Climbing through the Balkans - Bosnia & Herzegovina

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7 min. 20. 10. 23

Friendly interview with Igor Vukić – the author of the first Bosnia's climbing guidebook

Climbing areas close to small villages, often pretty far from civilisation and close to an untouched nature. Places where you won't be definitely queuing for your dream line. A variety of styles. Do you like technical slabs on rock structures smoothed by many years of water drops or rather harder directions, steep and overhang terrains? And what about the climbing on tufas? Or do you want to taste of local culture in the form of the Pecka Outdoor Festival or Drill & Chill Climbing and Highlining Festival?

ALL OF THIS BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA OFFERS TO YOU

Many sectors and crags with a huge variety of routes for all your climbing styles

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Igor Vukić and I’m a climber from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I’ve been involved in climbing & developing the sport in the country for almost 20 years now and I’m the author of the first climbing guidebook in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I developed and bolted many lines around Banja Luka, that is my home, but I also bolted routes all around the country. Apart from this, I’m president of the Climbing Club Extreme in Banja Luka.

Igor Vukić – climber, crag developer, and author of the first climbing guide of Bosnia

How would you describe the climbing scene in Bosnia?

The scene is definitely still in development. We are no longer in a first – pioneer stage, but still, you won’t find crowded crags and queues to climb up a line. We are over the first stage when we had to build the gym and everything around it and during the last 10 years lots of small climbing gyms have been built throughout Bosnia. They are all “DIY” (authors note: do-it-yourself) gyms, we don’t have any commercial walls and kits.

75 % of the climbing routes we have now in the country have been bolted mainly in the last 5 years. So a lot of work done.

Meanwhile, in the same time, we started developing crags, cleaning the rocks and placing bolts. The 75 % of the routes that are now present in the country have been bolted mainly in the last 5 years. So a lot of work was done. I’m glad that we are over the first hard part, where we struggled for many weeks to find the right material for bolting lines. Now it is finally easier and thanks to all the hard volunteering, we are ready for a new phase now.

All our climbing walls are "home-made", we have no commercial climbing gyms there
We finally got all the necessary materials for drilling and got to the hard work

You built the first gym in Banja Luka and so far you created the first official climbing guide of Bosnia and Herzegovina. What are your next plans for the future?

Our country has a lot to offer and has got wonderful crags all over. The current plan is to work on the community, to let everyone enjoy and approach the climbing. To see how cool it is, how much it means to all of us, and of course: let more people try the outdoors and spread the idea of joy from climbing.

The climbing community is a very important and essential part for us

It seemed that in the Banja Luka gym there was a nice community of enthusiastic climbers. How is the indoor climbing situation compared to climbing outdoors?

I’d say there are more indoor climbers than outdoor ones right at the moment. But this is changing every year and we see more and more people taking the challenge of climbing on real rocks and push their limits. We saw this evolving with so many young indoor climbers that are climbing hard on real rocks now, definitely some rising stars between us.

More and more people are taking up the challenge of climbing outside on real rocks and pushing their own limits...

What also helps this a lot are festivals and events that we try to organize every year. Events such as Pecka Outdoor Festival or Drill & Chill Climbing and Highlining Festival where along with other outdoor activities, people can safely try climbing on the rocks and be part of our community.

We don't have any professional climbing holds and structures on our walls
Festival vibes

You started bolting and discovering crags kind of recently. What are the reactions of local people towards you – climbers?

We’ve been bolting routes for the past 10 years and usually, the crags are located in remote villages (even though we have a very big & diverse climbing area just 20 minutes out of Banja Luka) and when local people see climbers coming around, they are just happy

They love to chat and they are so grateful for every climber who comes to their villages. Climbers bring in some activity and life to these places. Even more nowadays when every year, unfortunately, villages get emptier and lonelier.

We’ve been drilling crags for the last 10 years and they are mostly in very remote places and villages

Best line in Bosnia and Herzegovina and your favorite crag?!

Oh…this is like the toughest question. Every time I think I know my favorite, I discover and climb something new and it’s a reset all over. I think I can’t choose one. But the climbing is so diverse that you can have everything for every style. 

For some pocket pulling - Pecka crag. But I also enjoy Blagaj a lot as it offers some tufa climbing from one side and slab technical stuff on the other. I also love Tijesno Canyon right here around in Banja Luka for multi-pitch climbing and all the variety it has to offer, or Klekovaca that is a crag very high in the mountains where the climbing is so unique on water drops and in amazing landscape.

There is beauty in every crag, I can’t choose one!

Climbing on the beautiful structures created by many years of flowing water drops

I was very surprised by the variety of styles of climbing in Bosnia and also the great job of bolting you did. I couldn't notice that there is plenty of walls and crags yet to be bolted. How do you see the future of the sport in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

I think we don’t have to be greedy. Bosnia and Herzegovina has such a wonderful nature and biodiversity that must be our top priority to preserve it, before climbing. It’s important to leave some rocks untouched, leaving it to their natural inhabitants and flora.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has such a beautiful nature and biodiversity that it must be our top priority to preserve it.

We can develop further with the community, seeing where and if more lines are actually needed. Eventually, we’ll bolt where there are already some big climbing areas to add some extra lines and develop some smaller crags to make climbing accessible also to people that live in smaller and further locations, so everybody can have access to it, in a controlled and safe manner.

Creating a climbing guide seems like a very hard project. What was the biggest challenge you had to face?

The first editions took us about 2 years and at the beginning, we were way too optimistic thinking it was going to be faster! There was so much job to do to create the guide but definitely the hardest part was visiting the remote areas, creating accurate topo of all the places...there are so many of them.

The hardest part was to visit the remote climbing areas to make accurate topo of all these places, there are so many of them.

But we are now working on the 2nd edition and in the last years thanks to the hard work of all of us and the community, there are many new lines and crags added. It’s really hard work but it is also extremely rewarding seeing how people enjoy and appreciate it. How they use it and how locals are happy seeing their home crags presented on paper in the guidebook.

What would you suggest to someone who wants to take a climbing trip to Bosnia?

Come to Bosnia & Herzegovina! This is the land of water, nice people, amazing landscapes and pretty good food! There is a lot of climbing with so many different styles, you won’t be disappointed. The nature here is our Queen and you can see how creative she can be! It is easy come from other countries, so…don’t wait too long.

We introduce new people climbing outdoors on real rocks.

Land of water, nice people, amazing landscapes, and pretty good food.

TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY: KUBA JURNÍK

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