Sunday, August 27, 2023

In the Balkan Mountains

This summer is definitely one of the hottest I remember. Not so much in absolute temperatures as in the consecutive number of hot and dry days. Other summers we would have a spell of two hot weeks and then, given that Sofia is at the foot of a high mountain, surrounded by mountains from all sides and with relatively high altitude (600 m), the summer would get wetter and cooler. But not this year. Even in the altitudes above 2000 m it was hot and dry.

Thus our adventure in the Balkan mountains would be remembered as a surprisingly difficult hike in the heat, where we quickly found that we have to ration our water and still sip by sip we finished it some 6 km before any fresh water source and we seriously dehydrated at the end of the hike. Guess what happened yesterday on our latest hike (to be blogged soon, hopefully) - we returned to the car with more than 2 liters of water to spare, we definitely overpacked :), but better safe than sorry.

At the beginning of August we drove to Petrohan mountain pass in the Balkan mountains and walked the trail to Todorini kukli peak - a range of four mountain peaks with small saddles between them.

Part of the trail runs along the ridge of the mountain, with views to the north and the south of the Balkans. It's really amazing and cool and this part is fairly easy, with gradual elevation gain.
Unlike Rila and Pirin, the Balkan mountain are greener, with pastures and forests, but with much less rivers, lakes and springs. There were no fresh water sources along the entire trail.
The range of peaks of Todorini kukli
The second of the Todorini kukli peaks. We went up and down and then up again along all four of them
The peaks height starts from 1785 m and gradually descends to 1672 m at their highest points, with saddles, where the altitude drops, so we had to go steep down and then steep up again.

Me-made items, worn on this hike:

Husband: boxers, Grey Burda hoodie
I: lingerie, Sabrina Slims

Hike info:

Destination: Todorini kukli (1785 m)
Mountain: Balkan mountains
Total length: 21 km
Elevation gain: 385 m absolute altitude gain, no idea how much in accumulative altitude gain, a lot
Total duration (plus picnic and rests): 8 hours
Average difficulty: 8 / 10 

On the last of the peaks. Here we had our lunch and decided to make the hike circular and explore some trails on the map, that were off the popular track. Given what we know now, I don't think I would recommend that.

The track lead us steeply downhill, and though it was present on the map, the trail was actually only imaginary, along stones and through high grasses, until we reached some forests.. There we found an old trail, that could be fairly easily followed.
After the forest the trail gained quickly all that lost altitude again, so it was as if we climbed the first peak twice, once from the south and then again from the north, along barely discernible paths in the grass, through dwarf mountain pines, until we reached a crossroad with the original trail.
It was an epic adventure and I hope it will teach us never to underestimate the heat, especially along open trails in the summer and always to bring enough water and not to rely on eventual water sources on the way.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Seven Rila Lakes

It's been almost two weeks, since we went to the Seven Rila Lakes, but I've been so busy these days, that I simply can't find the energy to blog.

Still, I can't skip posting about this hike, which is usually the height of our hiking year. I've said it many times and it is still true - this place is my favourite hiking spot and this year we composed an especially interesting and rewarding route, passing along both of our favourite ridges and by all of our favourite lakes, while avoiding the crowds of tourists around the lakes in high season.

:This time we started from the Seven Rila Lakes hut along the lower trail towards the Fish lake.
:The Lower lake

Hike info:

Destination: Mt. otovitza (2696 m)
Mountain: Rila
Total length: 17 km
Elevation gain: 600 m
Total duration (plus picnic and rests): 6 and a half hours
Average difficulty: 6.5 / 10 


:The Fish lake.

:From here we deviated from the usual trail and took the steep path towards peak Haramiyata.
:This was probably the steepest part of the route. As we climbed, one after the other the lakes became visible
:After the saddle under haramiyata peak we descended to one of our favourite lakes and had some power snacks, enjoying the view of its beautiful waters
:And up we continued towards Zeleni Rid
:On top of the ridge, with Urdini lakes behind me. From here we continued along the ridge until we reached Razdela - the crossroad of several major routes in Rila.

Me-made items, worn on this hike:

Husband: boxers, Knipmode cargo pants, Grey Burda hoodie
I: lingerie, Sabrina Slims, Burda henley blouse, hoodie




:The other side of the mountain - Kalinite peaks and Pazar dere

:We continued along the Otovitza ridge towards peak Otovitza
:All of the Seven lakes at a glance
:The highest point of our hike - peak Otovitza (2696 m)
:On the peak. Here we had our lunch. It is always surreal to me to dine on top of a high peak, with a view to the lakes
:From Otovitza we took the very steep trail downwards to the Eye lake
:The Eye
:The Kidney. We took the trail by the other four lakes and closed the loop at the Seven Rila Lakes hut, from where we had started. This was probably our best hike to the lakes so far, definitely the ultimate route!
:On the way back to Sofia