The Davies, Route 5.

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The Davies, Route 5.

Pitel #44, Mozgovishki Chukar #45#46#47#49

 

Mozgovishki Chukar has proved to be one of the hardest routes to put together for The Davies.  It isn’t the most technically challenging route or the longest. Those titles probably go to Yalovarnika #55 and Golena #58. But route 4 poses it’s own unique chalenges.

After 10 attempts I finally made it with one of my strongest hiking buddies. After a very early start, with rope packed just in case. There are two possible start points, one is from Tevno hut  from where you will have to follow the red trail towards Vihren to the pass east of Pitel #44 and the other is from Damianitsa hut. The route I will describe is from Damianitsa hut.

To get to Damianitsa hut drive ( or be driven) by 4×4 up the dirt road to the hut. It is a long day so saving a couple of hours by driving is well worth it. We left Bansko in the dark and returned in the dark in October, this is a 10 to 12 hour day so allow Plenty of time.

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From the hut head due south on on the blue trail. Most of the way  the trail is also marked by black and yellow winter trail poles. These poles are on most of the main winter ski mountaineering routes and have distances to the next post on the little sign at the top of the pole.

The trail follows the valley floor towards the u shaped pass at the head of the valley. This is alpine pasture grazed all summer by the local cattle, you get some great views looking back towards Bansko and east towards Gazai#68 and Djangal#87. After you pass the yellow trail that comes down from Djangal to the east  there is the first little climb up to a small lake. From here on you are off piste and there are no trail markers until you come back to this little lake.

20181007_103112At the lake you will see a faint trail the heads due west up to the ridge, the trail gets fainter and fainter as it nears the top of the ridge. At the top you will meet the main motorway trail that goes the whole length of Pirin. This section of the red trail goes from Vihren hut to Tevno hut and is one of the most popular trails in National Park Pirin. Peak summer this is a busy motorway full of hut to hut holiday makers. Cross the red trail and head down towards the lake at the foot of Pitel. There is a kind of faint trail here but any route will do.

The valley below the lake leads to Sandanski and the hut at Spano Pole ( pronounced Spano Polay) From the lake you get a good view of Pitel. It looks impossible from here, don’t worry there is a way. From the north shore of the lake head straight toward the summit of Pitel. You will soon come up against a wall of impenetrable klek. Skirt round to the west and keep climbing up the north ridge, repeat this every time you hit klek and you will curve easily to the summit. The summit of Pitel is covered in “small”  boulders, It is pretty easy scrambling here. 20181007_112821

We spent a huge amount of time on the summit of Pitel trying to find a route onto the main ridge, as it turned out the most direct route was the best but it looks pretty grim from Pitel.   From the summit follow the ridge line due south dropping down onto the west flank to miss the worst of the klek. You will have to scramble at times but nothing too scary. You are aiming for the saddle where Pitel joins the Mozgovishki Chukar ridge. Just before the saddle you will have to skirt along the east flank then scamble back up onto the main ridge. The ridge is steep but easy scrambling. It took us about 45 minutes from the Summit of Pitel to peak#46 on Mozgovishki Chukar. 20181007_130329

From here the real fun starts. Simply put head west along the ridge until you come the summit of Mozgovishki Chukar about 90 minutes from this peak! In reality the ridge is nothing but trouble and at times technical scary trouble at that.

The ridge starts easily enough with some grass and the odd boulder or patch of kelk to circumvent. The further along the ridge you go the bigger the boulders get and the thicker the patches of Klek become. I’ve tried every possible variation of this ridge and even though it is a bit scary at times the best route is to follow the highest point of the ridge. It’s not easy. The boulders are huge in places and some of the moves are almost rock climbing.  The patches of Klek are a huge pain in the bum  but it’s better to fight through them than try to detour around them.

20181007_130339The summit is very very satisfying. We didn’t need a rope but I think some people would like to have one. We didn’t do any actual climbing but there are two sections, The Crack and The ledge where a good pair of shoes and strong fingers are essential.

The route home is back the way you came so you will get a chance to experience those exciting bits descending now! Go carefully, a buddy to spot foot holds is useful.

When you get back to #46 the peak next to Pitel carry on directly east along the ridge towards Tevno hut.  This is pretty easy going after the boulder fields you have just crossed.  Soon you will see the red trail below you and the little lake where you turned off the blue trail. At this point you can follow the faint goat trail directly down to the lake. It is almost a perfectly straight line. If you have not had enough excitement varry on along the main ridge towards Tevno. Descend here via the winter route marked with the yellow and black poles, there is also a chain to help winter climbers.

Follow the Blue trail back to Damianitsa hut. As I said at the beginning this is a long day. Added to that it is a dry route so you will need to carry lots of water and food.  Expect it to take you 12 hours at a good pace from Damianitsa hut.  The views are unique and you will get a real feeling of being an explorer adventuring in untamed lands. This almost untouched route, during the 10 recces I have made on this route I have only seen 2 other people on the main ridge.

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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

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!

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