#ItsGreatOutThere – Stone and Water A southern deep water microadventure

Sv. Katarina, one of the best deep water spots in Istra.

Scroll this

#Microadventure – A short trip into the wild away from your daily routine. A getaway back to the roots of what we love to do most. Be outdoors, because #ItsGreatOutThere. For some time an idea was brewing in my head. With snow gone and summer here, why not head south for a change. Climb some walls .. directly above water. Get wet trying. Croatia`s Istra seemed perfect. After some research I had a rough plan. I put a little post on Instagram to see if anyone would be up for a random adventure…. got a few reply’s from my followers but for all but TWO, the idea was a bit to extreme :P…so two days later we were off… 

Jan – “I saw a post on Instagram, it was an invitation to an adventure. A short adventure to the seaside where we would climb in local climbing spots. And I thought to myself, why not, let’s go, let’s give it a try. That can’t be bad. I contacted Aleš, the organizer, and asked him about the details. Climbing, deep water solo and sleeping in a tent. The rest is history.”

Musti – “After a long week of work coming back from Canada I saw Alešes call to action and just could not resist. Climbing has been my sport of choice for a while now but I had never done deep water before. After learning what he had planed I was on-board. It was epic how flexible we were because there were so many destinations to choose from!”

The plan was clear. We were heading south, over the boarder to Istra. Initially our plan was to head to Rovinj first and then Pula, spend Saturday climbing a deep water spots and maybe a normal rock spot for warm-up. Later we would head to the area of Buzet for camping overnight and climbing regular rock at one of the best climbing spots in the area on the next day. I had done my homework with a lot of good information coming from climbistra.com, a cool portal about all the spots in the area. I even went as far as to upload all interesting spots parking GPS data to my Suunto Spartan Smartwatch. With that done we were super flexible.

The Istra tourist map. Click it for the whole GPS track!

After picking up Musti in the morning the two of us headed out to gather up Jan at the other side of the Slovenia. Being summer it was far to hot to climb in the middle of the day so we took it nice and slow. But we did not account for one thing. Holiday traffic and summer road works. After a bit of creative navigation we finally reached the Adriatic sea near Rijeka, but our destination lay elsewhere. The southern tip of Istra. We decided to head to Pula first. Heading trough the local Mountains and the Učka national park we finally cleared the traffic and reached Pula.


Not far from Pula an abandoned quarry is the perfect climbing playground.

Pula is the biggest city of Istria. It is known for it`s nice green pine-trees, stony beaches and used to be a Roman city with a huge Amphitheater. That is also it`s biggest attraction. But little do most people know that in the surrounding hills you can find special stone, used throughout history, even ancient Rome and Venice. The Romans build large quarries called “Cave Romana” from where they extracted these stones to build large monuments and structures like the huge Amphitheater.  These quarries of old time for us would prove to be the perfect playground.

A huge playground.

As we were driving down to Pula from Rijeka we still had not made up our mind entirely on what spot to check out. Since days are long in the summer even as we arrived in Pula at 5 pm it was still 30 degrees. We decided to skip a spot half way down the peninsula named Pazin and instead check out this old roman quarry named Vintjan. Jan had packed a new climbing guide, for Croatia fresh from the press. Lots of pictures told us we would find anything from a 5a to a 8a. After sitting in the car with the heavy holiday traffic we were eager to get started. After all ItsGreatOutThere 😛 As we were approaching the final kilometers I turned on my Spartans Point of Interest navigation to guide us to the location. A few minutes later we drove up to an empty parking lot in front of one of those signs explaining local history to tourists.

Romans started all this.

As we took our gear out of the car and examine the area our eyes were glowing. There was everything here. Old roman stuff, industrial relics from the Yugoslav days and lots of different lines to climb. We found some ancient wheeled device that we tried to turn. The strength of three 😛 well it was not super successful. We blamed it on the vegetation stuck in the bearings 😛 Jan and I made an extended round of the quarry. The walls ware high and flat. Lines with different kinds of problems lay on all sides. Some in the sun, some in the shade.

Strong men move wheels haha.

While we were scouting the back of my head was already looking for a place to sleep. After all we wanted to sleep outside and I had not have had the time to find a good spot on google maps. Camping sites were abundant in the area but still that is not the same as the wild. Also in Croatia sleeping in the wild is some what of a gamble. For that to work one needs a location away from anyone. I noticed a ledge high up that looked like a giant balcony. If I could only get up there. Stubborn I took the way up trough dense vegetation. After a bit of Indiana Jones style exploration I had made it to the top. It was perfect. My mind was already set. We would sleep here.

As I made my way back down to the boys, Jan was already ascending the first route. A 6a. Musti was belaying him, but he did it with such ease that he might as well have free climbed it. Unlike Musti and I, as we learned, Jan used to compete in competitive climbing. His level was far above ours and as we were playing with our 5c-s 6a-s he was already eyeing an overhanging wall on the other side with a ton of 7-ish lines in them. If you are not familiar with the numbering system of climbing difficulty, the higher the number the harder the line. Everything above 6a is considered hard, so if you do 7s for so so… you are in good shape :P.

The stone on the walls was really nice to climb. Quite different from what we are used to. I did a line that partly looked like a inverted roman column. It looked as if the whole thing had been carved out in one piece. After that Musti claimed that one as well. Then while a few Italians had come to the overhanging wall, Jan was standing in front of it and eyeing a line. He took his time. I have not had seen him concentrate like that for a while. Musti and I were making jokes while I was unsuccessfully trying a detail on a line just a bit right from the mentioned roman column. Then suddenly he blinked and said he wants to do a 7b+. I knew it was time to take out the big camera. He was fast. Smooth moves, every single one where it should be, where he saw it. After a good two minutes he was at the top. Climbing is funny. When your technique reaches a certain level it looks really effortless.

Seeing him Musti and I were getting more motivated. We wanted to get to the top of my previous failed attempt. This time thou. I took a smarter approach. I actually looked at the whole thing I started. My problem, next to sloppy foot placement is also concentration. Being somewhat of an ADHD guy I find it very hard to concentrate on one thing. After carefully examining the line I suddenly made a good effort and bum. It was done. It is funny. When you have someone around to push you, even by only trying to repeat moves not claiming the top, I find it a great motivator. You improve faster. It definitely was like htat for Musti and I. After a few more lines the sun was starting to set. There was one more thing left to do. Throw our selves into the water at sunset for a cooldown.

We drove down to Stoja Camp, where we would explore the great deep water cave the following morning, and jumped into the water. To our surprise it was not as cold and refreshing as we had hoped. At the beginning of the week, when I was planing out the rough details of our trip, the water temperature was a mere 20 degrees. Since it was sunny for the whole week, that had climbed to somewhere around 22-23 already. Not a lot cooler then the evening air. We fooled around a bit ducking and diving in the sea. It was great to be a kid again haha :P. All of us should do that more often. After the sun set and the daily mosquito storm descended upon us, it was time to go. Claim our sleeping spot and make dinner.

Our chill sleeping spot. On the edge… as always.

As I had told the guys about my planed sleeping locale there was a bit of skepticism. Not of the location but more on how to get there in the dark. Fortunately we all had our headlamps with us. I had never been in the scouts or anything but even without those crucial navigation skills we made it just above the balcony ridge with all our gear, and a tent. Of course as usual I had picked the hardest way to get to the top. As I will later have learned there was a nice smooth path form the other side of the quarry. But we were on an adventure after all. To get to the balcony platform we had to climb down the last part. To lover all our gear down safely we made a makeshift loop on which we could fasten the tent, food and most importantly our beer.

Time to eat.

There is nothing like a good cold beer after a long day of climbing. To keep it cold we even took an extra detour to a gas station to pick up some ice. I had packed some Tegernseer Spezial, a local beer from Bavaria that I tend to pick up in transit on my travels to the mecca of winter, Innsbruck. Musti had also packed a special Slovenian brand so we were well stocked. Being a bit dehydrated the beer made us funnier and hungrier. It was time to cook dinner.

Being an adventurer and having spent quite some time outside sleeping at altitude most recently on my #biwipowroject I was well stocked. A month earlier I had won a sweepstakes by Swiss outdoor survival equipment maker Katadyne group. I had a brand new OPTIMUS VEGA stove and Terra pots with some ready Trek’n’eat gear to try out. In fact I was so impressed by the gear that I wrote a short review about it. But before we started cooking with beer in hand one thing became apparent. We forgot the lighter in the car. And we needed it to light the stove. By this time it was already around midnight. The moon was almost full and a nice warm breeze was in the air. The boys had already given up on playing midnight adventure but I was hungry and determined. I was not gonna go to bed without at least one warm meal that day.

Good morning Istra!

As they drank their beer and Jan started flinging stones at relics of an old fire, I climbed back up from our balcony ledge and tried to find a better way down the hill. Ironically going around in the other direction, there was a really nice walkway. I was at the car in no time asking myself why we originally went up to the balcony ledge trough the jungle.

Soon after I was back we were boiling water and filling the Trek’n’eat bags. Letting them sit for 10 minutes and vuala. Beefpotatoes and Rice Jambalaya :P. We ate fast and with the two beers in our bellies it was time to sleep. Soon we were snoozing away.

Proper bacon and eggs breakfast. Always eat well.

Then soon morning came. I had a bit of weird sleep turning around and waking up a few times. Musti was still sleeping like a log and Jan, was overheating. It was still rather warm. Summer was here defiantly. Musti and I enjoyed the first sun rays early at 6 am. I went around exploring the area a bit more before we made breakfast. My new set had a frying pan too which was awesome. We made eggs with bacon. A proper breakfast. Then we packed up and it was time for the deep water part of our adventure.


One of the premier Deep Water spots in Istra with a few insanely hard lines.

It was still early. We arrived at what seemed to be an abandoned camping site at the far side of Pula. From here we would have to walk a good 15 minutes to get to the caves. None of us had been here before. Pine trees with nice smell, wind from the ocean. It was early so temperature was still bearable. Soon we made it to two caves just before a fence with a big keep out sign. It was a military area. After checking out the caves the second one was what we were looking for.

Now it was time to get ready. I had done deep water lines only once before. We had all brought our old climbing shoes. Mine were in such bad shape that I had to fix them with duck tape. I taped the outer side on the rubber sole. I also had to tape the inside, otherwise my fingers would be looking out. Musti had a pair of old Icon`s once and Jan had LaSportivas. They were orange. Soon his feet were orange :P. I have not seen shoes loose coloring so fast haha. If I had a banana with me I would have given it to him. He would have fit his hashtag of winter #bananaorange again perfectly haha.

To document our action inside the cave I had brought my trusted buggy GoPro`s. What I did not bring was my expensive float accessory. Musti relegated that problem with his super innovative mastermind. He build a float out of one of my sandals. Developing a new GoPro accessoriy was not in the plan for the trip but hell it worked haha. Then we set off. Jan was lazy and was not that eager to get into the water.

I had only a faint idea on where to start with the first line but soon found my way half way up. We started playing and were climbing all over the place jumping into the water. It was super fun. I also found the overhanging line that was presumably the hardest  deep water solo in Istria. Since we were beginners we did not even try it. The morning passed quickly. The water was warm an we still had one more planed stop. We packed up shop and were off to the north. Next stop Rovinj.


Jan lets go on Sv. Katarina island.

Rovinj is more of a tourist hot-spot than Pula. The city looks nice, one of those places that you have probably seen on postcards if you ever got one from the Adriatic sea. That also brings in the over regulated space of a bustling mini metropolis that can drive you crazy when you come in by car. Fortunately  the deep water spot we went to was not new to me. I had discovered it a few years back when I started with climbing. It was to be quite the surprise for my two companions.

On the boat to the island for some deep water solo action.

To get to it we would have to take a boat to the Island of Sv. Katarina. It housed a secluded multi star hotel in between it`s pines with a perfect view of the city of Rovinj. It really was only a few minutes by boat. The boat left every hour but that guaranteed one thing. Peace and quite. The spot was located on the western most tip of the little island. Not many people go there, But the rock is great. The water is deep and the lines are proper with up to 18 m. Try punching into water from that altitude :P.

When you arrive at the island it looks more like a spa resort. You can climb here ?

The spot is also perfect for photography as one can reach a lot of the lines overhead without having to secure with arresting gear. The shade of the pines with wind, water and sun is perfect. The western orientation also deals with summer sun and stone issues and so the spot is climbable basically for the whole day. We also had a lot of company with seagulls buzzing around and being rather noisy. I believe they might have nested somewhere close and we were disturbing a bit.

You have to walk to the far west part of the Island to find the climbing spot.

We set of eager and started doing side climbing from the entry to avoid getting wet. It went well for about half the wall but then regardless to get to the start one had to get int the water. Bum We were trying all kinds of stuff. Musti and I got hanged up on a 6a while Jan was doing stuff all over the place. Still he was abit conservative. No doubt because it was his first time at this location and first day of deep water climbs. I got him to go grab a hold on a side quite high in the wall where I could take a really cool picture you see at the top of this chapter where he basically just lets go after and I captured the drop moment. Epic photographer claim :P.

The water was so turkis and blue, the stone so grey and brown. Water and Stone. That was what our #Microadventure was about. I got a bit melancholic. After all we all live quite the easy life. Compared to 90 % of the human population we have time to go on #mircroadventures to loosen up from our daily routines. We can find these beautiful places where we can chill and have fun all the time with our friends. We do sports that can only be maintained when our social security reaches a certain level. I would call us blessed and lucky. Weather you believe in god or higher power, karma ect. it does not matter. We can have these adventures and we try to do as many as we can. Who knows if in the years to come we will still be able to.

Musti starring as the wise Greek Zorba.

Nothing lasts forever. And as such also this moment of serene happiness passed as the hours progressed. Musti had laid down next to a good Bavarian beer. Like the Greek Zorba he enjoyed the nice breeze. Jan`s feet had gotten even more orange and his eyes were glowing more then before. He was happy. I was happy too, getting half way up that 6a and having used my big camera for a few good shots too. It all worked out great. I did one more push this time Jan giving me directions and taking pictures. I usually don`t have many of myself as I am the photographer, athlete all in one guy.

It is just in front of Rovinj.

A few boats had passed us by with tourists snipping pictures of us climbing up the walls. It was fun but we had to pack up. We were late as usual and had to run for the boat :P. Just in time we made it and were on our way back to Rovinj. The day was staring to faint and we still had to get Jan back to Gorenjska with Musti and even futher home to the North. With summer traffic we did not know what to expect again.


In this natural reserve there are a lot of sectors to climb.

Listening to the radio we were looking at killing at least two hours at the border crossing back into Slovenia. I would have none of that. If we had time to kill before the border cleared up I still had an idea up my sleeve. Check out the climbing spot of Limski Kanal.

Limski Kanal lies just north of Rovinj and is a natural heritage site of the area. There are a ton of good climbing sectors here and according to my info you can even find cool places to crash with your hammock in the more remote once. At the map we looked at the approach looked kinda simple. I also had Point Of Interests on my watch so the navigation should have been straight forward.

Of course we got lost in the wood maze before getting to the place.

But it was not. The woods above the climbing location proved to be quite the maze. I usually like to get myself and my car into trouble when I start this kind of exploration. That is why we decided to ditch the car a good half a km out from the spot and go by foot, because last time I did this I got stuck in mud. Lush green and a ton of ticks… not cool.

We made it to the edge and found the parking. It looked as if we just took a wrong turn. The map we had was bad. Oh well… we descended and found this amazing wall. Wow. So many different lines. Some even multi pitch once. Awesome. We were tired so we left the climbing gear in the car. Still we were all in agreement. We will be back for this.

The only problem that summer presented here was orientation. All the walls in the Chanel face south. Sun exposure is strong and it is far too hot to climb until the sun moves far west after 5 pm. The area is considered more as a winter-spring spot. At that time it is also very crowded. Now thou there was only a pair of climbers on a long holiday enjoying the whole place for themselves. With a lot of idea for thought we left for the car to head back home. The micro adventure coming to an end as the sun set on the freeway.

Really cool wall to climb.

I guess the moral of this story is simple. #ItsGreatOutThere. Go out and have adventures with your friends, readers, buddies, family. Nature instead of concrete jungles. Learn to be human again and grow from there. Your skills of survival will improve, your understanding of people and your love of the wild. #Microadventures are a great way of doing those thigs so I am looking forward to seeing you, dear readers on your adventures in your Facebook and Instagram posts. And if at any time you seem to be alone and not find any additional swashbuckling adventurer. Make a post in Instagram and see what happens from there 🙂

Disclaimer: This article is part of an Outdoor Blogger Network campaign & I got paid to write it.This does not influence the article as I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site.

The day sets on the perfect #Microadventure of stone and water.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *