Bansko Sour Cherry Cosmopolitan

Summer fruit in Bansko

Bansko Sour Cherry, image thanks to www.tremendus-fruit.com

Bansko Sour cherry ideal for a Cosmopolitan.

You can’t rush things especially if it involves alcohol or food. The joy of our cocktail nights here at the Avalon is that they involve both. In my garden we have a young, healthy and very fecund sour cherry tree  we harvest the  fruit in July and turn it into a syrup for our Cosmopolitans in the winter. Each year we normally make around a hundred small bottles of concentrated syrup that we then dilute like Ribena at home or use neat in our Cosmos at the hotel. The Avalon Cosmopolitan uses this juice/syrup instead of cranberry juice to create one of the best cocktails I have ever tasted.

This year my life has been a little hectic with politics, cycling and trips back and forth around Europe so we called in some friends to help us bring in the harvest. In the end we really didn’t need all 6 of them as this summer has been really wet and a lot of the fruit rotted on the tree before it ripened. What we did get is now bubbling away in the kitchen, ready to be bottled and stored for the next 6 months until it gets unleashed on our guests in the winter.

Sour cherries make a great cordial.   The sour flavour of the fruit works brilliantly with vodka and triple sec and makes what I think is the perfect Cosmopolitan . 

Recipe:-

40ml Good quality export strength Vodka, I recommend Stolichnya Crystal but Savoy works!

40ml Triple sec, please don’t substitute Grand Marnier as it is too sweet you want a good quality dry orange liquor .

20ml lemon juice.

60ml sour cherry syrup.

Shaken with as much ice as you can get in the cocktail mixer and the lemon peel if you feel like it. Serve straight up in a frozen coupe or at least chill the coupe by filling it with ice and leaving it to chill while you make the drink .  Shake until frost appears on the outside of the shaker, drink and make merry!

 

The Davies, Route 8

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The Davies, Route 8

Dzhangal#87

Djangal#87 Option 1

 

The Davies, Route 8 has two options. Djangal ( I prefer this spelling!) is a mighty peak made of great rock and has over a dozen routes to the summit. We think two should be enough for here!

The Davies, Route 8. Option 1.  Starting at Bez Bog Hut via Popovo lake , Djangal Summit return to Bez Bog Hut, 6 hours. As another reletively easy introductory journey in the Davies Djangal is a very impressive peak. Which somehow to me has the feel of a real mountain. This trip should allow you to return to Bez Bog for a well earned drink by the lakeside before having to catch the ( unreasonably early) last lift back down to civilisation! Please npote the times of the last lift as the walk down can be unpleasant. ( normally last lift is 16:30)img_20130801_121822

head out from Bez Bog hutalong the very well worn path to Popovo Lake. Popovo is an ideal spot to rest and gaze up at what lies in sotre. Seemingly inpregnable, surrounded as it is by a band of rock , Djangal does have some weaknesses in its protective wall. As you look up from the lake there is a very large chock stone wedged in a small gully. It looks like there is a cave below the chock stone. This gully can be climbed on the right hand side but does involve a couple of climbing moves.djangal1

The “path” goes throught this main rock band to the left of thius gully, and can be seen from below as a left and then right tracking fault. Head up towards the chock stone. Turn left towards the break that becomes more obvious as you approach.  Go up, first left and then right through interesting ground to get above the chock stone. The trail continues up pleasantly tracking right along the fault. As the terrain allows the trail straightens out.

After 150m of ascent you will enter a circus or bowl shaped landscape that sits beneath the north face of Djangal. Head due south to find a poorly marked zig zag path which heads up and then across the north face. The path becomes well defined and crosses an exposed section. Take care here. A few minutes later and you emerge onto the spectacular summit . Very definately a sunmmit on which to linger!

Descend the steep and stoney  South South East ridge path. Passthe first large pinacle on the east side. A sharp notch in the ridge line marks a descent route downto the Kraveshki (Momini) Lakes. This route is often marked with a cairn (pile of stones).  If this route feels too steep continue around on the east side of the ridge. At the col between Djangal and Momin Dvor there is another descent path that is somewhat easier. This also leads to the lakes. At the lakes you will join the Popovo lake to Tevno hut trail. Follow this trail back down to Popovo lake and Bez Bog hut.djangal2

Djangal#87 Option 2

The Davies, Route 8. Damianitsa hut or Bez Bog hut to Djangalska Porta, Descent as for Option 1 to Bez bog hut or as described below to Damianitsa hut.

Djangal is such a dramatic peak when viewed from the west that Di thought a route from this side would appeal to serious mountain walkers. It includes some very steep vegitated slopes  and a few scrambling moves in exposed positions. The difficulties are short lived and the rewards long lasting.  We would recommend a short length of confidence inspiring rope if you are of nervous disposition.

Starting from Djangalsk Porta allows an approach from either Bez Bog hut or Damianitsa hut.  The route itself starts a little down on the west side of the porta. There is an obvious cairn (pile of rocks) and a yellow route marker near by.  There is no path other than one or two route marker stones left by previous adventurers.

djangal3From the cairn follow the contour round for about 100m in a south easterly direction. You will find a notch in the rock above the klek. Contour round for another 150m to another obvious notch between two boulders. Continue round leaving a very green patch below you. Above you now towers the very impressive rocky west face of Djangal.  To the left ( north west) of the first very large pinicle is a smaller spike of rock with two angular ear-like protusions. Head up very steep ground towards this spike. Little gullies appear either side of this spike and both can be used . Di has climbed both gullies and thinks the right hand side is a little bit easier.  You will find 3 meters of the route difficult scrambling which  brings you out onto the magnificent north ridge.

The north ridge is a viable option for the summit attempt but does involve proper climbing moves and equipment. Once you are on the ridge make your way south over and around large boulders heading for the steep north face of the actual summit . Head straight up this steep vegitated slope aiming just right ( west) of the summit. Scramble through some large blocks to emerge on the summit.djangal4

Descent to Bez Bog hut as described in Option 1 or if you are heading to Damianitsa descent the south east ridge. Below and beyond the first pinicle head noth west aiming for a point just east of the first pair of lakes. The first part of the descent is hard work and requires care over loose boulders. The going soon improves and quickly you will reach the lakes. climb a few meters up and around the grassy knoll and head west then north west until you meet the main trail down to Damianitsa. This trail is marked with yellow and white trail markers.

 

 

The Davies, Route 6.

http://alextrek.com/gallery-alextrek-pirin-vasilashki-chukar-climbing

Photo Credits to Alex Trek

The Davies, Route 6.

Vazella #33, Vasilashki Chukar #34

 

This is a lovely little walk close to the road head at Vihren hut. The Davies, Route 6 will take you about 5 hours of which 3 hours are on clearly marked main trails. 2 hours of the route is off piste and involves a little bit of easy scrambling. This is a great route to practice hiking off piste and a wonderfully easy introduction to scrambling. I took my son here to get his confidence back after his first scrambling adventure!

Starting at Vihren hut follow the main trail to Damianitsa hut. This trail is marked with red and white blazes and green and white blazes. The trail follows the river up the valley towards Ribno lake then climbs to Jabeshko lake. Here the trail splits and the red and white markers go south east towards Tevno Hut and the green and white markeres head almost due east towards Damianitsa hut.  Follow the green and white path as it zig zags up the slope towards the pass “Todorina Porta” .

 

Near the top the path skirts round a field of boulders at this point turn right (east) across the boulders towards the summit of the ridge . Follow the ridge south east. There is a path along the top of the ridge but in places it is over grown with klek, fight your way through the klek! There are a couple of spots where you walk along the ridge edge but nothing too scary!

There are some magnificent views down to Vasilashki lakes and across to the pinicaled ridge of Strazhite and Polejan and Djangal in the background. This enjpoyable but short ridge walk ends abruptly with a section that requires a little care. The first pinicale can be avoided by taking the path that skirts below it down to the right. I would recommend taking with direct route over the top of this pinacle. Follow the ridge line straight up to the summit. It will require some easy scrambling. The next few spikes can be climbed in the same manner but they are covered in klek. It is better to go around them following the vague path down to the right of the ridge.

Don’t be tempted to follow a “path” down and across the bottom of the south west face of Vasilashki Chukar. Stay high! Make your way up to the foot of the final face of Vasilashki Chukar. This North West face looks intimidating from below but don’t be put off it is not as scary as it looks! A few minutes sfitt climbing up the grassy slope and then a scramble through the rocks and you are on the summit. Please be aware the rocks are loose here so go gently. The summit is a lovely spot so take a break here and enjoy.

Descend directly south from the summit.  The route is clear, follow the ridge over boulders and loose ground passing 2 rounded pinicles. Asscend again to reach the narrow col between the 2 peaks. there is a vague path here that curves up and around some boulders to the summit of Vazella.

From Vazella, drop down south east over easy ground to the main red and white trail that goes from Vihren Hut to Tevno Hut. From here you will descend through a huge boulder field down to Dulgoto lake. Before you do take a moment to enjoy the majesty of Bashliyska Chukar, Vihren and Kutelo. From Dulgoto lake it is an easy walk back to Vihren hut following the red and white trail.

 

 

The Davies, Route 2.

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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.

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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.

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The Davies, Route 10.

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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

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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

 

The Davies, Route 9.

spanopolski-chukar

The Davies, Route 9.

Peak#26 2504m, Peak #27 2506m, Peak #28 2508m, Spanopolski Chukar #29 2576m, Karaulite #30 2533m, Banderishki Chukar #31 2738m, Peak #32 2500m, Bashliyski Chukar #38 2670m.

The Davies, Route 9. This is a long and arduous day with lots of bouldering that will test even the strongest legs. Be sure to pick a good day. Any adverse weather will turn a hard walk into a dangerous one! One early autumn day the Banderishki boulders were still covered in ice and I was forced to retreat. In July a hailstorm turned the mountains wintery and we quickly descended for an early beer! There is an escape route to the north about half way round the circus which I will describe in due course.

The Davies, Route 9 is a hard day, take food and water, allow at least 10 hours. This is hard walking over difficult ground. If the weather turns run away! The route can be cut into two days by using the escape route as the exit from the first day and the entry for the second day

From Vihren hut follow the marked trail towards Sinanitsa hut  (blue trail / yellow trail).  The path follows the valley floor towards Muratov peak with the river on your left. As you depart from the river you will climb up past the pretty Muratov lake and arrive at Banderitsa Porter. At the pass you will leave the marked trail. Turn left here heading south east. There is a trail that ascends gradually over easy ground to the start of the boulder work which leads to the first unnamed peak, #26 2504m.  Keep to the ridge line for the best fun or follow the faint path to the south that runs along under the south side of the ridge. baderischki_chukar_end_donchovi_karauli

Hike up and down a little until the until a steep drop leads down to a very sharp notch in the ridge line. Follow the path round to the right  (south). After 75m or so turn sharply up to the left (north). A steep vegetated and gravely slope leads to the second un named peak #28 2508.

Continue east along the ridge for another 200m, turn right here (south) to reach the col before Spanopolski Chukar. This is a fine little excursion to a wonderful view point. Spanopolski Chukar #29 2576m, stands alone over looking the rolling hills to the south of Pirin. Do not linger too long as there is still a lot of work to be done!

Retrace your steps back to the col and then  contour round to join the main ridge. The climb up Donchovi Karaulite #30 2633m is short and uneventful, descend the east ridge of Doncho  to an open col. Here there is a large obvious cairn ( pile of stones) that marks the north bound escape route.  You are now about half way round in terms of distance but the hardest part is to come.

Traverse around a minor top (not a peak). There is a lot of Kleck (dwarf pine) that looks impassable but there is a path over and through it which is quicker than dropping down to the right (south).  The push up to Banderishki Chukar #31 2738m  feels endless, the boulders are large and hard work! At and near the main summit the boulders are massive slabs with impressive chasms between them. This is tough going! banderishki_chukar

From the summit descend almost straight south down through more boulders to the col and then up the north slope of Bashliyski Chukar #38 2670m. It looks close, it isn’t ! The final climb is up and over, around and under a mass of boulders and klek. A real sting in the tail at the end of a long day.The summit is at the far end of the ridge and offers fantastic views.

Retrace your steps to the col between Banderishki and Bashliyski, contour back to the ridge line. The unnamed peak #32 2500m is on the east shoulder of Banderishki chukar. The going is difficult. A short distance down the ridge from #32 a descent can be made directly north. Make for a small group of pools/lakes below the peak, just beyond the lakes you will find the main red trail from Vihren to Tevno. Join this path heading north west back to Vihren hut.

Breaking the day in two. Escape route.

The Davies, Route 9. Remember we mentioned that cairn at the col after Donchovi Karaulite? If you wish to break this trip into two descend north here. The first part of the decent is steep and the semi vegetated slope is slipery with sand and loose stones. Go carefully. After a drop of about 25m and slope eases, Descend vegetated then bouldered slopes to the little lakes that you could see from above. Pass the lakes on the west side (lakes on your right) following the stream that drains the lakes. The descent is again steep and boulder filled for another 25m. Now break right through a steep vegetated slope towards a flat area filled with giant boulders. Descend steeply again through large boulders heading towards the cliff that borders the stream that feeds Ribno lake .  Follow this stream down to the lake. Skirt the lake until you join the main path back to Vihren hut.

To continue your circuit retrace your steps on the second day up past the lake and onto the ridge at the cairn.

N.B. #27 2506m.

The Davies, Route 9. Unnamed peak #27. This peak looks eminently doable on the map and feels like it should be included in on this route. Sadly the route is just too long to add another diversion off the main trail.

I feel it is worth doing this little mountain as a single day trip from Vihren hut, the route is pretty simple. From Muratovo lake head in almost a straight line towards the summit. Skirting left (east) of the klek at the base of the summit you will find a steep rock filled gully that leads directly to the summit. Descend  east down to Ribno lake and the main path back to Vihren hut.

This is a short day, maybe 4 hours. Importantly it is a great introduction to hiking off piste. If you have never walked off a marked trail I would suggest this as your first wild adventure! The area is relatively easy to navigate and there is zero chance of getting dangerously lost.  The route finding and scrambling are all at entry levels of difficulty. spanopolski-chukar

Di Davies

Hiking the Davies. A guide to climbing all the mountains in Pirin.

dylan

Hiking the Davies.

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.

muratovHiking the Davies, the game.

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.

 

Hiking the Davies, what is a mountain.

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.sivria

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.

 

Hiking the Davies, a brief history.

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.

Tevno Hut 2512m

Tevno Hut 2512m

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.

 

Hiking the Davies, how hard are they?

IMG_20120802_161803Mountaineering, 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.

 

Hiking the Davies, what to expect.

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.

IMG_20120802_113604Pirin 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!

Hiking the Davies, routes.

Over this summer I am planning to publish the routes here in day by day format. So watch this space!

IMG_20130801_121822