Gjeravica Kosovo Hike

2:01 p.m. on October 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Today, I hiked up Gjeravica, the tallest mountain in Kosovo.  It is in the Albanian Alps and is very close to the borders of both Albania and Montenegro.  It is 2656 meters, or 8713 feet.  I am not familiar with the mountains in Kosovo, so I hired a guide.  I also had someone from the hotel I"m staying at along to translate. 

the approach was a very rutted dirt road; we were in a pickup truck that has 4wd and has hte suspension jacked up - which was necessary.  the road is in pretty bad shape.  it ends at about 5800 feet.  The hike to the top is a little less than 4 miles.  Saying that this area is not heavily traveled is an understatement.  we hiked for five hours and saw three people - a hunter and two law enforcement officers who decided to go hiking. 


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this is the mountain from a distance, and me after hiking up about an hour.  the surrounding mountains are pretty spectacular, this captures some of that in the background.  there are a couple of lakes part of the way up; except for the final part of the summit, which was pretty steep, it was a fairly steady uphill walk that levels out or dips in a few places.  the guide, Sulejman, is next to the lake.  He is 72 years old and a member of the local mountain association.  He skipped the final summit cone & waited for us; he is amazingly fit and had a lot to say about the history of the area.


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i included a few photos looking up at the summit - gives a sense of the terrain. 


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Me on top, with trailspace ballcap.  couldn't have asked for better weather or a more interesting day.


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6:59 a.m. on October 21, 2012 (EDT)
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A few other details.  i was kind of beat last night and was more focused on posting some photos.   consider it beta/info for anyone who might decide to do this someday.  I obtained the guide through the hotel.  there is a local tourism department that apparently isn't often open for business.  if locals aren't up on the local hiking situation, it helps to know that  the local hiking club is called the Gjeravica Mountain Association.  According to the president of the association who drove us in, military and local governments often approach them to lead S&R in the mountains. 

The Kosovo/Albania/Montenegro border is on the western side of Kosovo, toward the south.  on the ridgeline, you are looking down into Albania and Montenegro.  A normal rental car would probably get damaged on the drive in, even if it's 4wd.  better off having the mountain association or someone local drive you in, using a vehicle that's already banged up.  there were a few road signs, but it would be easy to get lost on the approach road if you didn't know where you were going.

we got a late start yesterday, should have left more like 7 am than 8:20. it's relatively late in the year for this hike, the guide said it's probably the last time he will go up there this year.  on a summer day, i would recommend leaving early anyway so you can divert up some other trails to check things out and take more time lingering at the tops - the views are fabulous. 

get a guide.  the trails aren't terribly apparent, and the markings are painted onto rocks only occasionally.  they are a red dot with a white outline.  they are pretty faded in places.  no cairns to mark significant junctions.  8700 isn't that high but could give some people headaches if they are very sensitive to altitude - didn't bother me fortunately.  the hiking is a combination of grassy areas, dirt tracks, and crumbly rock.  Had to watch our footing pretty closely coming down from the top, as it would be easy to stumble and cartwheel.  

the hike consists of a fairly steady climb up through a shallow valley between Gjeravica and some other mountains, then laterally to the right toward a couple of lakes that sit a little below the ridgeline.  from the lakes, there is another fairly steady climb to the ridge that switchbacks at a few points, then along the ridge to the summit.  It's all walking; i hesitate to say 'scrambling' because i didn't use my hands except to steady myself on the downhill from the summit.  i gather that some of the trails from other directions have some steeper sections.  the top is totally exposed and can apparently gets windy and cold, even in the summer, but we lucked out.  it was sunny and just a little breezy.  foul weather would turn a few sections of this trail into waterfalls and would make the top a pretty unpleasant and difficult up and down.  i was glad that we had the guide.  there were a number of opportunities to get off-track.  even with the guide, we found ourselves staring at some fairly steep climb-downs and had to move laterally to find the trail again on the descent.  

gear-wise, i was well-prepared.  i didn't bring any water purification but had a 3L camelbak.  however, this region is the origin of at least one of Kosovo's more significant rivers, and there are a few springs along the way, water doesn't need to be treated.  at least i haven't gotten sick from it yet, because i drained the camelbak about an hour from the end and refilled from a spring.  no clif bars in Kosovo, and what passes for an energy bar here was not great.  also learned that packaged nuts in Kosovo are all heavily salted, yuck.  better off buying unsalted nuts from the bulk food bin at a store.  i wore a pair of gtx trail runners, a good thing because there are some pretty wet sections of the trail,  but i would have preferred my lightweight limmers, better foot protection and tread for the sections with loose rock.

9:44 a.m. on October 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Very cool trip report. Looks like a great area to explore.

9:45 a.m. on October 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice hike. Looks like some great views.

Thanks for the detailed instructions about getting to the TH - sounds like it could be very confusing otherwise. Was the guide expensive?

2:11 p.m. on October 21, 2012 (EDT)
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i paid 100 euro for the guide, the driver who got us there, and the young man from the hotel who translated.  $130 converted to dollars.  i didn't haggle.  i don't generally hire guides, so i did not know whether that was reasonable.  a quick scan of the internet suggested it was; i found a guide service in the UK charging 140 euro per day for private guides, and i found a guide service for the Tatra mountains that charges $140 per day per person for 2 person guided hikes. 

10:27 a.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I never imagined I would see a Kosovo trip report. Thanks much for sharing this Andrew!

12:12 p.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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the trial i'm defending here is taking a lengthy hiatus after next week, re-starting in January.  How cool would it be to take the same photo in a few months in winter gear?  

:)

1:25 p.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

  How cool would it be to take the same photo in a few months in winter gear?  :)

Wow! What a great idea! Any avalanche risk? And would you be able to bring good North American gear there on the plane?

5:22 p.m. on October 22, 2012 (EDT)
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you can take gear anywhere in a duffel in checked luggage.  except for fuel and a few other forbidden items like bear spray.   i usually find an old cardboard box, cut it down, and use it to keep the crampon teeth from tearing things. 

i was kidding in that avalanche risk would be high on this mountain - it's very steep on two sides, with obvious evidence of 2 or 3 rock slides. 

1:01 p.m. on October 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Very cool trip report, Leadbelly! Thanks for sharing it.

I'm glad you get to do some outdoor exploring while abroad for work.

7:13 p.m. on October 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh how cool!

I have never seen the landscape in Kosovo, so now I have a good sense of what some of it looks like. Thanks for all the detail.

Your guide sounds like he was an impressive man. I hope I can still hike & climb at that age

Did you get to see any critters on your hike?

6:43 a.m. on October 31, 2012 (EDT)
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though Kosovo has a lot of wildlife, including bear, wild boar, wild cats, i didn't see much.  i would think bear, boar, and other large animals probably prefer forests.  the tree line in the dinaric alps, aka the albanian alps, is around 5600 feet, and this hike started at 5800.  some of the lower hikes i did were fully in the trees, but the only interesting wildlife i saw was a black gecko with bright yellow markings.  it was so rainy that day that i couldn't keep the iphone lense dry, unfortunately.  

October 25, 2014
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