Balkan countries of Albania and Montenegro are somewhat overlooked. It may be partly because of bloody and wild past and partly because these are overshadowed by its neighbours. The truth is, at least in terms of mountains, one can find the most rugged and wild peaks of Balkans on common border between these two countries, particularly in Accursed mountains. I was surprised by this wild rocky scenery as well as karst areas and blooming meadows.
From Zla Kolata
Hike to the summit of Zla Kolata is definitely not one of the easiest. Limited water resources, high elevation gain and lengthy rocky passages on the Montenegrin side pose a challenge. All the more surprising is the Albanian side, which falls into the Valbonë valley with gentle flowering meadows. This outlook needs to be earned, but the reward is worth all the effort. Especially in the late evening light, when the peak is already abandoned.
Whenever I think of the name of the local mountains, all I have to do is return to the view from Zla Kolata over the Valbonë valley. White, sharp and mostly completely arid peaks represent at least an obstacle. It is not difficult to imagine how much suffering may have arisen here, hence the name "Accursed". In the last rays, however, the vertical walls seem almost magically beautiful.
The highest peak of Montenegro, Zla Kolata, offers also views of neighboring Albania. It is in this direction, between the peaks of Maja e Jezercës and Maja e Rosit, where I find a detail that fascinates me and I keep returning to it during the evening. Individual layers of jagged mountains arranged exactly one behind the other, gradually fading into the distance. The best moment occurs just before the sunset itself, when the sky turns orange and interesting as well.
I return back below the summit of Talijanka like the evening before. Conditions have changed completely and perhaps could not be better. A sea of clouds floats in the valley while the highest peaks rise above it like surreal islands. I wait for the first sunrays to illuminate the grassy slopes of Talijanka in contrast with the still cold tones of clouds.
In the evening, the clouds completely disappear and the panorama of the Karanfili peaks is illuminated by golden light. The road from Talijanka further to Valušnice curves along a narrow grassy ridge. I find the best composition just below the summit, where the path seems to lead to the most distinctive peak of Veliki Vrh.
The morning at the summit of Talijanka prepares the best possible surprise. As soon as I look out of the tent, I can see a landscape rising from the cloudy sea floating perhaps only a hundred meters below. In soft light with the sun still below the horizon the jagged peaks of Karanfili rise above the clouds. They seem even higher and more menacing in these conditions.
Rays over Surdup mountains
There is a perfect circular view from the summit of Talijanka. I like the opposite rocky ridges of the Accursed Mountains the most, but when the sun sets lower, I also notice the scene above the distant Surdup Mountains. For a short time, everything is there in just the right amount, clouds, light and especially sunrays bending over the edge of the mountains.
Rainbow over Accursed mountains
When we pitch a tent a second time one day prematurely due to the storm coming, there is nothing more than hope that we will can the sun in the evening again. Eventually, the storm disappears after an hour and a half, leaving behind water-saturated colors and a rainbow arching in the distance over the Karanfili ridge. The valley below the peaks Talijanka and Popadija.
In the clouds
The evening after the storm turns into an amazing show. At the very end of the day, the light acquires a pinkish tint and the landscape immerses itself in cooler tones. The rocky peaks of the Accursed Mountains continue to rise from the fast moving clouds.
Karanfili tearing clouds apart
After almost four hours of waiting in the tent for the worst storm to pass, a gift arrives. The distant Karanfili mountain range is tearing clouds apart. The distinctive peak of Veliki Vrh also appears above all the others. When late evening light touches the dramatic clouds, I am ready to capture the scene.
Storm and emergency bivouac. Rain and fog. Waiting for the evening with which change comes. The fog rises and the clouds tear, the water-saturated mountains catch the soft light of setting sun. I search for an interesting composition to the northwest and find a group of these old pines.
In the deep woods of Ropojana valley, river Skakavica emerges in large karst spring called Oko Skakavice (Grasshopper's Eye). Its blueish water may invite for a swim but its temperature keeps just a few degrees above zero. I was glad skies were cloudy during my visit, as it eliminates reflections. I also tried to add some part of the surrounding forest to the image.