02/09/2013 A return to Koncheto it has been nearly a year since I was last on koncheto. For those of you who don’t know this ridge it is the saddle to the right of what looks like the highest mountain in Pirin when you look up from the village. I am not quite sure how butKoncheto has become a bit of a “must do” thing for budding hikers. Yes it is very high (about 2700m or 2800m) yes it has a cable to hold onto and yes there is a bit of a plummet down to Banski Suhodol on the north side of the ridge. But really Koncheto itself is only a small part of what is a truly spectacular bit of mountain. Last time I was up there we were a very big group of mixed abilities and frankly my mind was so focused on getting everyone off the hill in one piece that I forgot to really enjoy myself! So Yesterday I decided to go back up there and have a bit of a play on my own. As it turned out a new guest had just arrived in the hotel who is a bit of a mountain man so he agreed to join in. The route I normally take up both Vihren and Kutelo starts from behind the Bunderitsa hut, a lovely trail that rises steeply out of old pine forest into alpine meadows and then into high alpine sedge and scree slopes. the 1100m climb to the top of Kutelo took about 2 hours of hard walking but it is worth allowing 4 hours so you can enjoy the views and have a brunch at the foot of the north face of Vihren. last year to save the effort of starting the ridge from the top of Kutelo we traversed from the col between Kutelo and Vihren onto Koncheto. This year with no team to worry about we pushed on the extra 200 vertical meters to Kutelo, unfortunately the top was covered with cloud but occasionally we got a little peek through into the valleys below. The first 200m from the top of Kutelo down towards Koncheto itself is just as exposed as the main ridge with many thousand feet of vertical cliff plunging down from the edge. The ridge is wide enough so not too scary but exhilarating. It is well worth starting the walk from the top of Kutelo to enjoy the extra bit of ridge. It also means you don’t have to access Koncheto itself from the normal mid point which involves a much harder traverse across smooth limestoney marble.
With the wind and cloud it was really quite cold as we muddled our way along, the cable is a great help and makes things a lot easier, allowing the novice climber to get a feel of proper exposure above the huge depth of Banski Suhodol. The more faint hearted can stay away from the edge on the south side of the ridge using the cable as a banister and enjoy the view from the safety of a nice wide clear path. Banski Suhodol is an area I am yet to explore much but tales of bottomless caves and huge limestone caverns abound, One day I will have to go and have a proper look!
I left my guest on the west side of Koncheto as he wanted to carry on to Yavarov and then the golf course and back to Bansko that way! ( a little too hard core for me) and I shot off back to the Bunderitsa car park for some lunch. The walk down on my own was lovely, quiet and beautiful for most of the descent. About an hour out from lunch I started to hear faint voices rising up on the breeze ahead of me. I couldn’t make out the language but the tone of the conversation was truly international. ” I never wanted to come up this bloody mountain in the first place” ” I’ll never make it home in one piece” “just leave me here”…. A very unhappy girlfriend and a very harangued boyfriend trying to make it off the hill. I am pretty sure, from the dark scowl on the boyfriends face, that the relationship was broken beyond repair! With a chirpy Dobra Den I trotted past and left them to their domestic. Lunch in the Bunderitsa car park has turned into a splendid Sunday tradition, loads of locals drinking and making merry, cheap food and loads of mingling between tables lends an atmosphere closer to a working mans club than a sketchy BBQ in a car park. A group of my friends from Belitsa and Sofia joined me, I had a beer with the mountain rescue boys who had just come off the hill having finished an operation. Another table was full with the recently returned heros of the Eiger… all in all a great sense of camaraderie prevailed! Even if you are not planning to head off into the hills loaded up with ice axes and ropes this is a lovely spot to have a wander around, look at the oldest pine tree in Bulgaria and have a lazy lunch.