Saturday, June 1, 2019

Montenegro’s Zla Kolata: The Evil Mountain

Also known as the “Accursed Mountains” in Prokletije National Park (the highest part of the Dinaric Alps stretching across Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo) Zla “Evil” Kolata lived entirely up to its foreboding names. It wasn’t because I took a wrong step onto a slick wet rock, slipped, fell and drew some blood from my shin and scraped my hands. It wasn’t because of an arduously long day climbing 4,833’ in elevation covering 12 miles over the course of 11 hours. And it wasn’t because of the rocky terrain with very few clear trail markings or the steep snow covered slopes with many exposed sections where falling would be ...”bad.” Normally we would have enjoyed all of this (except for the falling part) in the course of a challenging adventure. But in our case the “accursed” and “evil” mountain was fitting due to the simple fact that it rained on us ALL DAY!
We started hiking early at 6:15 hoping to get at least a bit of dry weather ahead of the forecasted showers, but we only had 15 minutes before the first raindrops arrived and they became increasingly more intense until we were thoroughly soaked. Even our boots couldn’t repel the continuous onslaught of water. 

It was a stark contrast to the Beautiful Bosnia weather we enjoyed a few days earlier climbing Maglić. Another difference here in Montenegro was having a “true” mountain guide with us, which eliminated the need to constantly be checking our GPS track in the wet and cloudy weather and wondering if we were going the right way. Instead we simply followed Binak, an incredibly kind man who lived in the tiny village of Vusanje a few houses away from the quaint lodge where we were staying.
With Helga on the back porch of our lodge, the Moonlight House the day before our climb (while the weather was still nice).
Another nice treat was to be accompanied by our good friend Helga Hengge who flew in from Munich to join us for this part of our Balkan journey. Helga is the first German woman to summit Mt. Everest and we had the pleasure to first meet her in 2009 in Antarctica while climbing the Vinson Massif. Helga also joined us last year in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco for our Jbel Toubkal adventure for those who may recall reading some of those blog posts. Helga frequently speaks to large corporate clients like BMW, Airbus, Siemens, etc. and as luck would have it she was able to squeeze in a few days to join us right in the middle of two of her previously scheduled talks.

As the wind picked up chilling our rain drenched bodies, and as the cold wet snow we were hiking through made our wet feet feel numb, I asked Helga if this might be the point when she was regretting her decision to fly to Montenegro for three days for this type of punishment!
She laughed and reminded me that this wasn’t nearly as cold as Antarctica! After nearly six hours we reached a saddle and briefly crossed into Albania in order to reach the summit ridge. Within 30 minutes or so we were standing on the 8,317 foot summit of the “Evil Mountain” Zla Kolata (aka Kolatta e Keqe in Albanian). The views from the top in the midst of the rain storm were ...less than stunning. But we made it to the summit and it was particularly meaningful (and completely unplanned) that on this same day May 27th in 1999 Helga stood on the top of Mt. Everest! We wished her a happy 20-year “summit anniversary” and promptly began our 4,800 foot descent towards a warm, dry lodge and a hot meal waiting for us back down in Vusanje at the Moonlight House! 

Despite the ominous sounding names Prokletije National Park is an incredible place to visit and still relatively undiscovered (it only became a national park in 2009). We didn't see any other people at all on the trail all day, and even in the height of the summer season, we understand that not many people come here.
Summit of Zla Kolata: Highest Peak in Montenegro
In front of the Moonlight House with Binak, Helga and on the right Lilly, who manages the lodge with her family.

Sveti Stefan and the Aman Hotel
Kotor, Montenegro hiking the city wall to the fortress above the bay

1 comment:

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