Anica Kuk is the highest wall in Paklenica. Already on the first day of our visit to this area, me and my friend decided to go there. It took us some time ;)

To get to the top of Anica Kuk, we chose two theoretically easy routes: the 120-meter long Karabore (5b) and the following Brid za veliki čekić (also 5b), which is about 150 meters long.

We were at the parking lot at 8 am, but there was another team ahead of us, so we didn’t start climbing until after 9 am.

To warm up, a short but quite strong overhang on the first pitch, graded as 5a.

paklenica, karabore

According to the guidebook, there is a belay station right after the overhang, but there really isn’t one, so the pitch connects to the next pitch, going in the corner 4b.

Then 5b going mostly up the chimney and the corner, with one spot requiring power. I was glad I didn’t get to lead this pitch. I don’t feel good in such formations at all, and here it seemed to me extremely difficult, as for 5b.

paklenica, karabore

I got another pitch – 5a, going along the slab. I usually do well in such formations, but here I didn’t feel like 5a… I also had a problem with spotting my route, because there are 3 or 4 bolted routes in parallel, close to each other and in the guidebook they are not marked precisely enough. I don’t know if I did not partly follow variant 5b. Anyway, I leaded the pitch to the end.

Overall, the route was pretty well bolted. I added a friend in one place, but you can do without trad equipment. However, I would add one degree to the grades, i.e. 5b, 5a, 5c, 5b – in my opinion it would be more or less adequate.

The route ends on a wide ledge, which is reached by many other routes. It was the beginning of the long May weekend, not only Poles had a long weekend, so the wall was crowded.

paklenica, stup

Difficulties on the route and the need to wait until belay stations are free meant that it was already 2 pm. And I proposed 2 pm as the cut-off time, i.e. if we did not finish Karabore by this time, we were to give up further climbing and go down. A friend proposed 12 o’clock, but being on the shelf, he wanted to climb further.

So we went further. There was only one pair of girls ahead of us, also from Poland, while the rest of the climbers were rappeling down.

Brid za veliki čekić is an 8-pitch route that runs more or less like a pillar. From the ledge where the Karabore ends, you have to approach it with an area that is not graded at all in the guidebook, but in my opinion you could give it 3 or 4.

The first pitch is an interesting traverse to the left. According to the guidebook 4a, but for the lack of footholds, I would give it 5a. Then a vertical, supposedly 4b+, after which there was supposed to be a belay station, but it wasn’t, so I connected it with a traverse to the right, said 4b.

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

A beautiful exposure below, and 4:30 pm on the watch…

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

The previously mentioned girls decided to abseil from this station. I guessed that this might be the last chance for a relatively comfortable retreat and I wondered if we shouldn’t do the same. There were still 6 pitches ahead of us, including 5b and three 5a, and a moment ago I was hanging on 4b and I didn’t know what to do… I knew that we would definitely be going down in the dark, and maybe we would also finish climbing in the dark. For me, however, the darkness is not a big problem. It’s harder then, everything goes slower, but I’ve climbed a few times in the dark, so I know it’s not a tragedy. Therefore, when my friend said that he would go, I agreed without hesitation. I guess we also both had it in our heads all the time that “after all, it’s only fives, they can’t be that hard, it will go quickly”.

The first of fives pitches actually went smoothly. Behind him three, also without problems.

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

Then 5b was waiting for us… First a break for food and drink, and up… That is, three steps up and down. Again… and again, until finally the friend said that no way, his head wouldn’t let him get to the first bolt.

In the guidebook (by Boris Čujić) each route is marked with how well it is bolted. From S1 (best) to S6 (worst). Both Karabore and Brid za veliki čekić are marked as S2, which according to the guidebook means that falls can be up to 10 meters long with unlikely consequences. This is not always true. Here, the first bolt was at a height of about 5-6 meters, it was impossible to add anything earlier, and the fall would probably have serious consequences, because on the ledge.

I marked this bolt because it might be hard to spot ;)

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

There was no way I was going in here in a dihedral. The only way I could see was to jam my feet in the crack and thus take small steps upwards. It worked. But I wouldn’t want to repeat it!

It wasn’t any easier after that. Only the third clip can be done while standing with one foot on a large comfortable step. I mean, it’s definitely comfortable if you have a reach at least a few centimeters greater than mine. Me on tiptoe… barely, barely… but I reached out.

A moment of rest on the tension…

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

…and further. And it’s not any easier there. I guess I unnecessarily squeezed into the crack, as I should probably go to the right along the wall. There was drama, when I felt like I was about to fall out of there, and the rope was behind me. Falling several meters with a rope behind your legs… that wouldn’t be cool. But I managed to jam my knee, rested for a while, calmed down, and kept going. And finally it got easy :)

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

It took me an hour to lead this pitch.

On the horizon a beautiful sea and the setting sun…

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

…and there are still 3 pitches ahead of us.

We did the last two (both 5a) in the dark. Both of them are almost not bolted, i.e. the first one had one bolt, the second probably three. All bolts in the cruxes, but self-protection gear came in handy.

paklenica, brid za veliki cekic

We divided the last pitch into two, because the rope (50 m) ended. Fortunately, just in the place where you could make a belay station on the tree.

In general, as on Karabore, I would add roughly one level to the grading of each pitch. Although this 5b, if it was graded at 6a+, I would also say that it is a good grade. I’ve heard before that there are difficult grades in Paklenica, but I didn’t expect it to be so…

We reached the top at 11 pm. I thought that now 1.5 – 2 hours of descent and we could finally rest. I miscalculated…

You can go down two ways. To the right, for a shorter time, take the descent path for climbers or the longer route, i.e. go left to the very top of Anica Kuk and go down the tourist trail from there. We figured it would be easier to follow the hiking trail in the dark. So we went towards the top and after some time we climbed a hill. We were convinced that this was the peak. It is true that in the application, the GPS showed me that it was still 150 m to the top, but sometimes it happens that the GPS gets lost or the location on the map “freezes” and does not want to update. I thought that now it happened and we started looking for a trail. We looked, we looked and we couldn’t find it… Only boulders everywhere and nothing looked like a path for tourists.

anica kuk

Several times I thought I saw a red dot on the stone marking the trail, but it was lichen… Every now and then I looked at and each time the dot on the map seemed to be in the same place, so I thought that it was the whole time “freezed”. We saw the outline of a mountain in front of us – it was actually Anica Kuk’s peak, but we thought it was the next mountain. I don’t know how long we hung around the hill we climbed, but finally we came across real, painted dots marking the trail. They directed us to the place where we had finished climbing and from there we went down the climber’s path. It took a long time… It wasn’t really a “path”, just scattered boulders, only painted with dots. Then a short via ferrata… then another… then scree… and via ferrata again…

path down from anica kuk, via ferrata

Fatigue was already great, especially mine. I needed a few breaks along the way and it took us 6.5 hours to go down.

We were back in the parking lot at 5:30. It was already bright ;)


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