Welcome to SP!  -
Accursed Mountains 2006, Part 1. Cappo di Thethi.
Trip Report

Accursed Mountains 2006, Part 1. Cappo di Thethi.

  Featured on the Front Page
Accursed Mountains 2006, Part 1. <b>Cappo di Thethi.</b>

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Albania, Europe

Lat/Lon: 42.44000°N / 19.81000°E

Object Title: Accursed Mountains 2006, Part 1. Cappo di Thethi.

Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 16, 2006

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling

Season: Summer

 

Page By: kamil

Created/Edited: Oct 5, 2007 / Sep 20, 2010

Object ID: 344261

Hits: 9974 

Page Score: 92.32%  - 38 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Prologue

August 23, 6.45pm

Croatia, the old road Zagreb - Varaždin, parallel to the motorway, somewhere before Novi Marof. Sharp right turn, badly profiled, tightening. Fourth gear, gas blip, third, fuck it, still getting tighter, I didn’t predict that, now I know I’m gonna fly out of my lane. A big lorry slowly crawls up the opposite lane. I lose traction, tyres screeching, I’m going head on into the lorry. A glimpse of a wide, bumpy, gravelled shoulder on the outside. Coincidence, or maybe the road designers predicted it. Alright, let’s get the fuck out of here. Regaining traction, getting the wheels straight, still braking, I cut past the front of the lorry, five, maybe ten metres from it, into the roadside, my mind registering everything in slow motion. Shaking on the bumps, losing speed. Immediately I get back on the road and drive on. Only after a while I realise what happened and my heart jumps into my throat. Gratefulness. Someone’s keeping an eye. Karabaja again? Perhaps a higher instance this time.


August 24, 4.30am

Poland, the road to Katowice. Maybe 3 hours from home but I feel I have to pull in. Petrol station, the last night on the road. I put back the reclining seat and spread my sleeping bag. The words of the story slowly begin to settle in my head.

The Gathering

The year before (2005) we had a great time with my Czech friends David and Ivoš hanging around the Balkan mountains. We spent most of the time in Prokletije, a.k.a. Bjeshket e Nemuna. Both the Serbian and Albanian name means the Accursed Mountains. There was something there that made me return.

Enlarge
Hvar, southern side
I spent the end of July and beginning of August with my girlfriend camping at the Croatian seaside, at Molunat near Dubrovnik and at Zavala in the island of Hvar. We had a good time but not everything was as good as we would have liked, some kind of allergy gave us both a bit of trouble. It was completely misdiagnosed by a local doctor at Jelsa in Hvar island, only a dermatologist at Split was more or less right, at least he could finally help us. One could write another sequel to that popular ad of a certain credit card...

Brief visit to a rude doctor at Jelsa, totally screwed up diagnosis – 150 kuna.
Bottle of medicine that made more harm than helped – 20 kuna x 6 or 7.
Private apartment in Split, rented especially to see the dermatologist – 60 euros per night after a haggle.
Intensive course of Croatian at advanced level, thanks to the contacts with health service – priceless.
For everything else there’s xxxxxxcard.

Enlarge
Hvar, northern side

Enlarge
Biokovo road
At least we had an opportunity to do a lot of sightseeing in the old centre of Split, and then, when things got better, spent the last two days at the beautiful seaside town of Primošten. Agnieszka then had to return to work, so in the morning of 12 August I drove her to the nearby airport at Trogir near Split where she caught a plane to Poland and then to Holland. Later that day I drove the highest road in Croatia, from Makarska to the top of Sv. Jure (1752 m), met some Polish friends at the seaside, to finally get to the Place of the Gathering – the campsite at Mlini near Dubrovnik. Although it was late at night, the SP-er Gordan (Dinaric-ZG) was still waiting for me. I had to wait till the morning to see another SP-er Azra look out into the daylight from the tent. I had known them only from correspondence and it was great to finally see their faces for the first time.

Thethi? No way!

August 13

Enlarge
River Cijevna
After breakfast we packed all the stuff we needed for the mountains into my car, and all the rest into Gord’s, which was about to stay in Dubrovnik at his friend’s. Gord and Azra drove to Dubrovnik and were picked by their mates to the crossroads where I waited. Via Trebinje (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and Podgorica (Montenegro), joking with customs officers about our ‘international expedition’, we headed for Albania. We stopped by the river Cijevna which flows in the ‘smallest canyon of the world’.

Most of the way we were accompanied by showers. But only when we were approaching the last border of the day, the wet hell broke loose. We had to leave the car to fill in the Albanian entry documents, which was not easy, as the road turned into a river. At least the border crossing was under a roof. To our surprise, Azra and Gord had to pay 10€ each for their visas. For citizens of distant Poland, however, the entry to Albania was free.

We were welcomed by ubiquitous Albanian bunkers. At Koplik it almost stopped raining. Only the mountains up north, our goal for the following days, were still hidden under a heavy cap of clouds.

Enlarge
River Cijevna
We did not really know where to stay the night, we thought of going on further. But my friends had given me the mobile number of a local Catholic priest they knew well. He had studied in Poland and apparently spoke excellent Polish. A great advantage for us – here I must mention that Albanian, unlike the languages of former Yugoslavia, has nothing in common with my native language. Where could we find a priest? Probably in a church. We found one at Koplik, but it was closed and nobody was around. Fr. Artan’s phone was not answering. We drove to a petrol station nearby to ask. The owner’s son, hearing Fr. Artan’s name, jumped in his car and gestured to us to follow him. He led us along the main road past the church, turned left into a road between the houses and into a grassy yard in front of the priest’s house.

I knocked at the door. A tall, about 20-year-old bloke opened. Shooting in the dark, I greeted him in Polish. Bingo! Staszek – the Polish volunteer introduced himself.

After a few minutes came the rest of the crew – Agnieszka, Karolina and Paulina, also volunteers from Poland who helped Fr. Artan in the work with local kids. They invited us for dinner, we did the cooking together and sat at the table. The language barrier between Polish and Bosnian/Croatian was not too big, sometimes I had to translate a few words, sometimes we had to resort to English.

The hosts invited us to stay the night. Very nice of them. We said we could pitch our tents outside at the yard but they decided on our behalf that we stay inside.

It was Sunday so Fr. Artan was still on the way from Thethi where he had the service. He was supposed to go straight to the church here at Koplik for another service. Staszek asked if we would like to attend it too. Service in Albanian, always a new experience.

Up north there was still a heavy black cloud over Prokletije but here it stopped raining a long while ago and we could even see some bits of blue sky. It could only go for the better the next day.

After the service we finally talked to Fr. Artan. I realised I would never guess he is not Polish if I had not known, his accent was so perfect! I asked him what he thought of the chances of our Škoda to reach Thethi. He gave me a gobsmacked look. Thethi? No way! – he said. He himself had to drive slowly and carefully on that road in his Nissan Terrano. Not the kind of road for a mere Škoda Felicia. A feeling of disappointment stung me. I had already imagined myself in the spotlight, telling frightening, unbelievable stories about driving in a Škoda on that legendary road across the Albanian heart of darkness. Maybe even escaping the fire of some ruthless bandits and confusing their chase.

Fr. Artan advised we drive to Boge, although the last several kilometres there would be gravel anyway and could be difficult. There we could leave the car and look for a hitch, mentioning his name, which would help us for sure.

We took a shower, the last one for the next several days, and crashed out on the floor and on bunk beds. Under the roof for the last time in a while. Some comfort did us good. After all, the next day we were going to conquer the Accursed Mountains.

Cappo di Thethi

August 14

Enlarge
Albanian bunkers
As we expected, the morning was sunny and clear. Even the cloud cap over Prokletije was much lighter.

It was time to say goodbye, or rather see you soon, to Fr. Artan and his crew, as we were supposed to come back and pick the rest of our stuff on our way back anyway. Before we set off, Agnieszka went with us to the centre of Koplik to scan our topographic maps, burn a CD and get the printouts. Together with our mutual friends, she wanted to go to Maja Jezerce a week or so later.

Like anywhere in Albania, Koplik was a mixture of the old and the new. The traffic was hectic, with a peaceful coexistence of new swish cars, rusty old bangers and horse-drawn carts. A cop in the middle of the main crossing was having a good old chinwag with one or another driver in between supervising the traffic. Many of the new-looking cars had Italian, German or even English number plates. They obviously did not belong to tourists but to the locals working in the mentioned countries.

A narrow asphalted road led us across a vast, bunker-scattered plain towards the better and better visible mountains. We were often stopping for photos. The weather was improving. It was all gonna be alright.
After several kilometres asphalt was replaced by gravel and dirt. The road was winding across a rolling landscape. Finally we reached Boge, a very long village sitting along the road. We had an impression we were never going to reach its end, perhaps because the slow speed of our car, not designed for this kind of roads. That was where Fr. Artan advised to leave the car.

Suddenly I heard a loud cracking sound against the chassis. Louder than all those before, caused by pebbles hitting the fenders. We got out, looked under the car but did not find anything to worry about. Maybe I was getting over-sensitive, inside a closed metal tin every knock from the outside sounds loud after all. I had watched every stone so far but from then on decided to be even more careful.

So far the road, although bumpy, was perfectly passable so we just went on, forgetting what might be waiting ahead. The village ended and we drove on up the empty valley. Its flat bottom was soon to become a steeper slope. We pulled over by a large boulder to eat and suss out the situation.

Enlarge
Boge
Then we saw an oncoming lorry. About a dozen people at the back, elder, younger and kids. They stopped next to us. The driver spoke Italian a bit so Gord stepped out to talk. Looking at our Škoda, the driver first shook his head doubtfully. Seeing our determination, he said if we really had to go, then only piano, piano, but he thought we better back off anyway. They headed down to Boge, waving their hands goodbye.

Enlarge
Albania road crew 2006 on tour
Another car was coming from the direction of Thethi, this time a 4x4. It also stopped by. A local driver and two passengers. One older, with greyish hair, the other one about thirty. Stocky guys in shades, heavy chains around their necks, laid back on their seats. Southern-looking, perhaps Albanians too. Like mafiosi from Brooklyn or Bronx - laughed Gord.

You get there alright, just drive slowly and you can make it - the older passenger replied to our question in flawless American English - that bit up the hill you see from here is the worst, then it’s getting much easier. Do you work in the States? - I asked. - We live there! - So just sightseeing here? - No, business!

- When you’re at Thethi, leave the car by the big red-roofed house at the end of the village, just mention my name - he said before they drove on. And he gave us a piece of paper where he wrote his name.

The road started to climb the slope and its quality indeed deteriorated. It was not too steep, just getting a lot bumpier. Sometimes Azra and Gord were leaving the car to reduce its weight, sometimes I was also getting out to check out the best if not the only way to negotiate the bumps. We only planned to reach Thethi that day anyway so there was no hurry.
We saw an approaching van. Being in a wider place I pulled in to make way but the van driver did the same where he was. He waved his hand so I would go ahead. I thought he must have known every stone here so I drove on. It looked wide enough indeed, I drove on and... felt that the right front wheel hung loose in the air.

We immediately jumped out to see what happened. The wheel fell into a hole that was not visible from the driving seat. The car was supported on its threshold and I could not find any damage except the mudflap that got torn off.

The van driver also got off, with an apologetic expression on his face. Together with his passengers they wanted to help. I showed them to hoist the mudguard up together so that I could reverse. It happened to me before on mountain roads so that time it worked too. Before we parted, the driver said something in Albanian that we could not understand, probably that he was sorry, and asked where we were from. Gord answered him in Italian.

Enlarge
The road Boge-Thethi

Enlarge
Qafa e Thores
The road was very bad and I had to drive on the first gear all the time. We passed two memorial plates for drivers who died in accidents there. Finally we could see the Qafa e Thores pass (1770 m) with a cross on it. We got there after another half an hour, about 3pm. The view made us feel like we just crossed a gate to another world.

The view back on our road so far was equally impressive. I felt some kind of relief after negotiating that apparently hardest bit but I knew too well it was still far from the end.

I wanted to have a pic of my Škoda with Maja Jezerce in the background. We thought we could see it from there. Only later we realised it was some other mountain group, probably Maja Hekurave.

Enlarge
Looking back from Qafa e Thores

Enlarge
Maja Hekurave group

Enlarge
Maja Boshit group

Enlarge
Maja Hekurave group

Enlarge
We’re on the road...
It soon turned out that our Cappo di Thethi was right. On the other side of Qafa e Thores the road became much less bumpy. It more or less followed a contour line, sometimes along a shelf across a very steep slope. It was that dramatic section we knew from some pictures. Azra and Gord, sitting on the right, had a pleasure of looking down the cliff.

The recent downpours left some surprises on the road - assorted stones of different sizes. Gord and Azra then had to walk a few metres in front of the car to clean the road. I preferred to drive my car myself but still did not feel too comfortable with the woman doing the dirty work for me so I often stopped to get off and move some heavier stones too. Once or twice we had to move some really big bastards together with Gord.

Enlarge
...to nowhere :)
Then we saw the view to Thethi valley below with Maja Harapit, ‘Albanian Matterhorn’, just above, and the Maja Shkurts group behind it. To the right there was a ridge leading to the hidden Maja Jezerce. Memories of the previous summer returned.

Enlarge
Thethi valley

Enlarge
Road to Thethi

Enlarge
Thethi,
deserted house
From there on we finally started descending. The surface was less and less bumpy so I could use the second gear more often. Polako, polako... Kamil je se raspištolio (Easy, cowboy, not so fast) – laughed Gord. Polako has nothing to do with my nationality but means ‘slowly’ – those language ‘similarities’ were a reason for a good laugh many more times!

Soon we passed a deserted house with a national park sign and then came to the first inhabited building at Thethi which turned out to be the first hotel there. The landlady spoke very good English. The rooms were quite expensive, perhaps she thought that if someone is deteremined enough to get there, they can afford anything. We asked her and some other locals about Don Beba. They looked at one another, seemed not to know him at all. The landlady only warned us about the much worse road down the village. Maybe it was true, maybe she just wanted us to stay at her hotel, or maybe both. We still wanted to go a bit further to suss out.

But just a couple hundred metres further down the road we found the famous BUFE that my friend told me about. It was a shop, bar and campsite in one. We were welcomed by the owners, Pietro and Vittori. Their son knew some English from school so he was a great help in conversation. Pietro also knew a few Slavic words as he had guests from Poland and Slovakia before. Hearing we are going to Maja Jezerce, he clapped his thighs with his hands, perhaps showing how tired our legs will get.

Except Pietro’s family there were a few other locals. We asked them about Don Beba too. They exchanged a few sentences in Albanian. We understood just one word – mafia.
They also confirmed that the road further down was very bad. We had enough of those adventures for the day and decided to stay there. After a bit of haggling we all agreed on 15 euros for the night’s camping and leaving the car for several days. The transaction was finalised with a round of good home-made raki (plum brandy).

In the light of our headlamps we pitched our tents and cooked the dinner. On the car radio some Montenegrin station was playing the song ‘Ulična molitva’ by a Croatian rock band Osmi putnik. Our spirits were high, we could not believe we had just driven that impossible road in an ordinary Škoda. From next day the car would take a well-deserved rest and we were about to take over as transporting mules.

Mule caravan

August 15

Enlarge
Maja Harapit from Thethi
In the morning we went to Bufe to buy some grub for breakfast. The electricity was on, which is not always the case there, so we took advantage and recharged batteries for our cameras. After breakfast we packed our backpaks, said goodbye to our hosts and set off for the mountains. First we had to descend quite a lot to the bottom of the valley. Instead of going down the road we took a steep shortcut down a forest-covered slope, crossing a stream on the way. According to the map we were in a village called Okolj, leaving the main part of Thethi on our right, where the other road goes. That one, we heard, is even worse for driving, and goes through some remote villages where they say the ancient law of vendetta still works.

Enlarge
Okolj

Enlarge
Okolj
We reached a river bank grown with dense bushes and could not find a bridge for quite a while. We started thinking of crossing it anyway but soon we found a path going to another part of the village. It led us straight into someone’s yard. An elderly woman went out of her house to greet us. We tried to ask her about Don Beba’s house. She showed us a nearby big white house with red roof, looking a bit like a run down miniature of a palace. We understood that the woman was his relative. After all it was good we met that guy the day before, in a way thanks to him impossible became possible for us.

In that place the river bed was dry. We crossed it next to an old, half-destroyed wooden bridge. Leaving the last houses behind we went into an empty field that was the upper part of the valley. We put our backpacks down in the shadow of a wild plum tree and helped ourselves to its fruits. There were a few bunkers nearby. Of course there had always been a possibility that Yugoslavian or any other bandits could invade the country, crossing the Qafa e Pejës pass. The majestic wall of Maja Harapit (2218 m) was closing the valley from the north.

Enlarge
Maja Harapit

Enlarge
3 mules
by the spring

Enlarge
Azra on the way
to Qafa e Pejës
We came to a spring by the path and filled our bottles and stomachs with water. Gord again made use of his Italian talking to a local family that was there. Then we went up the mule track, initially flat, then suddenly getting steeper. Surprisingly I managed well to keep up with Azra and Gord who had already spent some time in the mountains that year.

We rested a while under a great rocky overhang. Just above it we met two blokes and a girl from Czech Republic – Martin, Vaclav and Gabi. They stayed at the shepherds’ settlement (katun) below Maja Jezerce, tried to climb it but the weather did not let them. Yeah, two days ago there was that downpour that caught us on the road, yesterday must have been quite bad up here too. Shame they did not have any more time, it looked like the beginning of a real schorcher. We talked in a mixture of all possible Slavic languages, they told us about a little earthquake a few days before, I promised to scan and send them my military map that I got from David and Ivoš the previous year. Finally they went down and our mule caravan slowly set off up the hill too.

Enlarge
Thethi valley
from above

Enlarge
Below Qafa e Pejës
We soon passed a wooden cross, from where a characteristic sharp profile of one peak was visible. We thought it was Maja Popluks. Later it turned out it was the lowest of its three summits, with the other ones hidden behind it.

Qafa e Pejës opened in front of us suddenly, like a gate to the northern part of Prokletije. The mountains I remembered from the previous year seemed within my reach again. We were now on a trail that we had considered with Ivoš and David as an ascent route to Maja Jezerce when we first saw it from our ‘eagle’s nest’ bivvy on the ridge, although we knew absolutely nothing about it. Now, in turn, I could see that ridge very closely from below.

Enlarge
View to the north

Enlarge
Liqeni e Pejës
We went down the other side to the Liqeni e Pejës lake. We had plenty of time, our goal for the day was only to pitch up somewhere near the Buni i Gropaet katun below Maja Jezerce.

From the col we took a shortcut straight up to the east. We had to gain a lot of elevation only to lose it going down to the cauldron. A lot more mountains showed up, maybe Maja Jezerce too, it was hard to guess. From the threshold we could finally see the settlement, we also heard the dogs bark. On our way down they were still barking at us but kept their distance.

A young shepherd, Afrim, greeted us and introduced his family. He knew a few words in English and his wife spoke Italian. There were also some elders and two young kids. In the days to follow the katun crew would be changing, with some family members going down to Thethi and some others coming up. Azra and Gord’s photocopies of Albanian-English and Albanian-Croatian phrasebooks would come in very handy many a time.
Afrim welcomed us to to pitch our tents nearby and showed us where to take water from the spring. It was still early, we had the whole long evening to set our camp and cook a good dinner. One of the dogs came up to make friends and help himself.

The next day we were off for Maja Jezerce. Like a year before, only from the other side.

Enlarge
Maja Popluks

Enlarge
Buni i Gropaet below, Maja Jezerce in clouds

Small world

August 16

Enlarge
Maja Popluks
in the morning
We woke up before the rays of sun reached the bottom of our cauldron, although the highest peaks were already in its light.

We could see some faint smoke rising above the next threshold. Afrim, who was seeing to the sheep together with his family, told us there is another katun up there, called Buni i Gropes Bokoll (Grassy). Place where we were was called Buni i Gropaet Ujit (Water), as it had its own water spring.

Afrim said that the red marks on the trail to Maja Jezerce, mentioned at Summitpost, can be found there indeed. On the other hand we knew from my friends who were here a month before that the description was not very accurate. It took them two days and two attempts to find the way. First time, confused by the description, they tried to gain the ridge much too early. For us the only way was to go and suss it out ourselves.

Enlarge
Buni i Gropes Bokoll
Afrim wished us good luck and we started up the first threshold. Soon we reached the lush green meadow with some grazing horses and donkeys, with the settlement at the side. Further up we were sticking with the north side of the valley (to our left). Thanks to my aforementioned friends we knew we should not go up the ridge too early. We went up another threshold, realising that could not be the final cauldron yet. That one, from what we had heard, was supposed to be closed by ridges from all sides. A great view opened to the group of Maja Radohines (2570 m) above the Thethi valley. We could also see the main summit of Maja Popluks for the first time. From there it still looked lower than the other two that we saw before. We also tried to find Maja Jezerce but with no result.

Enlarge
Maja Radohines

Enlarge
Maja Popluks
We found ourselves below the characteristic col with ‘vampire’s fangs’. We were not too familiar with local topography yet, later we would learn that col separates Maja Kolacit (2490 m) from the 2509 m peak in the Maja Jezerce west ridge. From there we turned right, along a small ridge crossing a labyrinth of local micro-cauldrons, trying to avoid losing elevation unnecessarily.

Enlarge
Vampire’s fangs
We crossed the left col of Qafa Jezerce pass, the higher of the two. To our right was the lower col. Ahead, or rather below, was the ultimate, highest cauldron of the valley. The one that is closed from all sides. Somewhere there we were supposed to look for our way to the north, to finally gain the summit ridge.

The view did not make our life easier, giving us no clue where to go. Somehow we split for a while, each of us taking their own way, Azra straight up the scree, Gord and me to her right, up some chossy rocks. Suddenly a stone fell down with a bang, almost hitting Azra. She loudly scolded Gord who turned out to be the culprit. We made a strong resolution not to split in the unknown areas anymore.
We got to the big shelves and started traversing them to the right, looking for the most convenient way. The orientation was far from evident. To our right, at the opposite side of the valley, we had a great view to Maja Popluks.

We already started planning how to climb it one of the following days. I was tempted by the big snowy gully to the left of the highest summit. Gord thought of going straight up the slope. But to think of that we first had to climb our today’s peak and return.

We reached the point where the shelves were turning left. Ahead of us was the Maja Jezerce summit ridge, beyond doubt. But where was the summit and how were we supposed to get there? As if in reply to our question, we saw two people descending to the left of what looked like the highest point. They disappeared behind the ridge, must have been going down the north side, like me a year before with David and Ivoš.

Enlarge
Maja Popluks from the shelves

Enlarge
Maja Jezerce ahead

Enlarge
On the traverse
The shelves ended there. To reach the two characteristic trapezoidal blocks in the lowest point of the ridge, we had to traverse a slope of scree. From between those blocks I could finally see the north side that I knew. A few more metres of traverse led us to a convenient place to climb the ridge. There was a faded red stain on the rock there, or maybe it was just a remnant of some moss or lichen?

A couple metres of scrambling, not harder than grade I UIAA, and we were finally on the ridge.

Enlarge
On the summit ridge

Enlarge
View to the west
The view opened to the whole western ridge that was now all below us. We wondered why not try to go all the way from our katun to Maja Kolacit. It seemed like the ridge, although steep and rocky on both sides, was all covered with grass along its crest and was giving a good chance to make it.

From the ridge we soon turned left into a spectacular shelf below a large overhang. Reaching its end we noticed a red mark on a rock nearby. We were on the northern trail.

Enlarge
The routes join here
Our route, already quite rotten, now became a minging chossy scree fest, even though it joined the northern trail already above its most difficult place. Exactly as I remembered from a year before... kaboom! A stone came whizzing from right above us, followed by another one, and then a lot more. Run for cover! We were 10-20 metres from one another, we tried to hide under larger boulders wherever we could, a small but fast stone hit me in the arm.

For a minute that lasted forever the rocks kept falling and we kept hiding and swearing. When the bombardment finally ceased we carefully lurked from our hidings and went up. The bombardier appeared in our sight. Holy shit... we knew him! But how could all three of us know him when I met Azra and Gord just a few days before?
Milovan from Belgrade. They met him in Durmitor some time ago. I knew him from our previous year’s meeting by the Liqueni Madhe lake at the northern side of Maja Jezerce!

He apologised for the bombardment. But the mountain was as chossy as it gets, we all knew that, it could have happened to anyone. Milovan and me recalled our evasive tales from the summer before. Maybe it had been unnecessary but who could be sure then. Both our crews had been there illegally after all. Now we laughed about that. Then they backed out from below the infamous chute, now Milovan came back on his own to climb Maja Jezerce the same way.

Before going up we wished him luck for the nasty downclimb. For us the choss was over, we reached the final flat bit of the ridge. From a distance we could see a bunch of people sitting at the summit.

Enlarge
Small world...

Enlarge
Summitpost crew on the roof of the Accursed Mountains
3.30pm. The cairn that we built with Ivoš and David a year before was still there. We congratulated one another and greeted the bunch of six Czechs. Those two that we saw from below were their friends too. It was time for them to start descending too so they soon said goodbye and went down.

Enlarge
Maja Popluks from Maja Jezerce

Enlarge
Đeravica in the distance

Enlarge
Maja Shnikut, Maja Shkurts
and Maja Lagojvet
We spent over an hour at the top. Maja Popluks, the closest neighbour and one of the highest peaks of Prokletije at the same time, was well below us. We were more than 100 m higher after all. To the east, far behind Valbona valley, there was the Serbian Đeravica. Even further, hidden somewhere in the fogs, there must have been Korab. Radohines and Shkurts groups to the west, with Komovi and Kučka Krajina on the horizon. And the little town of Gusinje that I knew so well, down below to the north.

Taking a good look, it was possible to notice the tiny spots of our tents. So the peak must be visible from Buni i Gropaet too!

Some cirruses flew in from nowhere and it immediately became colder. Was the weather about to deteriorate? It was time to go down.

Enlarge
Gusinje
The chossiest bit between the peak and the shelves was even worse, as usually on descents. A few times we stopped to think how to get our arses down without moving tons of loose rocks. On the shelves, although already known, we had to find out way back from square one. Gord had a good hunch to lead us back to a known place, he definitely had his day. Sun, setting at the opposite side of Ropojana, was casting its last rays on Maja Popluks. Maybe our next goal.

Enlarge
Maja Popluks at sunset
The further way down went smoothly. In the valley we met a viper hiding between stones. Further down we woke up a big bunch of buzzing bumble bees. Bubice, as Azra called them. They followed us for a long time and were very difficult to finally get rid of.

In the light of our headlamps we got back to the flat meadow with the higher katun. To our nice surprise, Afrim went up to meet us there.

We cooked a big dinner, recalling the eventful day. Our hospitable hosts invited us for milk and cheese afterwards. Our phrasebook photocopies came in handy, helped by a few English and Italian words, and also some Albanian ones that we had already learned.

Where should we go tomorrow? Our valley offered several possibilities. Maybe that nice ridge starting right above our katun that goes all the way to Maja Kolacit? From Maja Jezerce it looked like there would be some kind of meadow all along its crest, we only had to get to that crest somehow. We would see, anyway.

We were lying in our tents, falling asleep. A wolf howled nearby.


End of part 1.

See Part 2. The meadow that is not there.

See Part 3. Curse of the Accursed Mountains.



Photos: Azra, Dinaric-ZG and me.

Images


Comments


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-17 of 17    

kamilRe: Great!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks a lot! Then gear up for a lot more... maybe a cup of strong coffee? 2 more parts coming soon :)
cheers,
kamil
Posted Oct 11, 2007 3:02 pm

stesteI finished it.....

steste

Voted 10/10

....and I confirm you that I liked it till the end ;-)
I wait for part 2 and 3 soon.
Cheers.
Stefano
Posted Oct 11, 2007 3:02 pm

kamilRe: I finished it.....

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks a lot Stefano!
cheers,
kamil
Posted Oct 12, 2007 7:33 am

justahikerGreat story!

justahiker

Voted 10/10

Bravo majstore... :)
Posted Oct 12, 2007 5:16 am

kamilRe: Great story!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Puno hvala, Samere! Sledeci put treba nam ici zajedno u nase Prokletije :)
pozdrav
k
Posted Oct 12, 2007 7:34 am

justahikerRe: Great story!

justahiker

Voted 10/10

Dogovoreno, prijatelju!!!

All the best!!!
Posted Oct 12, 2007 7:38 am

kamilRe: Interesting story!

kamil

Hasn't voted

2nd part almost ready. Thanks again!
Posted Oct 12, 2007 7:35 am

AzraGreat!

Azra

Voted 10/10

Thank you for writing this! I am to lazy for write :-)
And this is great! I like!!! Much!!
I waiting for more....
And thanks for nice trip and great company!
Thanks to Gordan also
:-)
Regards for both!
Azra
Posted Oct 12, 2007 2:43 pm

kamilRe: Great!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks to you too for being there with us :)
Posted Oct 14, 2007 4:26 pm

palotaimWow!

palotaim

Hasn't voted

That's the one you wrote to me about? Really nice trip report - recalling my own experiences from this august... Wanna go back there!!!
Cheers,
Marton
Posted Oct 13, 2007 2:50 pm

kamilRe: Wow!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks a lot! Yeah thats the one, finally had some more time to translate it...
cheers,
kamil
Posted Oct 14, 2007 4:28 pm

Tomas KristoforyIt's nice of you that you wrote a TR!

Tomas Kristofory

Voted 10/10

Not a lot of TRs are written after a year. It's good you broke the rule! It must have been wonderful trip. If I have the time, I will go to balkanian mountains as well. I like their shapes and also that they are made mostly by limestone. Looking at steep slopes of Maja Jezerce that you climbed reminds me my last trip to the High Tatras. That steep slope in too thiny ice (so that crampons cannot be used) and little snow and strong winds - that would be quite challenging. And this is the right reason we go up there, isn't it? Cheers Tomas ;)
Posted Oct 17, 2007 7:13 am

kamilRe: It's nice of you that you wrote a TR!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Diakjujem, Tomase!
Ano Prokletije jsou velmi podobne jako nase Tatry i tako velmi kameniste i nasypane.
This year didn't manage to go there so I'm writing this instead :) I'm determined to go next year, you're welcome to join, there'll be another strong SP team :)
cheers,
kamil
Posted Oct 25, 2007 2:56 pm

peterbudBravo

peterbud

Voted 10/10

Great reading, you helped me a lot to stay awake while supervising a test! :D
Posted Nov 6, 2007 9:29 am

kamilRe: Bravo

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks, good to hear it was useful in some way :)
cheers,
kamil
Posted Nov 8, 2007 6:10 am

ThethiFanThanks for advice!

Hasn't voted

Hi there, I just wanted to say thank you very much for the help - reading your blog before my friend and I went to Thethi last week really helped a lot! However, as much as we absolutely LOVED Thethi and the whole journey/experience, we did meet someone who put a negative side to our journey, so I hoped that by telling people about it on here, in case anyone is reading as I did, maybe this will help people in future.

We took a lift from a man calling himself Guiseppe from Boga. He owns the cafe that is pretty much the last building you come to in Boga. He told us he would take us to Thethi for the day in a jeep (it was not a jeep but a rubbish car that broke on the way back and we had to walk). He then tried to charge us for the car breaking! He also took our money, far far more than we had agreed, and said that he was charging us extra because the tour had taken hours longer than we'd agreed (which was his fault because he kept stopping to go inside his friends' houses the whole journey when he knew we needed to get back by a certain time). He was delaying our day because he really wanted us to stay at his guesthouse. Anyway, lots of things happened that made us angry, he got us lost for well over an hour in the woods, and at the end of the day he snatched our money from us and his wife grabbed my friend by the throat. It was not a nice experience. This is a real shame because we LOVED Albania in general and Thethi in particular and we would certainly go back, everyone is so so welcoming and friendly, just apart from Guiseppe, so hopefully if anyone reads this you can avoid him at all costs, he likes to rip off tourists as we were told by a very nice man we met. I hope this is of some help.
Posted Aug 24, 2010 7:05 am

kamilRe: Thanks for advice!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Glad to know I could be of any help. Sory to hear about your bad experiences, looks like everywhere a black sheep can be found... Maybe it's a side effect of commercialisation that some people get greedy?
Cheers and good luck in your future travels!
Kamil
Posted Aug 26, 2010 10:16 am

Viewing: 1-17 of 17