Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back In Black Mountain: Part 2

Day 3: A Mountain and a Katun

9.00k

We made another early start as we left Žabljak on the way to our next destination. Komovi mountain was around a two-and-a-half-hour drive away, following a route that would take us via the Tara Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world at 1300m.

The Djurdjevica Bridge over the Tara Canyon is impressive, but
it is hard to convey the scale of the scenery on a small photo

Having stopped briefly for photos at the Djurdjevića Bridge, we drove along the canyon towards Mojkovac, more often than not in the shade as the early morning sun had yet to penetrate the depths of the gorge – one of the many impressive drives to be had in Montenegro.

After breakfast in Mojkovac, we took a route via Biogradska Gora and Kolašin and picked up a back road towards Andrijevica, finally winding our way up from the pass Trešnjevik to reach the Eco Katun Štavna at the foot of Komovi.

Eco Katun Stavna at 1700m - a superb setting

It’s a wonderful setting at about 1700m. All the way up we had had tantalising glimpses of the mountain, but the full glory was saved until reaching Štavna.

Majestic Kom Vasojevicki 2461m

After checking in, we began our hike. Komovi has three main peaks, and we were tackling the first of the three, Kom Vasojevićki (2461m) today. Setting off across the grassy pastures and summer dwellings of the katun, we soon picked up signs for the summit and joined a rising traverse across scree slopes on the western flank of the mountain.

Crossing the scree slope on Kom Vasojevicki, with
Kom Kucki and Kom Ljevorijecki beyond

Pausing for breath on the steeper
mid-section of the climb

Presently, the path steepened in gradient to zig zag up to a grassy saddle a short way below the summit. From here, the top looks difficult to attain, but cunningly the path approaches the summit via the safer grassy slopes behind, and with a little scrambling and appropriate care, it is not as impossible as it at first seems. 

Preparing for the tricky-looking approach to the summit

Arriving at the top, we signed the visitor book and made first use of the brand-new stamp that Dimitrije had been asked to bring. Limbs were rested and photos were taken, and we enjoyed the amazing 360° views – to Bjelasica, Sinjajevina, the Prokletije, into Albania and Kosovo, and even to Hajla Peak that the three of us had summited together some four years ago.

Amazing views in all directions

However, it was a glorious day, and we were not alone on the top. A group of Bulgarians were also climbing the mountain today, and we got chatting to one who was thrilled to hear we would be visiting his country later this year.

Best friends, Bulgarians and backpacks: topping
out on the summit of Kom Vasojevicki

We took lunch on a sheltered bluff just down from the summit, then made our descent by the same route. Like many mountain paths, loose rock and steep ground means it takes almost as long to descend as it does to ascend in the first place.

It's a hard life ..... apparently

On the way down, we met a man who was worried about his hiking partner who hadn’t reached the summit. We kept our eyes and ears open as we went, but didn’t see anyone in trouble (he was later found safe and reasonably well after a slight fall, but it acts as a reminder to observe good practice and stay safe in the mountains).

Beautiful hardship: Hospitable companionship

Crossing the pastures back to the Eco Katun, we were invited in to one of the cabins for something to eat and drink. These dwellings are only inhabited during the three-or-so months of the summer, when small-holders bring their livestock up to the high pastures for grazing and to make cheese and jam and dry herbs for the winter.

For the rest of the year, our host was a teacher, and although it is beautiful here, it can at times be a lonely place. Hospitality is a tradition in these parts, and invites are regularly made to passers-by in exchange for company. We were happy to chat for a while, drinking juice and eating delicious bread and fresh cheese made that morning.

What a feast! Homemade corn bread, black bread and cheese

Back at the Eco Katun Štavna, we settled in for the evening. Dimitrije had to pop home to celebrate his son’s first birthday, but we were extremely well looked after by hosts Branko and Nemanja. We had dinner on the terrace – delicious stuffed peppers, corn bread with cheese and cream, salad and a couple of beers to wash it all down.

After a brief stroll along the road to let dinner settle and reflect on one of the best mountain days we have had, we turned in for the night, our only sadness being that one night here may not be enough.

For anyone interested in the Eco Katun Štavna, you can find further details HERE

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