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Accursed Mountain of Destiny

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Accursed Mountain of Destiny

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Albania, Europe

Lat/Lon: 42.48612°N / 19.75981°E

Object Title: Accursed Mountain of Destiny

Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 31, 2009

Activities: Mountaineering, Trad Climbing

Season: Summer

 

Page By: kamil

Created/Edited: Nov 7, 2010 / Mar 28, 2011

Object ID: 677227

Hits: 2664 

Page Score: 90.13%  - 31 Votes 

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Table of Contents

Images

As night falls down ‘pon this wretched ground
I descend the fog valleys below
With no man, nor beast, but naked trees around
And the moon that all light has bled


[May Result - At The Cursed Heights of Prokletije (Slava Smrti)]




1 September 2009

- Count quickly from zero to ten.
- Alright.
- Stop.
- Seven. Jammy bugger, this time you won. You push Luna so hard that she hits the car door, so she wakes up from her trance and doesn’t know what’s going on.
- Is the girl alive?
- Yeah, but only just, she’s lost lots of blood.
- I throw Luna out the car and drive the girl to the nearest A&E. I lay her on a bench and find a nurse. I say ‘help her quick, she’s lost lots of blood’ and I leave.
- She grabs your arm and tries to ask what’s happened.
- I’m like ‘I ain’t got time, just help her, please!’. I wrestle my arm out, run for the car and drive away.
- Alright, you made it. You get one point of humanity for rescuing the girl. You’re short of time, you gotta make it home before daylight.
- How long till dawn?
- Not much, about an hour.

After the moonset everything takes weird colours and shapes. Lichens on the rock look like some black monstrous creepy-crawlies. I still get this wacky impression that there is someone third with us. It must be just a figment of my half-asleep imagination. Jumping and moving my arms I try to warm up. I can’t discern the rock face from the valley below us. There is no more light visible at Gusinje and Plav, maybe just some pale afterglow. In Grbaja I can see two bright lights next to each other. Our Eko-katun perhaps? The Plough has travelled a long way across the sky, only the Pole Star remains in her place, as if she wanted to give us back some sense of reality.

- How long till dawn?
- Not much, about an hour.
- Know any other spoonerism?
- Pheasant plucker’s cunning stunt.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


28 July 2005

Then comes another shower, as sudden as the first one but a lot heavier. We get soaked before we can even put our goretexes on. But just a few minutes more and here we are on the col. We reached the border undisturbed. Backpacks down, tent up. Welcome to Albania! The sky clears again and the setting sun lights the mountains. I don’t even know what the peaks’ names are.


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We melt some snow and cook a multi-course meal, washing it down with Albanian beer. We even smoke a fag each, although all three of us are declared non-smokers. Got them from an Albanian shoemaker who fixed David’s boot at Kolesjan, on the return from Korab a couple days ago. We gave him a pack only to get three back, one for each. Maybe tomorrow we will climb Maja Jezerce and go our separate ways then, so it is time to celebrate it with a proper farewell dinner. How can we know how many farewell dinners are still ahead of us.

* * * * * * * * * *


15 August 2006

Qafa e Pejës opens in front of us suddenly, like a gate to the northern part of Prokletije. The mountains I remember from last year seem within my reach again. We are now on the trail that we considered with Ivoš and David as an ascent route to Maja Jezerce when we first saw it from our ‘eagle’s nest’ bivy on the ridge, although we knew absolutely nothing about it. Now, in turn, I can see this ridge very closely from below. I’m still not sure about the peaks’ names. Maja Lagojvet is probably somewhere there. And the others... nameless?


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Photo by Dinaric-ZG


* * * * * * * * * *


12 July 2008

Walking fast, I cross the corrie the same way as three years ago. Then we had no idea about the local topography. Now when I look at the surrounding peaks, everything falls into place. I take out my notebook and sketch a ridge map, trying to mark as many details as possible. Then I reach the base of Maja Lagojvet north face. At a closer look it looks climbable. Deceptively climbable...


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* * * * * * * * * *


26 August 2008

We reach the base of the face. As I expected, Tomek decides his part will be limited to supporting me and taking pics. I understand him perfectly so I don’t insist. He has never done any trad climbing after all. Alright, solo with self-belaying then... I tell him I’m very unlikely to finish the route today as it is already late afternoon. I will perhaps just climb one pitch, abseil on a single rope and leave it for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, depending on our further plans. He asks me a few times if I’m sure I want to do it.


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Photo by typ


Bloody hell, what a choss... for a longer while I think how to get another 2-3 metres up and not fall off with some loose rock. I climb on, find two good cracks and hammer in my last two lost arrows. If I make another attempt, this will be my bottom stance. But now it is not important anymore. At this speed there would be no way I could finish the face before dark, not to mention abbing down. I shout to Tomek that it’s over for today...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


1 September 2009

After the moonset everything takes weird colours and shapes. Lichens on the rock look like some black monstrous creepy-crawlies. I still get this wacky impression that there’s someone third with us. Perhaps just a figment of my half-asleep imagination. Jumping and moving my arms, I try to warm up. I can’t discern the rock face from the valley below us. There’s no more light visible at Gusinje and Plav, maybe just some pale afterglow. In Grbaja I can see two bright lights next to each other. Our Eko-katun perhaps? The Plough has travelled a long way across the sky, only the Pole Star remains in her place, as if willing to give us back our sense of reality.

- How long till dawn?
- Not much, about an hour.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

27 August 2009

There seems to be no one in the Branko Kotlajić hut. I shine my headlamp and check the door - it is locked. Alright, we can still pitch our tent by the spring. I return to Seba who is waiting by the car.

Before we even get to the spring, we can see some new buildings that were not here last year. Wooden houses, something like a restaurant... a gate with ‘Eko-katun Grbaje’ written on it. We enter and see some people sitting at one of the tables at the terrace. Then the landlord comes out to welcome us. He is just closing for the night but still sells us some beer. The place has just been built this summer. The night at one of the bungalows is five euros per person, or you can stay in your own tent for one euro. We decide to stay inside. The third bungalow is free so we bring our stuff upstairs and return to the bar, sit at a table and cook some food, drinking Nik Gold beer.

I can hear those four at the next table talking about mountains. Their speech resembles Serbian but I get an impression that at least some of them are not native speakers of the ‘common’ Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian tongue. We introduce ourselves and all becomes clear. One couple is mixed Slovenian-Bosnian and the other is Bulgarian. We offer them our plum rakija which we bought at a roadside restaurtant in Serbia. Seba is not used to the language yet so I have to translate quite a lot for him, but the Slavic conversation becomes much easier with each round we drink.



28 August 2009

We lay in, feeling the need of some rest following the two days’ car journey. Today’s plan is to carry the gear to Zastan - just that little. Or that much. Leaving the bulgalow, we are welcomed by the morning sun, clear sky and the view of Grbajski Zastan mountain amphitheatre, so familiar to me. Seba sees it for the first time.


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We prepare breakfast on the terrace and soon are joined by the other guests. I write a message about our intended climbing area and probable return date of 1 September. The landlord arrives before we leave, so I hand it to him, telling him a bit more about our plans.

Most of the gear lands in my pack while Seba takes almost all water and food, so that we have about 35 kg each. We drive to the end of Treća livada, the Grbaja valley’s third meadow, where Seba waits with the stuff while I bring the car back to Eko-katun and return on foot to join him.

I quickly find the path which we followed last year with Azra and Tomica. Step by step, with frequent rests, we climb up the steep path across the forest. The heavy loads don’t make the task easy but after two hours we reach the treeline. Soon we stumble upon a spring that I can’t remember from the previous trip. There is no clear path here and we must have just missed it. Had I known it, we wouldn’t carry so many litres of water up this steepest section.


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We leave the impressive walls of Karanfili on our left and gradually in front of us appears Maja Fortit, which was climbed for the first time by a Serbian party less than two months ago. As soon as we reach the threshold, we can also see Maja Lagojvet.


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We have already seen it from Grbaja. It is perfectly visible from there, standing proud right in the middle of the amphitheatre around Zastan. Yet, no one ever claimed to have climbed it so far. In the recent years I took a close look from all sides and could not find any easy way to the top. I have not even heard of anyone who tried to scale it. I have, but I kept a low profile...

Some other climbing goals are hidden behind seven... nah, not that far... behind two more ridges and would require several more hours of walking. Now, six hours after leaving Grbaja, we reach the place where I camped with Tomek exactly a year ago. It is a great feeling to finally take our backpacks off. We are well knackered despite being in quite a good shape. Big respect for Seba, who is still fighting his fever and sore throat but kept up with my pace all day.



29 August 2009

The early bird catches the rain.


After yesterday’s effort we are still too tired to get up early. Shame really, ‘cos the sun is shining. The weatherman said clear day and rainy night...

It takes us less than an hour to reach the bottom of the face that I tried to bite last year. We are thinking where to start. I first consider the great chimney, but chimneys are known to be slippy and wet and they often become funnels for falling rocks. Seba thinks about the route of my previous attempt that I just showed him. I am however more attracted to the place to its right, with an easier start and some massive shelves above the first pitch. There seems to be less real climbing from the shelves to the summit ridge, as the face leans back higher above the first two or three pitches. I manage to convince him and we finally gear up.


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Photo by seba


As I have more experience in trad climbing, I will probably lead all pitches, although Seba may be in a better climbing shape than me. I set up a peg and friend belay and begin the first pitch. The full rope length of easy climbing of grade III ends right on the ledge. Fixing another peg and nut belay I readily notice a convenient niche for the next one. That next pitch will be a really short one, just a scramble to that niche. Only above it the real difficulties will begin, as just above the niche we can see a large featureless slab.

We quickly reach the niche and set up the belay, but in the meantime the weather suddenly deteriorates. Ocassional lightnings cross the dark grey sky over Grbaja in the north. We make the quick decision to bail.

Having abbed down to the ground we decide to leave the ropes on the first pitch. They will surely get wet but at least we can save some time tomorrow. While we are packing our rack, the rain begins to fall. On the descent it is pissing down proper and before reaching our camp we are also hit by hail. The hell breaks loose when we are safely stashed in the tent. That’s the silver lining of the cloud above us - had we not overslept, this shite would catch us right in the middle of the crux.

An hour and a half later the rain is over and the clouds even clear away. With a wee bit of luck the rock will be dry till tomorrow despite its northern exposition. Seba cooks us a hefty serving of couscous with salami, peppers and tomatoes. Our water brought from the valley is almost over and we have to start drinking the ‘wormwater’ from melted snow. Luckily the snow field is much larger than last year and the concentration of rock dust and those pesky little worms in the snow is proportionally smaller. We pack three mess tins with snow to melt overnight. Filtering it through gauze in a makeshift funnel from a cut plastic bottle will be necessary but we haven’t got any water purification tables with us. I convinced Seba that last year me and Tomek weren’t hit by the Curse of the Accursed Mountains so now we’re gonna be alright as well.

The weather holds until we hit the sack. An hour later we are awaken by a thunderstorm that lasts over two hours, destroying our hopes for dry rock. There is no need to play the early birds tomorrow, we have plenty of worms in the snow anyway...



30 August 2009

Człowiek mokry jest głupszy, niż człowiek suchy.
(A wet man is dumber than a dry man.)


[Andrzej Wilczkowski - Miejsce przy stole (A Place by the Table)]


At six I stick my head out the tent. The weather seems alright. Our mountain is certainly totally wet however, so there is no need to hurry. We sleep two more hours. In the meantime heavy fog comes from the bottom of the valley and goes up, forming an even heavier cloud.


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Photo by seba


As we expected, the rock is completely soggy and the ropes drip with water when squeezed, but we quickly prusik up the first pitch to the ledge and climb up to the niche where the belay is ready. The drizzle begins again.


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Photo by seba

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Photo by seba


I start the next pitch, negotiating a couple metres of slippy grade V rock and placing a few runners. The drizzle turns into a proper downpour, forcing us to bail again. I climb up to a tiny ledge and manage to fix a solid belay from two pegs and a nut. I hope it will become our starting point for the crux tomorrow. That’s gonna be our last chance. I set up a single rope abseil to the big ledge and tell Seba that we better closely watch each other now. A wet man is always more stupid than a dry man, as one wise climber once wrote.


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Photo by seba


The rope remains fixed on the pitch, the other one is thrown down for the second abseil. Now it is more like proper canyoning. It’s pissing down, rivers of water pour down the karstic runnels, my knot and Sticht plate squeeze the rope which splashes even more water down my sleeves...


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Photo by seba


The rain is over only when we are back at the camp. But heavy clouds are still here, it is cold and the air is humid. There was no way even for our goretexes and boots to stay dry, it was like abbing down a waterfall, and in these conditions they surely won’t get dry. Anyway, tomorrow we either go for the final assault or get the rack and ropes down, as our time and food supplies are running low. The summit push was actually planned for today the latest. Tomorrow we were supposed to get back down to Grbaja.



31 August 2009

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you


[T.S. Elliot - The Waste Land]


I wake up before sunrise. The sky brightens but is still full of stars. I try to wake Seba up, but he only murmurs something and keeps sleeping. I drag my arse out of the warm sleeping bag, put on my cold and soggy boots and my still wet fleece and I begin filtering the water from the snow that has melted overnight. In the meantime the fog gets up the valley. Seba gets up too.

The rising sun shyly shines through thickening clouds. We walk the well known way to the wall. Before nine we begin the climb. We both agree that we don’t really feel like climbing this thing...

The clouds sometimes clear away, only to cover the valley again. There seems to be clear sky above them. We quickly prusik up the first two pitches and at the belay we prepare for the further climbing. The wet rock ain’t gonna make it any easier.

As I thought before, now I’ve got to suss out how to negotiate the slab. There is no way to climb it straight up, maybe I could go up a couple metres but further on there are no holds. The only way seems to be a careful traverse to the left. Then the only way is up. There may be some rope drag but I will have to live with it as I can’t see any other way.

Protect the belay! - it sounds in my head like a mantra. Gotta place a runner right now on a dodgy traverse like this, my pendulum would make all the impact hit Seba and the belay. I try to hammer in a thin lost arrow. Instead of a comforting tune of a peg singing home, all I can hear is a dull sound and crushing rock. Bummer.

I delicately move halfway along the traverse, manage to stand more comfortably and finally hammer in a good knifeblade, followed by a nut at the end of the traverse. I clip in, climb up, bang in another peg, got to tie it off with a hero loop ’cos it didn’t go too deep. Have to get back down to take this nut out, otherwise the ropes would be dragging. I get up again and move left, running it out a bit. The rock is wet, the difficulty must be VI+, I get a bit of a disco leg... wouldn’t fancy taking a flyer now... that last peg was kinda sketchy... Luckily I predicted such a situation and put a crab with DMM stoppers on my gear sling in front, so I just take one and plug it in a crack above me and then back it up with another one a metre higher. I take a few deep breaths.

A bit higher up I get a good standing position again and bang in a bomber peg. It boosts my confidence a lot as the climb above looks even harder. The holds on my left look chossy. They feel chossy too... I throw a few loose stones away. What remains is one razor-sharp and wet hold. A jug really, if only it wasn’t so sharp. The friction footholds on the slab are wet too. I grab the razor’s edge and thrutch upwards trying to reach as high as possible, but there’s nowt up there. Maybe there are some holds above but they are well beyond my reach. I’m already quite run out. I keep trying for several minutes in different positions and finally get pumped out. Trying to lower myself to the last piece I don’t even notice when my feet slip off the wet slab, like a cartoon character who starts falling only as soon as he is aware of his airborne state. A tug of the ropes stops me some three metres below the runner. I didn’t even have time to shout but Seba perfectly arrested my flyer.

Assessing the damage I look at my left palm. It bleeds in a few places. Two fingers are badly cut by the razor hold but otherwise I am alright. I lick my wounds and spit the blood out.

Hanging on my bombproof peg I rest for a while and try again. Again I can’t find a way to climb higher above the razor, but this time at least I manage to reverse in a controlled way. For a longer while I think what to do next. My eye catches a good sidecling far to my right. I stand on footholds and try to reach it. But I’m already knackered and the rock is wet, so it won’t be that simple. I ask Seba to block the ropes, then I pull up and lean to my right, hanging on the peg. To hell with the style, it ain’t no sport crag but a fokkin’ first ascent of the hardest peak in the wildest mountains of Europe, if ya got a problem come here and free it! I grab the sidecling and climb high up the slab to the right, using some dubious holds, running it out and risking a big pendy. Finally reaching the jugs above the slab I return left to the planned line, four, maybe five metres above the last placement. I find a crack and place a friend. Alright, I’m alive.


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Photo by seba


A few metres of easier ground lead me to a small grassy ledge, where I set up a belay. Seba seconds the pitch hammering out my pegs. Especially the last one takes him a very long time. I hear him cursing badly as he climbs. He tops out with a sigh of relief. The pitch took us over three hours. It must have been VII- or so, perhaps full VII if you free it... although our judgement may be biased by the wet rock. It is getting late and above us we can see another sketchy pitch, although certainly easier than the last one. And it was supposed to be a nice little climb, maybe three pitches, not harder than V. The mountain sandbagged us big time.

The next pitch is a solid V and very chossy to boot. I climb carefully, placing long runners, but at the end I still have to tug hard on the ropes. I find another handy little grassy ledge for a belay. The pitch was only about 25 metres, but extending it would be pointless because of the rope drag. All we can see above is a sea of choss. According to my altimeter we should be just below the summit, if its elevation given by the map is right. Will the next pitch be the last one? Has this friggin’ wall got no end?


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Photo by seba


I begin another pitch. The previous one may have been manky but this one is the quintessence of moss and choss. I’m not even following the easiest line but trying to avoid loose rocks, although the pitch practically consists of nothing else. I yell at Seba to watch it and throw a few rocks far to the side, getting my wounded hand dirty with mouldy soil. I hope it won’t get infected. Fighting the rope drag I turn left along a slanting ramp and set up a belay on another grassy ledge. Looks like the way to the summit ridge is open now. Seba soon appears in my sight. He tries to hammer out a peg from a crack but gives up after a while and joins me on the ledge.

All in all, he’s one badarse bloke. He is climbing such a route for the first time and he hasn’t even blinked. Anyway, I reckon I haven’t climbed a thing like this either yet.


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Photo by seba


The next pitch has more grass than rock. I climb full 50 metres, scarcely placing some runners for formality. Sitting at the anchor and belaying Seba I notice a small colourful bird that accompanied me before, now sitting on a rock near me. One of the few details of the surrounding world registered by my mind. For some time I have been in my own world, in a kind of flow, just doing what is necessary to get to the top. Sometimes I get this weird feeling that we are in a party of three, like a presence of someone else with us. It seems so natural that I don’t even think about it. When I realise it I just put it down to mental and physical tiredness. Seba tops out, cursing the omnipresent choss and waking me up from this trance.

The last short pitch is dead easy, although very chossy, and leads to a little notch in the summit ridge. We could actually unrope but we don’t do it yet. The cloud opens up and we see how lucky we are. To our right a steep but easy ridge goes to the highest point. The summit on the left, seemingly higher when viewed from the bottom, is in fact much lower. In fact it is at the same level as we are now. The ridge leading to it is totally rotten, we don’t know how those loose rocks hold together. Climbing it would be a suicide, but luckily we need not go there. However, we have a different problem. It is already after six. We leave the ropes and rack at the notch and go to the summit.


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Photo by seba


There is no cairn. There is no other human trace either. Short congratulations and great joy. After all you can’t find an unclimbed mountain in Europe every day, not to mention climbing it! Seba records a short film with his camera. Maja Jezerce is hidden in clouds. All the other peaks around are below us, except Maja Shnikut at the opposite side of the Stani Koprishtit valley, where we hiked with Tomek last year. The old military map shows the elevation of our peak as 2466 m. At the bottom I set my watch altimeter for 2380 m, a value that I measured at that point with Azra’s Garmin a year ago. Now my watch shows 2540 m. So that’s why our route seemed to have no end... The face is almost twice higher than we thought.


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Photo by seba

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Photo by seba


We build a cairn and take self-timer pics with the flag. A plastic bottle comes in handy to leave a message with the details of our ascent inside the cairn. The setting sun shines directly at the opposite cloud, casting a wonderful Brocken spectre with our shadows.


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Photo by seba

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Photo by seba



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Photo by seba


It’s late. We come back to the notch and gear up again. I hammer in an abseil peg. It looks very solid, but seconds after I put weight on the ropes... it comes off with a clink and my arse lands flat on the ground. On the easy ground. Had it been a dozen metres further down the slope, I would have taken off for my last flight. Seba will later say he will never forget that clinking sound of a peg popping off. Next abs will have to be off good slings or at least two bomber pegs each. I may have nine lives like a cat, but I’ve already used up some of them and some more may still be necessary to get the hell outta here.


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Photo by seba


Instead of abseiling those first easy twenty metres we carefully scramble down. Next to our previous belay I wrap a sling around a block. Alright, at least here we're not gonna lose any precious pegs. When we prepare the ropes for the abseil, the sun peeks once more out of the clouds, only to hide for good below the horizon.


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Photo by seba


We have hardly any other choice but to ab down our route using our belay pegs as much as possible. In the next abseil I manage to reach our next belay where I hammer in another peg for safety. Seba joins me in a while. We try to tug the ropes down but they are jammed. Gotta get up there to free them. It is getting darker with each minute. Abbing down in the dark, even with headlamps on, would be too bloody dangerous. Not just because of the choss, it would simply be too difficult to find our belays, the line we have climbed is just too complicated. We are slowly coming to terms with the necessity to spend the night up here.

Carefully I start prusiking up the moss and choss. Halfway up the pitch I can finally tug the ropes free. In the morning we just have to break this abseil in two. I find a handy little ledge, hammer in two pegs, clip in and prepare to spend the night here. Seba comes up too and makes himself cosy on a ledge just below me, plugging a friend in a crack and clipping in.

The moon shines brightly, but unfortunately at the other side of our mountain, so that we are at the dark side. The mountains at the opposite side of the valley below are hidden in the enormous black shadow of Maja Lagojvet. Everything outside its contour is bathed in bright moonlight. We are just wondering whether this light would reach us before sunrise. Then there would be a slight chance to start abseiling a bit earlier...



1 September 2009

Then a bullet with my name on it came buzzin' through a bush
And that big marine he just swatted it with his hand
Just like it was a fly
Whoa Camouflage, things are never quite the way they seem (...)


[Stan Ridgway - Camouflage]


Our water and grub ran out at the summit. For some time we sit comfortably on our grassy ledges but soon it is getting cold, so we stand up and move to warm up. First we just talk about sweet Fanny Adams, then Seba comes up with an idea to play some vampire RPG. He’s got some experience as a game master so it all turns out interesting, especially that I have never played this thing before. The moon strings us along from behind the mountain for a long time and finally decides to set before its light can reach us. It becomes pitch dark.

- Alright, you made it. You get one point of humanity for rescuing the girl. You’re short of time, you gotta make it home before daylight.
- How long till dawn?
- Not much, about an hour.

After the moonset everything takes weird colours and shapes. Lichens on the rock look like some black monstrous creepy-crawlies. I still get this wacky impression that there is someone third with us. It must be just a figment of my half-asleep imagination. Jumping and moving my arms I try to warm up. I can’t discern the rock face from the valley below us. There is no more light visible at Gusinje and Plav, maybe just some pale afterglow. In Grbaja I can see two bright lights next to each other. Our Eko-katun perhaps? The Plough has travelled a long way across the sky, only the Pole Star remains in her place, as if she wanted to give us back some sense of reality.

- How long till dawn?
- Not much, about an hour.
- Know any other spoonerism?
- Pheasant plucker’s cunning stunt.

* * * * *

A while ago daylight began to shyly break through over the north-western horizon. We’re not gonna see the sun yet, it is rising behind the edge of the wall. It is cold and we don’t feel like making a move. I tug on the rope from the yesterday’s anchor above us. Now it comes down alright and we can rig a new abseil from where we are. My two pegs don’t look too solid but are just as good as you get in this choss. Seba is afraid of putting his weight on the anchors and painstakingly slowly downclimbs the whole pitch, moving his prusik down the ropes. It all takes an impossibly long time. Fear is contagious, so when I hear that he reaches the bottom anchor, I do exactly the same as he did.

At the next abseil we leave one screwgate crab and two ordinary ones, one short sling and Seba’s longest one. The latter is just not long enough. That’s gonna be one hell of a gear-depleting return. Both pegs look alright this time but we’re still shitting ourselves. Yesterday that peg looked alright too but I ripped it out as soon as I put my weight on it... Seba goes first with his heart in his throat. After a time that feels like eternity he finally shouts that the rope is free.


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Photo by seba


- Bloody fuckin’ hell, a rock like a kitchen sink, it’s gonna fuckin’ fall down!
I hang on the ropes, Seba stands thirty metres right below me. I support the moved rock with my hand. Can’t hold on for too long, it’s too heavy. Too heavy to throw it aside either. If Seba clings tightly to the face, maybe it’s not gonna hit him. It may still damage the ropes.

I can’t stay here and hold it forever. I let it go. It slowly slides a couple centimetres and... stops against a small edge. Our names are not written on it.

* * * * *

With this abseil we covered the whole of two yesterday’s pitches, full fifty metres. At the next belay I add one more peg to the one left here yesterday. We pray the ropes would come down. Of course they don’t, no matter how hard we tug on them, wave them and what not. Only one more ab separates us from the big ledge above the first pitch. So close and so far away. The mountain will not let us go so easily.

Who’s going? Shall we play rock-paper-scissors? - I ask with a hint of hope. But no way, the more experienced one must go. I asked for it, didn’t I?
- Alright, you melt the snow and cook.
- No prob, mate.

The rock hasn’t got too many features so I can’t just quickly climb it. I fix two prusiks, one for the harness and one for my leg, and I begin moving up. Above us there are tons of loose choss, waiting to change their potential energy into kinetic.

I reach a less steep place, release the jammed knot and tug it down a bit, making sure it will go down this time. Having moved the ropes to my left to safer ground, I ab down. This time the ropes come down alright and we set up the next abseil to our big ledge.


Enlarge
Photo by seba


Our last abseil is off the sole peg previously left here. This one is bombproof, it could make it already so many times so it must stand its ground this time too. Except this one we have only one more left and there is nowhere to hammer it in anyway. Only now can we high five each other when we are both safely standing on solid ground again. The ropes of course get stuck. This time Seba prusiks up to release them. I take all my gear off, take a piss for the first time in 24 hours and go eat snow.


Enlarge
Photo by seba


* * * * *

We wake up in the tent after about three hours. We cook some grub, drink some wormwater with fizzy tablets, pour what remains into a bottle and the camelbag, pack up and begin the long way home.

There is hardly any water in the spring which we found on the way up, but just enough to drink some and refill our supplies. We hit the treeline before dark. My headlamp goes dead so Seba has to walk the steeper and darker sections first and light the way for me. The steepest bit just above the fork in the path is the worst. The mountain will not let us go easily till the end.

We see some weird looking fog in the forest ahead of us. Someone walks out of the fog towards us...

Nah, that’s another film. We are alone here. The forest ends and it gets completely flat. This is the Third Meadow.

We reach the Eko-katun a couple minutes past nine, when the landlord and his family are just about to leave. He tells us they would call the police tomorrow morning had we not arrived. We pay for the overnight stay and ask if we could buy some beer, although the bar has already closed. The landlord agrees, perhaps because we look so battered, so we buy three each. Cooking our last instant soups, we hoist our beers and glasses of rakija. Not just to victory but to our return. ’Cos only the return means victory.

* * * * *

- What did we stop at?
- You came back home before the dawn. You still got the parcel to deliver and an assignment to snuff Razor Joe.
- We can finish when we get stuck up some mountain face again.




What once was I now is dead
Embered bonfires forever shine
What once was I shall be again
There, at the summit of Prokletije


[May Result - At The Cursed Heights of Prokletije (Slava Smrti)]

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Comments


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Viewing: 1-8 of 8    

Bob SihlerNice job

Bob Sihler

Voted 10/10

And a quote from T.S. Eliot as well!
Posted Nov 7, 2010 9:52 pm

kamilRe: Nice job

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks! The quote just suited here. There was this discussion about the 'third man' on our forum and only after I read it I realised I could feel something like that, but at the time of the climb it felt so vague and natural that I just hadn't paid attention.
Posted Nov 8, 2010 5:36 am

JakeNice one!

Jake

Hasn't voted

Great job, well done :)
Posted Nov 18, 2010 5:57 am

kamilRe: Nice one!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks Jake! Yeah it was quite an adventure :)
cheers
Kamil
Posted Nov 18, 2010 9:59 am

Rosie1Fantastic trip

Hasn't voted

Sounds like a thrilling trip. Some cracking photographs of the area too, such an awe inspiring landscape.
Posted Nov 30, 2010 12:36 pm

kamilRe: Fantastic trip

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks a lot, Rose, glad you liked it :)
cheers
KAmil
Posted Dec 3, 2010 5:00 am

visentinjust 1 question

visentin

Voted 10/10

how do you embed small-medium sized images, smaller than "medium" but bigger than "small" ?
Posted Dec 10, 2010 7:26 am

kamilRe: just 1 question

kamil

Hasn't voted

I give the dimensions in the html code. I'll PM you with an example.
Posted Dec 10, 2010 10:57 am

Viewing: 1-8 of 8