Whatever happened to Cristian Brenna? After his baptism of fire on his first-ever expedition to Pakistan with the Trip One Karakorum 2005 UP project, the Italian spent some of autumn climbing in the Czech Republic and in Sardinia. Top sends included repeats of Rolando Larcher's "Sapientino" (8c) and "Anime Salve" (8b+) in just five attempts, and onsights of "XL" 8a/a+, "Raoni" 8a and "Totem" 8a at Cala Fuili, and "Manifesto" 8a at Jerzu.
As often happens though it is the experience that revolves around the actual climbing which is of real interest. Published below is a short extract of Cristian's report to the Czech Republic, where climbing remains firmly engrained in its traditional past. Could this be someone's next holiday destination?
by Cristian Brenna
"In October I spent a week in the Czech Republic and despite unfavorable weather I managed to climb for three days at Decín, located on the border with ex-East Germany, close to Dresden. It's better known as the Elbsandstein Gebirge, it is here that free climbing came to light at the start of the 18th century and the air you breath here is very different from the one at our crags. Routes are equipped from the ground-up only and protection is in the form of large rings or knotted threads of different sizes, wedged into the cracks. Camming devices are outlawed as the sandstone is too soft and chalk is forbidden.
In the area which belongs to the Czech Republic the local climbers have created some crags dedicated to sports climbing: routes are equipped from below but apart from the large rings there are also some glue-in bolts and chalk is allowed. Even though it's a sports climbing area the run-outs are always long and six quickdraws almost always suffice to climb a 40m pitch. If you manage to overcome this first, above all psychological, hurdle then you immerse yourself into an exciting style of climbing, on incredible rock up completely pure lines.
These routes of rare beauty follow corners and aretes, cracks and slabs with shallow pockets. During those three days I tried to climb as much as possible and it was a shame that rain showers hampered play. Even if I climbed routes up to Xb (roughly equivalent to 7c: the climbing scale in the Elbsandsteingebirge cannot easily be compared to other grading systems), I enjoyed myself more than I have done so in ages."
Photo: Cristian Brenna climbing "Sapientino (8c), Sardinia.