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Two Weeks in the Balkans- Pt 1

August 17, 2013

My dad and I had been meaning to take a long trip to drive through he 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, the Hotel Bavaria, was open when we arrived at nearly 10 pm.

The 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.

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We ascended a steep section of class 2/3 that had some steel cables installed. Above this we crosses a snowfield to achieve a ridge that led to the final summit pyramid a hundred meters higher. 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.

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On the descent we met a Czech guy who lived in Prague who was quite surprised to find 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. I decided to climb the other peak, the Montenegrin Maglić, while my dad waited on the ridge. 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.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharpless permalink
    October 18, 2013 04:26

    Fabulous pics man. And I’m a little jealous about the amount of travelling and mountaineering you do.:D Its great. I have only recently taken an interest to mountaineering and was searching for such posts. Joined a mountaineering school here in Alberta and am slowly learning the ropes, so to say. Don’t think I’d be doing this hunting for mountains across borders for now. But I’d really love to do it with the passion that you do. Keep posting. Especially the photos.

    • October 31, 2013 20:50

      Thanks, I have been busy traveling for the last few months, but am finishing up some trip reports from summer now that will be out soon. I hope your course goes well, and that you get the chance to climb some awesome peaks and write impressive trip reports from them.

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