I’ve just had the chance to to visit Poland for the second time. Last time was a couple of years ago when Randall and I got invited out to climb some wide cracks, make a film (Wideboyski) and then show it at the local Climbing festival (which we couldn’t go to…)

Wideboyski - Crack adventures in eastern Europe with Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall…. from Wild Country on Vimeo.

A reminder of the type of climbing…

This time I was invited to the festival to climb on the Saturday and give a talk on the Sunday

The ethics in Poland are, no chalk, no wires or camming devices and no top roping. That means you have to put up with sweaty hands, knotted slings and always onsight. An interesting combo, seeing as though you’re scared placing knotted slings (as they tend to just pull through the crack), which in return makes you sweat more, making you more likely to fall off rip you’re gear and hit the ground.
Coming over as a visiting climber can often mean you get ushered onto the routes which have never been repeated or are a massive sandbag. I was out in Poland with Leo Houlding and he mentioned a story of when he visited the Czech Sandstone, he got directed towards an off width (the first protection 10m up and belayer wedged into a crack for the belay stance), he realised he’d been sandbagged when he looked down and there was an interested crowd of climbers all watching (because they’d never ever seen anyone on that route before)!

poland arete

luckily for us where we were climbing, there were a nice amount of ring bolts (so knotted sling placement was minimum), and our hosts were very mellow just showing us the crag but not persuading us to try and kill ourselves. However I did find it quite humorous that chalk is not allowed, yet I could see people had been using it and saw someone climbing with loose chalk wrapped in a tea towel rather then in a chalk bag. Maybe its just the older generation and foreigners who don’t use it.

I was pretty keen to try an offwidth that Tom an I hadn’t quite managed last time. Jan Sebastien Dach (a pun on Jan Sebastien Bach, obviously. With the route being on a ‘music themed wall’ and Dach in Polish meaning roof. Yes it was on an offwidth roof.
Like many short offwidth roofs the problem came trying to turn the lip. It is an awful size being double fist towards the edge of the crack but then narrowing at the back so you were unable to get your body in. Having not climbed an off width since I last tried this one I was a little apprehensive at how it would go. 3rd go on I somehow managed to scrape my already scraped body up, only just finding in time, as the Americans would put it, ‘The Sweet Calf Lock…..’
It’s difficult to know where it stands in comparison to others as its sans chalk and no hanging around after a fall checking jams and sequences. But the 3rd ascent nonetheless and another off the world ticklist of off widths.

Jan Sebastian Dach

The festival was great. friendly people. Well looked after. well organised. The only problem was I couldn’t understand much of what was going on, but I guess that is expected.
My talk seemed well received but it was Leo’s talk later in the evening which rounded the festival off nicely. I’ve not seen him do a festival talk before, but it was certainly one of the most professional and well put together ones I’ve seen. For me, really good to watch as its always good to learn and pick up ideas to improve my own speaking and talks for the future.
Then obviously there was the festival party which had a pretty unique band playing, which I can only describe as a beatboxing, rap, folk music duo!