Walking on Edelweiss

Co-living Bansko

Walking on Edelweiss

There comes a moment on most mountaineering routes in Pirin when you will come across an Edelweiss. These beautiful little flowers are the symbol of mountaineers around the world. They live high up on cliff faces away from man. At one and the same time they are super hardy and super delicate. Growing in tiny cracks they thrive in the most inhospitable environments. While they are able to live where nothing else can, they are not very robust when it comes to contact. Pick their flowers and they die, step on them, knock them or disturb them in any way and they die. For me spotting Edelweiss on a route is the sign that we are somewhere wild.

Banski Suhodol

As you look up from Bansko Pirin dominates. Todorka with her pistes. Flat topped Vihren and oh so pretty Kutelo.  Next to these lonely giants Banski Suhodol tends to be ignored. Suhodol blends into the horizon all but forgotten. Koncheto and Koteshki chal demmand the viewers attention, while Suhodol fades into the foreground.

For Mr Davies and I Banski Suhodol has burnt brightly in our imagination for over a decade. The summit is of no consequence in the grand scheme of things. Dropping down from the summit is a ridge. A long ridge, a ridge that plunges down into the valley below buttressing the main wall of Pirin. This ridge of marble has been crying out to us to be explored.

We have visited the base of the North Ridge of Suhodol many times. Trying to find a route to the bottom of the ridge has been challenging. The valley of Suhodol is remote and little visited, the path sketchy in places and the distances a little daunting. After a few false starts we finally managed to get to the bottom of the ridge 2 weeks ago. I hid some gear in a cave and comitted to climbing it thisweek.

Normally mountaineering is a game of study. You read up on the route. Talk to people who have done it before. Discuss, analyse plot and plan and then go for it. In Pirin the game is very different, the info about routes is at best sparse and in the case of most of our routes here nonexistant. The best info I could find on the route was “It’s a little flakey” and ” I had a look from the top and it doesn’t look nice”.  With this wealth of info we set off at 5am on Saturday morning.

Coliving Bansko

The Approach

We parked the car at the end of a dirt road just as the first light of dawn made it possible to see the path. The hike up Suhodol is just stunning. The path is little used and wiggles its way up and across a stream bed that in turn wriggles down through old forest. for three hours we climbed up through forest, then kleck and finally out into meadows filled with snow fields. From the first patch of snow we hacked our way up through cliffs and gullies thick with kleck until at 9am, just as it was starting to get hot we got to the bottom of the first pyramid.

The Banski Suhodol ridge is made up of two main features. A pyramid of marble about 3 pitches high that rises alone above the boulder fields and then drops again to the foot of the main ridge. Then the main ridge rises in steep steps all the way to the summit at 2884m.

coliving Bansko

The Pyramid

The pyramid was a pleasant little climb there were hints of the troubles to come but all in all it was fun. A few easy moves a little, scramble, the odd wobbly rock and some flakey pieces that came away in your hands but nothing to write home about. We had been assuming that the whole game would have been on good clean marble but were not really bothered by a few crappy hand holds and some loose rock.

As we prepared to climb the main ridge we were joking about how nice it was to be climbing on rock that clearly never saw many people. A normal popular route is polished by many hands and feet. Belay spots are clear from regular use and hand holds are marked by patches of chalk. Here there was none of that. the rock was old and untouched, pristine and wild. There was a feeling that we were the first people to climb here and it gave us a thrill of excitement.

co living bansko

The Route

Mr Davies is a little older than I and I am a little rounder than most. As a pair we are not a typical mountaineering team. We have done a lot together and understand eachother perfectly. Di leads and I carry! We swung back into the easy routine of moving up the rock pretty quickly. Di as always cursing and swearing his way ever upwards, mostly free climbing the first two pitches as there was nowhere to put in protection.

Di is a slow and careful climber, even more so without protection. Many years of experience mean he can route find by smell and belay from rotten spots confidently. Old injuries and even older bones means he climbs slowly but very safely. I’m a strong climber if not confident enough to lead unknow routes . Our progress was thus a dance of slow analytical leads followed by me rapidly catching up once the route was discovered.

I started to get nervous on the second pitch. The rock was rotten and there was nowhere for Di to put in protection again. My belay spot was exposed and I had no way yo build a hanging belay. If Di came off the rock we were both going to fall to our deaths. With the Mantra of “Well just don’t bloddy fall” running through my head I made my way up the ridge.

From there on every pitch was the same chilling nightmare. Di leading a route with no protection and me belaying with little or no protection. To find one piece of gear fixed as I climbed up was a joy. To belay with one nut wedged into a shonky crack , blessed relief!

coliving bansko

On or 5th or 6th pitch we found a shelf to rest on. The view was exceptional as the shelf curved elegantly round the ridge onto the more exposed steep eastern side. The next few pitches hung out over this cliff with hundreds of meters of near vertical wall plunging down to the rocks below. Loose handholds, loose footholds, the sound of cursing as Di found some more rotten rock, the sound of rotten rock crashing down the face. My memories of the next few hours are blurred. Checking every hand hold 3 or 4 times became the routine. Kicking every foot hold over and over just to make sure it would take my weight. The sinking feeling as something gave way, the ecstasy of finding holds that worked. Trusting your boots to hold onto smooth rock and your tired fingers to grip little cracks focuses the mind somewhat.

After we had got up about a hundred meters it became clear there was no going back. There was no way we could set up an abseil on this rotten marble. Our only way out was over the top. The dread of finding a section that we couldn’t climb hung over me for the rest of the route. The joy of completing each pitch ever more ecstatic.

After 6 hours we came to the base of a tower of rock about 15m high. A little flat patch covered in grass made a lovely little garden at its base so here we stopped to rest. There was plenty of goat poo in the little meadow which is always a good sign and it looked like there were 2 routes around the tower as well as a little chimney over the top.  I sat and smoked, drank water and ate some flapjack.

As my mind relaxed I realised quite how tightly I was wound up. Every failed hold had focused my mind tighter and tighter. No matter how calm and logical I had been, keeping my mind focussed on making good choices, I now felt this knot clenched in my gut, exhausted from the hours of concentration. As I sat smoking my second then third cigarette I could feel my muscles tightening, aching from the weight of our bag. Cuts and bruises I hadn’t noticed now called for attention. Tiredness that I had kept at bay for so long now came flooding in. Memories of holds that had failed, rocks that had fallen footings that had slipped rushed up from the depths of my mind where I had burried them. I felt dizzy and weak, the world swam in front of me. I needed to get a grip there was no way I could climb out of here in this state.

On autopilot I set up a hanging belay with a couple of nuts and before I could compse myself Di had set off up the cliff. By the time his curses were out of ear shot my head was still spinning the little chimney he had dissapeared up looked impossible and an incredible loneliness descended on me. After what felt like an age I felt the rope come tight on my harness and I started climbing again.

I remember almost nothing of the next 25 minutes. Just flakey rock, hard moves and a bottomless cliff.  Crawling on my hands and knees across a chock stone, flowing up a pile of lightning shattered rock, a view of Di silhouetted against clear sky. The slope levelling out, walking without using my hands, tourists having a picnic. Suddenly we were stood on a path! The Tourist Path! Joy!!! So much Joy!!! I remember hugging Di full of so much joy just repeating over and over 10 years , 10 years, we did it!

Trek in Pirin 2021

There are many ways up a mountain. Sometimes the hardest routes are the most joyful. I remember seeing the first edelweiss near the bottom of the ridge, I remember making sure I didn’t touch any of the others along the way. I remember crushing one beneath my boot as I desperately scrambled to find a footing when the rock I was standing on gave way. Rightly this little flower is the symbol of mountaineers the world over.

 

 

 

Trek in Pirin 2021

Trek in Pirin 2021Trek in Pirin 2021

Normally the summer season starts in earnest around the beginning of June. This year has been very very different. After huge snow falls throughout the season, the coldest spring in 23 years and fresh snow in June the mountains are about a month behind. I was skiing a good line on Doncovi Karuli mid June this year WTF!!! Yesterday  (28th of June) was my first Trek in Pirin 2021 !

Trek in Pirin 2021

A word of Warning!

There is still a load of snow around. We went up the route from Banderitsa hut to Kutelo. we crossed a few slightly sketchy snow fields, a couple of scary snow fields and saw some horrors on the North face route down from Vihren and the traverse to Koncheto. Steep snow in trekking shoes is very dangerous, mostly because it doesn’t look dangerous. If you slip you can get up some serious speed and then chrash into the rocks below causing serious injury. Be warned, be careful and as much as possible do not cross snow fields.

If you have to cross steep snow, traverse in an upward direction digging deep foot holds with your heels. Use a trekking pole as a brake if you slip and wedge it under your armpit pushing the tip hard into the snow to slow down.

Trek in Pirin 2021

Banderitsa Hut to Kutelo 1

This is a hard dry route but one of the classic treks in Pirin.  There is no water above the hut so take a couple of litres each. At a normal pace it takes about 4 hours up and 3 1/2 hours down it’s a big walk with around 1000m of up! There is no shade above the tree line so bring a buff and sun cream. The sun is strong in the high hills especially after rain. even with factor 50 Piz Buin mountain sun cream I got toasted!

I love this route. It has a wonderful plethora of transitions. You start in deep old forest, pass through alpine meadows, high alpine sedge pastures and finish up among the barren rocks and cliffs of Pirin’s most spectacular ridge.

Behind Banderitsa hut the green and white marked trail starts steep and carries on steep all the way to the top. This is a hard walk and for me it was a challenge as it was my first of the year. Carrying a little bit too much winter fat and being out of shape combined with high humidity and 25 degree heat first thing in the morning I was dripping within minutes!

The forest here is just wonderful ancient trees battered by decades of avalanches are warped and twisted into the most fantastic shapes. Peak summer you wander through fields of wild strawberries and raspberries. It really is a classic!

Trek in Pirin 2021

Alpine Pastures

The pastures above the tree line are filled with flowers and wild goats. The goats are not afraid of tourists and will potter around you looking for apple cores and crusts of bread. The young goats are still in the winter jackets and look a little scruffy and dredlocked at the moment.

Crucus and other wild flowers are popping up around the edge of the snow fields. Normally they would be over by now but with so much snow around spring has come late to our hills.

I am not sure if it because of the weather or covid or what but tourist numbers are massively down. I would expect to see dozens of people at this time of year even mid week. We saw 5! 5 People in the whole day!!! This was especially splendid as I was seriously suffering from a lack of fitness and the heat, thankfully there was no one to see us puffing up the hill.

Trek in Pirin 2021

Alpine

At the foot of the north face of Vihren the extent of the snow really became apparent. Huge fields of snow streatch off in all directions covering the path through most of Kazana. I love to stop here at wonder at the massive wall that in Vihren’s north face. I have climbed a few routes on it and every time I see it again I am shocked by how the hell I managed them. What was I thinking? It is a sheer wall of cast limestone and frankly not for summer climbing. The winter routes must be amazing. In the summer it is just a nightmare of loose rock and horrendous belay points.

I had a bit of a moment in Kazana. the route up and out of the bowl looked blocked by a huge snow field and I was seriously contemplating turning back. I have a horror of steep snow fields, the thought of slipping and sliding uncontrollably at 30kmh into a sea of boulders fills me with dread!

We found a kind of a path around the snow. Scrambling up on loose rock and sand, heart racing as little rock falls and slips messed with my mind. Above that snow we had to cross another snow field, less steep but still steep enough and long enough to scare me. By the time we got above the snows and into the High Alpine rocks I was happier but still dredding the descent!

Premkata

There is a huge pass between Vihren and Kutelo. As you look east back towards Banderitsa hut it is all rock and snow. Look west and it is a totally different story, a beautiful river wgiggles merrily through apline pastures that are in turn surrounded by old pine forest. Few people go down to the valleys south of Pirin other than shepherds and they have a pristine wildness to them that calls to your soul.

Trek in Pirin 2021

High Alpine

The photo above is from the pass between Vihren and Kutelo looking up towards the north west face of Vihren. We met a Czech guy here who had just descended the face. It looks cool but he was seriously shaken. High up on the north face the path passes through two little snow patches that you can see in the photo. To traverse these patches of snow, in aproach shoes, on a 45 degree slope with a huge back pack must have taken some serious nerves! He said it was terrifying.

From the pass to the summit of Kutelo is noting much.Just a boring sandy path over boring rocks with no real view to talk about. 30minutes of dull slog up this featureless slope makes arriving at the top a shockingly, wonderful moment. Plod plod plod you haul your tired bod up and up and then in one sudden moment the path stops. A near verticle cliff plunges down into Bansko Suhodol. Bansko and Razlog are miles below you in little pools of green. This amazing sea of rock and snow plung flows down and down into an alien barren world.

I have a few plans for Banski Suhodol, it is an untouched wilderness of barren rock. Di and I think there could be some great climbing routes to discover in there this summer.

Trek in Pirin 2021

Hiking with Danny

Hourses for courses I supose. Each to their own. Beauty is in the eye and all that. Hiking with Danny is a unique experience. I am a plodder. I have my pace and just plod along I don’t stop often and tend to take little or no food. With danny it is a very different experience. Photos must be taken, she charges along rushing for view to view, stopping here and there to look at this and that and Lunch? Lunch is a thing!

Cold beers, home made salami, sourdough bread, cucmbers, cheese, nuts and dessert. In a way it is wonderful but a truely alien experience for me! Sat atop a hill, resting tired muscles, with a cold beer and the cool breeze soothing my burnt skin I am happy.

Trek in Pirin 2021

When is Bansko at it’s best?

calendar

When is Bansko at it’s best?

The simple answer is from the 20th of December to the 20th of April and then the 20th of June to the 20th of September.

The complicated answer is much longer. Bansko has huge appeal all year round. There are a few hundred foreigners who are now living here full time because there is so much more to our little mountain village than the two peak seasons. For those of us who live here the changing seasons just mean a change of activities!

When is Bansko at it's best?

When is Bansko at it’s best? Winter!

I came to Bansko to ski, Alpine, Backcountry, Touring and Telemark. Back then (2003!) I really wasn’t interested in much else. Winter meant fun and fun meant strapping on some skis and hitting the white stuff.

The Resort opens Around the middle of December and closes around the beginning of April. Some years there is enough snow for Bansko to be skiable on the 1st of December and close on the 20th of April. If you are thinking of doing a season here aim for Christmas to Easter.

During the winter season there are a fair few variations in the flow of JOY! Peak periods like New Year and the Feb half term holidays can be just awful. We’ve seen queues that would make you weep. For those of us that live here there is always a work round, drive up to Chalin and ski there, ski tour into the Backcountry or even just take a few days off to rest the bones.

The other side of the coin is the moments that mass tourism forgot. The back end of Feb? Not a soul! March? What, March, when it snows and snows and snows and no one is here. Yes March!! In a good year April can be epic, this year May was Epic. This year I was even skiing in June!

If you are here for the winter, Stay a little longer, go touring , go to Dobrinishtay earn some turns and ski some great spring lines. When is Bansko at it’s best? If I was coming to visit I’d be here from  Mid December to the 1st of May!

When is Bansko at it's best?

When is Bansko at it’s best? Summer

A bit like the winter the summer months have their moments. Some years Spring hangs around in Greece for way to long. This year winter refused to leave. Normally Summer  proper starts around the middle of June and rolls on and on well into October with warm dry days back to back. The only real exception to that rule is the middle of the Jazz fest. For some reasone there is normally one massive storm in the second week of August!.

there are some events in the summer that you really shouldn’t miss. The jazz fest, Opera fest and a few other musical and cinematic wonders. Unlike the winter the resort really can handel these crowds and no matter how busy Bansko gets it is always a joy in the summer.

When is Bansko at it’s best? In the Summer it is probably best for most people to be here between the 15th of June and the 1st of October.

When is Bansko at it's best?

When is Bansko at it’s best? All the time!

So why do we all live here? Why the hell do we live here all the time? Bansko has something to offer , something awesome, every month of the year.

My year is an ebb and flow of what gear am I using now. The basic quiver of gear matches this ebb and flow beautifully! There are alpine skis, there are Telemark skis, Big Bad Powder skis and Touring skis. The CycloCross Bike, The Mountain Bike. The Big Boy Mountain boots, The Mountain Boots, The Approach Shoes and  those hellishly tight tools of torture called climbing shoes.

At the start of the winter when the piste is ideal for  Alpine skis and the Telemarks. When it properly snows the powder skis come out then it’s back to the Telemarks and Alpines until the next dump.

Once the season starts to wind down and the tourists are heading home. We head into the hills with the Touring gear. Pirin is amazing for touring. With few people in the hill, we have access to face after face of creamy spring goodness.

Spring means one of three things, sunny days are for touring or rock climbing. Cloudy days are for Biking. The trails around Bansko are ideal for Enduro, Mountain Biking and Cyclocross. From the middle of April to the middle of June we just mix it up.

From Mid June it is unlikely that the skis are coming out again so the mix is now full summer mix. Hiking, Climbing and Biking. The flow is from big watherproof mountain boots that you can attach a crampon to super lightweight hiking trainers back to big boots! June and July you can still expect some patches of snow in the hills. ByJuly and August you are unliekly to get your feet wet, September and October it is getting cold again so the big boots come out again. All the while we just mix it up on the bikes and the climbing crags!

By November and December the climbing is over, and it is getting too cold for biking. I tend to spend these months doing less than the rest of the year. Fully geared up it is still a joy to go into the hills but it is harder when you have to carry so much gear. There is a bills like no other to be found in the high mountains at this time of year. The world is holding it’s breath.The silence is almost deafening compared to the clamour of Spring. The gods are close and the soul soars over the empty valleys and barren peaks.

The wheel turns and the seasons come and go. Every one of them has it’s own joy and so we stay.

When is Bansko at it’s best? Bansko is always at it’s best!

 

 

 

The Davies peak bagging in National Park Pirin

the-davies

The Davies peak bagging in National Park Pirin

The Davies is a game. Please remember it is just a game! Some people have taken it all waaaay too seriously. There is a small prize when you complete it but more than that it is a wonderful adventure.

My friend and Mentor Di Davies have been pottering around Pirin for the best part of 17 years. As new arrivals in Bulgaria we knew little or nothing about Pirin and the information about the peaks in the park was very limited.

We spent our first few years here climbing and hiking trying to find climbing routes and generally exploring the national Park.

After a few more years we started to think we had climbed most of the mountains in Pirin and there started the discussion. What is a mountain? In Scotland the peaks were first written up by a man named Sir Hugh Thomas Munro in 1891. A peak was defined as being over 3000 feet high. Ever since that first list was produced people have been “Bagging Munros” and arguing about what constitutes a mountain.

There are 92 peaks in Pirin over 2500m that we call The Davies. I have named the game and the peaks after Di as a kind of thank you for all the wonderful trips we have taken together in Pirin and for all the tireless support he has given me in climbing, mapping and exploring them.

spanopolski-chukar

The list!

The Davies peak bagging in National Park Pirin !

I’ve had a lot of hate about the list and very little opportunity to defend our definition of what constitutes a Davies so I am going to do that here.

1)A Davies must be over 2500m.

2)A Davies must appear as a marked peak or spot height on at least one of the recognized maps of Nation Park Pirin.

3)A Davies is included if it has a name and is over 2500m.

This definition has led to a few strange inclusions. Peak number 63 is more a bump than a peak but is marked on every map as a spot height. Peak number 89 “Blaguncho” is commonly know as such in Dobrinishtay but isn’t really a mountain.

Then there are the Strazhite, are there 3 of them? 4, 6, 9 or 12 the gods know but I’m not sure so we included the ones we thought were about right.

Remember this is a game and a bit of an adventure!

Tourism is both the life blood and poison of National Park Pirin. The idea behind The Davies is not just about fun. We have worked closely with the national park every step of the way. Encouraging tourists to explore areas other than the main trails reduces the burden of mass tourism on those main trails. Tourists in remote parts of the Pirin also discourage poachers. Win Win!

bashliyski_chukar_-_img_5178

Two Big Targets!

The Davies peak bagging in National Park Pirin 14 days or 12 years!

As far as I am aware only 2 people have managed to stand on every peak on the list . This is not because it is impossibly hard or that locals can’t do it. The reason only 2 people have completed The Davies is because the game has only been around for a few years and that lots of the locals just haven’t been interested in some of the more obscure peaks.

The fastest time to stand on them all is 14 mountain days, yes, he is a lunatic! For myself it took 12 years. The fastest time was spent running frantically between peaks my time was spent exploring every possible route up each peak to make sure they were all ok for normal people. There were also a few lazy days just loving the view!

djangal3

Can you do it?

Yes, you can! The Davies are all walking peaks except two (kind of two) The first difficult one is number 49 Mozgovishki Chukar. This peak is at the end of a ridge of 4 Davies and there is a little section in the middle that involves a little bit of scrambling. Nothing scary but a little scary!!!

The second on is a climbing peak. Number 73, Golema Strazja. Yes, you can climb it without ropes I know. Yes, you know a guy who did Blah Blah Blah. But I couldn’t and didn’t. We took a light weight bit of climbing string and a sling. Di, my son Dylan and I climbed it easily and safely. Dylan climbed it twice! Having some climbing string on Strazhite is also nice as there are a few exposed sections that are on gravel.

Hire a guide, take some extra kit do whatever it takes to allow you to enjoy yourself to the max!

the-davies1

I have published a map of The Davies with a list of all the peaks on the back and each peak numbered on the front. These maps are free! You can find them at: –

-National Park pirin office https://goo.gl/maps/z3d4BTjPzRt2yhyEA

-Bansko Tourist Information office https://goo.gl/maps/7xVgFbqGQjKEBpki7

-Mountain Rescue Bansko https://goo.gl/maps/3f1pMwBatbMdsFFx5

-The Hotel Avalon https://goo.gl/maps/eAt1NjkU1Ws3XKD9A

-Alt space Bansko https://g.page/altspacecoworking?share

-Co-Working Bansko  https://goo.gl/maps/68ZHauf7baqoBtPM8

Freeride Backpack. Kit you need when you are off into the Backcountry

Freeride Backpack

Freeride Backpack. Kit you need!

I LOVE POW! We all love pow! To be honest Pow is what it is all about. Sick lines in fresh snow are just flipping awesome. There is a long learning curve you need to nail to really enjoy baccountry skiing/boarding. There are skills to be honed, fitness to be built up. Don’t forget the whole KBYG thing, safety, risk assesment, avalananche awareness courses blah blah blah. There is a butt load of info to be aquired before you head out into the POW!

To save you some time, effort and lessons here is what I should normally take as a Freeride Backpack.  I say should and normally a little shamefully. I have been know to go out with no bateries in my transciever, an empty water bottle, no gloves no food , even an empty backpack. None of us are perfect and I am less perfect than most. The list is what I would take if I remembered and what you should take as a minimum.

26 years I’ve been at this so hopefully by now I’ve got it about right.There is other stuff, like parapet rope, crampons and axes that I sometimes take but only for special reasons. This is my everyday carry for a day freeriding. I hope it helps!

Clothing

A few choice items of spare clothing are a must in every Freeride Backpack. The weather can turn quickly in the mountains. We often go from a long hard run, to standing around waiting and having some spare layers makes a lovely difference.

Ortovox Swisswool Piz Cartas Vest

O.K. this really isn’t cheap, well north of a hundred euros for a vest is a little bit silly. But we have to do out bit. Mountain sports wear is environmentally a disaster, the whole industry is shamefully polluting so I try to do my bit. Ortovox, Picture and Patagonia are all pretty green so I buy from them and pay the price.

This vest is awesome, lined with the wool of some special, happy, loved, European sheep. It keeps you warm and wicks away moisture beautifully!

York Beanie and Buff

The weather can change, you can end up hanging around whatever the reason it is always nice to have a beanie and a spare BUFF in your bag! BUFF are versatile, warm and have some cool patterns. Picture are eco-friendly and painfully cooooool!

Hestra Gloves

You will think me mad now but experience has really taught me that you need 4 pairs of gloves! Hands can suffer really fast in low winter temps and fingers fall off easily. Spare gloves are an essential: –

1) The gloves on your hands that you are skiing in

2) A spare pair of similar gloves to your everyday ones in case you drop one, rip one, get yours wet or a friend needs a pair.

3) Thick glove liners if it suddenly gets windy or cold thick wind stopper liners are brilliant, also can be used as reserve gloves if someone n your group has a problem.

4) Silk gloves. I am obsessed with these little beauties. So thin you don’t even know you are wearing them and increase you finger warmth by 100%. I promise you if you buy a pair, you will thank me for ever.

Hestra are a company beyond any other, I LOVE THEM! Gear that lasts for years and looks cool and does the job better than you hoped for. GO HESTRA!

Glacier Sunglasses

Opinion is divided on these. Are we going for the cool bearded explorer look or are we just a wally? I’m on the bearded explorer side of the debate but I fear I might be in the minority.

Fashion debates aside Category 4 lens glacier glasses are a must. If you are hiking for an extended period in the snow goggles just don’t work. They are hot and fog up in seconds. Glacier glasses on the other hand are perfectly designed for the job. With lenses that are so dark you aren’t allowed to drive in them, they protect your eyes from glare beautifully. Those silly/awesome little leather blinkers also keep the glare from the sides of your eyes.

Hardware

There are some basic bits you will need in your Freeride BackPack. If anyone doesn’t have this minimum amount of kit do not ride with them. They are either stupid, ignorant, suicidal or an egotistical psychopath. Whatever the reason for them to be without this BASIC level of safety equipment don’t ride with them.

  • A Backpack,
  • Shovel and Probe
  • Transceiver

Deuter Freerider Lite 25 Backpack

I’ve tried a lot of brands at a lot of different prices and this little beauty is just right. Not too expensice, not too cheap, loads of space and really well designed. It has a huge top pocket for easy access for snacks , cigarettes and maps. inside appears to be way bigger than the 25l advertised and it carries skis perfectly

Ortovox probe and Shovel.

Good quality gear not made in china. Up to the job and somewhere in the middle of the price range. I use K2 at the moment as you can see in the picture. I got them for a stupidly low price as part of a set with the bag included. If I had to replace them now, I would go Ortovox.

BCA Tracker2 Avalanche Transceiver

This is probably your most important piece of hardware. I wont bang on about transceivers and mortality rates as it’s boring. Simply put this 300 euro bit of kit could, will and very often does save lives. Learn how to use it, practice a few times a year.

It also has the added bonus that wearing one instantly makes you the sexiest guy in the room. Babes will throw themselves at you if they catch a glimpse of one so for the sake of modesty wear it under your jacket!

Hardware II

Optional extras in the metalwork category really depend on what you are up to. I keep the below in my Freeride BackPack  because, well why not! The touring crampons are super light and take up no space, a head torch just in case, water because I am fat and sweaty and the finest sun creams on earth because I’m ginger!

Sigg Aluminium traveller water bottle 1L.

I have had my Sigg water bottle since 1995. It has been on thousands of days of adventures and even though it is battered and bruised it is still in perfect working order.

Piz Buin sun cream.

Basically, I am allergic to the sun. Like a vampire I catch fire as soon as the clouds clear. I am ginger but I do have a soul so I use the blue Piz Buin. Mountain sun cream and it actually works. Great for the lips and skin it’s a little bit expensive but well worth the money.

Dynafit speed crampon

Lightweight and as grippy a a honey badger’s claw. A great little back up when you are touring and encounter ice.

Black Diamond Icon 700

It looks like over kill but when you are coming home late or going out early a head torch is a god send. On the heavy side but still not so heavy that you notice, the Black Diamond icon has a ridiculous 700 lumins that basically turns night into day!

Medical kit

I have played with what goes into the medical kit for years and I am still not 100% sure what I need to I have 3 layers in there. :-

  • A basic medical kit
  • Survival Kit

Basic Medical Kit

Buy one from any out door shop these little packs have pretty much everything you might need. Don’t think too much just grab one off the shelf and chuck it in your bag.

Survival Kit

This is what I have collected over the years as much as this is apropriate for a Freeride BackPack it is also useful for summer treking. Many adventures/disasters have taught me the vital importance of these little extras. The whole of the list below only weighs a few hundred grams but can make a massive difference when you are in a pickle.

A small piece of bicycle tyre stuffed with cotton wool that has been rubbed in Vaseline. With this you can start a fire out of anything. Fire means warmth and smoke so you can be warm and cosy while the smoke leads help to you.

Serious pain killers. The strongest you can get your hands on. A hefty does of poppies really helps when you are hurt.

Some Prussik cord. Thin heavy duty climbing cord has a million and one uses in a pinch.

A knife, something tough and sharp. I love an Opinel knife or something similar. Spend a bit extra if you want but Opinel are spot on.

Flint and steel, with a bit of practice you can start a fire easily with one of these and they don’t mind getting wet.

Compass and a Map….

Iodine, yes it stings and dyes your skin brown but it kills everything, it even works on drinking water if you can stomach the taste!

Tampax are wonderfully absorbent and expand. They make great wound dressings especially if it is a puncture wound.

Zink oxide tape is great for making splints, fixing kit and covering blisters. It’s the gaffa tape of the medical world. If you are damaged zinc oxide tape will probably be able to fix it for a while.

Space blanket. Looks like tin foil keeps you warm as toast and weighs nothing. A total no brainer. Every medical kit should have one.

Freeride Backpack

Winter is coming

banskiski

Winter is coming ,

the first gentle snows of autumn have been and gone. The northern slopes of the highest peaks are now clad in their winter whites. Winter is coming, our central heating is on!  The fire in reception is lit, evenings are spent sipping rum laced tea in front of its warm glow . Winter is coming that is an unstoppable reality but what sort of winter is coming the gods only know!

I have been working winter seasons since 1995 I have seen the bad ones when the snow came late and left early, I seen the epic ones where weather systems cycled through relentlessly dumping pow week in week out. I’ve had winters with bookings so bad I’ve had to pay the wages out of my savings and winters so good I’ve not know what to do with all the profit.

12 months ago I thought I had seen everything winter tourism could throw at you. How wrong I was. Winter is coming a winter like no other!

Globally winter 2020/21 currently looks like the worst season in history. Chalet bookings are almost non existent, tour operators have slashed their forecasts and cancelled vast numbers of hotels, resorts and countries. Air lines are 60% down and those numbers are just getting worse and worse.smiley-face

Winter is coming !

For those of us who live here and those of you who are planning on coming to live here this is going to be epic!

Numbers are down! We will have the resort to ourselves. Finally my dreams have come true I have my own private ski resort!

Co-workers and Co-livers mean Bansko is full of really cool people living here for the season. Even if they close the lifts we can still go ski touring, winter mountaineering and back country skiing.

Finally I live in a ski resort and I will not be working 18 hours a day!  Winter is coming YAY!

Avalon-fire-300x300

Working hours from 9th of November until 15th of December

Avalon will be open for drinks and events,

4pm to 8pm Monday to Friday pre season.

We will be complying with local Covid measures so numbers will be limited.

Follow us on facebook for news.

This is what we do!

IMG_20151002_150632

We play in the mountains and look after people!

We live here because we love the mountains, we work here because we love sharing the love! Hospitality is awesome, we make our guests happy and in return they give us the means to live the mountain dream!

Avalon is something different.

There are a lot of options in Bansko for Nomads, cheap hotels, cheap shared chalets, apartments at ridiculously low prices. All of which have something in common they are ok for the money.

At The Avalon we are not cheap because we want to offer something a little bit nicer. Internet that works all the time. Clean communal areas and a team to support you while you are here.

The Team

We have a cleaner to deep clean the kitchen, we expect everyone to clean their own stuff but for scrubbing behind the cooker and cleaning the fans, emptying the bins and generally keeping on top of things we have Rumi!

The communal areas will get a once over every day, you’ve got better things to do than mop corridors and bathrooms.

Every evening we will man the bar from 5 to 9pm, not just to serve drinks but to offer advice, give directions and generally smooth out the bumps in the road of living in Bulgaria.

We have a laundry if you want to wash you clothes, we also have a company that can wash dry press you clothes and deliver them back to you!

Concierge Services

You have moved to Bulgaria, you probably don’t speak the language and probably don’t understand how to navigate the paperwork. We do! I have been running multiple businesses here for 17 years, if you need to do something official we have done it before.

If you need a contract for accommodation for residency, a translator, a driver, a helicopter, a private ambulance, a gluten free vegan birthday cake, a horse whisperer…..whatever it is we have done it before and are more than happy to help you!

The Accommodation

You need a room with a private office we have 6 of them.

You need somewhere to do your yoga we have a space for that.

You want to cook a massive dinner  for a birthday party, we have a team to help.

Prices

Prices start from as little as 234euros a month including all bills. no we are not the cheapest but our guests think we are the best. Tripadvisor reviews!

 

 

 

Co-living-avalon-bansko Online English teachers

Co-living @ Avalon Bansko

In December Avalon will start a new chapter in Bansko!

Covid-19 has totally changed the way we live and work. With less and less office based work, flexible hours and more and more location independent work available we have decided on a change.

Out with traditional old fashioned hospitality and in with a totally new way of living the Bansko dream!

Avalon has been a Home-tel for many of our regular guests for years, our plan is to expand on the Home side of things. We will no be offering our mini apartments and single rooms for rent exclusively on a monthly basis.

Our guests will be able to use the kitchen and living room as their own home!

We will still be doing some weekly events as well as cooking courses, guided ski, bike and hike days.

Our focus is online English teachers and location independent workers who love the mountains.

Co-living-avalon-bansko Online English teachers