OverviewMaja Lagojvet is the highest peak in the amphitheatre of mountains that surround Grbajski Zastan - the highest terrace of Grbaja valley. I have also seen its name spelt Ladojvet, Langojve or Langojvet. Grbajski Zastan is crossed by Montenegrin-Albanian border in the NW-SE direction and Maja Lagojvet, being south of it, is all in Albania. Due to its remoteness and overall difficulty of potential climbing routes, this is perhaps one of the most inaccessible, deterring and challenging peaks of Prokletije/Bjeshkët e Nemuna. Despite its tempting view from the bottom of Grbaja, it only had its first ascent on 31 August 2009 when a route was climbed on its north face.
To the best of my limited knowledge about first ascents in this last unexplored European mountain range, until that day Maja Lagojvet might have been the highest of the unclimbed peaks of the Accursed Mountains. Highest independent unclimbed peak in Europe, outside Caucasus maybe... who knows?
Due to the isolation policy of Albania’s Enver Hoxha’s regime, until early 90’s this was a heavily guarded border and only soldiers and local shepherds ventured into this part of Prokletije/Bjeshkët e Nemuna. Later on the situation in the region became volatile because of the nearby conflicts in former Yugoslavia. Nowadays, despite the border restrictions being lifted and the political situation getting back to normal, several of the peaks in the Zastan amphitheatre are still unclimbed or have gained their first ascents only recently(*), and some are even unnamed yet! Even when it comes to the names of the main peaks, there has been a lot of confusion among hikers and climbers who visit this area. At this page I will do my best to clear those issues, based on available maps, Internet resources and my communication with other mountaineers and local inhabitants.
Maja Fortit is partly hidden near the left edge of the photo.
Photo by Marija Jokanovic
(*) Maja Vukoces (Vukocki Vrh) was first climbed by a Slovenian party in August 2006, see here and here (in Slovenian). The climbers actually thought that its name was Maja Fortit or Maja Koprishtit.
First ascent of Maja Fortit (Forca) was made by Serbian climbers in July 2009. See here and here (in Serbian) and here (in English).
Left to right: Ocnjak (sharp), Karanfili, Maja Vukoces (broad triangle),
2 unnamed peaks, Maja Lagojvet (in the middle),
unnamed peak, Maja Vojusit, Volusnica
What’s in the name?As I only know several words in Albanian, I had to resort to online dictionaries and the opinion of my Albanian friend. Maja is ‘peak’ obviously, but neither Lagojvet nor Ladojvet mean anything in Albanian, and my friend said that the name does not sound Albanian at all. The verb largoj means something like ‘move away’, ‘remove’, ‘keep away’, ‘separate’, and the mountain is indeed very remote and it is also separated from its neighbouring peak by a very prominent col. On the other hand many Albanian local names in this area are of Slavic origin. Then the name might be derived from Serbian ledovi (‘ices’, plural of led which means ‘ice’) - something like ‘Icy Peak’ (compare Ľadový štít in the Tatras in Slovakia). There is some snow and ice below its north face even in summer so this ethymology can be justified too. Or it can be both - Remote Icy Peak - sounds cool, ain’t it? :) Later on I came across other alternative spellings Langojve and Langojvet. My friend came up with a following explanation: langua = 'hunting dog' (singular), plural langojte, and genitive i, e langojve. Another possible meaning is therefore Hunting Dogs Peak.
By the way, Maja e te fortit means 'the peak of the strongest', so Boris, Peđa and Steva (first ascenders of Maja Fortit), you are The Strongest Guys!
one (sharp) to its left, 2nd behind it and 3rd far left
TopographyThe Yugoslavian military map from the 70’s gives 2466 m as the height of Maja Lagojvet. A GPS reading during my reconnaisance trip in July 2008 at the base of its north face was 2380 m. In August 2009 during our first ascent I set my watch altimeter based on that and measured the altitude of the summit as 2540 m. This might be not an accurate value but is certainly more reliable than the values given on old maps.
Maja Lagojvet is well visible on the skyline from the bottom of Grbaja valley in Montenegro. Some sources, including the panoramic picture on the inside wall of Branko Kotlajić hut in Grbaja, mistakenly call it Maja Shkurt, while the name Maja Lagojvet is sometimes mistakenly given to one of the peaks with unknown names to its east.
Maja Shkurt is actually another peak south of Maja Lagojvet, invisible from Grbaja. Its height is quoted as 2499 m but the view from Maja Lagojvet summit proves that M. Lagojvet is higher than M. Shkurt.
Knowing the state of cartography of this area, no map can be fully trusted. In Prokletije you have to rely mainly on your own sound judgement. For off-trail hiking and mountaineering good orientation skills are necessary. In emergency you can probably rely only on yourself and your partners, as a signal from mobile phone networks can only be caught in very few places, mainly at summits.
Getting thereFor instructions how to get to this part of Montenegro and Albania see the Getting There section of the Prokletije main page.
In the following section I will describe how to reach the bases of north, south-east and south-west faces of Maja Lagojvet that are situated in the valleys of Grbajski Zastan, Ropojana and Stani Koprishtit, respectively.
Getting to Grbajski Zastan from Grbaja
Grbaja is connected with the town Gusinje with a narrow asphalted road which turns into a bad dirt road (passable by an ordinary car with some difficulties most of the time) towards the end of the flat part of the valley that is called Treća Livada (Third Meadow). Near the end of asphalted road there is Branko Kotlajić hut (open only when inhabited by members of Radnićki mountaineering club from Belgrade) and Eko-katun (restaurant and simple accommodation in bungalows). You can take water there. Last permanent water spring is further up the road to your left.
From Treća Livada there is one trail leading to the lower part of Grbajski Zastan. Find the stone with a pole with arrows. (*) Follow the arrow showing ‘V.Kotao-Snježnik’ to your left (facing south). The beginning of the trail is not marked and may be difficult to find - look for the most obvious path entering the forest. After several hundred metres you should find a fork in the path with a red mark on a stone. The path going left (to Veliki Kotao and Snježnik) may have branches lying across it, as if saying ‘do not go there’. And that’s right - take the path going right. From now on there will be some scarce red marks on trees and stones. The path is very steep, sometimes you have to use stones and trees as handholds, especially if you carry a heavy backpack. In one place there is a rope that you can use as a handrail that was left there by a Polish caving expedition.The marked path ends at the upper edge of the forest. Getting here may take from 1 to 2.5 h depending on your fitness and weight of your pack. (The above info refers to summer 2009, the state of the trail may change!) From there you have to keep the SW direction, more or less paralelly to the walls of Karanfili to your left, sometimes using a hardly visible trace of a path. Shortly above the forest there is a water spring near a big boulder (sometimes marked with two upright sticks) that is however likely to get dry at times. Further up you will see a V-shaped col to your left (Ropojanska Vrata) that separates Karanfili from Maja Fortit. Start changing your direction slightly towards the middle of the slope, towards a characteristic nose-shaped rock face, choosing the best passages. Reach the base of this face, turn left along it and then you can descent slightly, looking for a place to set a camp. From Treća Livada it took us about 6 h to get here when we carried about 35 kg each. When going light you should cut this time by half. There is no water here but even in summer there is usually some snow that can be melted.
(*) There is another arrow showing ‘Zastan (Peskovi)’. It probably shows an old trail that was still (barely) passable in 2005 and some faded red marks were still visible (see the trip report). It used to connect with patrolska staza (patrolling path) above the treeline below the north face of Maja Vojusit, where another water spring could be found. However, when I tried to find this trail in 2008, the path was nonexistent and completely grown over with lush vegetation, although I found some traces of red marks on stones (see the trip report). One more arrow showing 'Vojuša' may refer to some path leading to the right of Treća Livada towards the peak of Vojuša/Maja Vojusit and eventually connecting with patrolska staza. I tried to find it back in 2008 and there were some confusing traces of paths there that soon disappeared in the forest. I don’t know if that trail actually exists and how passable it is.
Getting to Grbajski Zastan from Bordolecit/Ljepush
Grbajski Zastan can be reached also from Albania, from the village Bordolecit/Ljepush. To get to Bordolecit (Predelac in Serbian), at Gusinje (Montenegro) take the road to Grnčar/Bashkim (border crossing with Albania), after crossing the border follow the gravel road and after about 2 km turn left. Another 10 km of gravel road leads to Bordolecit. Or you can cross the Montenegrin/Albanian border at Hani i Hoti and follow about 50 km of gravel road via Tamara to Bordolecit. Ljepush is another 5 km from Bordolecit. All those gravel roads should be passable for ordinary cars if you drive slowly and carefully, but go at your own risk if you haven't got a 4x4.
From Ljepush take a path to the shepherds’ settlement called Paje and then towards Zastan. Orientation may be difficult but the local inhabitants will be happy to show you the way. From Ljepush it should take 3-6 h depending on your fitness and weight of your pack.
Getting to Ropojana from Vusanje
From Gusinje follow the road to Vusanje and leave your car there. Follow the dirt road to Ropojana valley,