Bouldering in the middle of Prague? Circuits like in French Fontainebleau? Fresh new modern edition of boulder guidebook? Read about "Divoká Šárka" and you will immediately wanna visit this place!
You may look forward to 16 sectors and 85 climbing stones with more than 330 boulders, which the guys have honestly photographed and digitally marked all the bouldering lines into the photos. Plus, they have played with the guidebook's design very well and you may expect not only information about approaches to the individual sectors or description of suitable parking places, but these young “digital generation” authors thought in a modern spirit and also included the locations of boulders with GPS coordinates.
The tip of the iceberg is that in the guidebook there are marked bouldering circuits like in the French Fontainebleau! The guide will offer you four circuits that combine problems of similar difficulty, and thanks to it, you may visit the best lines between two and seven kilometres. The autumn rainy weather is slowly leaving and the freezing winter is coming. In the mountains, it is already snowing, but the forecasts are still often insecure. Unless you have a “local crag” just outside your house, you could be easily lost in this transitional autumn/winter season!
In addition, bouldering and climbing gyms are starting to burst at the seams, which doesn't help your appetite for climbing and right proper training. But how about going to “Divoká Šárka”? You haven't heard of it yet? You don't know this Prague’s destination full of bouldering lines?
If you are “lucky” enough to live in Prague (answer this yourself), you should know about the newly prepared guidebook from the hands of two classmates and friends: Patrik Smek and Honza Kulhánek. Thanks to their effort, a new bouldering guidebook for Divoká Šárka has been created which will be on the shelves and available in the next few weeks. So the tip for this year's Christmas present for all passionate Prague boulderers is absolutely clear!
If you don't want to be locked up in a bouldering gym all winter and if you are tempted by winter bouldering expeditions for an outdoor adventure, then go for it! Read the article about bouldering in the “Šárka Valley”, soak up the motivation from the attached interview with the guidebook's authors and no later than on Christmas, as soon as you get the book from your grandma under the tree, head up to the valley to discovering new directions and enjoying the fresh air in the very heart of Czechia – in the capital city, Prague.
“Divoká Šárka” is a nature reserve located in the northwestern part of Prague, in its largest district – Prague 6. The whole area belongs to the so-called “Šárecké údolí” (Šárka valley) and is imaginatively divided into two parts, one is the ”Divoká Šárka” Nature Reservation.
This should be mentioned right at the beginning because, in the Nature Reserve, there are many strict rules for climbing activities. The rules apply both for actual movement between the rocks and boulders in this reservation, as well as for the approaches related to the use of chalk, cleaning the blocks out of lichens and moss, etc.
To reach the bouldering area in “Šárka”, you can easily walk along the asphalt road that runs through this valley. However, due to soil erosion and the presence of protected plants, remember that you can only use marked access roads and established hiking (climbing) trails. The access will take you a maximum of 30 minutes, depending on your starting point and to which bouldering sectors are you going.
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Together with Pálava in South Moravia, “Divoká Šárka” belongs to the historically oldest climbing area in the Czech Republic, where the beginnings of climbing date back more than 100 years. This corresponds to the local first ascents, which were climbed almost by our ancient ancestors.
The climbing routes in “Šárka” are often tough and mentally demanding and reached the highest level of the former “closed Welzenbach Scale”. Climbers prepared themselves in the “Šárka Valley” mainly for their foreign mountaineering trips. To this day some of the routes are very valuable and will test your all-round climbing preparedness...
The bouldering sectors “Vyhlídka”, “Soutěska”, “Highball”, “Svah u soutěsky” and “Dívčí skok” belong to the “Divoká Šárka” Nature Reserve and in those sectors, it is absolutely important to think about the protection of the landscape and to preserve the untouched environment.
There are no official rules for bouldering here yet because bouldering is not considered as a regular climbing activity such as rope climbing. But to maintain good relations between the nature environmentalists, climbers and the city council, it is really important to behave as friendly as possible to the rocks and local nature, so that climbing (including bouldering) is tolerated and allowed to continue. For now, after a mutually friendly agreement and negotiation, climbing activities in the “Šárka Valley” are allowed until the year 2032.
So how should you behave in “Šárka”? If you operate in a way that no one even notices you were here at all and no climbing trace is left behind, you are on the right track to make bouldering in “Šárka” possible for upcoming years.
If you need to use chalk, then only use it in a minimal amount. Local boulderers will tell you that the custom here is to just "slightly dip your tip-toes into a chalk bag" and thoroughly brush out all chalk traces after your visit. There's a reason for this: uncleaned chalk is gradually washed off from the rocks by rain and then seeps into the preserved soil and water, changing its composition, natural pH and so on.
Another very important principle is to not clean the rocks and boulders of mosses and lichens. Simply do not damage any vegetation or local plants. Also be sure to use only the access trails, which have given a lot of hard work to of many Prague’s climbing clubs.
If you want to continue visiting this beautiful piece of nature, which allows climbing and bouldering right in the middle of Prague, it is really necessary to treat it with absolute care and cautious.
So what will you find there? In “Šárka” you will climb on rock material that you may be hearing for the first time as a non Prague climber st. like "algonquian bully" supplemented by primordial slate. What this crazy name mean for you?
Well, you will encounter a very variable rock structure, which will surprise you in many places (both in a good and bad way)! A solid and super compact material that forms many perfect small, sharp and strength demanding crimps. But on the other hand, you may also experience a crumbly rock that falls apart just when you took a sight at it. One or the another case and almost nothing in between...
A lot of bouldering routes starts from sitting or even lying down. Lower altitude climbers, who can put themselves in a tricky position just above the ground, will find a bigger advantage here. One meter eighty centimeters or more could be a problem (Patrik himself could tell you).
Subjectively, you will encounter a slightly harder grade in “Šárka” so do not expect that if you go out for the first time to outdoor bouldering that you will immediately climb the same problems as inside in the bouldering gym! Pick up at least three to four lower climbing grades and try to start there.
A large part of the bouldering problems fall into the 6A to 6B+ difficulty range, so it's not going to happen that you have nothing to climb here, even if you are a beginner or moderately advanced boulderer. However, there are also some significantly harder and beautiful lines in difficulty 7A to 7C. And also, for Adam Ondra or Stráník brothers, there is at least one defined 8A (V11) boulder called “Beta”, which was ascented by Michal Janeček in 2015.
Around 40 % of the lines were set and climbed by Martin "Valmar" Válka. The authors of the new guidebook added only a few new easier lines. The rest of the boulders were climbed by various other Prague climbers.
In “Šárka” you will find boulders in slabs, verticals and also harder overhanging lines. In short, there is something for everyone, whether you are just starting out or belong to the higher performance scale. Due to the extent of the valley, as well as the variable quality of the rock, many bouldering sectors are only for real “fancy enthusiasts”!
If you are a quaker and want to try climb a block hidden somewhere in the middle of the valley or even try to climb a boulder fully covered with moss and lichens – “olala” this will be your new bouldering paradise!
The authors of the guidebook have come up with a great idea and have created four bouldering circuits to ease your movement in the valley, following the French Fontainebleau model. These circuits connect the best bouldering lines in a given difficulty grade.
The first variant is the green circuit, which includes the easiest boulders in difficulty up to 5C+ (V1). Within this circuit you will visit ten different sectors and your quick climbing step will cover anything between four and seven kilometers.
Next one is the orange circuit, which offers boulders in difficulty 6A to 6B+ (up to V3). It also includes ten sectors and you'll walk something between two and seven kilometers.
If these bouldering grades are still very low and not motivation enough, then try the blue circuit, which offers lines between 6C and 7A (V3 to V5). Here you'll walk fewer steps (two to four kilometers), but you'll catch up those steps with the moves in very interesting lines and you will visit a six different boulders in total.
The last and the most difficult is the red circuit. Here you'll have to work damn hard! As you'll find challenges of 7A+ to 8A (V6 to V11) bouldering scale on six different sectors with a circuit length of three to six kilometers.
Let's get right into the most important part – the peak season. You can visit “Šárka” at any time of the year outside the hot summer months. Don't forget that the area is located in Prague, and even though it's on the outskirts, the 30 degrees of Celsius or more has been prevailing in recent years!
Plus, three of the main sectors are in the open area and you have no place to hide yourself from the very hot sun. However, there are a few exceptions, because some of the sectors are hidden under the tree tops, so if you don't forgive yourself the bouldering in hot summer days, you will eventually find something if you will keep searching. The main season is definitely spring and autumn, but of course you can also boulder in the cold winter months.
What to bring with you? Apart from the standard bouldering equipment, we definitely recommend garbage bags, because trash cans are in short supply through the whole valley. Don't forget also the brushes for cleaning holds, because you're in a nature reserve and everything needs to stay as if you weren't there at all, or better: in better condition than when you arrived! Thoroughly clean all holds and chalk tracks after each climb before you leave.
In the summer months, don't forget to pack sunscreen as the heat is tremendous. Also a sufficient supply of drinking water is a must! However, swimming pool is close by, so after your bouldering session you can cool off at the Divoká Šárka swimming pool, where you could enjoy a delicious snack. A repellent or other mosquito killer may come in handy – there are swarms of them, so be equipped rather than surprised.
Pack some cash into your backpack, because you'll be glad to stop at one of the nearby restaurants on the way back to satisfy your hunger and thirst after your strenuous climbing activity. You can visit the “Divoká Šárka swimming pool” or the excellent Dívčí skok Inn.
Now let's go to the creators and authors of the bouldering guidebook. Enjoy the interview with Honza “Jánus” Kulhánek and Patrik Smek. Why did they create the guidebook?
What was their motivation for it? What makes bouldering in “Divoká Šárka” so specific? And what about their Prague “Urban Bouldering” which they try in the city center – Náplavka? Or just simply listen to the funny stories from “Šárka valley”, when they were discovering this area.
Hi Honza, hey Patrik...
I'm going to lean on you right from the start, as the “older generations” love to do to younger ones (very often without a reason and God knows why).
You look like a “climbing nerds”, meant in a good way! Nowadays everyone feels, also due to the influence of the digital and social media, that they have to reach the level of elite climbers or maybe the courage of old mountaineers. It's great that you represent younger generation with a taste for exploration and trying to find your own portion of adventure also in these modern days...
So how old are you? You look so damn young!
Patrik: Hi readers. Yeah, we look young because we're young! We're both 25 years old.
Are you students? People rarely hit the right career for the first time and often pursue something different than what they studied. What are your plans after school?
Honza: Patrik and I both graduated on Charles University on FSS (Faculty of Social Sciences, author's note) in a bachelor's degree “International Territorial Studies”. Patrik is still continuing his studies in a master's degree in the same field and I have switched to “Security Studies”, both still in Prague at FSS. After school I will probably work in the Czech Army or as a fire brigade. And Patrik? Who knows? (he smiles)
How long have you been climbing? What are your hardest routes? What do you prefer: boulders or rope climbing?
Honza: I've been climbing properly since 2019, not counting the “crawling” before. My hardest rope climb is 7a flash in the climbing gym and 6c+ outside. I haven't attempted any harder grades yet. And with the boulders, I have done 7A+ inside and 6C+ outside. Now I prefer outdoor bouldering, but I'll also go for bouldering inside if nobody forces me to jump in modern parkour style! (he laughs)
Patrik: I first got into climbing about ten to fifteen years ago, but then I didn't climb for a while. Now I've been climbing for the last 6 years again. My hardest climbing route with a rope is 7a and my hardest indoor boulder problem is 7A+. Outside I managed to climb the “Toit du Lepiney” 6B+ route in Font (Fontainebleau, author's note). I prefer climbing outdoors with a rope especially when there is a tricky slab. (he smiles)
What was your motivation for founding the VARP project, where you have been publishing climbing guidebooks around Prague?
Honza: Actually, it was a coincidence. We were affected by the same situation as all the climbers, who were locked inside the Prague, during the global pandemic. We were looking for places where we could go climb and started slowly finding out which areas are worth visiting and which ones not at all. Then we started with painting the routes and that was it. We wanted to make the situation easier for all other climbers in Prague and also modernize the outdated databases.
How long have you been climbing in Šárka? How long did it take to create the new guidebook?
Patrik: We've been splashing around for two years. It took us about a year and a half to develop the guide into its initial online digital form. Of course, with a break over the summer, because it is really hard to climb in those heats in Šárka.
Firstly you created an online version of the guidebook. Who came up with the idea for the book? How did the work differ between the offline vs. online versions?
Honza: That's the joke! Patrik originally came up with the idea for the paper book and the web version was basically an intermediate step that grew then into the actual online form itself. The biggest differences are that in the paper book we have to think more practically, for example to make it lightweight and foldable, use the right QR codes, GPS coordinates and make sure that everything fits 100%! We wanted to have more “features” in the book than on website, so these little useful things makes the difference compared to other guidebooks. The website may be modified at any time, but the book can't...
Do you think that bouldering in Šárka has a potential? How many people know about this area and how many climbers do you meet there?
Honza: I think Šárka is partly an “intro area” for Prague boulderers. It probably doesn't quite have the potential to be a top Czech bouldering destination, but it is definitely for Prague and its surroundings! Relatively just a few climbers still know about the area, considering how many people currently climb there. If it's a nice weekend, you can meet around twenty boulderers no more.
Patrik: Certainly yes according to me! There are some great boulders in the valley, you just have to look for them...but there are definitely beautiful climbing spots in Šárka. It's probably not an area where crowds from all over the country will come, but for Prague climbers this valley is perfect. An ideal place for climbing after work, on your free afternoon or a weekend day. I think that “the word” is starting to spread about this area and I'm starting to see more and more people with crash pads on their backs in the valley.
Any bouldering specifics in Šárka Valley? What do you enjoy the most as a climber?
Honza: In Šárka you will find an unusual rock type that you have to love it or hate it. There are a lot of sharp crimps and a lot of lines start from a seated position, which may not suit all climbers with long limbs. It's an area for initial introduction to outdoor bouldering and the realization that it's a lot harder than indoor boulders! A lot of the bouldering routes are between 6A and 6B+, but there are also harder lines for more experienced climbers who climb around 7B and above...
Circuit markings as in Fontainebleau? Who came up with this idea? Which circuits may you recommend?
Patrik: I guess it was a collective epiphany that something like that could be done in “Šárka“. When we started climbing in the valley, we were groping around a bit, looking for those nice lines. Then somehow we decided that it would be actually nice to writing them down and make a list so that all the newcomers wouldn't have to wander around like we did. I'm most fond of the blue loop, which I think connects the best areas in Šárka, but I hardly climb anything there... so you more likely find me in the orange one! (he laughs)
Honza: I agree with Patrik and my favorite circuit is the blue one, which is challenging enough for me in terms of the climbing difficulties and I try to work hard there as I can! Otherwise, I definitely recommend the orange circuit to newbies. It will take them around all the nice boulders...
How many people have climbed more than 300 marked boulders in the guidebook?
Patrik: We have to admit, we climbed maybe a hundred of those 300 bouldering routes! A lot of routes were climbed before and we only added about 20 new easier problems. Otherwise, most of the boulders in Šárka were climbed by Martin “Valmar” Válek, who has more than a third of the first ascents here and he also published the first online (pdf) version of the guidebook. Then a couple of guys – Honza Mastík and Michal Janeček have left their mark in the valley. We just dusted off the area and breathed a new life into it with our modern version of bouldering guidebook.
Honza: I have climbed a little over 130 boulders in Šárka and Patrik around 100 routes, so we are not even halfway there yet . We climb here with friends who are usually much better than us, so they tend to pull us along the boulders. You will see a few of them in the book. (smiles)
Now, seriously! Are there nice boulders or just “quacks for passionate enthusiasts”?
Honza: Look, it's such a combination! (he laughs) I'm sure a big piece of boulders are really only for climbing enthusiasts! But you can find rocks like “Avengers”, “Trpasluj” (Dwarf), “BOOMerang” or “Čertova palice” (Devil's Hammer”) which are really cool and pretty hard (up to 7C+ boulders), but as Patrik said: you have to find them first and that could be often a problem… (he smiles)
What are the hardest boulders in šárka? Anything for the Stráník brothers or Adam Ondra?
Patrik: They probably won't have anything to project here. The most difficult line in the valley is “Beta” 8A (V11) clibed by Matěj Svojtka. You will find mostly routes for intermediate climbers and then about twenty routes that are between 7B and 8A grade.
Honza: namely “Event Horizon” 7C+ by Jonáš “Jonda” Kopecký and “Ozon” 7C by Michal Janeček (both on sector “Čertova palice”). Michal also added “Thor's Hammer” and “Ninos”, which are 7Cs in the “Avengers” sector and then “Lunar route” 7B on “Aritma”. Jonda has credited authorship of “Dendrite” 7C on “Poslední skála” (The Last Rock).
Your tips for the most beautiful classic lines? Anything for beginners and advanced climbers?
Honza: For the beginners, it's fine to stick around the „Soutěska Džbán“, where you can find easier routes up to 6A+. Then I would recommend the sector “Poslední skála” (The Last Rock) or the boulder “Houska”.
Patrik: For both the beginners and advanced boulderers, definitely the previously mentioned boulder such as: “Devil's Hammer”, “Avengers” and “Trpasluj” (Skalky pod Nebušicemi). Then I would recommend “Muffins” and “Buchta” (Skalky za Aritmou) plus the whole “BOOMerang” sector. There are a lot of nice routes there!
I heard that you have a lot of funny stories from "Šárka Valley". Would you like to share one?
Honza: My favorite is when I tried to do one of my projects on a stone that hadn't been photographed or drawn by us yet. My cell phone died, so I just stuck to the notes in my journal. After trying for a while, I finally sent it, got home very happy, charged the camera, and discovered that I had taken a wrong turn and accidentally climbed a completely different new line, which in the end was even easier than what I had originally tried. I guess, it is a story that happens to everyone who climbs in “Šárka valley“ sooner or later! (he laughs)
Patrik: Every time Honza gets hurt, and that happens a lot because it's his super power! (he laughs) But my favorite story is the one when we were just starting out in the valley. On that day we decided to go and take pictures of the old traditional routes in the “Soutěska”. Unfortunately, when we were climbing up we didn't think that the way down might be even worse than the way up itself. The ascent was full of short climbs and jumping over overgrown and slippery rocks. By the time we got to a point where we could start taking photos of the rock, we knew for sure that it would be easier to climb all the way up than to make the difficult climb down back to the valley. So “Long story short”, we free-soloed an easy traditional route with no secure, which I don't recommend to anyone, but the memory will stay in my head for a long time! (he smiles)
Patrik: And then there is another story from the day of the IFSC World Bouldering Championships in Prague. During this event we managed to meet a student from Hong Kong and we could think of nothing better than to take him with us to “Šárka“. By climbing at “BOOMerang” we managed to fill the four-hour break between the morning program and the evening finals, so we could say that we are already promoting the area world-wide! (he laughs)
The "Urban Bouldering" hasn't been mentioned yet. Do you have a lot of these spots in Prague? Does it make sense to climb walls and bridges?
Honza: There aren't too many of them yet, but there are nice ones we can say. Does it make sense? I guess it depends on what you're looking for. You won't find any super hard lines here, it is more like just enjoying the moves and frolicking on the walls between passing people and tourists.
Patrik: It's great after your work or after school, if you don't want to pay the expensive admission fee for a climbing gym or if you have a limited time. Plus, it motivates and shows that you can really climb anywhere if you want to! (he smiles)
What attracts you the most besides “Šárka” boulders? What are your climbing dreams?
Honza: I'm definitely tempted by Sněžník and yes: I'm aware that it's a sin that I haven't been there yet! (he laughs) In our country, I would also like to visit Petrohrad and of course the French Fountainebleau. But now I'm sharpening my teeth for a short trip to Kralupy to see some interesting hard bouldering lines on the local sandstone area Kralupskej panťák. As my “ultimate dream” I would say “stable outdoor climbing” around 7C difficulties. But now I'm more likely to dream about that I can manage not to get injured during the whole year! (he laughs)
Patrik: I would love to go back to the rocks in Sardinia. I have to say that Karešák (Jan Kareš, author's note) has done a lot of work there in the last few years and it's a really beautiful place. I like new areas that are not so well known and overcrowded. It makes you feel a bit more like you're discovering something, so I am looking for the walls in Morocco and boulders in Turkey. On my last visit of Turkey I went for bouldering in relatively big bouldering area above the lake Bafa Gölü. In my home country I'm definitely attracted to Sněžník and also to “Ádr” (Adršpach, author's note) for adventure trad climbing.
Thank you, guys! It has been a pleasure and I wish you would sell many pieces of guidebook so the valley will be filled with climbers, but remains kind of untouched and adventurous...
|bouldering guidebook info
|Divoká Šárka – boulder průvodce
|Patrik Smet, Jan Kulhánek
|A5 orientace na šířku
|No. of pages
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