Maverick Race Ambassador Alex Van Tuyl & Lewis Ryan Tackle Montenegro
Bobotov kuk is not a mountain many are familiar with, but neither is the Durmitor National Park. Having arrived in Montenegro and driven inland from Kotor, Lewis and myself found ourselves confronted by a spectacular vista of mountains at the town of Zabljak.
The next logical decision: run up them....
Sitting in a quaint bar, we planned a route taking in the highest peak, Bobotov Kuk, as well as a huge glacial valley on the southern aspect of another peak - Planinica. With 17 miles and an as yet unknown amount of climbing we set off at 6am, thinking 4hrs and 3 muesli bars each should see us home. How wrong we were.
A nice gentle climb through forest and alpine meadow got us up to Planinica at 2200m from Zabljack at 1300m. From the northern edge of the huge glacial valley cutting through Durmitor, the views took our breath away more than the climb itself.
From here, things got a little more tasty as we traversed the valley across to Bobotov Kuk. The descent/fall down from Planinica got the adrenaline pumping on what felt like a 90 degree slope. Luckily, the climb back up was even steeper, and after following the path and being stopped by a cliff face, we doubled back for 20 minutes to realise the path just went up a different cliff face. Ropes and jagged rocks got us up to the top of the second pass and the base of the last climb to Bobotov.
After 2000m of climb, 5 hours of moving and the final muesli bar consumed, we made it to the top of Bobotov Kuk at 2500m elevation. At this point, Alex decided to throw his toys out the pram as it turns out 3 muesli bars are not sufficient in getting one up 2000m of challenging climb. Alongside a stray dog (apparently more athletic than us), Alex gave his best puppy dog eyes and managed to talk some sympathetic Slovenian hikers into giving us some bread and chorizo. It's fair to say they saved both our stomachs and our friendship.
From here is was all downhill to the finish back at 1300m elevation. Downclimbing off the peak, tumbling down scree slopes and jumping through the boulder fields took us to a local shepherd's hut about halfway down. A quick stop for a can of coke and we got back into the more gentle paths through the forest leading away from the mountains. At last some running brought us back to the starting point at the Black Lake, which we ran straight into.
The planned 4 hours turned out to be 7.
Durmitor National Park is not on many people's radar, and this is certainly part of the appeal of the area. Having run in numerous mountain ranges throughout the UK and Europe, both of us were blown away by the beauty of Durmitor, and it's a struggle to convey how unique and unspoilt the area is, so hopefully the photos will do it slightly better justice.
From a running perspective, it was hands down the toughest terrain we have ever had to cover. The steepness of the climbs and the technicality of the terrain was something we both underestimated, and it's safe to say that a strong stomach for heights is essential.
On top of the running, Durmitor is an unspoilt haven for adventure junkies. We rafted through Europe's deepest gorge, swam in pristine mountain lakes, and drank Raki with Aussies under the stars. It's a place that's pretty hard to top if that's your cup of tea (Aussies are optional).
Alex and Lewis