Trip No. 2 of 2018 is now booked, and Hazel and I are off to Albania rather than the French Pyrenees.
When: June 2018.
What: A week’s walking in Northern Albania, with Hazel.
How: On Wild Frontiers’ recce trip, Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains
Why: I find the Balkans fascinating – the history and the culture, the legacy of the Ottomans – and I’ve looked at various Albania trips over the years – winter ones, summer ones – but never quite found the right thing at the right time.
This time, serendipitously, once Hazel and I had decided against the GR10, a Wild Frontiers email newsletter popped up in both our inboxes flagging this recce trip. For one week off work we get 5 days trekking plus time in historic towns and a lake ferry. We’ll be up in the Albanian Alps – aka The Accursed Mountains – most of the time, doing day hikes in the Parku Kombëtar Lugina e Valbonës (Valbonë Valley National Park) and Parku Kombëtar i Thethit (Theth National Park). We’re going a day early, to give us some time to explore Tirana and because BA’s flights are cheaper on a Thursday.
Although it’s been a while since we’ve done a trip with Wild Frontiers (the last one was Turkey in 2012 on their Wild Walk in the Taurus Mountains), they have always been great at getting to places that are a little more off the beaten track, plus the trips are all inclusive, right down to drinking water.
I still want to walk in the Pyrenees. Whilst waiting for Exodus to run an offer for their 10 day Highlights of the GR10 trip, which had been our planned trek, I came across Mountain Bug’s Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP) offering – 3 x 1 week sections, which you can do individually or together, and which includes an ascent of the Pic d’Aneto (3404 m), the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. The HRP take the highest walkable route through the mountains, whereas the GR10 and GR11 are lower down. Tick, tick, tick. Plus I really like the idea of going with a smaller, local business too. Other than the HRP being a less well trodden (and slightly trickier) trail, the main snag was that you have to carry all your kit, and I was happier than Hazel to do that.
So, Albania, here we come!
Day 0: London – Tiranë (Tirana)
Day 1: Tirana – Shkodër
Day 2: Shkodër – Liqeni i Komanit (Lake Koman) – Fierzë – Grykat e Hapta – Valbonë
Day 3: Valbonë: Kukaj, below Maja Jezercë (2695 m)
Day 4: Valbonë: Çerem – Bori Pass – Sqapit Peak
Day 5: Valbonë: Qafa e Valbonës / Valbonë Pass (1860 m) – Thethi
Day 6: Thethi: Kanioni i Grunasit / Grunasi Canyon – Ndërlysaj
Day 7: Thethi – Kaprea Creek – Qafa e Thorës / Thore Pass (1685 m) – Krujë
Day 8: Krujë – Tirana – London
Now all we have to do is book flights, sort out a hotel for our night in Tirana and decide how to spend our Friday morning there – and getting from/to the airport.