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  • Bansko in the summer

    Posted on June 18, 2015 by in blog
    Pirin meadows

    The first of many wild flower meadows above Vihren hut.

    Bansko in the Summer is so different from the winter that you could consider it a different place. The hectic neon circus that is the focus of the winter season has all but closed down. The staff have flown off to the black sea, the venus are boarded up. The top of town is now a ghost town. With its bars, clubs and restaurants offering every type of food, drink and entertainment other than Bansko fayre this area has nothing to offer the people who are in Bansko for the summer.

    Summer tourists are a totally different breed, they are here for the mountains, the feel of the place, Pirins wild beauty. Summer guests are generally poorer financially than our winter hoards but culturally sooo much richer. Not for them the neon lights of Amigos, not for them menus offering food from 3 different continents! The old town with its relaxed squares, cobbled streets and traditional mehanas is more their bag.

    The first flowers of spring.

    The first flowers of spring.

    This weekend we have our first group of summer guests and in an effort to make myself well informed I went out on the bike on Tuesday to check out one of the longer road routes for biking. Having totally forgotten I have been off the bike for the best part of 6 months and that I am fat and ginger. I was a little shocked to find myself incapable of cycling through the hills for 60km in blazing sunshine and 35 degrees. Four kilometers from Bansko my body gave up, exhausted I curled up under a tree and rang for the cavalry. Vania dutifully arrived in the car to haul my broken bod back to Bansko.  Summer in Bansko can be hot! Wear sun cream take a hat, try not to go out in the mid day sun. You would have thought I had learnt by now!

    Ribno lake and Ribno waterfall

    Ribno lake and Ribno waterfall

    Yesterday I went to explore one of the more popular hiking trails, it is a long one, between 6 and 8 hours. It is a good indicator of snow conditions as it covers nearly all the types of terrain in Pirin. Low level alpine meadows, forests of dwarf  pine, high alpine lakes , scree and cliffs. I set off from Vihren hut at 10:30 blues skies and white fluffy clouds, a balmy 23 degrees. I am at my happiest in the hills, on my own. Feeling strong I was eating up the miles. I got to Okoto lake in no time, Ribno in 40 minutes by Frog Lake I was way ahead of schedule. Striding up the scruffy grass towards little Todorka a lot of the worries that have been plaguing me since I came back from Nepal started to melt away. The calls of birds, explosions of wild flower colour, the yoga that is walking with an empty head stretching my mind towards the distant peaks.

    Mud floating on ice in Okoto lake, Pirin.

    Mud floating on ice in Okoto lake, Pirin.

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    Some points of interest other than the void! Okoto lake looks terrible! She has been splatted by a late season avalanche full of rubble and other muddy gunk. At first the lake looks like it has been filled in with mud and rubble. On closer inspection you can make out a huge raft of snow and ice under the thin layer of mud and rock. God willing by summer she will be back to her usual pretty self. The paths are not 100% clear. Higher up I came across a few patches of snow on the steeper sections. Spring is still the time for good boots and a bit of caution.

    Mud and avalanche debris floating on ice.

    Mud and avalanche debris floating on ice.

    From little Todorka the trail drops into the Vashilavski Circus, this valley filled with lakes of all colours shapes and sizes is a favorite of mine. Just behind Todorka peak there are 2 little (still frozen) lakes called Todorkas eyes, prettily, perfectly, circular  they stare skyward blinded by the ice for another month or so.

    Frozen lake just behind the Bansko ski area.

    Frozen lake just behind the Bansko ski area.

     

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    With the thaw in full swing the little streams of summer have burst their banks and spill randomly over the meadows. Crocus, Gentian and Cinquefoil carpet the hillsides. This brief period between the frozen landscape of winter and the parched fields of summer is a lush boggy riot of colour.

    wild flowers in PirinI normally take a shortcut from the lakes directly to Damianitza hut. The official path is a ridiculous dog leg miles out of the way.  So I scramble down the waterfall that drops almost directly into the back garden of the hut. Summertime this is an easy descent, occasionally  you might need to put a hand down to steady yourself but nothing scary. In the spring with millions of gallons of water hammering down the rocks the path is a little narrower, wetter and sketchier! After one or two little slips and with a bruised bum I got to the hut. A fantastic lentil soup for lunch and off I went. The other Ribno lake

    The weather had come in while I was messing around on the waterfall and the blue skies of morning were turning thunderous. Two minutes out of the hut and the heavens opened, a proper mountain storm with torrential rain, hail, thunder and lightning. The path down from Damianitza is pretty boring at the best of times but with all senses deadened by the roar of the river and the roar of the rain. Hail hammering my head down, hunched under my pack and hood my world descended into a 2 foot circle of ground in front of me. Switching off and marching with long strides to up the miles, all my senses overloaded, I zoned out, only aware of my breathing, the steady rhythm of steps and breath almost meditative. An hour or so later, soaked and zoned out I came onto the main road and called in the cavalry!

     

    Meadow below Ribno lakeA little bit of rain on the way home.

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