Split to FočaMy dad and I had been meaning to take a long trip to drive through the Balkans for years now. Lots of places we knew little about, fascinating history from before the Ottomans up through modern-day, combined with lots of mountains to climb made it a perfect destination. We had been to Split, Croatia a month earlier (to climb Dinara), but found that the cheapest flights from Prague to Split were enough to justify the longer drive.
On July 2 we flew into Split in the afternoon and began the long drive to the Bosnian (or Serb, being in Republika Srpska) city of Foča. The drive began quite smoothly as we drove down the Croatian coast on a toll road, but quickly deteriorated once we entered Bosnia. In hindsight these Bosnian roads were quite nice compared to what we would encounter a few hours later. We drove through Čapljina and took a route towards Mostar. We took an exit right, going through Blagaj, Nevesinje, and after a long drive through potholed and winding roads we made it to Gacko. We hoped for some better roads as the sun began to set, but instead we were diverted off the main road onto a very narrow, occasionally unpaved, winding road that bypassed a blown-up bridge. We got back on the main road to find another detour to avoid another bridge, and the cycle repeated a few times. When we got to Tjentište it was nearly dark, and we were getting worried that the hotel in Foča would have closed for the night. Luckily the hotel/homestay was open when we arrived at nearly 10 pm.
After debating whether to take it easy the next day, we decided to give the peak a go in the morning so we would have a second chance if we were not successful.
Climbing MaglićThe next day we decided to have a go at Maglić, the highpoint of Bosna i Hercegovina. We drove back to Tjentište, turning onto a dirt road across the street from an abandoned gas station, past a heavily armed guard at the Sutjeska National Park entrance, 16 km up the road to a clearing with a red sign to Maglić. Despite being little worried that this road, a supposed smuggling route from Montenegro to Bosnia, could mean the end of the windows and door locks on our car, we began hiking. GPS track here.
We got off track a couple of times. Apparently the peak is covered in mines, so getting off the trail is not recommended. The combination of wildflowers, meadows, perfect light grey cliffs and snow in couloirs made this one of the most picturesque areas I have ever seen. It is just a shame I am not so good at photography that I could come close to doing it justice.
After hiking through meadows we ascended a steep section of class 2/3 that had some steel cables installed. Although unnecessary they appeared to be in disrepair with many of the placements unattached to the face. Above this we crosses a snowfield to achieve a ridge that led to the final summit pyramid a hundred meters higher. After another 10 m cabled section we reached the top.
At the top there was a metal flag of Yugoslavia but the Bosnian flag was pasted over it, along with a plaque for Marshall Tito.
On the descent we met a Czech guy who lived in Prague who was quite surprised to meet an Australian and an American who lived in Prague and spoke a little Czech. He didn’t speak English so I talked with him in broken Czech and hand signals. Afterward while my dad took a break I climbed the other peak, the Montenegrin Maglić, while my dad waited on the ridge. Actually Montenegrin Maglić is the taller of the two, hence the Montenegrin name for Bosnian Maglić being Mali Maglić (Little Maglić).
In the afternoon during the descent the bugs came out and it got quite warm. We finished the hike to find the car intact, and drove back to Foča to plan our ascent of Midžor, the highpoint of Serbia (Srbija) on the Bulgarian border.