Starting from usual understanding of alpinism as the adventure of climbing high rocks, Montenegro could easily be described as a God-given land for this kind of mountaineering. Almost all its mountains have at least 100m high boulders, and even that height is exceeded by its canyons verticals, while the diversity of climbed and potential routes covers almost all known alpine categories. Most known and attractive alpine destination in Montenegro are Prokletije and Durmitor, or which there are as many paths in dry boulders, lines in snow, ice or mix. Žijevo and Orijen, thanks to the good quality and attractiveness of their boulders, are becoming more and more visited summer climbs, while Komovi keeps the reputation of a classic winters climb. Canyons of Tara, Piva,Komarnica,Morača, Mrtvica, Cijevna and Lim, as a treasury of uncountable high rocks are still almost untouched, with only few climbed routes.
Many peaks, with exposed rocks and relatively easy and clear accesses on several locations, contribute to connection of significant number of alpine activities in Durmitors terrain in Montenegro. In the central massif, boulders heights range from 100 to 500 m ( Crvena greda), and the highest ones are in the Boljske grede are, where they reach even 700m. Boulders are limestone rocks of various quality, but as there are so many of them it really isn’t a problem to find one with suitable firmness, weight and aesthetic.
Mountain is equally suitable for climbing on dry bolder and climbs on snow and ice. By now, hundreds of routes have been climbed, but since the data is scattered through guides, archives and collections of different organization, clubs and individuals, information about routes is quite inaccessible. The most famous boulders like the north Šljeme boulder, Osojne grede, Pleća, Bandijerna, Međed or Terzin bogaz are frequently visited, with now famous lines, which are already considered as “classic”. Winter routers are “Žljeb Šljeme-Pleća” (300m, III, 60˚), directly above the bivouac in Velika Kalica under Šljemen, as well as couple of lines in Osojne grede of Šljeme boulder, above the ski track Savin kuk. They are interesting because of the quick access, relatively short and attractive climbing and possibility to catch couple more ski drivers and the path.
There are significantly more rock climbing routes, and the most interesting ones are within the short distance from the central massif where most climbers are located on the large north Šljemen boulder. These routes have been rarely reused during the last years due to the loose rocks. The most famous are “Direktni” (400 m VI, IV) and “Diretissima” ( 400 m VI) but for years no one has come there. Boulder with better quality is on Bandijerna, were there are several easy lines for beginners and less prepared climbers or Trezin bogaz, Zupci and Prutaš. During the last years, the peak Lojanik, above Dobri dol, attracts attention, where, there are several interesting directions of different difficulty in a good limestone.
Yet, the main alpine asset of Durmitor is Boljske grede, seven kilometers wide boulder wall above the left shore of Komarnica. Maximum height of the boulders is 700 m and only one route has been climbed so far, while several lines where climbed in the lower part of the boulder, whereof, “Another Day in Paradise” (250m, VII+), certainly, wasn’t only the hardest but the most attractive one. The route is in a part of boulder whose segment, around 200m high, is on the border of half access and easy climbs, while the upper barrier (200-300m) leads to a couple of interesting boulder towers, clearly visible from the valley.
History of climbing in Prokletije is a lot shorter than in Durmitor, but this region is rapidly becoming the most popular and most important alpine destination in Montenegro. Primarily because of the highest cliffs in the country, whose height reach even 1200m, but also because of the unique beauty of mountain landscape that irresistibly reminds of the sharp peaks and rocks of Central Alps. Short and easy routes are the rarest ones here. Among the category of classic lines, “Greben radnički” on Očnjak or “Sjeverni greben” ( North Cliff) ( V, III-IV, 500m) on Sjevrni vrh, ( North Peak) or Karanfil , should be mentioned. The most significant routes in Prokletije are the longest and the hardest ones in Montenegro in general. Primarily, these are the routes “Prvo koplje” (VI+A2, 700m), “Greben Prestola” (800m , V+, IV), “AKA” (VI, A2, 700m ) and “Dobri drugovi” (VI, 700m) in Karanfil, which have witnessed many attempts, frequent failures and legendary anecdotes. The south rock of Karanfil, which descents to the periodical Ropojansko Lake, is the highest rock in Montenegro, of around 1200 m. There are several routes on it, and not a single one of them has yet been repeated. Among the mentioned routes “Prvo koplje”, up the rock Koplje on Sjeverni Vrh ( North Peak) stood out as a real attraction for many Slovenian and Polish expeditions during the sixties. The first climb was made in 1972 while its first repeat, despite numerous attempts, had to wait until 2005. In its complexity, this line reminds of big wall routes, consisting of both free and technical parts of serious and constant difficulty, with hanging reinsurance and frequent problems in navigation. Route can be climbed in a day, but for those opt for version with bivouac, first usable shelf is on about 400 of height.
Winter routers on Prokletije have a great aesthetic value, but also a relatively high degree of avalanche danger. Because of the closeness of the sea, this region is characterized by sudden melting and rainy periods, which seriously affect the stability of snow caps. The most popular winter routers, which more or less follow the lines of summer via normale climbs on Očnjak and Sjeverni vrh ( North Peak), are true example how technically undemanding climbing can turn into a real nightmare if you come in a time when the mountain is not in a mood for guests. Furthermore, not only the parts in rocks are jeopardized by avalanches, but also the access through the mountain hollows Ljubokuć and Krošnja.
Prokletije’s territory in Montenegro should not bel neglected from the alpine aspect. Until now, only the peaks and rocks of Grbaja valley and Ropojana were exploited. Since these areas are not even close to being exhausted, boulders on Bjelič, Kolate, Maja Rops and other peaks and areas of Montenegro Prokletije, certainly deserve interests and attention.
This mountain in one of the “youngest” alpine destinations in Montenegro, as the first routes were climbed up to late 20th century, during 90’ s. They are mostly located on the peaks and in the boulders of Bukumirsko Lake region, at heights of 100m to 200m and until now, somewhat more than 30 lines with different difficulties where climbed. The sedimentary rocks’ quality is generally good, especially in a more uphill and exposed coating like on a southern rock Velja Torča or east rock Kožje Plane. Maybe the most beautiful route on the mountain is “Lullaby for Vesna and Bojana “( VI, A3, 120m) on the south rock of Velje Torča, devoted to Vesna Drakulić and Bojana Tekić who died during the climb along the west cliff of Pasjak, one of the most noticeable peaks in the mountain.
Žijevo is suitable for winter alpinism too, but climbing up some peaks like Veliki Toljevac, because of large amount of grass and relatively looseness, makes sense only if snow with its squeeze pressure creates firm and compact climbs. Besides, the dominant north orientation of Žijevo’s boulders enables longer snow retention and its sagging into the hollows, thus creating a very rare and rich winter climbing place.
Orjen has perhaps the best rocks quality in Montenegro and the most famous alpine location on the mountain is Markov koš or Surbin amphitheatre, high about 350m . On it, there are about ten routes, with average difficulties from III to VI on the UIAA scale. “Reovac greda” is also interesting, even though somewhat less high, its quality and aesthetic of morphological shape attracts great attention. Routes in Markov koš and Reovačka gerda are not even near carriage-road, nor mountain home, therefore it is necessary to plain couple of hours for access and descent by, hopefully, well marked mountain paths. That is why camping at the base is probably the best choice. Expert these locations, where rocks make a strong impression with their grandeur and expositions, somewhat smaller rock in Miškova greda, 15 minutes from home “Vrtlar” also deserves a mention. In this rock there are several routes at 50m, altitude with middle and lower grades of difficulty.
Because of the great looseness of the boulders, Komovi are primarily a winter climbing place. Many technically undemanding lines enable interesting and productive climbs during favorable snow conditions. The most attractive one is “Dijadema” –continuous cliff of Vasojevićki Kom, Bavani, Kučki and Ljevorečki Kom. Besides that, extended west rock of Vasojević Kom, 400m high is a very interesting ground, with numerous possibilities for snow and mixed lines of different difficulty.
Local climate conditions are more suitable for rock climbing than for snow or ice climbing. Despite a large amount of snow fall and the drifts thickness, closeness of the sea causes short periods of cold and stable climate, needed for consolidation of snow surface, so it is necessary to check the weather forecast carefully when planning the climb. Microclimates in individual areas are also very distinguished, so that, for example, Prokletije has much more warmer and rainy winters than Durmitor, which because of its distance from the sea and relative overshadowing by other mountains chains offers much better conditions for climbing on snow covered boulders. In general, March and the beginning of April are considered as most reliable monthly periods that should be avoided. Although, planning ahead for long term may be difficult, the openness of these regions to sudden burst of warmer as also colder air masses can at any moment give a period when temperatures are low enough, and snow pack is high and firm enough to church under crampons or ice-axes.
Season for rock climbing lasts throughout the whole year, depending on the sea level altitude and exposition towards the Sun. Rocks in lower areas with mostly southern expositions, are winter shelters for those whose access to higher mountains is withheld by snow, while coldness pushes them away from the shadows on north and west sides. Equally, with warmer weather climbing on the big mountains and canyon rocks becomes popular, especially during summer months that provide favorable conditions. During the all seasons, rainy periods are frequent in the mountains, but they are lot shorter during the summer and it takes less for climbing routes to dry. On the other hand, autumn and spring temperatures are completely acceptable for climbing these rocks during dry intervals, especially if they have lower starting points or bigger parts exposed to the sun. In general, July and August are the main season in high mountains, April, May, June, September and the beginning of October are the main season in the rocks of north and west exposition on minor altitudes above the sea level, and the rest of the year is reserved for boulders exposed to the sun from the other side of the mountains. Of course, when there is no rain.
NOTE: Montenegro boulders have a limestone configuration, characterized by higher or lower level of loose rocks, depending on location. In some areas the quality of boulders is generally good, in some is not, but the fact is that most, especially lounger routes, have at least one loose section. It is interesting that the routes, on boulders that are not of such good quality, are still popular, mostly because of their lower grade of climbing difficulty or short areas. In both cases, following the path of least resistance can be counter-productive, especially for less experienced or less ready rope teams when they possibilities, as an objective and persistent danger still remains in unstable and loose terrains across which the route is passing.
Montenegro Hostel Team