If for any reason you missed the Part 1: Rila and things seem out of context, check it out here.
So, we arrive in Bansko on the fifth day of the trip. There are a few options for crossing Pirin – starting from here, or from Dobrinishte? Going right away, or resting for a night in the city? Carrying all the luggage further, or sending some not-so-important equipment to Sofia to reduce weight (or rather make space for more food, who am I kidding)?
We get our priorities right and first thing first we get some ice cream and coffee. Then we decide to spend the night in Bansko, and search for gas for cooking. Apparently, that’s the one thing that is close to impossible to get there, and the responses from sports shops make me doubt my understanding of the market economy, demand and supply, and entrepreneurship – “People keep asking for it all the time. No, we do not have it”. Ok, so be it – we select around 6kg (sic!) of equipment to send back to Sofia, including most of the cooking equipment. We need to step up our food game now, with no option of independent warm meals. Maybe the most important mountain lesson of all comes – lavash (Armenian flatbread). Just trust me, lavash.
The rest of the day we spend on far too abundant dinner, invading a nice traditional hotel setting with hanging our sink-made laundry in the yard (really friendly staff of Zlateva House!), and after a good sleep, we take the lift and quick hike up towards Vihren hut and further towards the Koncheto ridge.
The final part is crossing a patch of remaining snow, spooking a herd of mountain goats, and here we are at one of the most picturesque shelters in Bulgaria – Kazana (2445m). A tiny square box painted in red and yellow stripes, with the background of the second highest peak in Bulgaria, Vihren. Nine years since the last time I have been here on my first trip to Bulgaria. Good to be back.
What follows our arrival at the shelter is making use of lavash. Is it a crippled pancake? Is it a make-shift mountain pizza? Will any of my Italian friends speak to me ever again after they read this? So many questions. I will just say that it is a brilliant solution when not carrying gas with you, but still want to enjoy something more in life than sandwiches.
We plan on getting up early next morning, check out the sunrise on the road to Kutelo peak, do Koncheto ridge and Vihren lightweight, leaving most of our stuff in the shelter.
I am up quite early, around 5 am. Just in time to be taken completely off guard by someone knocking on the door – a Moldovian hiker that wanted to spend the previous night on Vihren. It got too cold, and it seems he wasn’t best prepared for that challenge, so he spent the whole night coming down in the darkness. Brr. But it was really nice to hear that he saw a picture of Vihren and started dreaming about seeing Bansko lights at night from up there. It makes me think about a balance between the courage to follow your dreams and taking time to properly prepare for it. We share some gin and set off to Kutelo, letting him take a good rest after his adventure.
On the way up Kutelo, I am staying a bit behind. Turns out that Ula without a heavy backpack goes up quickly as a young mountain goat. And with a similar disregard for the role of gravity in our world, choosing paths through what I call “messed-up traverses” while sweating judgementally from the back. Nevertheless, we reach the Koncheto ridge, crossing it back and forth.
By the end of crossing Koncheto back we start getting worried about the weather. Luckily there is no storm, no rain, just clouds obscuring the view from Vihren once we get up there. But one man’s view obstruction is another man’s photo opportunity, so the pictures take an unexpected turn.
Pirin proved once again to be such a picturesque mountain range that I need to stop in the middle of day seven of the trip and will continue in the next post.