In to Bulgaria and climbing around Veliko Tarnovo 

Leaving Brasov we enjoyed pre-Alpine scenery over the Bucegi mountains before dropping down to the plains and relative dullness of southern Romania around Bucharest. The Bucharest ring road was a particularly grim experience, single carriage way with HGV ruts that would have a Ferrari grounded with wheels spinning, and inexplicably no traffic controls between the ring road and radial roads – just a “who dares wins” stand-off! Another hour or so and we were crossing the Danube again (now almost a kilometre wide), and with it the border into Bulgaria. The border itself was pretty low hassle, once we’d negotiated the line of waiting trucks. 

Somehow, the landscape picked up almost immediately and we trundled another couple of hours through green rolling hills and woodlands reminiscent of Provence, to Veliko Tarnovo. We were greeted warmly by the English hosts of the VT campsite and settled down to a well-deserved beer on the terrace after a long day on the road.

Our exploration of the local cragging opportunities got off to a poor start, with temperatures well into the 30s we checked out what we hoped would be shady Usteto East but weren’t impressed by the look of the climbing, the still blazing sun and dodgy-looking parking. Good views across to its west facing twin though… 

Switching into recce mode, we headed over to Trinity Rocks, a huge escarpment running for many kilometres northwards from VT. The developed sectors tower above a monestary tucked away in woodland.

After a few abortive attempts, we finally spotted the approach path. For the benefit of other hardy explorers here’s the GPS track 

… The trick is to park at the monestary parking (a couple of hundred metres before the building itself, where a barrier closes the road) and ignore the continuation of the tarmac road but instead duck through the armco barrier (marked with a faded signpost that most likely once declared “this way to the crag”) 

… and pick up a good trail through the woods taking you underneath / west of the monestary before bringing you out at its northern gates. 
After a while a helpful sign in the trees encourages you that you are on track 

What do you mean you can’t read Bulgarian?… With the magic of Google Translate, anyone can! (it really is miraculous 🙂 ) 

Anyway, once around the monestary, a reasonable path skirts the foot of the crag with branches (sometimes marked by cairns or even wooden steps) leading up to the various sectors. In our eagerness to do a route we struck up to the first bit of rock and got totally shut down by an alleged 6a crack Golyamata zalesia  which someone had scrawled 7a in biro beneath, which felt more like it in the blazing sun.

I was ready to admit defeat, but Helen persevered in exploring to the end of the crag where it swings round northwards and  sectors A and B enjoy some much needed shade and have more appealing routes.

We did a good 35m 6a up a crack and groove, the appropriately named New Beginning 

Then a huge offwidth corner (which succumbed to Helen’s elegant bridging) 

… and I threw myself at the 7a+ monster crack up the overhanging headwall to the right. Painful finger locks (and fear of leaving one behind should a foot slip!) meant I ground to a halt at about 2/3 height. Still, we’d opened our account on Bulgarian rock and there looks to be more worth coming back for. 

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