Finally, the weather and my schedule have matched up, so I can climb on sandstone again. Prachovské Skály is one of my favorite sandstone areas. It is one of the most spectacular views in the country in my opinion. The heart of the climbing area is in a valley, and there are great overviews of the towers from various viewpoints. Prachov has what is considered soft sandstone, but it is a bit more solid compared to other climbing areas. If you like crimpy climbing, this is not the best spot for you. Due to the soft nature of the rock, most of the holds are rounded. You can also find some great cracks and chimneys. Prachov is relatively easy to navigate and has a good guidebook. If you are climbing in the main area, be prepared for people to be watching and commenting on your climbing. You are a bit of a spectacle for the tourists and hikers walking through, but this can be the case in several sandstone areas.
On this particular trip to Prachov, I took a friend here for the first time. He is Czech and has been climbing for a few years but not much on sandstone. This was his first time ever in Prachov, which is crazy because it is only about an hour drive from Prague. It is worth visiting for a non-climber, and it blows my mind to think a climber who lives so close has not been here. Anyway, these next 6 routes and towers are ones that I have done in the past and just enjoy to repeat.
10. Mravenčí Věž (Ant Tower)
Baušova Stěna V (Bauše's wall 5.5). I have climbed this tower and this route many times. I often return to this climb because it was my first route in Prachov. I had to take a certification course to be a climbing instructor in the Czech Republic. I was already a certified instructor in the United States, but that certificate might as well be toilet paper here. During most of the course, I was reviewing old things that I had learned in the States, which is always good to do. However, this week was sandstone week. Climbing on knotted slings for protection was quite foreign to me, as we typically use metal chocks or cams in the United States. The concept is easy enough—you take knots of various sizes to place into cracks and crevices as you would a metal chock. On the first day of sandstone week, we arrived at Mravenčí Věž. I was expecting some sort of discussion or demonstration on how one should safely climb on sandstone or how to place knots for protection properly. Instead, one of the course leaders called to me and asked, "Jake, do you want to climb this route?" I responded with a "Sure, why not." I placed a few knots here and there, clipped the ring and finished the route at the anchor at the top. I belayed up a fellow participant in the instructor course and then the course leader. At the top, the course leader didn't say much and was getting ready for rappel. I asked him, "Do you have any feedback on my route? How were my knot placements?" He responded, "They were fine." After coming down, he pointed to another tower and asked me to lead again. This process continued on four towers until they decided to join a local bouldering competition instead of continue "teaching." This in a nutshell encompassed my training course. I was going to have to learn how to sandstone climb from my own experience and more experienced partners. This route always reminds me of the time I spent learning how to climb on sandstone.
The route itself is quite nice, and I would recommend it. It starts on a pleasantly textured arete and continues to the right over holds like you would find in a climbing gym. Here you can place as many knots as you like until you continue up and right to the ring. As always, from the ring you have the most difficult climbing. There is a nice hourglass you can sling for protection and then directly up to the anchor. She is a beaut.
11. Pik (Peak)
12. Kočičí Jehla (The Cat Needle)
Východní Cesta V (East Route 5.5) on Kočičí Jehla is great. It is located in the main valley with all of the rock towers and provides a great view at the top. The formation goes from wide at the bottom to a small rounded point at the top. It is rather unusual to find a route rated so easily with two rings. This makes it a decent tower for beginner sandstoners. The start of the route is more scrambly, but you quickly gain height and find yourself having to make a climbing move over open space before getting to the first ring. Once you make said climbing move, you are on a small platform and you can clip the first ring. This time around, I had a bit more difficulty between the first and second ring. I could be wrong, but I think a decent-sized foothold fell off of this route since I last climbed it. No matter, the ring is in a nice location for the crux and the second ring is shortly after. Find the best way to maneuver through a small bulge and you can clip the second ring. From here you navigate slab with rounded slits in the rock for handholds. Continue until you get to the neck of the needle, and you can sling an hourglass here if you feel the need. It is a short piece of cake to the finish from there. We enjoyed the view from here and took a few pictures, but it was terribly hot, so only for a short while.
13. Mnich (Monk)
13. Mnich (Monk)
Mnich was the first prominent tower climbed in this famous area. Stará Cesta II (Old Route 5.2) was climbed by two boys from high school in the nearby city of Jičín in 1907. They left a red and white flag and a box with the message "First Victory" to confirm their success. Once at the top, they got caught in a surprise storm. This resulted in an exciting egress with the old rope and technology they had at their disposal. The boys were worried about getting in trouble at the school for their exploits, but it was unlikely the principal would see their names in the box they left at the top.
You can always find the dates each route was established and by whom in the guidebooks. Sometimes it is accompanied by old pictures, which are truly fascinating. It is amazing to see how people used to climb in the past. No harnesses, no climbing shoes, heavy hemp ropes and no belay device. I find it hard to repeat some of these routes even with the benefit of all the climbing technology at my disposal.
Our trip up Stará Cesta went seamlessly. It is chimney all the way to the top, so make sure you have long pants or bandages for your knees afterward. No rings on this route, but there are handy platforms periodically for resting or finding protection. Do not let the grade of II lull you into a false sense of security. There are a few sections that are quite tricky. It is a cool tower to be atop. It is in the center of the valley containing many prominent rock towers. There is a permanent metal Czech flag at the top to mark the tower and for your photo taking pleasure.
14. Obelisk, an easy translation (Obelisk)
Jižní Traverz VII (South Traverse 5.8) was my last route of the day. At least, I think so. It remains unclear exactly which route it is when reading the descriptions in the guidebook and comments online, but it is a solid guess. Obelisk is a beautiful tall tower standing alone directly next to the tourist walking path. The route has a relatively high first ring and requires calm, steady climbing to get there. Fellow climbers joke that if you fall below the first ring you will land on the handrail next to the tourists. Always a comforting thought before starting your route. Jižní Traverz starts in the center of the wall over rounded holds. Several meters up there is a perfect slot for a medium-sized monkey fist knot. The rock in which it is placed is solid and should protect you in case of a fall. Continuing on your way up to the first ring, there is a nice hourglass to sling, which also should be solid enough to catch a fall. Thread it, clip it and continue up to the first ring, which is comforting to clip. Traverse up and left to the second ring. This is enjoyable climbing that flows nicely. After clipping the second ring, you run into the physical crux of the route, but it is well protected and you need not worry. According to the route description, you should traverse to the edge and climb up from there. I find it easier to continue my upward left trajectory directly toward the ring. The third ring is near the left edge of the tower, and you pop up to the top from there. It is a beautiful climb if you can manage the part below the first ring. I climbed it in better style this time around, which felt good.
I am a climbing instructor who moved from the United States to the Czech Republic. Here is where I share some of my adventures and talk about what it is like to climb in the Czech Republic and Europe.