Rock Climbing Photography

Big mountain freeride photos

A short call on the telephone with Kofeto and we agree for a mid-week ski tour and ride in the Maliovitsa region. My suggestions are well know routes and slopes, but he comes up with a better idea – the couloir on the North-West face of peak Goliam Kupen. With no hesitation I agree.

We are off from Sofia early in the morning, trying to get there before the spring sun softens the snow too much. An hour and a half later we are at the base of the mountain, the sun is harsh and the sky is cloudless. Worried that we are already late we jump in the boots and head out fast. But even if we are really late there are no worries – as long as we are in the mountain everything is fine. It is mid April, but there is a lot of snow and we can choose every slope we like. A strong group of three four-legged friends joins us – Sharo and Murjo ahead with the German Sheppard Sarah – the most famous local free rider.

Thirty minutes later we reach Maliovitsa hut. We give us some time in the toilet to do the things we could not do in the hurry back home, share some jokes with Bajno – the hut manager, who is again cursing the vast amounts of snow this winter and then head to BAK Refugio – given the icy west-facing slopes we choose a longer but easier road, which would give us one more slope to ski on.

The previous days there has been a lot of rain, the night has been cold and the snow is like concrete. We reach Vtora terasa easily, but then we start climbing on the west facing slope leading to BAK. The climb is very icy and scatchy, we manage to make a few turns with the skis on, but suddenly, the malfunctioning binding of Kofeto’s skis snap out and he, with one of his skis, finds himself at the base of the slope in just a few seconds. I am scared as shit not to share the same destiny, but with the power of a great will and concentration I manage to  reach a safe place. Kofeto has already found his ski and cursing heavily climbs up on boots. The dogs seem to have no problems with the ice – the crampon-like nails and the great mountain experience help them climb up effortlessly.

Kofeto is doing technical serpentine on ice.

“Survived!” he says just before the long bum ride down….

Kofeto: “!?#%**F*CK!!?#% bindings!”

After the first critical slope I also jump out of the skis and head up on boots only. The dogs are happily barking around, wondering what takes us so long. Watching the dogs following us up in the mountain I keep asking myself what makes them come with us every time we are there, when we never bring food for them. Do they enjoy the walk, do they like our company? Anyway, I say to myself, next time I will bring a nice treat for you, my friends.

Sara is bored.

Sharo: “While we are waiting for those two, why don’t you let me sniff your ass?”

Shortly after we reach BAK and then climb up to the pass between peak Kamilata and peak Lovnica. The dogs are running around, climbing the rocks and sniffing for wild goats. The Sahara sands, brought by the last snowfalls have colored the snow in yellow and the rain has shaped strange forms in the slopes on its way down. We are about to have a ride down on a softened east facing slope but before that we give ourselves a few minutes, trying to capture the beauty around with our cameras.

Now that we are though with photography we buckle up for our first ride for the day. And the ride is quite awkward – starts with hard icy snow with big hard snow lumps and then suddenly transfers to soft, sticky snow. A few minutes later we find ourselves at the base of our objective for the day – peak Goliam Kupen.

After a few moments of hesitation which way to choose for the ascent we decide to attack the peak through the same couloir we intend to descent and check out its condition. We take off our skis and continue on boots almost right away, regretting that we have no crampons with us. Every step up needs a few hard kicks to go through the icy snow. At the middle of the climb our legs are screaming with pain and we slowly realize that this would not be our way down unless we wait at the peak for another 2-3 hours. The dogs are still with us, but this time it is hard even for them. Sharo and Murjo are strictly following behind using the steps we dug out. Only Sara, the German Shepard, chooses its own line. Is it because she is stupid or something else, I don’t know, but she goes for the steepest, iciest, and narrowest couloir above us, scratching her way up and risking a massive slide down through the rocks, possibly taking one of us with her. Very critical climb up indeed, but somehow she manages to survive and reach a safe place.

An hour later we reach the top. There we treat ourselves with a deserved brake under the warm sun and a light breeze. Astonishing views are all around. Thousands of virgin lines are surrounding us, which all become dreamed projects. We stare at the rocks with numerous routes, where the climbing season will take us once the snow is gone. We take out our cameras again and concentrate in our viewfinders trying to take the perfect photo. Sara finds a piece of rock to play with, Sharo falls asleep under the sun and Murjo sits nearby, keeping an eye on me and waiting to hear the promising sound of a food packing. This reminds me that I have two chocolate bars with me, but I am not hungry so I decide to give one to the brave dogs. The other I leave for myself when we reach the base.

A bit more photo shoot and we decide to take the east face down. Looks soft enough and we head to the entry which starts with a 1.5m drop. Kofeto decides to take the drop and I leave behind to take some pictures. Off he goes with the dogs, jumps down… his binding snaps out again, he falls down, but luckily the ski stays with him. It takes him a few seconds to recover and continues the ride down. I choose the left entry with the smaller drop and after a few minutes of indescribable joy we join again 500 veritcal meters down at the frozen lake Strashnoto ezero. From that point we have a long and easy ride and 30 minutes later we are at the car parking.

Here is the line we climbed up and the line we should have skied down. Well, not this time, may be next season. Or may be these days we would try again? The season is not over yet.

Five left, five are back. We are all happy, only not sure about the dogs, because they refuse to speak, but by the intense waving of their tails I guess they are happy too. To be sure they are I give them my other chocolate bar. I am hungry too, but there is a heavy meal waiting for me downtown.

Yet another perfect day.

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