- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
This challenging 11.0 km hike eventually reaches Mount Vihren, which stands tall at 2,914 m above sea level. Mount Vihren is the highest summit of the Pirin range and the second tallest in Bulgaria. And once you reach the peak, you’ll encounter rewarding views of the Pirin range and mountains dotting northern Greece painting the backdrop.
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Route Description for Mount Vihren
Before choosing this hike, be aware that the upper part of the hike is somewhat technical, and you can expect to use your hands for the last 30 minutes of the hike. Many hikers just turn around when they get uncomfortable, and you should only continue if you have experience with this type of route.
This is an amazing hike in the Pirin mountain range. Do note that it can be quite difficult, especially close to the summit when you have to scramble for a short period! However, the views from the top are totally worth the momentary pain felt before.
The first stage of this route starts from the Banderitsa hut directly to the west. The path travels above the tree line. You can follow the white-green-white markings on trees and rocks. The forest here is unique, as it consists of a rare type of pine–Pinus Heldrechii–sometimes incorrectly called Bosnian pine. This tree grows only on carbonate soil, on top of Marble, and only in Mediterranean climates. This explains why it can be seen only here and in a small area in Italy. The forest here is 6 to 9 centuries old. In the first stage, after 45 minutes on a considerably steep (up to 35 degrees), yet easy terrain, you will reach a large flat area at 2,150 m above the sea, covered in grass and surrounded by ridges on every side. For obvious reasons, this place is known as the “Small Cauldron.” It’s a lake-less glacial cirque–lakes do not exist on the Marble, as this rock absorbs the water. The “Small Cauldron” is a good place for a rest before the second stage commences.
The next 45 minutes will take you to the Big Cauldron” at 7,940.0 km above the sea. The path follows several vast serpentine areas of sand in the last section and goes very steep (45 degrees) straight up—the terrain here is rocky. The “Big Cauldron” is a place that cannot be mistaken! The impressive lake-less cirque is very rocky and is dominated by the breathtaking 1600 feet vertical north face of Mount Vihren. This is a very popular place for the proper climbers–to the south, on top of a small hill, there is a small shelter for them.
From the “Big Cauldron,” the third stage has you walking for another 45 minutes to the saddle at 2,710 m above the sea level–from here until the end of the hike, you will follow white-red-white markings on the rocks. The terrain here is very rocky, the first 20 minutes are quite steep (up to 45 degrees), but no special skills or equipment is required. The saddle is a flat, exposed area, and it resembles the col between Mount Vihren to the southeast and Mount Kutelo (2,908 m above the sea) to the northwest.
Here is the start of the fourth stage–the most challenging one, both physically and mentally. The first part is just a steep climb on a serpentine path towards the northwest crest. The second part gets steep and turns more into scrambling, rather than hiking. These last 122 m of the ascent can be scary to some people, as there are short sections where you properly need to use your hands.
However, the rock here is very solid, plus at the most challenging bits, there are some metal chains. Do note that those in good shape won’t experience many issues and will be fine during this part of the hike. Once you reach the summit, which stands tall at 2,914 m above sea level, many views will come into view. Admire vistas of the Pirin range, mountains of northern Greece, Marble ridge, and glimpses of Rila range.
On your way down, you will hike the southern side of Vihren. The fifth stage, the descent, starts on a not-too-steep, wide slope and goes until you reach a broad saddle, called “Kabata” (2,600 m above the sea level). During this stage, one can admire the view of the beautiful Vahini lakes straight ahead. From the saddle, turn east for a path that leads down through relatively steep grassy slopes. Expect to encounter steep 45-degree sections from time to time. Through the trees, one can see the roof of the final goal: the Vihren hut. In the last stage, the route continues descending through the pine bushes and very rocky terrain. Do your best to focus on the path to avoid twisting your ankle at the end of the hike. The whole descent takes about 2–2.5 hours. In total, this hike can be finished in about 6 hours.
Insider Hints for Mount Vihren
- Both huts at the start of the trek are an excellent place to buy hot and cold beverages, snacks, or warm meals (soups, BBQ, French fries).
- This route is recommended ONLY for summer hiking. Going there in winter puts you in serious risk of avalanche
- This route is not suitable for beginner hikers or people in poor physical shape.
- This route is very dry, so you should consider bringing along a proper amount of water (at least 2 liters per person)
Getting to the Mount Vihren Trailhead
The Mount Vihren hike starts from Banderitsa hut at 1,810 m above the sea and finishes at Vihren hut at 1,975 m above the sea. The road from Bansko can easily reach both huts. There are minibusses that start every hour from Bansko, which can take you to any of the two huts. One can also hire a taxi.
Mount Vihren Elevation Graph
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Mount Vihren Reviews
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