Last month I took a short trip to Europe to see my buddy Shawn. After three years living in Budapest, Shawn’s finally moving on. But he wanted one last little European hurrah, so we planned a climbing trip.
But not to Spain or Italy or Greece or any of the other world-class Euro climbing destination. Nope. Shawn chose Bosnia.
Climbing in Bosnia
Bosnia has seen a big boom as a climbing destination recently. The country is quite mountainous, and developers seem to have been on a bolting crusade for the past decade or so. There is a beautiful new sport climbing book out via Balkan Colours, which covers the main climbing areas in the country.
We bought this book, but due to time constraints were only able to spend four days in the country, and did not leave Sarajevo. So our climbing was limited to the local Dariva crag — a spot you can easily walk to from the Sarajevo city center.
Dariva is a nice little limestone sport crag in a pleasant setting. It offers routes from 4a-8a, although the majority is concentrated in the 5c-7c range. It doesn’t feel like you are in a city, although with a fairly busy pedestrian walkway, it doesn’t exactly feel like you’re out in nature, either.
AMBIANCE: You can expect a decent flow of spectators at all times of the day, but especially in the early-evening hours, when the air cools down and the city’s residents like to stretch their legs. The walkway along the river seems to be a popular spot for local punks to smoke weed and for teenagers to come make out.
LOCALS: There is a healthy scene of Sarajevan climbers coming and going from Dariva. You can expect most of them to speak at least some English . The crag sees the most traffic in the evenings, after work.
Under a nearby bridge, enterprising local climbers have built a DIY dry-tooling course. I may have to come back in winter and sample the waterfall ice…
BOLTING: Dariva is basically grid-bolted, to the point it is very easy to accidentally traverse onto an adjacent route. The bolts are a mixture of new stainless steel and older glue-ins. Quality is (generally) reassuring. Most or all routes have lowering hooks at the anchors.
Babin Zub (Grandmother’s Tooth)
This attractive-looking spire sits directly over the highway leading into the Sarajevo valley. It’s listed in the guidebook as a two-pitch climb, 70-meters long, graded at 5b+ .he name means “Grandmother’s Tooth” in the local language.
I can’t recommend climbing this thing.
The guidebook says atop Babin Zub is a great place to see sunset over Sarajevo, but I couldn’t tell you if that’s true or not, as we got benighted on this climb.
Since the Babin Zub is, at most, 100 meters away from Dariva, we assumed it was protected with a similar number of bolts and boasted a similar rock quality. Neither of those assumptions were true.
The climb is loose, shattered limestone. The route is traversing, so your belayer is safe from falling rocks and boken holds. Unfortunately, cars on the road below are not. Combined with the fact that most of the protection on the route is loose, rusted pitons or other horrors unlikely to catch a fall, this quickly became a butt-puckering adventure more similar to a day climbing in the mountains than the casual sport cragging we’d been doing at Dariva.
If you do attempt this route a helmet is a must, and take extreme care about not dislodging rocks onto the road below.
Locals apparently have an annual speed climbing competition on this thing, a fact my partner absolutely couldn’t believe. We later found out they close the road for that. No surprise, considering the huge risk of rockfall.
Other Climbing Near Sarajevo
There are six sport climbing crags located near Sarajevo, all listed in the Balkan Colours guidebook. Most will require a car, although one of them can be reached via a free shuttle to the Sunnyland amusement park.
I also heard rumours of an alpine refugio being built up near the top of the ski resort for mountaineers. As we were only there for a short visit (and it rained for two of our four days), I did not have time to further investigate these other places.
Rest Day Activities in Sarajevo
Sarajevo has plenty to keep a tourist busy for a few days. There is (sadly), plenty of war history to take in. We visited the War Children Museum as well as the Srebenica Genocide Exhibition. We also did a free walking tour which was fairly interesting.
Since Shawn’s a craft beer nerd, we spent a lot of time at Gastropub Vučko, where a (very good) pizza can be had for 3€, and beer from many Balkan craft breweries can be tried in bottles. If you are fine drinking the national beers, there is the Sarajevo brewery in town. In most places, domestic Bosnian beer should cost between 1-2 marks (€0.50-€1).
Club Underground has live music until 4 in the morning on weekends.
Sarajevo is a nice city for a visit, and the climbing is more than satisfactory. For this type of short trip, Sarajevo gave us what we needed. If you have the time for a more involved trip, I would recommend renting a car and exploring some of the other areas in Bosnia (Banja Luka and Herzegovina regions), as the country has tons of unexplored climbing, the costs are cheap, and the people are hospitable.
I’d certainly like to be back with a bit more time and freedom.
Hasta luego, Bosnia.
If you have any beta about climbing in Bosnia, feel free to leave it in the comments or get in touch personally.