Ivan Vazov: the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature and 3 pitches of karma6 min read
Winter was all about skiing and mountaineering, so when spring blossomed and it was time for rocks, I got served a cocktail of adrenaline, enthusiasm and pain.
It served something else, as well—a line which was about to invade the centre stage of my mind. Jenny and I had just finished our first multi-pitch for the season. With the whole afternoon ahead, we jumped directly on the next one—Ivan Vazov.
“It’s a great line! Classic!”
“The third pitch is super airy and with one hell of a crux.”
“Trust me, the first pitch is the toughest, you girls can do it.”
“Take nuts and cams with you.”
“Ivan Vazov? Brave girls, eh!”
This is how you plant the seeds of prejudice. The line is perfect for trad, yet bolted, so we practiced nuts and cams placement in a relatively safe environment. The route was demanding for our trad experience, so we would use a bolt now and then. Practice, practice, practice.
At the beginning of the first pitch, I fell twice on the same 0.4 Camalot.
Wow, those cams take falls after all!
When an adrenaline rush runs through your veins and you manage to cheat disaster, you get the strange sensation of being invincible. But those falls also nurtured the seeds of fear and respect. That day, we only did the first pitch. Since we had neither water, nor any strength left, we called it a day.
We turned our backs to Ivan Vazov to embraced new challenges. But we had unfinished business here and it was about to haunt us.
Ivan Vazov was a Bulgarian poet, novelist, and playwright. He is often referred to as “the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature“. Apart from the many monuments and streets, there is a 3-pitch classic line of 110 meters named after him, as well.
Unfinished business was calling. With the first falling leaves of autumn, our several attempts on the route failed without us even reaching the wall. The weather was never on our side. We were driving close by one day and spontaneously gave it a go, only to realise we only had a single 60-meter rope. And we needed a double. There was always an obstacle on the way.
Was that a message from life? What was the message?
One year later, spring was here again and I was recovering from a trauma. Though I felt weak, I had my mind set on that route and the determination to wrap up my unfinished business with it. But we never made it there. The line became a nightmare that haunted me—two falls, same place. The more we talked about getting back, the scarier it became. Mystic energy fuelled the notion of a climb we couldn’t seem to reach.
Another Spring, Another Go
April 14th, 2018
It was a Saturday, a day for climbing. Our friends went to a place called Bojenitsa, not far from Vratsa, where the Ivan Vazov line is. Yes, we are team players! But before we joined the group, there was some unfinished business we had to take care off.
– Where to, Jenny?
– Ivan Vazov?
We arrived late in the afternoon and jumped directly on the route. I have to say that the first 8 meters can make you shit your pants. When I reached the place where I had fallen twice the year before, I almost did…almost.
You got this, Tzvety! Just breath, easy…be gentle, merge with the rock! —I was thinking to myself.
And I nailed it. The rest of the line was great. Everything was great, except Jenny’s condition. She felt sick and couldn’t climb anymore. It is what it is. Apparently, it was not mean to be. At least not today. What rests ahead of us would remain a mystery, feeding both my imagination and the seeds of fear.
Jenny is a wonderful partner, full of empathy. She could sense my disappointment and offered to belay me, while I explored the second pitch. Even though she couldn’t climb any further, this allowed me to gain some progress. Second go—two pitches. A progress it is! Yet, the third one, the one with the crux and a boulder problem; the airy one, was there looming like a dagger over my conscious. I had to go back.
During the following week, I dreamt of the route. My mind became a battlefield of thoughts, disturbing my peace. Deep inside I knew the only way to restore my balance was simply to go and do it.
“So Jenny, I was thinking, shall we give it a try?”
“Yeah, I was thinking the same.”
Saturday, April 22nd
With summer just around the corner, the weather conditions became more and more intolerable for climbing at the Ivan Vazov’s massive. So we took the strategic approach of warming up on something shadier in the morning, fuelling with energy during the heat of noon and hitting the line in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Jenny was overwhelmed with a horrible headache and to my not-so-great surprise, Ivan Vazov became once more a mirage in the heat.
A Date with Destiny
Sunday, April 23rd
The devil in my head painted the most horrifying picture of that third pitch that came to haunt me day and night. Yet, the angles, were whispering of something else. That Sunday morning, with Jenny still feeling sick, I found a partner in crime in the face of Marina. She knew my struggle and story with the line and was kind enough to join me. It would be a fight in the midst of an epic heat on a Sunday noon.
We made it to the base of the route and I was already roped, when I realised I had left my climbing shoes at the campsite. Seriously? I couldn’t believe we are facing yet another obstacle.
Was life sending me a message, or was I just too excited that I forgot the essential?
On my way down to the camp, my head was pulsing from the heat and my thoughts were boiling in torment. After a few calm breaths, you get to choose how to perceive what is happening to you. We make such choices on a daily basis, mostly without realising it.
That day, I chose to interpret FEAR in the FaceEverythingAndRise way, rather than ForgetEverythingAndRun one.
For the fear of that line was rootless, the child of prejudices.
The Grand Finale
Climbing shoes? Here. Fear? Embraced in a friendly hug.
I went back and enjoyed it all the way to the top. The views were spectacular. The heat had mercy. It was easier than in my nightmares. Hell, it was a lovely line that I merged with and the flow was just WOW!
The person Ivan Vazov wrote memorable pieces of literature that will remain part of our nation’s history. The line Ivan Vazov allows you to write your own piece of history.