When moving to Bansko, Bulgaria a few months ago, I thought I’d spend this winter in front of the laptop, doing some extra work in a very boring and cold place. I couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s only the second day of 2021 and I’ve already been to the mountain twice. I started the year on my snowboard, catching the first chairlift to the slopes – am I addicted already?
On the second day, I went on my first snowshoeing experience. I’ve spent almost every weekend during the summer hiking in the Pirin mountains. But the winter scenery is even more beautiful than I expected.
So, here are a few shots and practical tips from my first winter hiking in the Pirin mountains, Bulgaria.
Snowshoeing from Bezbog hut to Golyam Polezhan (2850m)
The location of Bansko is pretty favorable – the town is an extreme sports heaven. Bansko is a starting point of many hiking & biking trails. And during winter it is one of the most popular winter resorts.
We started our hike from Bezbog hut which is a 30 min ride from Bansko. To reach the hut, we took the chairlift from the parking lot at Gotse Delchev hut. The chairlift return ticket was 20 leva (10 Euro) and it took around 30 min.
Our goal for the day was Golyam Polezhan peak which is 2850 high. The hike was 2,5h in one direction. We started the ride from Bansko around 8 am and were back around 3 pm. The whole hike took around 6-7 hours.
I’ve already hiked this peak four or five times this summer (the one at sunrise is still my favourite) and it usually takes about the same amount of time. However, the winter hiking with snowshoes was definitely easier than hiking in summer.
The snowshoes and hiking poles were provided to us by our guide. It’s my first time hiking with such and it was a pleasant surprise – it was easy to walk, no sliding down, and faster than hiking with just shoes.
The winter trail is slightly different from the summer route to the peak – since the snow has covered all the bushes, we were able to walk on top of them compared to walking around them during summer. The trail was not marked so having a guide was a big plus.
How to prepare for winter hiking
If you’re not familiar with the mountain, it’s best to go with an experienced mountain guide.
I always recommend Lyuben Grancharov and Top Guides Bulgaria since their team has years of mountaineering experience and is always very professional. You can check out their winter calendar with events or just email them for a customized experience – they have ski touring, snowshoeing, and more to offer.
Here’s a list of things we needed during the winter hike:
- Snowshoes – provided by the guide
- Winter hiking poles – provided by the guide
- High three-season shoes
- Hiking gaiters
- Water and windproof jacket and trousers
- A few layers of clothing
- Sunglasses or sun goggles – very important!
- Gloves – warm and waterproof
- Warm hat – of course I used my Coworking Bansko hat I won after a post on Facebook
- Sunscreen – also very imporant!
- Personal first aid kit
- Water and warm liquids
- Mountain insurance – provided by the guide
The hike & views on the way
Every time I hike in the Pirin mountains I’m mesmerized by the views, even though I keep seeing them over and over again. And winter is even more magical. All the high peaks covered with snow, a sea of clouds in the distance, and a beautiful blue sky…
The first part of the hike took us around 1 hour – from Bezbog hut to the valley between Bezbog peak and Golyam Polezhan. Not so windy, short climb in the beginning and fairly flat walk after.
Then, we started our hike to the peak – that part was more challenging, but still not too hard. The wind was the only thing that made the hike uncomfortable.
We only made very short 5-minute stops on the way as it was too cold to stop for longer. During the walk, our bodies were warmed up but we had to protect the hands and face from the cold breeze.
After 2,5 hours we reached the top and a beautiful 360 view of all surrounding peaks and mountains was upon us. After a few photos and snacks, we started our descent which was easier than the climb (at least to me).
We took the same way back and surprisingly met quite a few people on the way. There were also a few skiers and snowboarders hiking up in the search of fresh snow.
After all, this experience was a perfect introduction to winter hiking – not too long or technical, quite picturesque and diverse.
If you’re in Bulgaria this winter, get your backpack, winter shoes, and warm clothes and head to the mountains! You won’t regret it.
🤳 You can follow all my winter adventures on Instagram – @travelling.buzz.