As Ralf calls me I get curious very fast. Montenegro ? As a geographer I know where it is but this is already all of my knowledge. But wait, wasn't it that country with the german D-Mark as the official currency and all those young guys smuggling cigarettes? There is no way out, I have to contact Wikipedia.
Free guidebook download at the end of the article
Montenegro has the same latitude as south Italy
What do we have there? The german D-Mark has been the currency for only 3 years and then the country switched to the Euro. That means they can deal with the money but not print it since Montenegro is not an official member of the European Currency Unity. O.K., that much is clear. But how does the money flows into the country then? Look, Wikipedia tells you the whole story: Smuggling cigarettes, cars and even people is still common. And the former most successful smuggler is prime minister now! It's just like everywhere: a KGB guy in Russia , a criminal of war in America and here a smuggler. What else? Some mining industry, some agriculture and the fastest growing branch is tourism. That's what should be printed on the ticket that carries Montenegro into the EU – tourism. The conditions are perfect. From the snow covered mountains in the north and east deep canons run through green forests down to the Adriatic Sea in the south with its hidden dream beaches. The price level is still low and so more and more tourists from western countries discover this tiny country as a holiday destination. At this point the project starts, which is the reasons for the call of Ralf.
The blue coast attracts more and more tourists every year.
Under the coordination of the GTZ, a branch of the german Ministry of Development, tourism should be developed not only in the coastal region but also in the hinterland. The mountainous regions should be enabled to use their rich potential to attract active tourists such as trekkers, rafters, mountain bikers and – of course – also climbers. For them the hinterland is the main land, because where there are mountains one can find action. Our task is therefore to establish a complete climbing area within 9 days!
I'm enthusiastic about it since I had to organise and pay actions like this in the past always from my own pockets. This time I have just to come!
The first impression of Montenegro is very good. A modern airport, friendly people and the letters are latin – easy to read. I expected Cyrillic letters due to the mostly Serbian population. I start talking to the driver who picks us up from the airport in Russian language to see if it works. He answers fluently and I think it will be easy to communicate. But after a while he tells me that he is a Bosnian and learned Russian just in school, as I did. Serbian as I have to learn, is as close to Russian as Dutch and English are to each other. But everything here goes in direction Europe : Currency, people, dressing and cars. With some luck one still can spot some of the old vehicles such as Saparoshez, Lada or Yugo.
When the school bus doesn't come …
However, people are thankful for European support, I've never seen a graffiti “Thank you, Europe ” in my country. Construction works everywhere, houses, roads, and tunnels – no doubt – this country is waking up. Cigarettes are still cheap (1 € per box) but that's not anymore what most of the people earn their money from.
From the airport we go to Podgorica. The capital seems to be very small with its 140.000 inhabitants but compared with the 630.000 from the whole countries (just as much as Sheffield ) things are relative.
Our journey goes on to the north passing a huge canon where rafting must be great. Sheer walls go down to a deep blue running water. Many dozens kilometres the river roars through that gorge. We stop at Kalashin, a little town on our way in a little restaurant with the name “ Europe ”. The meal is good and a beer to go is neither a problem. When I ask the chief if there are also big bottles he just hands me over another one without charging. Guests are more then welcome!
Shashlik and Fish asks for beer – the fish wants to swim
We arrive deep in the night and just the next morning shows us where we are: a green valley surrounded by huge limestone walls still covered with snow. The 2500 metre high mountains are still in winter fashion while down here the spring starts. The steep walls up there ask us to climb but our task is to establish a sport climbing area in the valley and so we go on checking the possibilities. Ralf was here the year ago and choose already some areas. And this choice was really perfect: only 5 minutes from the car surrounded by blue carst springs and green meadows the area called Ali Pasinih is a beautiful sport climbing crag which will be equipped by us with single and two pitch routes in the following days.
White mountains, lush forests and a blue sky.
Ali Pasinih – the suddenly from the ground emerging river is a beautiful surrounding for our new sport climbing crag.
Our work is hard – cleaning the rock, drilling, hammering, and screwing. But everything is worth the effort in this single moment of the first ascent. We equip route by route. The work shows how good this team works together. Everybody helps the others as much as possible. The members come from all over Germany. Axel (Braunschweig), Armin und Bodo (Regensburg), Ferdl und Reinl (aus Südbayern), Ralf (Mannheim), Frank (Berlin) – all professionals who don't need any instruction for their work. Idealism to establish their beloved sport in this south eastern end of europe is the source for their motivation.
Four friends from Kosovo help us on our work and equip also some own routes. The tell us about the Rugova Canon just behind the border where one can find some climbing routes in a wild and beauty nature.
Climbing is work!
Haki from Kosovo. At home he works as a police officer and here he climbs together with us.
The local mountaineering clubs are of special importance for the project. Even though sport climbing is really new for this region, alpine climbing is done already for decades and a special reason for me to be sure to come back. Our friends from the local club “HRID” from the nearest town of Plav do everything to help us on our work. Mensur and friends bring us with their “Pinzgauer” an old Austrian military transporter wherever we want. The climbing sectors are easy to reach with common cars but sometimes our drivers goes up some steep hills just for fun. The Pinzgauer is made to carry up to 10 Persons but we are usually 17. But they have been 22 already, Mensur calms us down. He talks very good English and translates everything to us. When we come “home” to our mountain hut up in the spectacular Grbaja valley with bloody hands and dust covered heads the meal is ready and the really good beer “Nishickove Pivo” runs through our throats.
Sector Bloknik offers well protected routes from level 2 to 6a
The route Survival of the Fittest 7c
At the end we have equipped 6 sectors with a total of 65 routes and 17 boulders ranging from 2 to 8a. A complete climbing area in a wonderful surrounding is created. Regional climbers have a perfect training venue by now and climbing tourists can enjoy a big choice of routes. We are sure to come back!
Topo of the main sector for download below.