Climbing the world’s largest stone arch

It’s fingertip climbing as Domen Škofic takes on an old bridge to do a new climb in Slovenia.
By Rick Rycroft

Before indoor climbing gyms became widespread, Slovenian climbers could often be found scratching their way up stone arches, bridges, and other fortifications. Using the man-made, straight-hewn rock was a great workout for the fingers and arms, and on nice days, the stonewalls under Ljubljana Castle were teeming with climbers.

Domen Skofic climbing along the Solkan Bridge in Slovenia.
Domen Skofic - Action © Stanko Gruden/Red Bull Content Pool

But one route, in particular, was too challenging – climbing to the top of the arch on the Solkan Bridge, 36m above the Soča River. Climbers trained on its pillars – which themselves were not easy, with few positive holds and many thin crimps – but the arch, where they would be high off the ground with feet just dangling – eluded all.

Domen Skofic climbing along the Solkan Bridge in Slovenia.
Domen Skofic - Action © Stanko Gruden/Red Bull Content Pool

The bridge itself is impressive enough – it’s the biggest stone arch in the world. Nevertheless, it was built in just 18 days, way back in 1905, using 1,960 cubic meters of stone blocks. It’s survived two world wars, and still has a train running over its tracks regularly.

Domen Skofic climbing along the Solkan Bridge in Slovenia.
Domen Skofic - Action © Stanko Gruden/Red Bull Content Pool

A daunting structure, indeed – but it was not enough to stop Domen Škofic from attacking. With the approval of local authorities, he rigged the bridge to protect his climb, then went at it. And how hard was it? Well, according to Škofic, it was about a 7c (easily within his skill level) but with a unique feature: as you get closer to the apex of the climb, there’s almost nowhere to put your feet, and a climber must spend nearly half an hour relying entirely on arm, hand and finger strength.

Domen Skofic climbing along the Solkan Bridge in Slovenia.
Domen Skofic - Action © Stanko Gruden/Red Bull Content Pool

So how much fun did Škofic have? Upon completing the climb, he leapt off the bridge (his belayer caught him) – and then went back and did it again.

Now that’s what we call a high achievement.

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