Sport climbing in North Macedonia

After our bouldering trip to Prilep, we decided to spend the rest of our time in North Macedonia sampling the sport climbing. We bought a small information booklet about the sport climbing along with our bouldering guidebook from Hristo, in Prilep. This guide had the same information as this website. We found that it was easy enough to match the list of route names and grades, from the website, to the ones written under the routes.

Climbing recommendations

Demir Kapija

Demir Kapija is one of the most extensive areas in the country. The routes are well bolted and on good quality limestone. This was our favourite area for sport climbing in North Macedonia, we wished we stayed closer to this area rather than in Skopje. There are well over 100 routes ranging from 4 to 8c, you could be entertained here for quite a while!

There are several sectors along the canyon walls, all of which looked good quality, we climbed at one of the furthest away sectors V.D.D, which was only a 15 minute walk, where you have to zig zag along the river at the bottom. We also climbed at sector All inclusive which is the closest to the parking with a 2 minute approach. The climbing in the canyon is mainly on crimps, with the routes being around 15 -25 meters. However, there are a number of multi pitch climbs as well.

Sector V.D.D had the best climbing of the sectors we visited here. The general style is of hard starts on crimpy holds, then some steeper climbing on better holds to the top. Although the routes aren’t that long they will still get you pumped.

Extensive rock outcrops of the deep gorge of Demir Kapija.
Sector V.D.D

Sector arena looked fantastic, however, we didn’t check it out. While we were in the area it was very windy and the shelter offered by sector VDD was more appealing than the exposed arena sector. The best lines are 7b-8c and you do a via ferrata to approach sector. You can see the fantastic yellow and grey streaks of the arena in the photo below, illuminated by the morning sun.

The rocky steep gorge of Demir Kapja. Rock everywhere
Looking down the gorge of Demir Kapija with Arena sector up high.

Sector all inclusive has many multi pitches all along its wall, as well as a selection of single pitch routes. We did a mutlipitch route called Портокалова екипа (Left). The routes are bit dirty, as they are climbed on infrequently. However the climbing was good fun and it is a well equipped six pitch 6a. These routes are in a nice setting near the large river, which the smaller river flowing through the canyon feeds into.

Looking down at climber on the belay of a multipitch at sector all inclusive.
At the belay of Портокалова екипа (Left)
Information board at the parking stating the local climbing Coes to respect the rock and climb at your own risk. The information board also has a map of the different sectors.
Information board at the parking

Mavrovo

Inside the popular Balkan national park of Mavrovo lies an awesome cave set high up on the mountain side. The cave was featured in the Adam Ondra Balkan road trip series which you can watch on youtube linked below. Here Adam did the first ascent of Czech trip 9a+ which climbs the long lip of the cave. Whilst a stunning line, it is somewhat (infinitely) above our pay grade!

Looking out of the cave at Mavrovo with the lip of the cave framing the view out onto a steep mountain covered in trees.

Unfortunately when we were here in April the cave was dripping wet, more or less every route was soaking. The routes look great with some appealing tufa lines – we were really disappointed that we couldn’t climb here but would love to come back when it’s dry. I would imagine autumn is the best time to visit.

There are also many different hikes in the national park that would be worth doing, if you are looking for something a bit less active than climbing.

Kadina

Kadina lies approximately 40 minutes outside of Skopje. There is a steep cave, which again was very wet, dirty and had a huge stream running down at the bottom of the cave floor we when visited! The steep cave area is awesome but after a winter of rain it was basically unclimbable. As with Mavrovo, this is a crag best visited in the autumn. We climbed one 6c+ which finished in the middle of the roof. It was absolutely drenched so we gave up on this part of the crag. There are routes outside on the walls either side of the cave which were dry. The wall climbs were good and there are enough routes for a few days, but the steep cave has the best on offer here.

Overhanging cliff of Kadina. There are big strips down the cliff face. In the middle is a large cave with a steep roof that evens out to a short headwall.
Kadina

Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon is located only 30 minutes outside of Skopje and is popular with local climbers from the city.

On a rest day we walked down the side of the lake. There are kayak rentals and boat tours which visit a show cave (which can’t be accessed by foot). There is also a nice restaurant by the lake which has lovely views as well as St. Nikola Monastery.

Large open Matka Canyon with a river filled the bottom. There are a few tourist boats on the lake.

There are a variety of single and multi pitch routes, both trad and sport climbing dotted around the canyon. The quality of the rock looked poorer than the other areas we visited and the routes were difficult to find, this is why we didn’t think it was worth coming back to for the climbing during our limited time here.

Other venues

We visited Lake Ohrid on a rest day, it is a beautiful place to visit. We didn’t do any climbing during our time there, deciding instead to return to the other crags we had enjoyed and wanted to revisit. There are several other smaller areas around the country which you can see on the climbing Macedonia website, however, we can’t comment the quality of them as we ran out of time to properly explore them all.


Summary

North Macedonia is a great country and Prilep is the star destination. Due to weather and the season, our sport climbing was not as successful as our bouldering. However, there are lots of good routes here and anyone visiting for the bouldering should make the effort to enjoy the sport climbing and hiking on offer as well. Climbing in Macedonia will get better and better as more development and new routing is certain in the future, there is a huge amount of rock waiting to be climbed. Inevitably, the sport routes will fall in the shadow of Prilep, which definitely deserves its hype. However, don’t let that deter you from bringing a rope. Good rock, quiet crags and polish free routes are a guarantee.

For more information about North Macedonia, Prilep and rest day ideas, see our other blog post here.


Relavent information

Information about climbing in North Macedonia

http://www.climbing-macedonia.com/crags

https://climb-europe.com/rockclimbingshop/rock-climbing-macedonia

Information about Match Canyon

https://www.canyonmatka.mk

Adam Ondra climbing in the Balkans

2 thoughts on “Sport climbing in North Macedonia

  1. Christian 24th Nov 2021 / 5:26 PM

    Great to read that you liked your stay! For everyone who is interested, all the info about crags and beta can be found here: http://www.climbing-macedonia.com/
    There’s also a Facebook group for beta and finding a climbing partner: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3581442898651309
    Too bad you missed Bislismka Klisura, as it would have been perfect for April… (info on the climbing macedonia website).
    Best season for Mavrovo is late May until October, Kadina season starts between september and november, best season is winter!
    There is great climbing in Matka, especially some multiptiches and winter climbing in the Trlo sector.
    Macedonia offers great climbing for all seasons and potential for further development is huge!
    If you join the facebook group, every visitor will get all the necessary information and more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheCragJournal 24th Nov 2021 / 5:30 PM

      Nice to hear from you, thank you for your comment. That’s some really useful information!

      Like

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