. We also did the first pitch of Rambo and of Stargate while we were there. On our way out we could see a party of Secrets of Cetina and on Stargate. After we left Ilinac we went back to Visoke Pole to get a few more pitches in. The weather continued to look bleak, but it never actually did anything. We should have gotten on Rambo I guess. Despite being disappointed at not getting a full route in at Ilinac we finished up our climbing in Croatia on a few nice, but hard routes. Another tufa one was so tough I couldn’t even finish it on TR. I think finishing up a long climbing trip ending completely spent is a good finish.
10/21 Drive to Zagreb
For our last day we knew it’d be raining so we had a relaxed start to the morning. It would be about 5 hours of driving back to Zagreb to catch our plane the next morning. Unfortunately, between our relaxed start and the lack of signage we got stuck in Omiš for an extra three hours due to a half marathon. The marathon was an out and back style and our car was parked on the course, therefore we couldn’t leave until the race was over.
The night before we’d planned to spend a half day in Split about 40 minutes up the coast. Split has a bunch of interesting sights but Diocletian’s Palace looked interesting thing to check out. We just missed getting out of the apartment by about 30 minutes so our extra 3 hours in Omiš was unexpected. We did get to check out the inside of St. Michael’s Church for an extended period while the skies opened up and it down poured for about 30 minutes. We eventually were able to get on the road and back to Zagreb. Our day in Zagreb at the front end of the trip turned out to be a good idea since we would have never seen the capitol otherwise. We arrived around 6pm and were able to get some dinner, dessert, and authentic Croatian brandies (so surprisingly good that we bought a bottle) before turning in for our 6:30am departure to Amsterdam.
10/22 Fly Home
No exciting stuff on the way home. We didn’t wear masks on the plane and it was so much more comfortable, no ill effects (pun intended). Immediately after stepping outside in SLC we were greeted by 70 deg temps and sun—and a dry 70 deg of course. We got home and unpacked a little and got a walk in to soak up the sun and readjust to the timezone. Oh and of course, get to snuggle with our mačka, Gracie!
Croatia is an awesome country. Friendly people, except those pekara ladies 😉, good food, and great climbing. I had a friend ask if I would go back to Croatia or go to another country. I think Carly and I are torn. There’s so much more of the country we didn’t see. We didn’t do any of the island hopping or climbing above the ocean we’d seen in our research. We didn’t get to climb any longer routes anywhere. Plus we didn’t see some of the must-do tourist sights in Dubrovnik. So in many ways I’d really like to go back, plus we have some of the learning curve out of the way. On the other hand, there’s so many interesting places to see, not just in Europe either. There’s just not enough time and money to do it all.
Will we be back? I hope so!