The Davies, Route 2.

20180721_161216

The Davies, Route 2.

Djano #80, Chengel Chal #81, Demir Chal #82, Yazunov Vrah #83, Kornishki Vrah #84, Hleven #85, Kadiev Vrah #90.

 

As a contrast to Route 1, I thought route 2 should be one of least visited corners of Pirin. I have a profound love for the extremities of National Park Pirin. These rolling hills of cropped grass are rarely visited. They are so hard to get to that they have a sacrosanct aura to them . I went to Hleven #85 this weekend so it’s just chance that it is route 2. The trail head was full of the weekend crowds heading to Popovo lake for a picnic. A few more intrepid souls were climbing Djano #80 and a couple of over loaded Israelis were heading south to Melnik.  With each step the crowds thinned and as I passed Djano I was alone. The next 24 hours were as close to the old gods as anyone would wish to be.

img-c704e83a423602f6699cfdd25c438575-v

The Davies, Route 2 starts from the splendid relic that is the Dobrinishtay ski lift. Built under communism this lift looks like your worst health and safety nightmare. However long ago it was built, it was built well and built strong. Now after many many years of loving care she is still running like a dream. The team who run Dobrinishtay are a perfect example of Bulgarian hospitality, rough and ready they are always laughing and joking, friendly and caring.

The journey to Bez Bog Hut is about 40 minutes through a mixed corridor of pine and beech forest. As you start the second section of the lift the forest gives way to a sea of Klek that rolls over the landscape as far as you can see. The path skirts around the west bank of the lake beneath the north face of Bez Bog #62. On the far side of the lake you climb for 15 minutes up a heavily eroded section to the pass overlooking the lake, hut, sea of Klek and the road down to Greece.  bez-bog

 

Once you cross the pass the trail is wide and well maintained. the landscape opens up and you get fine views of Djangal#87 with her mighty fortress walls, Popovo lake , Sivria#78 and Djano#80.  It’s a splendid walk down to Popovo lake the trail winds through meadows of wild flowers, crossings of stepping stones over little streams huge skies and views rolling off into blue hills make for a picturesque walk. Happy groups of picnic-ers heading for the lake lend a Sunday afternoon feel to this section.

20160717_113130Once you arrive at Popovo lake the vast majority of  walkers will stop on the banks of the lake and unleash mountains of tomatoes, sausage, bread and cheese. The Bulgarian picnic is a serious affair and will take many hours . If you head round the west side of the lake there are a few nice swimming spots next to rocky outcrops and at the most southerly point a grassy meadow where the little river feeds the lake.  About 200m up the river is the junction. The right hand fork goes to Tevno the left heads south. I normally stop here for elevenses.

Follow the left hand fork which criss-crosses the stream up the valley towards the pass. The trail gets steeper and steeper until it forks again  straight on it follows the rocky stream over the pass and down to Greece, left it cuts faintly into the wide grassy expanse that is the north west face of Djano. This is your last chance to get any water so fill your boots. The stream is clean and ice cold you wont get a chance to fill up again until you are back here tomorrow so drink deep and fill all your bottles. I’m sure there is a proper trail up this hill but I never find it and I think the majority of people just wander up randomly. It’s a good 40 minute pull up to the summit and hard work in the mid day sun. The summit of Djano is a destination point for a lot of hikers. The views are spectacular with many many lakes visible in every direction. 20180721_193257

This is a magical spot, you can feel the wilderness calling. In every direction the wild rules. The odd herder calling to his flocks, a tourist in the distance, far far off villages are brown scratches in the endless forests. This is the domain of the old gods, bear, wolf, chamois, bugs and birds. 10 minutes scramble down the ridge onto the rocky exposed pass and you are totally removed from humanity. The first 500m of the trail is difficult going, the ridge is a mess of huge broken rocks and you’ll need to use your hands to get through.  After the exertion of crossing the ridge take a few moments to feel this landscape.20180721_183128

The route is pretty simple from here on, Follow the ridge south. At some points it might skirt left or right of the ridge but for the vast majority of the way it runs true along the ridge.

Chengel Chal#81, Demir Chal#82, Yazunov Vrah #83, Kornishki Vrah #84, Hleven#85 The first 4 peaks are of classic Pirin smashed rock sharp jagged broken summits, harsh on the ankles and soles, barren dead places, baked dry by the sun, fields of scree plunging down on both sides towards the distant greens of the valley.  It’s a good 3 hour march along the ridge each peak involving a 30 or 40 minute climb the sun and the sterility of the landscape play games on your mind. The silence and vast openness of the landscape draw your thoughts away from the mundane. My body has settled into the routine of long distance walking, legs work on auto pilot, my pace changing according to the terrain but my heart rate and breathing are as constant as if I were meditating. img_20180721_201421_874

This, for me is the joy of hiking, the landscape rolling past, the wind and the sun on my skin, my brain slows down and the buzz of modern life quietens to a litany of observation.  The odd flower leaps up and touches your eye, the lushness of a patch of soil where last weeks rain has finally seeped out. Huge ants grafting away, herds of cattle clonking down in the valley, birds riding the wind that ripples the lakes surface.

There is no up and down at this pace your body settles into the landscape if you allow it. You can flow with the countryside, no step tiring you out, no climb or descent being too much. Fighting to race up or down the slopes lengthening your pace to eat up the flat sections, leaning into the climbs. None of this works, you can’t conquer mountains, you can’t dominate them, they will not bend to your will, all you will do is break yourself against them. So roll on.

img_20180721_201421_867The jagged spine of Kornishki Vrah gives way to a totally different landscape. Hleven is like the Tors of my mountains in the west country.  A torn sheet of rolling grass reveals the old bones of well worn rock. This is the last mountain in eastern Pirin and looks totally different from all the others, older and more feminine. The country falls away on all sides  row upon row of  smaller and smaller hills tuning blue with distance.

This is the place to camp, if you have brought enough food and water stop here. The views are perfect for both sunset and sun rise. The turf is soft and flat the old rocks offer shelter  from the wind. img_20180721_201421_864

For me no chance to rest. I had little water and no food, I had underestimated the walk and now had to return as far as possible. The next flat bit of land good for camping is 3 hours north of Hleven so I turned my back on Greece and set off.  The miles disappear easily with an empty mind and soon I was settled in on a shelf of flat ground near the summit of  Chengel chal .

20180723_110432The next morning I took a small detour along Kadiev Rid to bag Kadiev Vrah#90 and then back to Djano.  The descent from Djano to the river and on to Popovo lake is a gentle return to civilisation. Following the main trail back towards Bez Bog  you can either join the crowds climbing over the ridge or drop off the main trail and head for the shepherds hut and around the ridge. This trail isn’t marked but it is the only right turn off the main trail. It;s marked on most maps so you should be able to find it with a little bit of cartographic literacy.

Bez Bog can be a bit of a shock after a couple of days away from civilisation. especially on a Sunday afternoon! Crowds of day trippers pack the shoreline eating and drinking sunbathing and laughing! It’s a happy sight but very different from the peace and solitude of Hleven.

Authors note:- Mountains existed long before man decided to name them and mountains will exist long after our civilisation has become dust. Bulgaria has been through some significant socio-political changes in the last 150 years. Under the Turkish occupation the mountains had Turkish names, under the Russian/Communist regime communist names and now New Bulgarian names. All this time locals have had their own names for certain peaks and places important to them. This has led to some significant confusion as to what the mountains are called. I have tried to use the most common names for peaks but in some cases this is impossible. In such cases I have written the name of the peak in red. For example Academica#16 this mountain does not have a name. but at 2681m is a significant peak. People who are not from Bansko call this mountain Cherna Mogila, but Cherna Mogila is a small hill in front of  Academica#16. This is one of the classic mistakes of mountain cartography. The map maker sat on the valley floor points up into the hills and asks a local shepherd what is the name of that. The shepherd thinks he is pointing to the hill with a name not the nameless peak and there starts confusion!!!! I have christened it Adcademica after the hotel and ski lift at the foot of the mountain and I hope this name holds as it feels about right.  Please forgive me my arrogance in giving peaks names, I claim no right in doing so it is more a matter of embarrassment at not knowing and a dislike of blank spaces. 

 

Written by:-

James Hughes and Di Davies

The Davies, Route 11.

Bez bog lift

The Davies, Route 11.

#62 Bez Bog 2649m,  Peak #63 2602m, #64 Polezan 2850m, #65 Malak Polezan 2822m, #66 Peak 2550m, #67 Peak 2637m.

The Davies, Route 11. A huge number of Davies peaks are accessible from the Dobrinishtay ski area. The road from the village to the start of the ski area is in good condition and the lift itself though ancient, is in good repair. The staff are generally helpful and friendly. The atmosphere is more true to the Bulgarian traditions of hospitality than the corporate surliness of the Bansko ski area.  The little restaurant at the bottom of the ski lift is a real treat after a long day in the hills and the bar by the lake at the top is joyous!Bez Bog lake

Please note the opening and closing times of the lift. Make sure you are back in time as the descent via the ski pistes is very very buggy after 5pm. Walking for 2 hours through clouds of mosquitoes at the end of a day can really ruin things!

The Davies, Route 11. The version I will describe below is possible in a day if you get the first lift up and the last lift down only if you are moving at a rapid pace and are a skilled navigator.We have three versions of this trip so feel free to split it into three separate adventures.  #62 Bez Bog 2649 can be done alone as a mini day, #88 Peak 2500 and #89 Blaguncho  2550m  can also be done as a separate trip.

Bez Bog peakThe first lift up on The Dobrinishtay chair lift is at 08:30 at the moment, be sure to get there early peak season as lots of people use the lift. The trip up is about 30 mintes and is great fun, You go from 1400m to 2200m with no effort!  The lift finishes just below the Bez Bog hut which in turn is just below the Bez Bog lake. Follow the path round the lake on the mountain side. There is another path that circles the lake on the klek side but it wanders off a long way into the wilds  before rejoining the main trail later!

Follow the path around the lake to the west Head towards the deeply eroded pass directly south of the lake where the main trail green trail heads south. Just before you start climbing the pass turn right (west) into a grassy meadow, there is a faint trail here to follow. This path climbs steeply up the north face of Bez Bog. There is one spot where you might need to use your hands but generally this is an easy yet steep trail. You will on the summit of #62 Bex Bog 2649m an hour and a half after leaving the hut.

From the summit descent to the wide open pass between Bez Bog and Polezan. There is a slight rise here that is marked as a spot height on all maps so we have included it as a Davies #63 Peak 2602m. The easiest 2 Davies have now been done. Descend from this spot height to unnamed peak #88 2500m and reascend to the ridge. the trail is not clear and the route finding is a little difficult through the klek but a bit of winging it is called for here!Polojan peak

If  you are doing Bez Bog as a mini trip, turn left (east) here dropping down from the ridge through the wide valley to the main green trail. Return along this trail to Bez Bog hut. If you are planning to do peaks #88 and #89 separately from the main circuit now traverse  around to the west above the lower of the two Polojanski lakes. Ascend Blaguncho #89 2550m. Descend from Blaguncho by retracing your steps back to the lower lake. Follow the outlet of the lake down through heavily vegetated steep ground until you join the yellow trail. Turn left onto this trail and continue to the green trail, turn left again and return to Bez Bog.

From #63 The Davies, Route 11. follows the steep rocky ridge up to the summit of #64 Polojan 2850m, the trail is really clear and easy to follow. In places it is rocky but this is such a popular route that most of the rocks have been stabilised by thousands of steps. The summit of Polojan is one of the great view points in Pirin. Rising above nearly all the mountains around Polojan offers great views in every direction, Particularly impressive is the north wall of Djangal  and the cluster of peaks around Popovo lake.Popovo lake

The going gets hard from here so don’t rush. Descend from the summit of Polojan almost directly west, the ridge line splits with one section heading right (NNW) to the Strazhite ridge and the other heading left (SSW) to Malak Polojan.  The ridge line is rocky and difficult in places, it drops to a pass between the two Polojans and then climbs again to Malak Polojan, this is a great place to rest and admire the scenery. The view north looks over the beautiful Gazeiska meadow and its beautiful lake. The Two Peaks Gazei I and II stand guard over the pass like two huge rocky fortresses.

From Malak the easiest trail for navigating is to follow the main ridge line straight south. The temptation is to follow the faint trail through the rocks to the left (east) of the ridge. If you do this will lead you to  #89 Blaguncho 2550m . After bagging Blaguncho (Sweety) retrace your steps back to the main ridge line and follow it to peak #66 which is directly south of Malak Polojan. If you are lacking in time leave Blaguncho (Sweety) for another day.Malak Polojan

Descend from #66 south west,  following the ridge as it curves west. It is about 500m to this little unnamed peak #67 2637m. From here you do not need to retrace your steps. Look SW you will clearly see the huge west fortress wall of Djangal descending almost directly north to the pass between Djangal and Malak Polojan. aim for this lowest point and hack across mixed ground directly for it. At the pass you will join the main yellow trail from Damianitsa to Bex Bog.

The yellow trail descends through boulders for a few hundred meters and then through grass and klek towards the green trail from Popovo lake. As you are descending note the stream that comes on from your left. This is the outlet stream from Polojanski lakes. If you have missed out peaks #88 and #89 this is the route you will use to exit those lakes.

Continue along the main trail, join the green trail and return to Bez Bog.

The Davies, Route 11. Order of advance.

Main route:- Bez Bog…#62, #63, #88, #64, #65, #89, #66, #67…Bez Bog  8 Hours hard/fast walking

Variation 1:- Bez Bog…#62, #63…Bez Bog  3 hours gentle walking

Variation 2 :-  Bez Bog…#63, #88, #89…Bez Bog  4 normal hours with some tricky off piste navigation.

20190629_104644

The Davies, Route 10.

20160703_144233

The Davies, Route 10.

#22 Bim 2520m, #23 Georgiytsa 2589m, #24 Sinanitsa 2516m, #25 Peak 2520m.

The Davies, Route 10. It is certainly possible to do this circuit in a single day, We would recommend an over night stay and the beautifully situated but basic Sinanitsa hut. There are 4 possible approaches to the hut:-

  1. The clearly marked yellow trail from Vihren hut via Banderishka porta to Sinanitsa hut.
  2. Follow the description in The Davies, Route 7. After descending #19 Muratov Vrah, join the main Vihren-Sinanitsa trail.
  3. Approach Sinanitsa from the SSW, this is rarely used by people from Bansko but a beautiful walk up through the southern forests.
  4. The Davies, Route 10. The Gergiyski lakes approach which I will describe here. Very much an off piste route through some wonderful country. 20160714_151306

The Davies, Route 10. From Vihren hut follow the gentle and well marked yellow trail up the valley to Muratovo lake, in early summer this valley is full of wild flowers, an alpine paradise!  From the lake you will be off the marked trail but the path is relatively clear and easy to follow.

20160703_152624Circle the beautiful little lake until you reach the inlet stream to the west. The stream emerges from a gully filled with boulders. Follow the faint track up the right hand side of these boulders. Near the top the going gets a little steep but not difficult. You will emerge onto the ridge which offers a great view of Vlahinski lakes and #21 Gredaro. From the ridge pick your way down through boulders and rough ground heading for the obvious pass between Gredaro and Muratov. There are some cairns and a faint trail but it is a case of hike and hope rather than following a clear path!20160714_123512

From the pass there is a wonderful view of the Gergiyski lakes. This valley is rarely visited and a pristine little kingdom of wild alpine meadows.  The “path” passes between the two largest lakes and then south west between a fine rocky peak and the main Georgiytsa ridge line. Again there are some cairns and a faint trail. Keep SW under the magnificent rocky structures of Georgyitsa peak which you will climb tomorrow.

20160714_112944Turn west over lots of boulders as you reach the sharp rocky NW ridge of Georgyitsa. Once you have passed this ridge turn back sharply to the SE. Contour around the curves of Georgyitsa and then head almost straight south descending into the bowl shaped valley with two tiny lakes (sometimes they are dry). Climb up about 50m through rocks and a steep klek filled path that traverses to the west. From here you drop down onto the marked trail to the hut.  This last section feels a lot longer than the description but keep your bearings and push on and you will reach the path eventually!The hut is sheltered beneath the impressive cliffs of Sinanitsa in mixed country of meadows and klek, Sinanitsa lake is pretty and inviting but the water is very very cold! Swimming is only for the brave as it sees little sunshine. Di suggests a lazy start as the return journey isn’t arduous. I prefer to leave early and then take my time on the beautiful summits of the return.20160704_103538

20160704_101542

 

Descend the ridge line steeply down to the south and then east. Just above the pass you will cross Momin Vrah which doesn’t quite scrape into the Davies at only 2480m.  From Momin Vrah descend steeply through the rocks to Sinanitsa porta. From the porta the main blue trail to Vihren hut traverses almost flat beneath the ridge line. Ascend the broad stony ridge line NNE  towards the unnamed peak #25 2520m.  From the summit keep along the ridge line NNE descending through boulders and then rocks, diverting off the true ridge where you have to. There is a rocky saddle between #25 and Georgiytsa. Ascend again NNE to the summit at 2598m.

The ridge swings NE and then E after about 1.5km you reach #22 Bim at 2560m. Descend ENE over easy ground to join the main path before Banderishka porta.  Rest at the pass before you descend again to Vihren hut.

Allow 6 hours for each day.  The return route is dry so make sure you bring lots of water.20160704_093255

The Davies, Route 1.

Climbing Mt Vihren 2914m

Mt Vihren 2914m, the north face.

The Davies, Route 1.

Vihren #17 and Hvoinati #18.

 

There is no particular order that you should climb The Davies. Route 1, for most people, has to be the highest and most impressive mountain in Pirin. Over the next 20 or 30 posts we aim to describe our favourite routes to top of the Pirin mountains. Please understand these are not the best, the easiest, the most beautiful or any other superlative you care to mention. The routes we describe here are the ones we go back to time after time because we like them. If you prefer a different way please share on our Facebook page 

PirinThe majority of people will follow the obvious route from Vihren hut straight up the south face to the summit and back the way they came. This is the shortest, easiest and in our opinion least splendid route.

Route 1 has an extra kilometre or 2 of walking and 100 or 200 meters more ascent but it is well worth making the extra effort.

hija-bunderitsa Start at Bunderitsa hut. There is a spring in the garden here where you can fill your water bottles, this is a very dry route so take extra water. The start of the path is just up hill from the main building. There is a sign here marking the official start of the trail (it is hard to find) The sign reads “premkata”.

The path climbs steeply through mature pine forest and clearings are filled with lush vegetation. This is one of the official National Park trails and as such is well marked and well maintained. Green and white stripes painted on trees and rocks mark the path all the way to the pass.

Crossing the treeline you enter alpine pasture with the occasional patch of “Kleck”. This indomitable  bush will feature often in your adventures in Pirin. Kleck is Pinus Mugo a hardy pine bush that thrives in the Balkans.  It is possible to travel through Kleck but possible ….. not easy. Always try to go round patches of Kleck where possible. Over the years we have spent many many hours trapped in webs of Kleck and have learned to hate it with a passion.

kazanaUp to your right a few venerable pines keep a determined grip on the ridge. You are now in Alpine pasture proper, tongues of scree lick through the pasture, ridges of rock dominate the horizon. You will cross your first short section of rough ground and scree before the the landscape opens up.

At around 2200m the path drops into the amphitheatre of Little Kazana . This large open bowl of grass and wild flowers is beautiful in the spring and offers your eyes their last balm of green for a few hours. Looming up from Little Kazana you will get your first view of the awesome splendour of Vihren’s north face. This near vertical wall of cast limestone is a truly impressive sight. The horizon up and left  is the Djamdjiev ridge. Locally a very famous route up Vihren with some climbing sections.

Climbing Mt Vihren 2914m

Mt Vihren 2914m

Crossing the grassy bowl of Little Kazana you will start a steep zig zag climb, up the rocky gully and over the ridge into the main bowl of Kazana at 2400m.  Here you see the 500m north face of  Vihren in it’s entirety. There are a dozen or so routes up this  beauty most of which are best attempted in the winter when the rock is frozen together! We have tried 3 of them in the summer and they make for interesting climbing on unstable rock.

The main bowl of Kazana is filled most of the year with snow and often wild goats. They have become very relaxed around humans expecting easy pickings from tourists. Often you can get to within meters of them before they are spooked and run off.  Pirin eagles are starting to come back and can sometimes been seen here enjoying the cliffs!

You are now about 1/2 way up so push on! This is one of the finest view points in Pirin and it is tempting to loiter, the sun is getting hotter and the trail is bare from here to the summit. I normally try and get the majority of the climbing done before it gets too hot.

The Path out of Kazana is steep and rocky. The sandy surface on the steeper sections can be annoying so step carefully, the gully isn’t long and quickly you will be out into the grassy meadows between Vihren and Kutelo. It is worth wandering over to the Vihren side of the meadows for some lovely views into Kazana from above. It’s a short potter up the to main pass “Premkata” between Vihren and Kutelo.

IMG_20120802_161803At Premkata you have fantastic views West to Macedonia, South to Greece, North towards Plovdiv and East all along the main back bone of Pirin . Pause let it all sink in, Breathe, feel the magic and stride on. The summit is only step away!  the crown of Vihren is very distinct from here and you really get a wonderful sense of the forces involved in  building mountain ranges.

Follow the path up the increasingly steep and eroded zig zags until you come to the main band of rock that makes up the summit. Here a chain has been installed to assist the faint hearted. Scramble up about 25m until the path turns left. At this point turn right away from the main trail and head for a gap in the ridge. It is a difficult scramble for some but easy enough even if you have no experience. The views are spectacular and well worth it. After less than 5 minutes you will arrive on the summit!

The Trail down is shockingly eroded and surprisingly hard on the legs. Once you are back onto grass the walking becomes easier. The trail is almost due south until you come to the lowest point between Vihren and Hvoinati.  Carry on off the main trail up the slabby mess of rock that is the summit ridge  and soon you will be on the summit of Hvoinati. The views south south east to Moratovo, Ribno and Dulgo lakes  is lovely.

EdelweissFollow the summit ridge 150m due east and descend north towards the main tourist trail. Keep to the right of the ridge as the left side holds more scree. Once you are on the main trail it is under 2 hours walk until you reach Vihren hut.

We love this route. As you will see over the next few years Di and I differ slightly on timings. Di is a gentleman of advanced years and shockingly fit whilst I am an over weight recently ex-smoker! At the end of each route I will publish two times as below. One is the Davies route time, this is the number of hours a reasonably fit person would take to walk it not including their rest stops. The second is how long I normally spend on the hill doing the route including lunch, naps, rests and photo oportunities!

The Davies, Route 1. Di Time 5 hours, James Time 6.5 hours.

Written by:-

Di Davies and James Hughes