200 meters in 5 hours. Bezengi

Even though this summer was quite a bummer when it comes to climbing – meaning I barely had the opportunity to, we were able to finish the season off with a couple of fulfilled dreams. One I already wrote about – the little Lakatnik house and the other one was a famous multi-pitch climb at the Vratsa cliffs – Bezengi. Bezengi is the first equipped route on this part of the Vratsa rocks, firstly equipped back in 1962. Currently it consists of 6 ropes and measures to a 160 meters according to most websites, but summing the separate ropes it adds up to 200 meters. Most climbers skip the last two ropes and rappel down from the top of the fourth as the climb ahead can be quite dangerous due to unstable rock. Sasho and I had our minds firmly set on completing the whole thing so one windy October Saturday morning we set off for Vratsa.

The weather was very inconsistent and I did not feel particularly energized; Sasho was constantly worrying about the 4th rope of which he had read was the most difficult one on the route and as such was naturally his responsibility to lead. Both of us had our doubts and when we finally arrived, I was almost ready to turn around and go home. The wind was strong and ice cold and there was only one group of climbers who had spent the night, they were just opening up their tent, whereas usually there are crowds of people ready to climb. Thank God Sasho was braver and more psyched about climbing than I and ignoring my whining he quickly started to gear up. I sighed and did the same – we were gonna climb.

The overall UIAA route difficulty is 6-. Bearing that in mind and also what a great climber Sasho is, I wasn’t worried whether we were going to make it. My fears were rather connected with my use of the gear and also – how was I going to survive for at least 4 hours on the rock without being able to pee (I have a tiny bladder)?! After having completed a course on cliff climbing where we sporadically did a 2 rope multi-pitch climb, I hadn’t really been on a multi-pitch route before. But climbing with Sasho is easy – he has the situation under control, always has a plan B and is impeccable about the use of gear, he is very good both in theory and practice, so after a quick check which way exactly to go, I set out on rope one.

The wind kind of subsided, the sun came out in between the clouds and it was very nice on the rock, which was sort of warm and the climb was easy.

There is a reason why Bezengi is often called one of the most beautiful climbs in this part of the Vratsa pass. The views were stunning, I was able to snap a few photos on the way before the mist came out again, which it unfortunately did the higher we climbed.

Sasho was uneasy about the 4th rope which we rapidly approached. I did not have any doubt whether he could make it – he certainly could, but he is a little bit susceptible to fear and I have seen him set psychological boundaries for himself which prevented him from doing a climb he would normally ace. I had my concerns and tried encouraging him several times. Before the fourth rope we allowed ourselves an extended break, we had some chocolate and water and got mentally prepared for what was next.

As expected, Sasho killed the route, no problem whatsoever so we proceeded with the ascent. When we got to the fifth and sixth rope, the rock did start to get very unstable. It didn’t help at all that the bolts were scarce and oftentimes we were unsure which way to continue. We received some directions from a climbing couple beneath us – two girls who climbed one rope behind us, with a pretty good timing – we never clashed on the wall and none of us had to wait for the other pair, so it worked out great. They had climbed the route before and let us know which way to continue.

I ascended the last rope and while I was waiting for Sasho, I casually looked behind my shoulder. When I arrived at the spot, there was nothing there, mist surrounding me and hiding everything further than 3 meters away, see pic above. But when I turned around, the mist had thinned significantly and an enormous tsunami of a cliff was hanging behind me surrounded by a misty curtain. I gaped in awe, this was one of the most breath-taking sceneries I have ever seen. I tried capturing the magic in a picture, but as expected, the photos are nowhere nearly as beautiful as the real thing.

We were naturally super happy to have made it, after all, it had been nearly 4.5 hours on the rock, wind blowing almost all the time and weather getting increasingly colder.

The two opportunities for us were either to rappel 6 ropes down or to take the path downward, which was supposed to take you down to the road within about half an hour. We were already tired and I was cold, so we rejected the rappel opportunity and went for the path. It was a bit scary, as it was a straight down climb and vertical at many places, but there was a metal rope to hold on to and we made it safe and sound off the path 🙂

All in all, this was a dream come true, both for me and Sasho. In spite of my worries and lack of enthusiasm in the morning, it turned out to be a great adventure and I can’t wait to do it again 🙂

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