Day 10 - Gusinje to Theth via Maja Jezercë (28th June)

It was 1am.  I'd been lying on my bed at the Hotel Kula for 2½ hours having my brain pulverised by the Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff... mind-numbing racket coming from the nightclub across the street.

I'd been holding out hope there would be a curfew at 1am, but at 3 minutes past 1, the noise continued unabated.

Without consciously making any plan I suddenly realised I was fully dressed, packed, and walking out of the building seconds later. I left the key in the door with lights on, and marched straight through the crowd of smoking revellers and stillettoed call girls.

I did feel slightly out of place with my rucksack and ice axe at 5 past 1 in the morning, but I was in no mood to have any more of this nonsense, and my only thought was to walk as fast and far away as possible to get away from this place.

I felt like Lot's wife leaving Sodom and Gomorrah, but there was no way I was going to look back.

After an hour or so the relief I felt from the peace and quiet was only tempered slightly by the fact it was now 2 in the morning, and I was hiking into the Prokletije Mountains in the pitch dark.

The odd taxi went past on the road to Vusanje, but luckily none of them stopped.

After Vusanje, I did find some wooden picnic shelters, and for a moment considered settling down for a few hours sleep, but given the sky was currently perfectly clear, it made more sense to keep going, and hopefully get up Maja Jezercë before the weather turned.

I reached the Zastan hut just as it was getting light around 5am, and took a drink from the spring above the hut, and collapsed on the cold damp grass for a few minutes.

The trail now steepened up through the woods. My head was spinning through lack of sleep, and I kept wanting to lie down.

After popping out of the woods, the landscape changed to a more severe and rugged appearance with multiple glacial lakes surrounded by rough rocky peaks.

The route weaved through these lakes until it hit a large easy-angled snow slope.

The trail then climbed up and leftwards across multiple slightly steeper snow slopes and rocky ribs, until it finally reached a col at about 2285m.

The col at 2285m below Maja Jezerce
The final 400 metres of climbing looked seriously steep.

It was now proper scrambling, with due care and attention needed.

The crux was a short but steep snowpatch leading up and right into a shallow gully. I put on the Kahtoola KTS Steel crampons I'd been carrying for this very purpose, and carefully my way up the steep snow using my Camp Corsa ice axe.  The trickiest part was getting back from the snow onto the rock, which was now wet and slippery, since it had started raining and the summit was now in cloud.

Summit of Maja Jezerce
I made my way along the rocky ridge to the cross at 2694m. It was too cold, rainy, misty and intimidating to hang around for long at the summit, so after a quick couple of mirky photos, I teetered back along the rocky ridge wondering how on earth I was going to get down on the Albanian side...

The words "You will die for sure" were ringing in my ears.

Descending the rocky summit ridge from Maja Jezerce
Once I popped out of the mist, the descent route looked slightly daunting.
Interesting descent into Albania
Looking back across my descent route from Maja Jezerce
More difficult down-climbing
My eventual escape route - climbing down the snow tongue in the centre
Pleased to see something still living
Back on the trail to Theth

Overlook to Theth Valley
Wild flowers on descent to Theth
Maja e Harapit above Theth Valley
Villa Gjecaj at Theth
It was a relief to finally get down and join up with the trail to Theth.  I checked in to the Villa Gjecaj, and thankfully had a very peaceful evening and good night's sleep.

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