Story of bouldering development in Prilep

Story of bouldering development in Prilep, Republic of Macedonia 

It’s believed to have started back in the 2003, with climbers from neighboring town of Bitola exploring the hill of Markovi Kuli just above Prilep and with that putting up first few lines. Goran Kuzmanovski is credited for making the first bouldering steps back then. Couple of years later the Macedonian Sport Climbing Federation started with the organization of a small boulder meeting. First such gathering saw only a few Macedonian climbers from Bitola, Shtip and Skopje taking part in this new and unfamiliar style of climbing. But it did plant a seed of understanding for climbing on these magnificent boulders simply lying around Prilep and with that boulder meeting became a traditional event under the name “Krali Marko”, which is since organized traditionally every spring.

Few years passes since those initial efforts when a Slovenian climber, adventurer and explorer Rok Šisernik found some interesting photos of these granite boulders on the internet. After further research on Google Earth he realized that this place could hold some interesting potential. He proceeded to gather a small but strong team of Slovenian climbers to travel to this unknown place in the south of Macedonia to explore what this region has to offer to them. They stayed for about two weeks over the period of New Year 2009 and even though the weather was not on their side most of the time, they were still able to discover great potential and climbed a few lines that were possible back then in those cold
and harsh snowy winter conditions.

After that first trip it took a little over a year for climbers to return back to Prilep in the spring of 2011. Again thanks mostly to the enthusiastic drive of Rok Šisernik. The second expedition was much more successful in the development, putting up quite a lot of quality lines and opening fist sectors on the hills of Kamena Baba and adding new lines to existing ones on Markovi Kuli. At this time the first established lines were recorded in a small topo and short movie was produced by Chouka Films that showed the wider climbing world what bouldering in Prilep is and gave a taste of what the future could look like.

The third expedition of Slovenians followed shortly after the second in late spring 2011. This time with myself and Urh Čehovin, who was also one of the members in the first group along with some friends of ours. Again more sectors were discovered and numerous new lines were put on the hill of Kamena Baba.

When our expedition returned back home, we were struck with the sad news that the main protagonist of bouldering exploration in Prilep, Rok Šisernik, has died in a tragic fall from a highline strung over a canyon in Slovenia. Sometime after this tragedy me and Urh kind of decided that we will revisit the boulders of Prilep and try
to continue the work and the passion that Rok started as a way
of keeping his visionary spirit alive.

Since that spring of 2011, Slovenian teams have been going to Prilep every year in the spring and autumn periods. Me, with the help of friends and climbers managed to organize many of those expeditions as a way of gathering climbers in Prilep, joining our forces and powers in further developing bouldering. In 2012 and 2013 the “Macedonia Bouldering Expeditions” were realized that made it possible for a whole bus of Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, French, German and other climbers to visit Prilep together at the same time, to experience the climbing and the culture together. And most of all to participate in the further development of sectors and individual boulders as well as to promote the unique philosophy and lifestyle that we considered climbing to be.

Naturally in these past years there have also been more and more climbers from other countries visiting Prilep and making their own strong contribution to the place with their climbing and developmental efforts, as well as with their promotion through climbing magazines, movies and photographs. Arnaud Petit was the first “big name” to add his mark in the history of this area when he visited in 2012. Philippe Ribiere who joined us many times was also a big influence in publishing many articles and a documentary film about the first “bus expedition” in 2012. Reini Fichtinger and his friends in 2011 were probably the first Austrians climbing in Prilep. In 2012 Reini and his company along with Kilian Fischhuber and Anna Stohr returned back and opened a great new area in the village of Dabnica. Kilian climbed what was the hardest boulder in Prilep back then – Kula Sheika Bula, 8B. Italian boulderer Niccolo Ceria made an impressive trip in 2013. He managed to repeat most of the hardest boulders and put up many more new ones like
The Chicken Academy, 8A and also flashing Kula Sheika Bula, downgrading it to 8A+. The latest “bus expediton” under the name “Macedonia Bouldering Expedition” of Slovenians in 2013 resulted in opening around 50 new lines and cleaning many more projects. In spring of 2014 Petzl send their “ProTeam” on a scouting mission before the PetzlRoc Trip including Dave Graham, Paul Rabinson, Dani Andrada, Ethan Pringle, Melissa Le Neve, Philippe Ribiere and Johanna Ernst. Needless to say that many projects were climbed, new lines envisioned and realized, with lots more still left behind for future visits.

In a few short years since the first boulders were brushed on the hills above Prilep by Goran and later Rok with company, there are now over 400 established lines to be found. Prilep is gaining strongly on its recognition as a bouldering destination in the eyes of the worldwide climbing community. It could easily be regarded as a newly discovered gem whit still enormous potential for further development. Perhaps the biggest milestone came with the decision from Petzl to include Prilep into their renowned Petzl Roc Trip 2014 festival.

With all that in mind I felt like it was time to join forces with our climbing friends and Macedonian Sport Climbing Federation in putting together this guidebook you’re holding now in your hands. Hopefully it will serve its purpose providing you and all the climbers visiting in the future the right kind of info for your adventures as well as extending a useful platform for further development of this unique and beautiful piece of Macedonian country.

Prilep Bouldering Guidebook