Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Veliki Vitao - here be dragons

Having done Maglic I wanted to climb to the highest point on the range of mountains it is part of. This range, the Bioč, lies mainly in Montenegro and is clearly not often frequented - certainly not by English speaking people. I could very little online about the range or its highpoint, Velki Vitao, other than it was possible to get there from Stabna.


Friendly people live here

Look for this sign when driving from Pluznice
Almost by chance, I ended up at the end of a narrow road with no turning point. Whilst I was struggling to reverse back downhill a man came out of the final house to help. He insisted that I came into his house and his wife insisted that I have some breakfast - consisting of caz (herbal tea) and bread with home-made kajmak (sour cream).I turned down the offer of a shot of slivovice which the man and his friend were drinking quite heavily for their breakfast. Their daughter was staying for a few days and she spoke excellent English. There was a big debate as to how I could get up the hill.
As it turned out the start of a path was opposite the house - however there is no signpost or markings. Indeed, there does not appear to be any marked trails anywhere on the range other than at the Trnovacko jezero or Maglic end.
The path is very well defined through the woods and along a ridge overlooking the Stabanska river until it reaches a large alp or meadow. There were several ruined summer houses up there - only one seemed to be occupied by an old shepherd, with one tooth, who wanted to shake my hand. From thereon there were occasional animal or shepherd tracks that would show promise for a while and then fade.

The Bioč is a complex and large range. In a way, thankfully, I made a bit of a mistake and headed for the wrong summit. I say thankfully because if I had headed directly to the correct one I would probably not found the way over the intervening ridge. For anyone who is interested I can provide them with the GPS track showing the route I took - however, for both my ascent and descent routes I would suggest that they use the track as a rough guide rather than a definite plan to follow.
As it happens, the wrong summit was on the western end of the aforementioned intervening ridge and it was not toodifficult to drop down to a col and up to the true summit. If I had attempted to cross the ridge at any other point I would have ended up looking down a very steep and extended drop and would have given up. From the summit it was possible to see a pass at the eastern end that looked relatively easy. Even when I reached this pass the route back to the meadow was not as straighforward as I had naively imagined.
That gap is not a way through - view from north side

Anyone who wants to try for the summit in a roughly similar way to my descent route I list the crucial co-ordinates below. How you get between them is up to you. Mind you, I suspect any route will end up as convoluted and lengthy as mine because of the frequent need to go round the ubiquitous sinkholes, terraces and escarpments to be found in Karst limestone areas.
Start point (park about 80m before here): N43.17331 E18.75615.
End of clear path to meadow: N43.18214 E18.74882
Pass over intervening ridge: N43.20610 E18.76688 (From here, on a clear day you can see the summit)
Veliki Vitao summit: N43.22566 E18.75734

Whatever you do not head for the obvious steep sided notch in the intervening ridge instead of the pass I have indicated. There is no descent route on the other side. Other than that the walking is not too difficult

There is a visitor book on the summit - and the number of entries are rather few. However it is worth a visit the views are terrific

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