How I eventually climbed the highest mountain of Montenegro

Selfie at Durmitor Nationalpark.

Before I take you right to the mountains I have to relocate the setting to the book department of Globetrotter at Isartor Munich. One day earlier I booked a flight to Dubrovnik impulsively. In preparation of my trip I skimmed through the Balkan section of the sweeping travel guide shelf. My eyes got caught by a book with the title “The mountains of Montenegro” and my heart-rate increased with every page I turned. Fascinated by the limestone rocks and deep forest only one desire manifested: I wanted to trek round glacier shaped Durmitor Nationalpark – a place I had never heard of before.  It turned out to be an epic adventure! I already want to go back. Read further and you will understand why.

Dog at Hikers Den Hostel.
Dog at Hikers Den Hostel.

Day 1 – Hikers Den – Where it all began 🙂

“You wanna do a multi-day-hike? I tell you what you are going to do. You gonna cross Bobotov Kuk, the highest mountain of Montenegro” Alex, the owner of “Hikers Den” hostel showed me a three days track across the whole Nationalpark on the map. This is what he does with every guest – he doesn’t only give you an idea of what to do in the area, he provides a proper consultation.

‘Yeah sure, I gonna climb the highest peak of Montenegro – not…’ Disbelief crossed my mind immediately. I doubted my mountaineering skills were sufficient for this track. But how could I level up my experience, if I never attempt something more challenging? Hmm…

At Crno jezero - Black lake.
At Crno jezero – Black lake.

Day 2 – Shepherd dogs and other encounters

The next morning I started my hike thrilled by the prospect of spending two to three days in nature. Even if I still had doubts I felt fantastic. My very first stage was Black Lake (Crno jezero). In winter the greenish surface turns black. (Exkurs: The translation for Durmitor Nationalpark is – “Mountains filled with water”. There are plenty of lakes.). My backpack was heavy – probably too heavy as I would find out later on. With every step through the steep forest all the layers of useless information that messed up my brain crumbled away. I left the treeline behind and caught a glimpse of the wideness of Durmitor massif.

Shepherd dog at the shelter.
Shepherd dog at the shelter.
I reached my first “camp” around midday, where a frightening looking shepherd dog welcomed me. Luckily he turned out to be the best dog in the world (or at least in Montenergo;).
My sleeping spot - black and white.
My sleeping spot – black and white.

My plan was it to store my stuff in the shelter and climb up to blue cave (Ledena pecina), but half way the first raindrops fell. I paused for a moment and decided to go back to the hut. The cloud ceiling was thick and grey and I knew there were scattered showers and thunderstorm forecasted for the late afternoon. Meanwhile I spotted the trail I was supposed to walk the day after towards Bobotov Kuk. I saw not only snowfields but a daunting steep path – and I knew, this was not even the northern flank of Bobotov Kuk.

Track back to the hut.
Track back to the hut.

A group of Bosnians I met down at the hut approved my assumption that the track was hard to pass, because of some snowfields. The part of the track I saw was even the easiest part. My perspective of climbing the highest mountain of Montenegro was fading considering the fact that I’m by myself carrying an 17 kilo backpack pretending to be brave. But they assured I could approach the mountain from the southern side.
They wanted to convince me to go back to Žabljak with them the same day, but I refused and spend the night at the shelter. Finally thunder and lightning were raging, but my mind was calm sitting in the damp and dark shelter.

Dinner at the shelter.
“Mmh Couscous”

Day 3 – Broken bottles (but not legs)

The next morning after a light sleep due to heavy rain hammering on the roof and thunder grumble all night I was convinced to go back to Žabljak. The sky had cleared, it was still windy, but the air was fresh and light. I didn’t want to go back the same way, so I decided to close the circuit passing the blue cave I had missed out on yesterday.

Flowers at Durmitor Nationalpark.
Flowers next to the track.

The track started off very steep at a rock face nearly 90 degrees angle. In order to reduce weight and to approach the downclimb safely I lifted my backpack down – convinced that the next peaky stone step could hold it, so that I can move downwards carefully. All of a sudden I saw it rolling down. It felt like slowmotion, but the speed and the power was demolishing. Paralized I starred to what I considered as the bottom. My backpack was sliding down a snowfield and magically stopping at a rock. Still shocked I started to proceed. My legs were still shaking when I discovered my good old drinking bottle a few meters further.

Trail down from Ledena pecina, blue cave, to Žabljak.
Trail down from Ledena pecina, blue cave, to Žabljak.

My camera, camping gas, tent – everything was in or attached to my backpack. And guess what? When I reached my pack tip toeing over the rocks, everything was in one piece!! I felt so relieved, but I still had a five hours walk ahead of me – and knew it would be demanding without water. Luckily I had one of these foldable water containers with me. I melted some snow in my pot and filled the slightly dirty water into the plastic container.

Luckily it was only my bottle.
Luckily it was only my bottle.

Slowly I calmed down and enjoyed the walk again – fortunately without other incidents.

Shelter at Durmitor Nationapark
Do you spot the hut?

Day 4 – Tears of joy and pain

Well, to be fair – I only cried tears of joy during my whole time in Durmitor Nationalpark, but tears of pain sounds more dramatic. I didn’t consider my previous hiking experience as a failure, but as a necessary reminder, that hiking demands humility. In the mountains we feel small, at the mercy of nature – this is a feeling we should cultivate in our daily lives. But instead of paying deference to mother nature, we exploit her. But I’m losing focus (This is might be a topic for a different article.)

Back to Durmitor Nationalpark: Instead of climbing up Bobotov Kuk that day, I decided to visit the Tara Canyon lookout. And what can I say? It was just incredible! After an two hours walk through the forest and on gravel road I reached the lookout point – it just blew my mind! I couldn’t believe how massive this gap is, which divides the countryside. About two hours I spent walking along the edge, celebrating the power of nature.

Lookout "Curevac" above Tara Canyon.
Lookout “Curevac” above Tara Canyon.

In the evening I went with some people from the hostel for dinner. (I actually got invited from a random italian cyclist :D). When I got back to the hostel I finished the day with the obligatory Nikšić  (montenegrian beer). I was so excited about my discovery today, that I totally forgot to think about next approach of climbing my good old friend Bobotov.

But than I met Tobias: “You wanna do the hike tomorrow?”, he asked casually. With a little bit more excitement than appropriate: “Yes, do you come with me?” We agreed to meet at 7 am the next day.

Day 5 – The Final Countdown

At 6 am the next day I already had a coffee and muesli in the frontyard of the hostel, where the sun already warmed my forehead. The italian cyclist, who payed my dinner the day before waved good bye, while I couldn’t wait we can start our hike. At about 8 am Tobias and me took our taxi to the beginning of the track.

Obligatory selfie at the beginning of the track.
Obligatory selfie at the beginning of the track.

The first bit was already a little challenging for me considering the fact that we had to cross a pritty tight path secured by a steel rope on the edge of a 150 m high rock face. I feared the worst, because I knew this was just the beginning… But to my surprise the following two hours the track led us through some stoney highland characterized by grass and snowy patches – remains from the previous winter-season.

Good view - Durmitor Nationalpark. © Tobias Mark Thomsen
Good view – Durmitor Nationalpark. © Tobias Mark Thomsen

After about two hours, the real climb started. I already asked myself, when we were going to overcome the 600 height meters? Here we go: This vertical wall, the southern flank of Bobotov Kuk. What looked like an unsurmountable hurdle turned out to be managable across a well marked, but very steep trail. Only at some bits it was necessary to use the hands.

We reached a ridge, where the view was already unreal. Furthermore we made some new friends and I spotted the track I wanted to attempt by myself two days before. I think it was a wise decision to go back…

Making new friends. © Tobias Mark Thomsen
Making new friends. © Tobias Mark Thomsen
Panorama of the trail to Bobotov Kuk.
Panorama of the trail.

A few meters further the most challenging part of the hike started – or at least the one I was afraid of. The last meters we had to cross some tiny, but dangerously slippery snowfields right at the edge.

The vey last bit of the track was secured by a steel rope. As long as you use your hands properly nothing can happen. I was already scared of the way down before I even climbed to the top, but I took a deep breath and managed it.

Peak of Bobotov Kuk - "We made it!"
Peak of Bobotov Kuk – “We made it!”

On the peak we met a small tourist group with a montenegrian mountain guide. “Fear is normal. Otherwise you would do something stupid.” He assured that I would survive the way down with a healthy attitude. And of course I did it. I proudly leveled up my mountain experience. 😉

Conclusion of my Montenergo trip

It’s about the people you meet.” Nope, it’s not, I do my own thing anyways.” – I never depended on anyone during my travels. But more than ever this trip proved: “IT IS ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU MEET.” Without Tobias I wouldn’t have had climbed Bobotov Kuk – the highest mountain of Montenegro. (Thank you for that!) Also at “Hikers Den” I met so many inspiring people, who gave me new perspectives in life. (including Alex, the owner!) I highly recommend this place. There are so many more things to discover in Durmitor Nationalpark. I definitely lost my heart in Montenegro…

This is what travelling should be like. <3

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Last selfie in Dubrovnik before I took off home.
Last selfie in Dubrovnik before I took off home.

 

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