Maja Jezerce range - North Albanian Alps
Time: 3 days
Start Point: Boge
This route description is going to be a bit different...
How do I get there?
Our real starting point was a train from our big town of Wroclaw in South-West Poland.
We almost missed the train.... but we made it. And we were on our way awaiting an adventure like no other. It's June and it's hot here in Poland. We're all sweating as we're changing the trains on our way to Podgorica, where we hire a mini-van to get us across the border and to Koplik, where we take one more mini-van to Boge, where our trail starts.
Here's a map with the location:
The route starts in a village called Boge. As we're soon going to find out, it will take us all day to get to Theth, where we're going to start the proper trail into the mountains.
The trail, or shall I rather say the road, to Theth is a beautiful mountaineous countryside sort of road, which goes up the hill for about half of the route and then starts descending into the valley with the village Theth.
The route and the views from the route are beautiful:
That's what the trail looks like from above, from near the top of the valley:
We started from Boge later during the day so we didn't go to Theth for camping, which actually was a very good idea as we spent a beautiful high in the mountains with amazing views:
As we reached the top of the valley, where we camped, early next day we moved on towards Theth.
The views were amazing all around:
As you leave the high pass and start descending slowly the trail runs on the southern side of the mountain which you can see here below (trail runs just above the forest and around the mountain):
As you start descending into the valley with Theth, you'll start seeing the range of high mountains opening up in front of you and leading towards Maja Jezerce - the highest peak in North Albanian Alps.
I remember looking at this view and thinking "how are we going to get to this pass in the mountains visible in front of us?"
But it wasn't actually that difficult.
From here it's a quite steep descend into the valley and into the village of Theth.
Theth was the only village we were going to see on our route towards Maja Jezerce. Theth is the place from everyone starts into the mountains. From Theth people start their adventure towards Maja Jezerce or Maja Harapi.
As we're descending into Theth, we meet a young Brit who's telling us about a nice hotel here in Theth. We, being old school mountaineers, are obviously not interested in the hotel. After a short conversation, we're moving on.
As we move outside the village, we decide to camp just outside Theth near a mountain stream (always a good place to camp with access to water). Also, as we were told, this would be the last place with water so we're also filling our bottles with water to have enough for the next few days. From here, next day we'll attack the pass -Qafa Pejes.
Here's a map showing our route from Theth to Qafa Pejes pass and showing approximate place of camping (the pin):
As we started the next morning, it was a long route up the hill all the way to the pass. But it was worth it as the views from the pass were amazing!
I remember looking at the view towards the Qafa pass from the hills just before Theth and thinking "where's the path?" It looked like a wall. Just look at the previous image. It looks like a wall, doesn't it?
But there was a path as we were to find out the next morning as we started.
The path would lead like a snake along the wall and into the pass. Once we reached the pass it was very windy up there so we didn't spend much time on the pass.
As we reached the pass, because it was still early, we decided to use the opportunity and climb Maja Harapi (2218m).
It's about 500m height difference and we'll be going through another peak to get to Maja Harapi. There were no routes to Maja Harapi so we decided to go straight towards the peak. Looking at Maja Harapi from the pass it looks like an easy peak but the reality is quite different (maybe that's why there wasn't, and I think there still isn't, a trail to the peak). The route is difficult with loads of rocks everywhere and a lot of snow (yes, still snow even though it's July...). All of this makes it more and more difficult to reach the top.
As we reach the midpoint (earlier peak) we see the beauty of Maja Harapi as well as a huge snow field, like the one above... Slowly we make our way towards the end of the snow field and towards the peak. At one point, I stop to get a deep breath and as I look to the left I see... nothing! About a metre from where I'm standing there's a huge void! | guess it may be 400m or more... and below I can see Theth... A moment later my friend Jurek joins me and we both admire a beautiful view we have. And obviously there's no one around. Just us and the mountains.
I'm taking a few pictures and off we go. After about half an hour we reach the top of Maja Harapi. From the top there are some amazing views of western and north-western part of North Albanian Alps. And we can see more and more snow... so we decide to abandon our plans to climb a few more peaks in western part of the mountains and decide to focus on Maja Jezerce range (Maja Jezerce and Maja Malisores).
Here's a link to the image of the map showing Maja Malisores and Maja Jezerce.
Maja Malisores is our next goal
Slowly we start descending from the top of Maja Harapi, especially with all these rocks everywhere, which only makes it more difficult and more time consuming. Amazing views make up for it more than enough. Here's a view towards Theth, where we came from:
Some parts of descend lead through rock with a little bit of climbing, which as you know is always easier going up then down. As we descend towards the pass we take a slightly different route going a bit more towards north and we descend by the little lake quite close to the pass where we came from. By this little lake we were surprised to find remains of a bunker! (we saw many more over the next week and they were everywhere, yes even in the mountains).
After descending to the pass we look for a nice and quiet place to camp before embarking on our challenge to climb Maja Malisores. Here's our camping:
The next morning we reluctantly leave our warm sleeping bags (nights are cold even though days are hot) and we move to the base of the Maja Malisores, range bordering with Maja Jezerce (highest peak of North Albanian Alps) from the east. Initially we're just going through grassy meadows. We reach the bottom of the mountain. We're here. Southern side is just plain vertical so we decide to go using the west face instead. We start very steep and in about an hour we reach the ridge. From the ridge we can see that there is another peak before we'll reach the main peak of Maja Malisores so we move on towards the first peak.
After we reach the first peak, we can now see the main peak of Maja Malisores and between us and the main peak we see... a void filled with loads of snow... We didn't expect that and decide not to risk. We weren't prepared for any snow climbing...
At least we admire the views and take pictures. We can see Maja Jezerce very well from where we are now.
We start the descend into the valley to prepare for Maja Jezerce next day. As we get closer to Maja Jezerce we find remains of what looked like shpeherds hut. There's some grass nearby and that's where we decide to camp for the night.
Here's our beautiful campsite:
We wake up very early in the morning and there's silence all around us. As we get outside the tent we can see the sun rising. We are the only people here (as has been the case from the moment we left Theth). It's a very cold morning, for the first time I'm putting on long trousers and a fleece. We're eating our breakfast and leaving... We're leaving our tent here and only taking things we'll really need (food, water, first aid kit, and our cameras of course).
|nitially, we try to avoid larger patches of snow and walk on the grass, and then on the rocks. It's going quite well, we're gaining speed quite quickly but as we start walking through the rocks we start slowing down. It's a beautiful sunny day, the weather is great.
After about two hours, we get to a place where we have no choice but start walking on snow (we start thinking why we didn't take ice axes and crampons but who knew there'd be so much snow here at the end of June?).
Jurek starts to lead first and I follow him and then we change places. Fortunately, the snow is hard and doesn't collapse under our weight. As we walk across the snow fields one can feel slight cold coming from the snow which brings a nice change on such a hot sunny day. And the view are amazing...
At some point we reach the edge of the snow field and there's only one way to go. Ascending towards the most eastern ridge of Maja Malisores, from where we should be able to start climbing Maja Jezerce. Unfortunately, the reality becomes somewhat different as to what we are about to find out soon...
We climb through the rocks for another hour. Fortunately it's not that steep and we don't need ropes just strong arms and energy. As we get more and more tired we're getting to the top of the ridge. From there we have an amazing view of Maja Jezerce and the entire northern part of these beautiful mountains. The view is amazing... Here's one of the pictures on the top:
However, as we look towards Maja Jezerce, we see a problem... The entire mountain is covered deep in the snow...
Jurek joins me on the top and confirms my point of view. That's it. We'll need to go back...
Without proper equipment there's too much risk in trying to climb Maja Jezerce covered in snow, which may be thick and hard or it may be thin and could collapse underneath our feet at any moment. Somewhere underneath this snow there's a path which we were going to take to get to the top as we knew from descriptions of others who made it to the top. Unfortunately, because Albania had very sever winter earlier that year, we need to retreat our steps back into our camp.
Together we make a decision to go back. We stay a bit longer on the ridge, take more pictures (we're at about 2,300m so the views are amazing), have something to eat and start our descend back to our camp. We're taking the same route and after a few hours we're back at our camp. We have supper and climb into our sleeping bags for our last night in the mountains.
Next day we descend back to Theth.
We wake up with the sun rising. As we leave our camp and start descending, after about an hour it's very hot already. So move our way to the pass, where we arrived a few days earlier. Weather is still great and because it's so hot we're glad to stop by a mountain stream below the pass. Then we make our way down into the valley. Our backpacks are now lighter (less food to carry) so it's easier to walk.
We descend into the place where we camped a few days earlier, before climbing onto the pass, and we have one more night in this place. This is our last night in the mountains.
In the morning we are awaken by the sounds of some people near our tent. As we get outside we see seven Serbs, who are going to Mount Jezerca. We talk for a few minutes and we share with them our experience up there. Then they leave in the direction of the pass. We're going down to Theth.
Around midday it starts raining and we hear thunderstorms up in the mountains. We hope that Serbs are fine...