Тhe region of Vratsa is the largest for rock climbing in Bulgaria. The cliffs are interesting for both sport and traditional climbers. Currently around Vratsa there are 11 crags, with more than 350 climbing routes.
The city of Vratsa is 120 km away from Sofia. It is situated at the base of the western Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) and the region is known with numerous cliffs, waterfalls and caves. The rocks around have the potential for lot of rock climbing routes. The region is interesting not only for the climbing but also for all kinds of outdoor activities such as speleology, biking, paragliding and hiking.
The western part of Stara Planina has special geological features. The rocks around Vratsa are composed of Jurassic and Cretaceous limestone, whose strata are mostly upright. As a result of the tectonic processes there are typical forms like corners and cracks. Under the influence of the flowing water and the carbon dioxide in the air karst processes are occurring which makes the rock relief interesting and varied. This creates favorable conditions for climbing and depending on your taste and preferences you can choose between climbing overhanging sport routes up to 8c and traditional routes up to 400 m long.
Within the limits of Vratza mountain in NW-SE direction is elevated a big convoluted structure, named Zgorigrad anticline. It has a clear north vergation along its entire length. Its width on the meridian of Vratza town is about 7km and its length is about 30 km. The axis of the Zgorigrad anticline is sinuously twisted. NE leg of the anticline in this area is the clearly seen Vratza flexure. The narrow pass Vrattzata is shaped by Leva River in the limestone, forming its NE leg. There it is erected and towards Vratza town it even lies down in NE direction. Immediately North of Zgorigrad village the layers of lower and middle trias period go down under an angle of 60-70 degrees. The depositions from the late trias period and part of the late ura period are already upright and north of there the late ura sediments are with reversed layers and submerge abruptly to SW. In the South peripheries of the town the layers of the early creda are reversed and go down to SW under an angle of 50-55 degrees.
This discloses the character of a relatively rare flexure curve.
The rocks disclosed by the Vrattzata pass are build up in the late ura and early creda period. These are carbonate rocks (limestone), which are divided into two groups - the one of Glojene and the one of Brestnica. The Glojene group is disclosed immediately south of Vrattzata pass. It is represented by thick-layered to monolithic limestone with gray and dark gray color. Occasionally inclusions of biodetrit are seen. In a gradual transition above the Glojene group is situated super-possitionally the Brestnica group. On the rocks of this group in the region of Zgorigrad massif, the Central face and SE of it are lined the climbing routes. It consists of massive gray to light gray limestone with biodetrit and intraclasts. Some parts of the rocks are build of bentous organisms - seaweed, corrals, clams.
Another interesting fact for region of the Central face is that here is the boundary between two systems - Ura and Creda. It is in the upper part of the Brestnica group. And it lies North of "Chaika" restaurant. The uniform litologic composition of the rocks and the prevalence in them of bentous organisms makes difficult the detailed and precise discernment of the cut
An anecdote among the climbers says that if it is not hot here it will definitely rain - there is no somewhere in the middle. And really the rainy days aren't a few. Because of the fact that the whole region is built by limestone there is no water near the rocks except for the source in the Vrattzata pass and the "Small hole". When going for long ascents water should be taken. It is better to wait for a short rain to stop and continue the climb afterwards, since the rock dries up quickly. However, when a more continuous rain occurs it is reasonable to abandon the route.
The best time to climb here is during the spring and autumn months.
Spring. Between April and June the climbing conditions are very good. The temperatures in April are still relatively low (early in the morning they can reach the 0 level) and in June they are quite high (up to 30 degrees Celsius). May is very rainy. The whole period can be described as suitable for climbing.
Summer. It is extremely hot here in the summer (up to 40 degrees) and bearing this temperature is hard. A heat stroke may easily occur. Sometimes it is possible to have temperature for nice climbs. The different exposition of the faces gives the opportunity to choose shady areas
Autumn. This the other most popular climbing season for Vratza along with the spring. After mid October the rainy days are becoming more. However, there always are nice climbing days until mid November.
Winter. In the winter the temperatures are below the 0 and there often is a snow cover. In general winter climbs are rarely made in the area. However, in the winter of 1979/1980 Ciril Doskov and Valeri Peltekov realized in winter conditions (with snow cover) ascents of the routes "The fang" and "The Mirrors" (the second one for 2 days with the use of crampons). Their opinion was that these climbs were harder than the winter ascents of the north faces in Rila and Pirin. Some winters are very mild and there are days when it's warm enough for climbing.
Most of the climbing routes in the entire area go along fissures, opened along the layers surfaces. They are usually open and for belay are needed friends, wallnuts and wider pegs. Another group of routes go on the layer's surfaces themselves using cracks directed across the layers (the routes the "Mirrors", "Jubileen"). Most of them are closed, smooth surfaces, which makes the necessary the use of narrower pegs. Under the action of the erosion some widely opened layer's surfaces are eroded in depth (route "Mihail Hergiani"). The limestone there is softer and breakable.
In general for the climbing area Vrattzata can be said that it's very interesting and is characterized with diverse rock shapes, demanding the use of all types of climbing and diverse gear - wallnuts, friends etc. Wallnuts are used more often in comparison with the friends, because the cracks are rarely with nice, smooth sides. Many times you may come across smooth slabs with small pockets as well as rings. Sometimes they can be used for belay by running a sling through them.
Another characteristic of the massif is that it has much vegetation - trees, bushes and grass. Some of the trees can be used for belay but most of them (as well as the bushes and the weeds) only fill up the forms of the rock, impede climbing and are at least unpleasant. However, there are some exceptions. For example the massif of "Hergiani". Most of the new routes are swiped as well as the massifs that became "Climbing gardens" - "The Small Vrattza", the section next to the road of the Vrattzata pass, "The Small Hole", "The Big Hole".
The rock is generally solid. The rocks that form the ridges are more breakable. Some danger of rock falls exists for the routes, which are near to gullies and to chimneys. (For example the routes "The Chimneys", "The Rainbow").
In the past while climbing in hot weather of dusty routes appeared the so-called "Vratza pimple". It is a rash noticeable mainly on the areas of the body, which tend to have contact with the clothing. However, it doesn't happen very often. As a precaution try to avoid contact with the bushes and the grass.
On these rocks you may see the most dangerous European snake - the ashy snake. It is recognizable with its small horn. If a bite occurs it's necessary to go for medical treatment. Many times you will see lizards on the rock, which are absolutely harmless. Other dwellers in the area are the goats. They can reach exceptionally difficult for approach places. Sometimes they can cause rock falls originating from the sliding stones above the climbing areas.
- Zgorigrad Wall -Height - 200m.Routes of category between IV and VII (UIAA).
- Central Ridge-Height - 45-250m.Routes of category between IV and VIII (UIAA).
- Central Wall -Height - 350m.Routes of category between IV and IX (UIAA).
- Bottom Central Massif-Height - 80-150m.Routes of category between III and IX (UIAA).
- Massif "Zabat" (The Tooth)-Height - 80-120m.Routes of category between III and IX (UIAA).
- East Massif-Height - 120-150m.Routes of category between IV and VIII (UIAA).
- Vrattsata-Height - 50m.Routes of category between III and IX (UIAA).
- Many new Sport Climbing Areas
Vratsa Rocks are a part of the Stara Planina Mountain. This is the biggest limestone climbing-region in Bulgaria. Because of the easy access and the variety of the routes the area is most visited especially in the spring and autumn. This area is the best-equipped big climbing region in Bulgaria. There you will find long alpine routes (350m) as well as both long and short sport routes. During resent years have been developed new sport climbing areas. Every year in the Vratsa Rocks region take place assembly for cleaning and re-equipping of the old routes as well as lectures on demands of technical equipping and re-equipping. On the other hand the region is interest and picturesque.