To Musala (part two)

(To Musala – part one)

Those of you who read thoroughly the first part and not just browsed the pictures at random may remember that I  was following the ridge line in order to reach its highest point – Musala peak. I was confidently following someone’s traces, so I didn’t imagine I would end up hugging tenderly a huge rock in an attempt to get over it, my skis already removed and attached to the backpack. Hardly the way it should be !

 (Now I wasn’t holding to that rock, but, as you imagine, I couldn’t take pictures to the original one while holding to it for dear life…)

It became clear I wasn’t on the right track. In fact, the traces I was following ended right there as well, and now looked back at me mockingly. Meanwhile, the right track layed at my feet in a valley below the ridge. Too late to get down there, continue the hike and get back in due time.

So I decided to end the journey abruptly. And I mean litterally – I offered myself the dream of every touring skier: a few hundred meters steep downhill through fresh powder !

It looks like I wasn’t the only one to enjoy freestyle powder downhill – just look at all those eights… 

No regular ski run descent ever compares to the incredible feeling of floating over the untouched powder, it is a three minutes dream for which an off-track skier would spend hours climbing endless slopes.

Two days later I scehduled the second attempt. This time following the Musala pathway, and this time starting at 2100 m, not 2500. But I had taken care not to leave my sealskins at the hotel again, so I saved 90 minutes ! Ok, maybe 85, because I still left my phone, but remembered when just leaving the hotel…

The fact is I was already marching up before 10 AM. And so was Fero, a meteorologist working at the Musala meteo station, who was just on his way to the ‘office’ on this lovely morning. Lucky me, I will have nice company during my trip ! (Just as a curiosity: I don’t remember having met anyone in years on my way to my office who would make that trip just for fun).

Our trip goes on pleasantly and relaxingly. Fero is just recovering after a little health trouble, so his tempo won’t pose any problem to me. Time goes by fast as we talk about ski gear, Bulgaria, nature, communism, mountains, clouds and weather. I’m not worried any more for not having brought a map with me – Fero knows the name of every peak, rock, valley or lake we meet underway.
We make a short stop at the Musala Hut for Fero to have his breakfast (he left very early in the morning from Sofia, where he lives).

I only need a tea right now, but I mark the spot for a stopover at the return, when a hot soup would be most welcome.

Back on track. The path follows the old telegraph line, of which now some rusty iron poles remind.

The first meteo station on Musala dates back from the early 20th century, when data was sent using telegraph wires. The wires are long gone, which leaves the poles wireless. Since they use wireless Internet now to send data, I imagine the poles are still in service.

This is Palets summit (in the foreground). ‘Palets’ means ‘thumb’ in Bulgarian. When the weather is friendly, like today, Fero says the peak looks like a thumb (I don’t know, take a look and judge for yourselves…), meaning everything is all right, Mother Nature watches carefully over her sons. The funny thing is, according to Fero, that when the weather is terrible, the same peak looks rather like a middle finger than a thumb. In such conditions Fero says he remembers one of the famous Murphy laws: Mother Nature is a bitch. And we are, of course, her sons.

Another short break at lake Aleko. I know it’s a lake because Fero tells me it is, otherwise it’s just a plain snow surface.

This is another interesting peak – Bezimenen. It means ‘nameless’. Well, since it has a name, be it Nameless, it is not nameless, I’d say. But take a look at it: what does it look like to you ? To me it looks like a huge organ, with straight tubes daring high. Once I heard a little saying about music (somehow lame to be honest, but fits into the context): When angels play music for God, they play Bach. When they play for the people, they play Beethoven. When angels play for their own pleasure, they play Mozart. Well, I’m not sure what instrument they use for playing Beethoven or Mozart, but as for Bach it should be this organ. Of course, an organ doesn’t really fit in a Muslim place for prayer, but God is one, whether we call Him God or Allah, and I’m sure there is some other place in the Alps where the rocks look just like a kanun.

In the meantime I reached lake Ledenoto (‘Frozen’). Fero is in no hurry, he doesn’t need to get back to Borovets before sunset, so I had to raise the tempo and to leave him behind. During summer, Ledenoto is the highest lake in Bulgaria at 2709 m. During winter, since Ledenoto is Frozen, there is no highest lake in Bulgaria.
Irechek peak (2852 m) with Ledenoto lake and the Everest hut beneath

Another hut stands by the lake, but now there isn’t anybody inside. Here starts the final ascent to Musala – about 200 m in altitude.
I have to remove the skis and attach them to the backpack – it’s foot climbing time again. A solid steel cable assists the operation and makes it a little bit easier.

But the slope is steep and the snow is deep. Oh, how I could use a jeep ! Altitude’s high and I often sigh – is my blood pressure all righ’ ? I count the poles while I step into holes – have I ever had higher goals ? Oh, Musala’s so damn far – where the hell you are ?! I sure need a chocolate bar.
But finally I’m on the peak ! The wind blows harshly on my cheek. Oh, that climb was such a freak !

It’s now time to take a deep breath and restore my heartbeat to a normal level. It will speed up again anyway when I will admire the landscape. In the next (and final) episode.

Part three: Roof of the Balkans


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