Absolutorium - The best 9a Route in Former Czechoslovakia!
Beckov is a crag, village and a castle in the western part of Slovakia. Even though it is in a different country, it is relatively close to my hometown Brno (less than 2hour drive). Slovakia is a different country right now, but our languages are very similar and we still call ourselves “brothers”. Between 1918 - 1992, we were in the same state called Czechoslovakia. I am typing all of this because Czech and Slovak climbing history is connected, just like our countries. A lot of the hard sport routes in 80’s and 90’s in the former Czechoslovakia are developed by Tomáš Pilka, nicknamed Svišť (means marmot). He is the person that started climbing with my dad, he was one of the first one to seriously freeclimb (avoiding pulling on gear) and put up the first 7c+ (Rekonstrukce in Sloup 1985), first 8a+ (Hradni spara in Holstejn 1987), first 8b+ (Absolutni vedomi in Beckov 1992) and the first 8c (Carodejuv ucen in Holstejn 1992).
Absolutní Vědomí, the first 8b+ in Czechoslovakia
Beckov was “fashionable” crag in late 80’s and early 90’s. The crag cannon be more obvious. You can see this gigantic 50meter high piece of rock with a well preserved castle on the top from far away, when you are driving highway number 1. It was easily accessible and a lot of space for new routes. The obvious challenge, climbing this “wildly overhanging” (imagine climbing back then - 25 degree overhang was super steep) narrow wall in the middle remained untouched for a bit of time. In early 90’s, Tomáš Pilka bolted the upper part of this wall, starting from a belay anchor on the left (you can get there by climbing roughly 6c). Even though this line is only 14meters long, it is pretty intense, it has a lot of hard moves in a row and you are facing almost 50 meter exposition, right above nice restaurant and its guests enjoying lunch or coffee.
Tomáš Pilka made the first ascent in 1992, after falling off a few times from the very last moves. Apparently, those moves are quite special because they feature pulling on a few slopers which was quite unusual style as all of our limestone crags are mostly crimpy and climbing gyms either did not exist or did not have any slopers at all. Tomáš refers to the trip to Fontainebleau in France, where he got used to holding slopers and that finally helped him to stick the last moves of Absolutni Vědomí, the first 8b+ in Czechoslovakia. Absolutni Vědomí means Absolute Consciousness and I think it is one of the best names for a route, really fitting the route for the intimidating last moves. Besides that, it is one of songs (or I am not really sure how to call it) by Svaty Vincent (again, hard to call him a singer). If you are curious, google him and some of his song. For Czech readers, I definitely recommend reading this interview with Tomáš Pilka to dig deeper into the names of his routes.
You have to be as good as Sylvester Stallone
Two years later in 1994, Tomáš bolted the whole line of this overhanging feature, starting from the obvious ledge 20meters above the ground. He gave it a provisional name Dlouhá trasa (Long way) and he said: “You have to be as good as Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger in order to climb this route”. Funnily enough, some of the climbing shots for Cliffhanger were filmed with Wolfgang Güllich who is the first person ever to send 9a a few years earlier in 1991.
Last year in June, I finally made a one-day trip to Beckov and set myself a goal to try to onsight Absolutni Vědomí 8b+ and then try to freeclimb the obvious project. Tomáš Pilka was there to belay me himself. On purpose, I did not want have the hanging quickdraws in the place and I did not want to have the chalk on the holds either. Pure onsight. I made a good progress, which was halted by the last cryptic section, where I just could not find the right holds, pumped out and fell off a few moves from the anchor. Later that day, I checked out the moves in the project, I was blown away by the beauty but could not send it any more. I vowed to return, but it took me more 17 months to be back. In the meantime, Mišo Makušiniec was putting some serious effort into the project. By the way, Mišo made the first ascent of Chiroptera, 9a+ in another Slovakian crag called Sulov. A route I was attempting for a few days but could not do it.
A total flashpump
Thanks to Mišo, project was cleaned, chalked and ready when I arrived this autumn. Conditions were perfect, cold and dry and just a little bit windy which is what you need here. A little too windy makes chill factor really bad here as you are hanging in the belay while waiting and resting for another try. I quickly repeated the moves, got a perfect beta for the part by my belayer Riči Nyeki who is currently working on Absolutni vědomí. After short rest and lot of laughs at the belay with Riči, I set off. First 10 meters are about 8a+, quite physical and bouldery, leading into the bad rest. Aftert that, you need to execute the main crux of route, which is about 5 meters of consistently difficult climbing. I had though that climbing past the main crux itself is a 9a by itself, but the climbing flowed really well and soon I transitioning myself into the upper part, which is the same as Absolutni Vedomi.
I was feeling surprisingly good, trying to shake out as much as possible in the marginal rests. Below the last section, fatigue started kicking in. A few moves above the last rest. A total flashpump appeared. My forearms were numb. I could not squeeze anything. But now, there was the absolute consciousness. These holds are quite good, but I was barely hanging there. WIth the last-ditch effort, I launched onto the final sloper where you normally clip the anchor. At that moment, guys down at restaurant started clapping their hands, thinking that ascent is in the bag, while I was fighting for my life. I decided to just continue, trying to mantle onto the final ledge, which is what I did with the last reserves of energy and stood up into the sun, right below the wall of the castle. It was magical.
9a route Absolutorium climbed after 27 Years
The route is now called Absolutorium and it is definitely one of the nicest 9a’s in Czechoslovakia, absolutely unique in terms lenght and pumpy nature of the climb. Incredible to vision to bolt this thing 27 years ago.
Watch the full movie on my YouTube channel!