Top Five New Potential Destinations… In Theory

There’s always a list developing in my head of places i want to go next and as time goes on, the realisation that going to Castle Hill just isn’t going to happen; not any time soon at least. No, it’s important to stay grounded with these things, and try and pick places that are attainable.

Of course, they may turn out to be absolute shite, you never know. The really big popular spots (your Fonts, Magic Woods, Albarracins, etc) are well known for good reason so it’s possible that you’ve never heard of these spots or thought about going there because they are, well, not worth going to. But the thing is, unless you take a punt every now and again, you never really know what you’re going to get. There’s a new “world’s greatest crag” all the time and it just might be that one of these might just be that.

So here is a list of the Top Five New Potential Destinations, based purely on spurious coincidences and mediocre internet research.

Know anywhere else that’s cool? Somewhere weird and obscure? Let me know in the comments section at the bottom.

Number 1: Prilep, Macedonia

I’m not sure where this one came from initially but shortly after it first popped up on my radar, it appeared as a featured crag in Climb magazine, in the August 2015 issue. It was a joint feature on sport climbing in Bulgaria (i think) and, more interestingly to me, bouldering in Macedonia.

It turns out that the Petzl Roctrip had flown through there in 2014 so it couldn’t be that bad and on reading the article and looking through the awesome pictures, it certainly grabbed my attention!

Where is it?

Prilep is located in southern Macedonia and seems accessible from a number of locations. Not one of Europe’s powerhouses, a trip here should be relatively cheap on the wallet with stunning views of the Pelagonia plain. The pictures of the area certainly show a rustic and rural community by Western standards and certainly somewhere to be experienced for those wanting to get away from the usual trips to Font and Switzerland.

What’s the catch?

Well, i tried my network of international climbers (the Federation Internationale des Blocs on Facebook) to sound out the idea of a trip this October. Turns out the group is more in the know than i realised, as they already knew someone who’d been.

The sandstone boulders, being fairly new to the climbers, are still sharp and brittle, or as Mac put it

a few friends of mine have been in prilep (they have done some FAs there) and they told me that they wouldn´t go there again because the rockquality is really bad (sharp and the holds breack from time to time)

While i know what he means, and i’m not thrilled at the prospect of climbing on dodgy rock for a couple of weeks, Albarracin was sharp and brittle when i was there in 2009 and this will only improve with traffic. It’s a consideration but i think one worth going for anyway.

The prospect of a Greek-based alphabet doesn’t thrill me with enthusiasm either, especially as i can’t imagine it’s the type of place where everyone speaks English! Still, going somewhere entirely different is kinda the point!

Number 2: Reykjavik, Iceland

In June this year, the latest crop of Centre Assistants started work here at Plas y Brenin. A good bunch, they had a variety of backgrounds as you would expect, with some coming from nearby, one from Ireland and one Scottish lass called Louise. While Scots aren’t uncommon around here, Louise hadn’t come from the highlands – she’d been resident in Iceland.

We got chatting about this one night and i, somewhat predictably, inquired about bouldering out there. I can’t remember what she said, in truth, which suggests it wasn’t that memorable… Nevertheless, the idea intrigued me and it’s floated around in the back of my head ever since.

Where is it?

Well, Reykjavik is well known, being a major international city and Iceland’s capital city. What’s not known is where the boulders would be found, as i could find next to nothing on 27crags and very little online about bouldering in Iceland at all. A couple of videos were the best i could muster and one of these was a single problem.

While it’s not ideal (the experience of going to Frankenjura sans guidebook being a particular disaster) it does mean that there’s some potential for first ascents out there. A quick search has revealed a couple of climbing walls in the city itself, so there should be some sort of scene and i do have a contact to begin with.

What’s the catch?

Iceland could very well turn out to be as useless for bouldering as the Netherlands – there’s precious little to suggest otherwise, to my mind at the moment. Fredrik said when he visited in 2015 that he would never visit somewhere without a guidebook and, currently at least, it looks like there isn’t one to be had. It’s a risk and i’m not sure the rewards are worth it with other options at the moment. More research needed.

Number 3: Ciezkowice, Poland

Another friend from work, Carolina, returned recently to her homeland of Poland and the town of Opole. She’d been talking of escaping North Wales for quite some time and has finally, sadly, left to go home. However, never one to miss a good opportunity like this, just before she went i quizzed her on where was good for boulders in her native land…

Where is it?

To the east of Opole lies the Carpathian Mountains: a range that heads south into Slovakia and beyond. Here, she says, is a good source of good clean rock that should keep me entertained for at least a week. It looks promising, and not so close that i will have invited myself to stay at her parents house…

What’s the catch?

Dunno really, other than the fact that Carolina might be back soon. That said, Carolina is a wonderful, happy and bubbly lady and it’ll be nice to see her regularly again.

Local logistics could prove tricksome as there isn’t much to go on and the only input i’ve had from UKBouldering is suggesting polished crags around the UK. Very funny, i know. It’s not really much of a tourist destination so this one might be a start-from-scratch kind of exercise. Then again, that might not be a bad thing.

Oh and i can’t pronounce the name of the bloody place.

Number 4: Triangular Lake, Russia

The problem with the Birthday Tradition is that it sits towards the end of June. This means that (despite having been to the following as part of the tradition) places like Font, Albarracin and anywhere with a low altitude in the Alps are hotspots in entirely the wrong sort of way.

What this means is that i have to keep searching for new countries that might actually offer half decent conditions! I think it was a conversation between some friends and I that suggested Siberia as a jokey destination and while this might be pushing it a bit far, Russia is certainly cold in the summer. It’s cold all the bloody time!

Where is it?

On the Finnish-Russian border lies a little spot that i managed to stumble across, known oddly as Triangular Lake. I think this may be where Paul Robinson has recently been plying his trade – another good reason to head over there – and an internet search revealed a great little video on Dead Point Magazine. It certainly looks promising.

My sole Russian friend, Vadim, was quite enthusiastic and had nothing but good things to say, so it sounds like a fairly safe bet. I might even be able to get him to get my a guide before i head out.

What’s the catch?

The language barrier, much like with Prilep. While i’m not aversed to learning another language (he says currently learning Swedish to go with the French and German i’m already learning) learning another alphabet might prove a touch tricky. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it is certainly a down side. If Vadim came along, it would help.

It’s also a bit of a pig to get to, being a touch too far to drive either way round the Baltic. This is more of an irritation than a problem but it would’ve been nice to take Tess. I’m not sure what the score is with visas too, so that could turn out to be another complication.

Number 5: Aland, Finland

This one is actually in the pipeline, following the Magic Wood trip of 2015. There, i met Jaako and Raul, both from Helsinki who suggested this little island as a great choice. It’s even suitable for a June trip.

So it’s where we’re heading next summer. A “luxury” chalet between eight of us (not as tricky as it sounds after networking in Switzerland) would set us back a mere £140 and it’s not too far to drive, picking up Simon in Kobenhavn on the way. There are cheaper options too and Fredrik and Tobias are keen, being as they’re so close as well.

Where is it?

Aland is a small island in between Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. While it is Finnish, i hear that they speak Swedish there – a handy bonus considering my lessons are coming along quite well.

Much like with Hono in the Baltic on the other side of Sweden, the island rises gently from the sea; or at least that’s the impression i get from sites like the visitaland.com website.

The plan is to drive from Hook of Holland, through Denmark to collect Simon, across the bridges at Malmo then through southern Sweden before another ferry to Aland. All in the green machine: my prized Land Rover Defender.

What’s the catch?

So far, i’m struggling to see one. With no campsites close to the climbing, there’s a potential we won’t get enough people for a chalet and will be a bit stuck but that seems unlikely at this point, with so much interest.

It’s an established place, a new country for my 32nd birthday and the guidebook currently adorns my shelf at home thanks to 27crags incentive to fundraise for their app, which should be out by then and covers the area extensively. The pieces are in place for the trip of a lifetime.

 

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