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How It All Started - Climbing In Albania and The 5th Climbing Festival

How It All Started - Climbing In Albania and The 5th Climbing Festival

By now you’ve probably heard rumours about the amazing climbing in Albania. Both pro climbers and the climbing media have been telling about the beauty and the great routes this country has to offer. In the story below, Elion Çikopano, one of the early developers of the Albanian climbing scene, tells about the history of climbing in the country and about the upcoming festival on 3-5 May 2019!


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“It all started 7 years ago when two enthusiastic American climbers met with a young eager local climber and started the first bouldering gym in Albania. The aim of the gym, called Rock Tirana, was to start a rock revolution with the local youth and to create a climbing community in the country. The beginning was hard but all of them knew about the crazy rock climbing potential Albania has and were convinced to continue.

Two years later the first kids clubs had started and a bunch of enthusiasts had joined Rock Tirana. The next step was logical. The cliffs had already some bolted routes, mostly made by visiting climbers, but it seemed that the international climbing community had no clue you could climb in Albania. Something needed to be done, to spread the word of these magnificent cliffs of the country.

Climber on “Flying Flip Flop” in Bovilla. Photographer: Elion Çikopano

Climber on “Flying Flip Flop” in Bovilla. Photographer: Elion Çikopano

Rock Tirana decided to gather a community, invite some international climbers, and write to climbing magazines to start the first climbing festival in Albania. The locations were the best climbing areas in Albania called Bovilla and Brar, situated right next to the capital and the beautiful beach and canyon of Gjipe. The festival was a blast with more than 400 people who joined, and two major climbing magazines wrote about it. Suddenly climbers all over the world knew that there’s great climbing in Albania.

The festival and climbing in the area got more attention year after year. Since the first one, four festivals have followed and a lot of people have climbed on rock their first time during these events. Even more important, the attention of some of the strongest climbers in the world was caught by the amazing limestone this small country has to offer. Eventually Adam Ondra (in the cover pic), one of world’s most known climbers, visited the country, climbed, and bolted probably the hardest line in the Balkans, in Brar.

Climber in “Niente Sole” in Brar. Photographer: Elion Çikopano

Climber in “Niente Sole” in Brar. Photographer: Elion Çikopano

The purpose of the Albanian Climbing Festival was to not only create a fun event, but also help to achieve three goals:

  • To promote sustainable active lifestyle

  • To create more climbing crags and sustain existing ones.

  • To show how much potential nature offers for small businesses and communities when it comes to adventure tourism.

    The festival location changes every year and all of the events are held in unique places with stunning beauty, but forgotten by the institutions. Faced with economic issues, most of the villages in Albania are using all the nature resources they are able to gather, from cutting down forests to destroying river bands and exploding cliffs for limestone.

The aim is to empower these small villages by offering them business possibilities. Tourism can help them respect the nature and to build business in a sustainable and ecological way. All the money collected from the festival fee goes to bolting of new routes, and to the promotion of climbing/hiking and other adventure sports the region has to offer.

By joining the festival you’re becoming a contributing member of the Albanian climbing community. Route development is a lot of work and is only possible through the tireless effort of locals and visiting climbers who have spent weeks cleaning, bolting and developing these amazing routes. Your participation in this festival helps us to continue the development of the routes in Albania.

Morning views in Bovilla. Photo:  Elion Çikopano

Morning views in Bovilla. Photo: Elion Çikopano

The 5th Albanian Climbing Festival will be held in Bovilla and Brar in 3-5 May 2019. Both areas are close to the capital and besides the option of taking your accommodation from the city, it’s also possible to camp and experience the true climbing lifestyle. Book the dates and join it, you will not be disappointed!

The program involves, of course, climbing and small hikes, slacklining, morning yoga sessions in the nature and a very special party outdoors on Saturday evening.”

For further information keep an eye in the festival Facebook page and Website!

We’re excited to collaborate with Elion and his amazing climbing topos from Albania can be found from the link below! Using these topos contributes to the local development of Albania.

Stay tuned for the latest climbing destination tips & more:

27 Crags topos are made by local climbing area developers and enthusiasts. From the .premium subscriptions 50% of the income will go straight to the topo authors who are doing extremely important job in developing the climbing areas.

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