I’ve been playing the game for ten years now; this year will be my 11th hiking the Davies in Pirin. I suppose its a bit silly to call it a game as so far there are only two of us playing it! BUT I have great hopes for this one. In a hundred years time The Davies will be as much a game as the Munros are in Scotland!
The idea is to climb every mountain in Pirin (I’ll go into details about what constitutes a mountain later on). At the moment we calculate 89 peaks to be mountains. In Scotland they have a similar game climbing Munros. They are named after the man who measured and listed them. I want to name them Davies here in Bulgaria after Di Davies who has done more than anyone to map and list the routes and peaks in Pirin.
Climb every peak in Pirin, take a photo of yourself on the summit. When you have climbed them all send me the photos and I will put you on our hall of fame here and send you a goody bag.
In Scotland the categorisation of Munros has been a contentious issue since they were first listed. The fundamental question is , What is a mountain? In Scotland they have a complex formula of height, distance from another peak, vertical drop between peaks…..blah blah blah and still people debate exactly how many Munros there are in Scotland.
For the Davies we have come up with a simpler format. Is it above 2500m? Does it have a Name? Does it appear as a spot height on a published map? And More importantly does it feel like a mountain.
Big flat topped mountains, long spiky ridges, crumpled masses of rock, plunging ridge lines and random spot heights have caused huge amounts of debate. Ultimately we are not geographers. Strazhite are a perfect example of the problem, this ridge could be considered 3, 9 or 14 peaks; we still haven’t decided, but we will. The plan is to take a load of climbing gear a tent and some food and spend a few days up there. We will sit and stare, we’ll talk a lot, we’ll climb a bit, we’ll stand on top of every little spike we can and eventually we will decide. It might not be scientific but it works.
Remember we are just a couple of blokes who love Pirin and want to share that love.
A Davies is over 2500m, a Davies is a mountain.
The Idea came from my great friend and mentor Di Davies. This nearly indestructible Welshman has spent most of his very long life pottering around Scottish, Alpine, Balkan and Greek mountains. Di has taught me everything I know about rock climbing and has kept me company for many years wandering around Pirin and Rila.
In 2006 we were talking about the Munros in Scotland and his desire to climb all the mountains in Bulgaria. Di is a determined guy and this chat soon turned into action. Within a few years he had found and mapped the routes up nearly every mountain in Pirin. These routes were then written up into a tourist friendly format and are almost ready for publication as a guide book!
I have walked many of the routes with Di and some without him. The route finding is no mean feat, most mountains require multiple visits to find the best route. What might be acceptable for us isn’t for most people. Peaks need to be packaged into do-able days for average people. Not everyone is happy to sleep out, few are happy with 14 hour route marches and even less are willing to carry rope and metal work! For 10 years Di has been in the hills all summer every summer and now we are nearly finished!
In the background I have been lobbying for changes to the management plan of the national Park. These more holistic and sustainable changes are now mostly in force. Park Pirin is now clearly mandated to promote eco tourism and support sustainability within its boarders. We now have a situation (excluding skiing) where tourism, nature and business can live in harmony.
Mountaineering, trekking, hiking or a walk! I love to call what I do Mountaineering! It sounds cool, there is an aura of bearded, rope and gear encrusted, hard man. If I am honest with you very little of what I do is mountaineering and when it is I normally make a huge fuss. The big tough man telling tales of daring doo behind the bar is normally a blubbering wreck when roped up on a vertical rock wall.
So how hard are The Davies? Di has broken down the 89 peaks into day hikes. For a moderately fit adult all the days will get you from civilisation to civilisation in less than 8 hours. You will not need ropes. This is walking.
Simply put if you can walk in the hills for 8 hours you will easily manage all these peaks.
Mostly road heads are the start points, so you are sleeping in your own bed at night. You will need to stay in managed mountain huts less than 5 times, twice in un-maned huts and on 2 occasions you will/might need to camp. The hardest day involves 1500m of up, 1500m of down and 8 hours of walking. None of the routes require ropes and you are always within a few hours of a cold beer and a warm dry bed.
Pirin is within a Mediterranean climate so summer days are normally warm and dry. If you start early in the morning and get back before 3 you are pretty much guaranteed wall to wall sunshine from Mid June to Mid October . The climate is mild, nights are rarely below 5 degrees C , days rarely over 25 degrees C.
Trails are well marked from hut to hut with painted markers on rocks and posts. Summit trails are normally marked with cairns, sometimes you will need to use your judgement and follow goat tracks. Normally there is a well worn path.
Most of the time you will be above the tree line either in Alpine meadows or scree and boulder fields. There is a pine bush here called Klek, 2m high bendy and dense it is a pig to get through and sometimes swallows up trails. You will have to fight your way through it on a couple of routes, you will learn to hate it!
The western and eastern ends of Pirin are more curvaceous the central section more Alpine. You will encounter exposed ridges around Vihren, Sinanitsa and Djangal. Yalovarnika might get your heart racing. Koncheto and Koteshki chal are interesting. But nothing is really exposed.
You will need a minimum of good boots, day pack with a waterproof jacket, food and water and a mobile phone. Most people take much much more but please never ever take less. Unprepared, mountains can be cold lonely places, it is better to take more stuff than less. Luxuries will make The Davies fun. A thermos full of tea or coffee, cold beers, snacks, hats gloves and jumpers. Spare socks and wet wipes are lovely to have. Sun cream is essential!
Over this summer I am planning to publish the routes here in day by day format. So watch this space!