Paklenica has long been on my “to do” list. 200-300-meter multi-pitch bolted routes were tempting and recently I finally had the opportunity to experience them. How was it? read it.

Paklenica National Park is located in the south of Croatia, near Starigrad, 50 km from Zadar. A small area of this park is available for climbing, and admission is paid. In April 2023, a 5-day pass that could be used within 7 days cost €16.

It is mainly a multi-pitch climbing area, i.e. there are also single-pitch bolted routes, but if you are only interested in those, I would rather choose a different area. The density of the bolting varies on different routes, which means you generally need to have protection gear. It won’t be useful on every route, but if you don’t do trad climbing at all, you will have very little choice of routes in Paklenica. People climbing at the level of sixes or sevens (French scale) will have the largest choice, but I mean Paklenic, difficult grades. There are very few routes for complete beginners.

The approach to the rocks, from the car park in the national park, takes 10 – 40 minutes. There is a small fee to enter the park by car. If you don’t want to pay or arrive too late and there are no spaces, you can park in front of the entrance to the park. From there you will have to walk to the car park for about 1.5 km on a relatively flat terrain. It is also about 1.5 km from the center of Starigrad to the entrance to the national park.

paklenica national park, parking

Most of the routes are on the rocks on the eastern side of the gorge, so they are in the shade before noon.

During my week-long stay in Starigrad, I did the five multi-pitch routes described below.

Paklenica, Anica Kuk: Karabore (5b) + Brid za veliki čekić (5b)

Anica Kuk is the highest rock in the area. At the beginning, my friend and I chose two consecutive routes that lead to the top. Oh, there was some serious action! They deserve a separate post ;) Read: Paklenica: 21.5 hours to summit Anica Kuk.

Paklenica, Anica Kuk: Bračni smjer (5c)

A few days later, we decided to climb Anica Kuk again, this time climbing one route, about 200 meters long. According to the guidebook, it has 9 pitches (4b, 4a, 5a, 4b, 5c, 4b, 4b, 3, 2) and the bolting is marked as S2 (I wrote what this means in the post linked above).

The first pitch is almost 60 m long and has one short spot that I would rate 5a, and besides it is a walk through the trees, on loose pebbles.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

The next three pitches look similar. One of them is also over 50 m long, so we didn’t have enough rope, but the terrain was so easy that simul climbing at the end of the pitch was not a problem.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

The crux pitch is the chimney visible here behind the trees.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

Finally some challenge along the route! I struggled a bit on the overhang in one place, but overall it went smoothly.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

Further screes, bushes and trees again.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

So far the route was very well bolted, but at some point, on the seventh pitch, the bolts suddenly disappear. Neither we, nor the friends who had climbed before us, could not find out which way our route goes further.

This is where we went from the right side of the rooflet…

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

… and then just somehow up, making belay stations in the trees. The terrain approximately grade 3.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

Fresh spring greenery, blue sky and views of the sea made the route visually appealing to me. But in terms of climbing, nothing interesting. However, I can recommend it to people who would like to practice how to run a half rope. If you do it wrong, it will drag on almost every pitch.

Bračni smjer, paklenica, climbing

After finishing the route, we went down to the right, along the path for climbers. This time I had the opportunity to see the views during the day :)

paklenica, landscape from anica kuk

It went much faster than last, in the night (about 1.5 hours), but the scree was just as annoying as then ;)

Paklenica, Veliki Ćuk: Centralni kamin (5b)

Veliki Ćuk is another popular wall in Paklenica. There are many routes leading to the top, we chose one of the easier ones – the 180-meter Centralni kamin. The route has 7 pitches (5a, 4a, 4b, 5b, 4b, 3, 4a) and as the name suggests, the crux pitch is the chimney in the middle of the route.

The bolting is marked as S2/S3, which in practice means that the bolts are only in crux sections.

Here is the first pitch. The longest, almost 60 meters long. I regret that I did not take a photo during climbing, but I was busy leading it. In the middle part of the pitch there are like “chutes” – a formation that I have not encountered in any other climbing area. It was quite interesting to climb.

centralni kamin, paklenica, climbing

The second pitch is an easy four,

centralni kamin, paklenica, climbing

followed by another four, more interesting, leading a traverse.

centralni kamin, paklenica, climbing

After this pitch, the aforementioned chimney awaits you. He got a 5b probably for the boulder overhang at the top, but there are jugs so it’s not that hard. Such a normal 5b.

The three of us climbed here and we all agreed that the next pitch, reportedly 4b, was the most difficult on the whole route. It initially leads in a dihedral, then turns right, over a slab on which there are no holds or footholds.

centralni kamin, paklenica, climbing

The next pitch, according to the guidebook, goes up a bit, after which you have to go down / rappell a few meters to the tree at the bottom of the chimney. However, we did not find any belay station there. We did it after descending about 2 meters and from there you go straight to the chimney, through which the last pitch goes.

centralni kamin, paklenica, climbing

We also had a bit of a dilemma what to do after finishing the route. We didn’t find any rappell station or clear path. We finally made our way towards the top, more or less in two grade climbing. After about 20-30 meters you reach trees, where you can make the last belay station just in case.

veliki cuk, path down

From there, red dots on the rocks will lead you down.

veliki cuk, path down

Paklenica, Kukovi ispod Vlake: Spit Bull (5c)

Kukovi ispod Vlake is the rock closest to the parking lot, actually two adjacent rocks. The Spit Bull route is 145 m long and has 6 pitches (5a, 5a, 4a, 4a, 5c, 5b) but no spectacular views. It leads to one rock, then goes down, then climbs the other rock.

According to the guidebook it’s S2, but almost all of it is very well bolted. If I remember correctly, only on the descent pitch you had to use your own protection.

On the plaque at the beginning of the route it is even marked as 6a, but 5c seems more appropriate to me. The first two pitches are pleasant five-difficulty climbing. Unlike many other routes in Paklenica, here there are normally holds and footholds. No chimneys or dihedrals, which I’ve had enough of.

Then go down the four-difficulty terrain.

spit bull, paklenica, climbing

After going down, climb up to the second rock. There is a short chimney and a bit of a dihedral there, but most of the way is climbing as I know it, that is, using holds and footholds, and with normal grades.

It seems to me that the difficulty of climbing in Paklenica is due to the lack of familiarity with the formations that are often found in this area. Pitches where you had to use a little force seemed well graded to me. Probably because there are relatively few such formations in this area, so local Croatian climbers graded such routes relatively higher. But slab with nothing? Dihedral without holds and footholds? It’s easy for them because they have much experience in it. Grade four, because you have to just go on foot.

Sport climbing in Paklenica

The only thing I can say about single-pitch sports routes is that they exist :) I’ve only climbed in two such routes. 5a and 5b, which seemed more difficult to me, because in Paklenic style, i.e. they lacked footholds.

In total, there are about 200 such routes, most of them in the range of 5a – 6c and most of them are located in the gorge along the hiking trail, a few minutes from the parking lot.

The Karin area, located half an hour by car from Starigrad, may also be worth a visit. Reportedly, often when a strong wind blows or it rains in Paklenica, the weather is better there, and it happened one day. Climbing in this area has a completely different character than in Paklenica. Instead of slabs with nothing, there are mainly power overhangs.

karin close to paklenica, sport climbing

All in all, it was fun to visit this legendary area and gain new experiences. I didn’t make the most of this stay, because after the first almost 24-hour climbing I had DOMS, mainly in my legs, I caught a cold and couldn’t sleep enough for the next few days. Overall, I wasn’t in shape for anything more difficult. And from what I noticed, in Paklenica nice routes start at 6a. On the lower level there are a lot of chimneys and dihedrals, which I’m not a great fan of, or greenery areas, like on Bračni smjer.


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