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Climbing Musala: the Everest of the Balkans


Author: Nina Alexander Article contributed by: http://followthesisters.com

When I first started blogging several years ago I promised myself to help my readers find the few remaining places in Bulgaria without a cellphone network. One of those places, as I have recently discovered, is the highest peak on the Balkans, our local Everest - Musala.

If the lack of cellphone coverage isn't a reason enough for you to pack your backpack and head off to the mountains, I hope my little photo essay here will convince you.

Before we begin, here are couple of interesting facts.

- Musala is 2925m and 40 cm high, which makes it just 7 meters higher than Mytikas in Mount Olympus, Greece. Rumour has it that this annoys Greeks so much, that each one of them climbing Mytikas carries a stone up to the peak in the hopes of one day having Mount Olympus "grow" higher.
- Another interesting thing about it is that despite Bulgaria being a Christian country, the name of the peak comes from Arabic and it means "near Allah" or "place for prayer".
- Last, but not least, if you visit Musala, this will be quite an achievement. After all, it is the Musala is the 7th most prominent mountain peak in Europe.

Now let's get going!

There are many ways for conquering the Bulgarian Everest nowadays and it all depends on the amount of time you have available. For the more experienced hikers even just a day is enough to go up on the peak and return to civilization. This is only possible, however, using a lift from Borovets, which spares you about 10km of a serious uphill.

I will be telling you about a different type of a journey, as I cannot imagine hiking suck an amazingly beautiful place and being in a rush. Which is why my lovely team and I (all office people) decided to take the long way.

The morning

We gathered early in the morning on the "Iztok" bus station in Sofia, from where busses leave for Samokov every 30 minutes on weekdays. Despite Bulgaria being in the EU since 2007 this particular bus station looks like something you'll find in the ugly parts of the Middle East, but don't let this discourage you. You shouldn't try to buy a ticket in advance either - just go there and be prepared to wait a little if necessary.

The journey to Samokov takes about an hour. Once there, we looked for a cab and made sure the driver understood that we want to be taken to the beginning of the hiking path (and not just anywhere in Borovets). The journey took about 10 minutes and cost us 5 euros.

The beginning of the hike

Once we reached the beginning of the hiking path the real journey started. The path began less picturesque, quite wide and not as steep as we had imagined, but it all escalated quickly. Soon after we started we came out of the forest and found ourselves surrounded by the most incredible views we had ever seen.Where we thought we may suffer the long road we found ourselves charged, both physically and emotionally by the fresh air, the softly murmuring mounting streams crossing our path, and the beautiful scenery, which our eyes were trying to consume as fast as the cookie monster eats Oreos.

Our first stop was about 4 hours into our journey on some chalet that seemed to be closed. After we took almost an hour break there and had our lunch, we continued to the Musala Chalet. Another hour or so and we were there. Many of the other groups we met on our way decided to stop there and spend the night. Right in front of the chalet there is a beautiful mountain lake, the chore of which is indeed a wonderful location to open your tent and camp for the night (given that you have a really good sleeping back and are not afraid of the cold).

After a quick tea break we were ready to continue. The path after the chalet cuts its way into the mountain rocks and is very steep. It took us nearly 2 and a half hours to reach to our next stop - we were all quite tired already.
Despite being the hardest part of our journey thus far, this was probably the most beautiful one. We climbed rocks, played with snow (in the beginning of Auagust) and admired some surreal scenes.

The evening of the first day

We ended the day on the Ledenoto Ezero Chalet (The Ice Lake Chalet). Neither one of us was capable of walking any further that day. We enjoyed some delicious food and cold beers instead and jumped in bed slightly before 9 in the evening.

The second day: conquering Musala

Early on the next morning we got up, had a quick breakfast, took some pictures at the lake and took off to the peak.
This is without a doubt the steepest and hardest part of the journey, but once we reached the end of the hill seen from the chalet, we were blown away by the views.

Only 2 hours later we reached Musala and felt on top of the world! There is no need to tell you that it is insanely beautiful there. See for yourself:

Our journey this day finished at the chalet Granchar - about 4 hours of a steep downhill after Musalah.

If you're asking whether this hike is hard, I would say yes, it is. But I assure you - every step of the way is worth it!

Nina is a marketer by day, traveler by heart, tech geek, bookworm, beer lover and an amateur photographer. You can read more from and about her on http://followthesisters.com