20 June 2021
GOOD NEWS!!!!! Valbona Pass (= ‘qafa‘): OPEN! Qafa Persllopit (western end of Kollata Mtn): OPEN! Qafa Borit (eastern end of Kollata, near Cerem): OPEN! – well bit of snow, but nothing you can’t cross. Have fun, and keep on trekkin’!
10 June 2021
report from hikers (using the “tell us what you saw” function! – THANKS GUYS! Sorry you had this miserable experience, but thanks for reaching out to stop others!)
We crossed from Valbone to Cerem via the prospollit pass. [nb – the pass is at 2000m!]
Heavy snow past 1700m. No visible path, steep snow ledges to traverse and felt very dangerous.
We are experienced hikers but this was way out of our comfort zone.
7 June 2021
Ha – vindicated! on the 2 June, someone tried to do the Valbona-Theth hike by themselves, got stuck, and a local guy had to go and rescue him with climbing ropes – see I am NOT making this stuff up!
Proud of you, Erind Zalli!
VALBONE: Valbone – A Swiss tourist who was visiting Albanian Alps was blocked in Qafa Valbones for 3 hours, till the rescue forces arrived there.
4 June 2021
So! Still mixed messages about the pass to Theth – someone told me a few days ago “guides are saying they don’t want to go”, BUT a couple people made it through around 31 May and helpfully sent me these photos (thanks guys!). They said “We made it but it was very difficult . . . There is also a big mudslide on the way down to Theth from the pass that completely covers the trail for a while and we got lost trying to find the trail for a bit.”
So it doesn’t look so bad to me . . . the only mistake would be trying to take the NORMAL path. Don’t try that yet.
This shows the alternative route looking up, which doesn’t look too bad looking up, BUT, looking down from above gives a better sense of whether it looks fun to you:
And, here’s another on showing what the walking through the snow looks like:
24 May 2021
Update! STILL a lot of snow in the Valbona Pass – you can get through with a guide (to basically DRAG you – and your bags – through the snowy hard bits, and catch you before you plummet off any precipices), but otherwise STILL not even vaguely recommended. As in: trying to do it by yourself has a high likelihood of DEATH. Or other serious inconveniences. See more notes below.
Not anticipated that the situation will improve in the next week.
11 May 2021
Hey! I just had a brainwave! Who wants to hear about what they CAN’T do (as below) . . . you want to know what you CAN do, right?! So! Right now, even though passes and peaks are still chock-full of snow, there is LOTS of GREAT hiking you can do! I think the best hiking in the area at the moment is:
Aim for South-facing slopes, where – while there will still be snow on the heights – snow melts faster, and there’s nothing to slip and fall off of (well, not much) that will kill you:
- Maja Gjarperit Trails (actually my favorite at the moment)
- Maja Rosit Trails (up Kukaj Valley)
Also things that are at their MOST beautiful now
- Trails along the River itself. Now is when everything is blooming – crazy wild orchids, maybe even rare woodpeckers being territorial (ie, easy to see!) The trail to Shpella Dragobise (Bajram Curri’s Cave) take about 5 hours, but you can also include a side-trip to the Picimalit cataracts which even locals barely go to, ie, you’ll have it all to yourself! UNLIKE the Valbona-Theth trail where once it’s open you’re practically tripping over other hikers. And the forest is virgin and mossy and really lovely to explore. PRETTY soon the wild strawberries will be ripe *Well – ‘all to yourself’ depending on how many people read this. Don’t forget to cough or sing when you get close to the cataracts, in case the Zana (mountain fairies) are bathing. This is tradition here 🙂
Or only actually possible now!
- The Kanali Krasniqi path: This is the ancient irrigation canal which was built a couple hundred years ago and still feeds all of the lowlands of Tropoja, watering a stupendous amount of land. I mean stupendous because it’s only a narrow canal you can jump across in most places. Anyhow, right now there still isn’t any water in it, which means you can walk from Mucaj (outskirts of Bajram Curri) to Klysyr (in Valbona Valley proper) WITHOUT being on the car road (or anywhere near it). Plus it’s like halfway up a mountainside so the views are SUPER! Actually – that would be a nice Itinerary: Day 1. Arrive Fierza with Ferry (maybe go kayaking?) – camp in Bujan (our new project) or stay at Avni Rexha Hotel Restaurant, both next to the river. Day 2. Maybe play with the horses? Then hike from BC to Klysyr. You could stay there (really nice newly opened small hotel and restaurant – in the gorge-y-est part of the valley) or nip onto the road for a bit and then continue hiking along the river to Quku i Valbones (guesthouse).
If you can’t find information on any of this (cause I can’t remember what I’ve posted on the website since we ‘fixed’ it) – feel free to stop by our NEW SHOP, INFO CENTER AND GENERAL COOL HANG OUT SPOT in Bajram Curri. Happy to load you up with info, ideas and even maps (well, if I ever get around to reprinting them . . . . eeee! Time to stop playing with the website!) PS: For now, you can find the shop on GoogleMaps by searching for TOKA Organization Albania (or something like that). That’s our small NGO office, upstairs from the shop.
4 May 2021
Only news about hiking so far is that there was a LOT of snow in the mountains this winter (thank God – otherwise there’s no water all summer!). Locals predict that the Pass to Valbona won’t be open at all until late May, and for horses (ie, pack horses for luggage) not until June.
And! If someone else is telling you that a guide can get you through the pass, and that’s making you wonder if you could do it yourself, here’s what I just wrote to a nice person asking about this:
“Please do take a guide at least to the pass. (30 euro?) You have to hack your way straight up the mountain, kicking steps in the snow, and if you slip (or drop your bag) it’s 250m down to clamber up again (see attached map). A guide can find the best path, catch you if you slip and or help with bags. A couple of years ago 2 people declined the guide offer (nice locals not insisting because they didn’t want the tourists to think they were after the money) and one woman fell 80m and DIED. It was awful. These are not called “The Accursed Mountains” for nothing. “
These are just here to remind me what to update once it becomes possible.
Maja e Gjarperit Trailhead:
Shpella e Dragobise: