72 hours at Tevno

 

 

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Dawn over Tevno lake 2512m

I’ve just come back from 72 hours at Tevno lake and other than the usual aches and pains from 3 longs days hiking I feel like a new man. Tevno is a magical place.  At 2512m it is higher than what I consider a mountain but surrounded by mountains giving a secret valley feel.

Tevno is not one place as such it is the name of a lake (Tevno Ezero) and a hut (Hija Tevno) and the shelf of land on which the two perch. Cut off from the rest of Pirin by a curtain of mountains on 3 sides the meadows around the lake are a salve of lush green in a land of boulders. The 4th side drops away south towards Sandanski and Greece lending an infinity pool feel to the landscape.

In the summer months when Pirin is busiest Tevno is a riot of tents and tourists. It is only 4 hours walk from the top of the Bez Bog lift and 4 easy hours at that, with food, shelter, electricity and drinking water it is a perfect base for hikers. The tiny hut can squeeze in 120 people, packed in like sardines. Suffocating in their own farts, baked in their own body heat, August is not the time to visit. Valia and Ivan who run the hut do an amazing job, on one tiny stove Valia will cook 3 hot meals a day for the crowds that pass through, Ivan with his train of ponies constantly work the route down to Damianitsa hut collecting supplies. July and August must be brutal graft.

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The outflow from the lake has been connected to a generator at the bottom of the infinity pool cliff giving light and power. Mobile phone signal still hasn’t and probably will never get to Tevno, the nature of the valley and its distance from the civilised world means it isn’t really viable. But by climbing to the col above the hut you can get signal if you really need to keep in touch.

Amazingly for a Bulgarian mountain hut, especially one that is so busy, the loos are fantastically clean! Some ingenious plumbing means that the classic squat toilets have been turned into self cleaning squat toilets! The huge drop down the front of the hillside helps keep a certain distance and a blind eye to downstream pollution makes the whole experience remarkably pleasant.

Aliki GreeceFor me Tevno is an Autumn thing, the hotel quietens down in September and we are normally closed by the 15th of October. My birthday is at the end of September and for the last 5 or 6 years we have gone with a small group of friends to a small beach on Thassos, away from the crowds late in the season it is normally deserted. With great rocks of diving a cafe and a restaurant it is everything we need for a super chilled break. This year we closed the hotel early and as soon as I got back from Greece I packed my rucksack and nipped off to Tevno.  Pirin is not quite deserted in the Autumn but my god it’s close. Once you are off the main tracks there is not a soul in the hills.  The way to Tevno follows the main Bez Bog / Popovo Lake motorway as far as Popovo, this track is insanely busy in the summer , crowds from Sofia and Plovdiv trying to get away from the summer heat, school summer camps and packs of trekkers heading deeper into the hills make it a hectic place. But now with the night time temperatures below freezing and the official holidays over silence prevails.

The few hikers that I passed on the main trail don’t venture past the lake so the faint track from Popovo up to the pass is empty. This little valley sandwiched between the Popovo valley and Djangal ridge might have a green floor but the high rocky walls lend an imposing gates of Mordor feel that is added to but the silence. Rocks that have been shunted around and then welded in place by ice overnight are now freed by the warm sun. Rock falls punctuate the silence suggesting goats among the scree, the odd crow and the clump of my footsteps are the only sounds.

I try to focus on my breathing tempering my pace to the terrain keeping my breaths constant my mind ever balanced on the in and out of my breath. I pace myself to never feel tired by any step, little steps, constant breath. The sun’s warmth, hot on one side, the cold mountain air chilly where my shirt is damp with sweat. I stop every hour for a drink and some nuts, I don’t know how but my body has a pretty accurate clock for these breaks, give or take 5 minutes I’ll decide to have a rest on the hour every hour. the relief of  ditching the bag and taking the weight off my feet is bliss, a different awareness of nature floods my mind as the tiredness eases out of me. The rhythm of steps and breaths , the focus on the ground in front of me is replaced with a symphony of luxury, resting in the view all around me.

The final pull up over the pass at Kralev Dvor always looks so much bigger that it really is, the daunting ever steepening wall of scree and smashed rock disappears in the steady rhythm of breaths and steps. It is a magical feeling looking down toward Tevno from the pass. Scree and jagged peaks give way to a grassy meadow. I’m tired now as I’ve been in the hotel too much this summer and my pack is heavy with all my camping clobber but in no time I’m sat on the bench out front, slowly taking off my boots zoned out in my little world of sweaty quiet. 

Tevno Hut 2512m

Tevno Hut 2512m

Valia is the same as ever, maybe a little more chilled, maybe a little older. I have been coming here for 13 years and she has been running the hut all that time. She is a mum now and her son Bojidar is staying at the hut as things are quieter. A couple of plastic toys and children’s clothes on the washing line lend a domestic air to this remote spot. I normally come with a friend so Valia is surprised to see me alone, we half chat neither needing the conversation but enjoying the renewed acquaintance. Soup and sausage make for a simple lunch and dinner and then I’m off again.

I don’t sleep at Tevno,  I am not a fan of mountain huts at the best of times but the stifling insulation of the high mountain huts is too much for me. This far from civilisation I like to sleep out under the stars. I have my normal spot the other side of the lake but today I’ve decided to sleep on the top of Valiavishki chukar 2664m. It is a bit of a plod up the ridge and with the wind picking up and clouds in the valleys I worry that it could be a cold and pointless night. I found a perfect spot, flattish grass between some big boulders out of the wind right on the summit! IMG_20151002_130927

There is a fine balance to sleeping in a bivvy bag yes you must be warm but not so warm that you are claustrophobic. I like my feet toasty but my head cool, shoulders and neck warm but face cool. Turning over in your sleep is a delicate affair if you don’t want to get tied in a knot, getting up to go for a pee in the night, lethal! Tonight I get it perfect. I fall asleep practicing my meditation just after a fantastic sunset, I wake up again to the most amazing night sky I have ever seen. Pitch black, the milky way dominating my vision, every star clear and bright. I lie there for a while blown away by the vastness of it all. The beauty of the universe stretching away into infinity is awesome!  The freezing air is biting at my cheeks so I pull the hood over and go back to sleep. I’m awoken again, this time by the moon, it means nothing to me just a harsh bright white light like a torch shone in my face, grumpily I try to ignore it and go back to sleep. Dawn is a riot of colour, nature has no shame! Like a whore who has won the lottery, technicolour splashes of red and gold, pink and orange smear themselves across the landscape. I wait for the sun to come up properly, half extract myself from my bag and sit reveling in the warmth of the sun on my skin.

IMG_20151002_151226Packing fast stiffly I set off towards a 2600m peak with no name a click or so to the west. It is a little drop down and then a gentle climb back up to the peak, a nice warm on such a chilly morning. The scramble down through the boulders back to Tevno hut is a bit nerve wracking with stiff sleepy legs. A quick breakfast of eggy bread and tea and I am off again. I want to explore a ridge called Mazgovishki chukar. Our plan to map and promote all the peaks in Pirin occasionally needs boots on the ground. on the three maps we have the ridge could have anything from 1 to 5 peaks on it. It is a hard climb up the steep ridge by the col but once I am on the ridge the mix of boulders and  grass is fun walking. After a couple of hours three things become clear. 1) I am in terrible shape compared to last year. 2) There are 5 peaks on the ridge. 3) There is no way I am doing 2 of them today. One is at the end of a narrow rocky ridge with certain death on both sides ( I’ll need Di and some rope to tackle that) and the other is out on a flying buttress of  dwarf pine covered smashed rock that will take hours to get to and back from. That one will have to be a mission on its own probably from below.IMG_20151002_150410 I wander slowly back to Tevno worrying about the clouds, if they come in it will be a warm wet night with lots of dew if they stay away it will be cold and clear. Probably very cold as it will be the second cloudless night in a row. I decide for a lower more sheltered spot in the folds of meadow towards the far edge of the fields away from the hut. Hopefully out of the wind and with a good view of sun set and rise.

Errors all round! too many clothes on, no hat, restless sleeping meant I got tied in the most awful knot in the bivvy bag. A freezing boulder under my mattress , heavy frost and minus way too much, all in all a shit night. Well the stars were amazing again but otherwise shit! I left my phone in my rucksack so that got frozen which killed the battery. Same for my water bottles, and my head.  I woke up with a blinding headache which I can only think was due to my head being out of the bag all night without a hat. Feeling miserable and not a little sorry for myself I start digging through my medical kit where I know I have some amazingly powerful opiates, nope they’ve run out as well. Packed and ready to roll I head off for breakfast . Bojidar and I make some puzzles as I nurse some tea and eggy bread. It is a long day back to Vihren hut and I am not feeling my best. I want to climb 3 peaks that are off the main trail and really don’t know if I have the energy. IMG_20151002_150814 It is a long hard walk on a good day but today isn’t a good day. I pace myself as best I can, stopping a lot of water and nuts, slowly up and slowly down pausing at every excuse but it is soon clear that I’m not going to get those extra peaks. Malak Tipits it way off the main trail, Vazela looks huge and impossible and the ridge to Vasilashki chukar like death on a stick. I know it is my addled brain that is making things look worse than they are but still I can’t face it. The sun is burning and every little bit of shade is a blessing and a curse. The cool in the shade is both a balm for my brain and well as my skin but then it also means that the ice from last night has not defrosted yet so the rocks and mud underfoot are treacherous. Eventually I start down through the boulders into the valley above Vihren hut. down down down, giant careful steps, solid easy rocks, wobbly ones, giant steps down onto tiptoes, flowing paths of crushed rock. on and on the descent goes. I keep telling myself not to get too happy about getting to the grass at the bottom as there are two more sections of equally difficult terrain but still my heart skips as I step off the rocks onto soft grass. The path get busier, a group of Bulgarians heading to Tevno, two beautiful girls dressed for a wedding, a lost lone walker asking for directions. Down down down the path heads into the dwarf pine, offering a little shade I’m happy to be in amongst this most annoying of plants. I stop to chat to an Israeli couple but too tired carry on after the briefest of conversations. More rocks, more sun, now so tired. I stop in the cool damp shade under a huge boulder, I can see the last meadow before the bridge, Vihren hut is 20 minutes away at this pace but it feels further. More nuts, more water, my stomach is not happy about the nuts it wants something easier to work with but nuts is all I have so nuts it is. I am pretty zoned out now my brain has been in a state of nothing for hours so as I come up to the bridge and see Dylan, Vania, Niki and the dogs it is with a strange sense of equanimity, that I drop my bag, kneel down to hug Dylan.

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 3.

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The Davies, Route 3.

Todorka#37, Sredna Todorka#36, Malka Todorka#35

 

Life in Pirin has 4 very distinct seasons. Cold snowy winters give way to mild wet springs of lush alpine meadows filled with flowers. The summer is hot and dry with months of relentless sunshine drying out the hills into a uniform khaki brown. The summer sun can carry on long into autumn but with the shortening days the temperatures fall and the nights are cold. This is my favourite time of year to be in the mountains. Few people venture up into the high mountains after mid September but  the mild climate makes it ideal hiking weather.

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Nearly all the routes I will describe over the next 20 or 30 posts will be summer routes. There are many fantastic winter routes in Pirin. When the snow and ice lock the rocks into place a whole other world of possibilities open up. There are enough winter adventures to be had in Pirin to fill many many books. The aim of this guide is to attract people to explore our mountains, to introduce them to the joys of Pirin and to share our experiences. Di is a very accomplished winter mountaineer but I am not. I love to ski tour (ski up mountains) and I do own an ice axe but she gets little use! This is our view of Pirin and as such a very personal journey through our beloved mountains.

The Todorkas, are a crescent moon shaped ridge of peaks, the largest of which stands above the ski area and dominates the skyline.  Todorka viewed from Bansko looks like a classic triangular peak standing alone and proud between two very separate massifs.  In reality she is a buttress or spur that juts out from the main line of Pirin peaks working as a watershed between the Bunderitsa and Damianitsa rivers. route3-12

It is a very viable route and even pleasant to climb Tordorka in the summer but i would like to describe this route as a winter trip. This is by far and away the easiest of winter routes and the majesty of the mountains in the winter is well worth the minimal hardship of a winter ascent. If you go in late March starting early in the morning the ski back down to town is no harder than a red run and normally as smooth and firm as a piste. The bang for your buck is massive! A real sense of big mountain mountaineering with the effort of a summer picnic!

route3-11Taking the Bunderitsa chair lifts from the top of the gondola to the top of the mountain removes most of the effort. The top lift drops you at 2600m with Tordorka only 2746m. For the majority of winter mountaineers and extreme skiers the trot up the ridge in ski boots is under 45 minutes but if this is your first time hiking in the snow I would suggest a more serious approach.

Take a guide, the vast majority of trips into the hills in the winter go without incident but when things do go wrong in the winter they go seriously wrong so take an expert. Speak to mountain rescue about the weather and snow pack.  Early mornings normally mean the snow is more solid underfoot and more stable for skiing down. If you can be on the first lift you will be back for an early lunch. If this is your first time it is best to borrow some kit. The ridge is more than 2m wide most of the way but there are two narrow sections where it is less than 50cm and a couple of steps that need you to use your hands and another couple where you have to balance on a less than 20cm wide ridge.route3-10

For a first trip I would suggest you borrow crampons and get a small section of rope to connect you to your guide. A rucksack that has straps to hold your skis will free up your hands. In the winter moisture is a huge issue so it is best to start the walk wearing as little clothing as possible, you are going to get really hot and sweaty. Start the walk uncomfortably cold, you will soon warm up. The problem you are trying to avoid is sweat. If you wear too much clothing you will get sweaty which is fine as you climb but when you get to the top and rest you will be damp and you will get dangerously cold very quickly. Practice walking with crampons the day before, there is a technique similar to how a penguin walks, be careful not to kick yourself they hurt! Walk slowly, you do not want to get out of breath so develop a speed that is so slow that you never get out of breath. At the right speed you can walk for hours over the hardest terrain and never get tired, never get hot and never get sweaty!

route3-4From the top of the lift there is a pisted section of about 100m that goes up to the crucifix just above the lift, I normally sort all my equipment at the bottom of this section. Crampons on, jackets off, skis on the bag and on my back, helmet off but gloves and sunglasses on. I use my ski poles as walking sticks. The sun is very strong in the winter so sunglasses are a must as you will be looking at the snow all the way up. Wear your gloves, snow and ice are sharper than you think.

From the crucifix follow the ridge line straight up. the path is normally well worn so easy to follow, if there is a wind lip out over the east face stay well back from it.  About 20 minutes into your walk there are a couple of rocks that will need you to use yours hands. It is worth being over cautious, make sure you have three good points of contact before you move on, one hand and two feet safely placed mean you can move your other hand, two hands and one foot gripping the hill nicely means you can move the other foot. Go slow move safely. Kick deeper foot holds, clear snow to get the best hand holds, there is no rush. Even going slowly you will be at the top in an hour.route3-6

There is a small section skirting the gully at the top where you walk along a narrow ridge 20cm wide. This is where your crampons are amazing. Even if it is pure blue ice they will grip like claws.  Skirt the gully and walk up to the summit. The views are amazing! There is normally a bug wind lip hanging over the north face so stay at least 10m back from the edge! From here you can see nearly all the big peaks in Pirin and snow bound they are almost unrecognisable. You can clearly see the crescent moon of the ridge from here sweeping south and east until it joins the main range at Banderishki Chukar #32.

route3-9I would normally put on my ski here and  glide along the ridge towards Sredna Todorka#36 but if it feels too technical walk it. The ridge is normally solid wind blown snow so easy to walk on. The route south is maybe another hour of up and down along the ridge line. By the time you get to Malka Todorka #35 you will probably be in need of a rest. travelling over snow is much harder than walking over summer ground. Take a break here drink some coffee, eat something and rest. It is very important that before you start skiing down that your body is rested and ready for skiing. I have fallen many times on my first turn after a long hike just because my muscles haven’t be in the right mode.

Put on all your kit.your skis or board, jackets helmet goggles and ski/ side slip down the ridge line until you feel comfortable to ski properly. As you look down the ridge you are heading right, it is the much more gentle slope, between a blue and red run, wide and featureless.  Left is a steeper more rocky, cliffy route down to Damianitsa hut! Find the line you are most comfortable with and follow the valley down towards Vihren hut. The skiing is very easy and if you keep right you will be able to ski without pushing nearly all the way to the hut.route3-2

I normally stop for a cup of tea at Vihren hut to let the manager know I am ok, he spends a huge amount of his time watching people descend from Todorka to call for help if anyone gets into trouble so it is a courtesy to  pass the time of day. There are normally a few of the extreme team hanging out here so it is a social point as well as a rest.

route3-1From the hut you can either ski down the road (often it is piste bashed) or through the bushes following the stream. Either way you will easily get to the bridge at Banderitsa camp site with little or no effort. From the camp site to the ski area is very flat and involves a fair amount of skating and pushing.  It should take about 15 minutes of effort to get back to the Tomba piste and 20minutes to be back in a bar! route3-7

 

 

 

 

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 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