Once you pass through Tisa, a small village consisting of humble homes as well as huge, deteriorating German style mansions, small shops and a few restaurants, you begin on a curvy road leading uphill. This road begins to have holes and winds through a lush forest. Suddenly you come to a turnoff that looks unsuspecting and simple. All around protruding gently out of the treetops are sandstone towers, beautiful gray lumpy spires standing for ages, a mix of yellow and orange smudged against the gray. These colors enable one to tell the solidity of the rock; the yellow places are sandy to the touch and appear to be crumbling away. The blackest places feel hardly like sand at all; they are solid and worn, and often have one bolt signifying a climbing route.
Once down the hill there are a few more cottages, a beautiful abandoned hotel with flaking walls and broken windows, and at last the turn down a steep hill to the Camping Podrazem, our morning and night hangout. This small pub seems to be the heart of Ostrov. There is a nearby fancy hotel that attracts some Germans, but the true nature lovers and Czech food and Czech beer lovers know where to go; and this is it. In the back is a huge field with small weather-battered cabins for rent, some picnic tables, a fire pit or two, and a goat tied up that is grazing loudly. Inside is decorated with memorabilia from the previous Lord of the land, Kaiser Wilhelm, a distinguished gentleman sporting a large white mustache. The pub is staffed seasonally by different young people, all who enjoy the solitude of a place with no cell phone reception aptly named “Island” in Czech, and beautiful climbing, hiking and camaraderie with each other and the guests. They seem to not mind the fluctuating weather, which includes mostly wet and/or windy days as well as unexpected, beautiful sunny days.
This area is our highline haven. It sits nearby Germany, Prague, Poland and Austria; where many of our highline friends are located. The atmosphere is perfect; few tourists are atop the towers so most of our projects are undisturbed, and every morning is a relaxed move from coffee and breakfast at the pub, to a short hike and highlining, then an amazing Czech home-cooked meal and beer. It’s just about as good as it gets. I have lost count of how many times I have hitchhiked to Ostrov (which is the best way to get there since there is no train station in the village,) and yet every time I go one of us is spotting a new place to rig a new line. Highline heaven! I find the weather to be bothersome occasionally; as it gets cold or pours rain walking and rigging conditions are more difficult.
Our most recent trips to Ostrov were all successful. After our Urban Highline Festival in Poland where Jerry Miszewski from USA was a special guest, we decided to take him to Ostrov and show him our highline haven.
The day we began rigging was cloudy, with rain showers frequenting every half hour at which time we all scampered down under some overhangs, only to re-emerge soon after and continue rigging. The process was slow but relaxed, with only 5 people and all of them knowledgeable in rigging, you could not ask for more (except a helicopter to take the line across.)
By the second day everyone had sent the line, and we took it down in order to rig our next project; a 95 meter beast! We transferred the line over to a farther anchor, and it worked like a charm.
Some people left for other adventures, meanwhile more German and Czech people showed up. We went to a different spot close to the pub to rig a highline Janek had spotted a year before. The walk there was magical. It was autumn and the usually green leaves had changed into yellows, oranges, crimsons and reds. The path was layered with multitudes of such leaves, and the sun beamed through the trees in angles of light. The grove of sandstone towers we arrived at surrounded the path to Tisa, and had many possibilities for new highlines. Everyone set out to rig something, Janek, Jordan and I (along with a few others) began on a 55 meter line. The process was slow, and it seemed later that we had too many heads working together, which provided for much confusion. I was on the far side with two friends trying to sling the tower. In Ostrov the rules are a bit different then most climbing regions; you are not allowed to use chalk, metal gear or bolt anything new. So, every highline must be done with slings!
Eventually the sun began to set and the cold crept in. We had dealt with many obstacles, tangled ropes in the trees for example, and finally decided to call it a day and finish the next morning. Our friends had rigged several small highlines between other rocks in the same cluster, so people had already began to highline. That night we eagerly ate up Goulash or Smazeny Syr and beers then passed out under the overhanging boulders in the forest. Sleeping in the woods in Ostrov is a place I experience the best rest. The night it quiet, with only the rustling of tall trees and occasional light rain. The mornings are shaded, and even when climbers or hikers pass by on the trail they do not disturb the sleeping dirtbags.
The next morning Janek and I finished the rig of the highline. He went for first ascent, only to find that the line was far too loose! After everything, it was unwalkable. So, we put the extra effort in to tighten it (too much) and Janek sent the line both directions. He named the line appropriately “Fight Club.” Many people walked the line, including myself and Jordan. I fought for an onsight, having difficulty on such a tight line but managed to pull it off. It had been a pain in the butt to rig but worth the time. We also walked all the shorter lines nearby, and Janek and I both added three new free solos to our accomplishments. This included a 20 meter line, my current best solo length.There was even a tiny 5 meter line for the beginners! It was the perfect highline spot - many lengths, many lines, many highliners, and beautiful weather. When the gathering finally came to a close, we all left satisfied and tired in the best way possible; from balance.
So, we left Ostrov for the last time in the year 2010. But one of the most reliable things about such a magical location is that when we return it will probably seem untouched, still unpredictable weather-wise, no phone connection, and still surrounded by beautiful and ancient sandstone towers standing solemnly among the swaying green tree tops.