E4: Trekking Winter

Tour name: E4 (Bulgaria)
Degree of difficulty: Intermediate mountain paths
Tour length: 184 km (changed tour)
Total elevation: 5400 m ascent and 5400 m descent
Alignment: South
Highest point: Musala (2926 m)
GPS: route and track as GPX

I am covered in snow up to my hips. Every step again I break into the meter-high snow cover. “Why did not I bring the damn snowshoes?” I ask myself this question again and again as I pull myself out of the next snow hole. Meanwhile, I am soaked… But that is not my only problem. Because of the warm temperature, the risk of avalanches on the upcoming, steeper stages are enormously high. The path is no longer accessible. Damn crap!

rila mountains
me being covered in snow up to my hips

I am right in the center of the Rila mountains, pretty much in the middle of my planned route. The plan to walk the Bulgaria part of the long-distance path E4, from Sofia to go over the Vitosha Mountains and the Pirin Mountains, tends to fail. But to cancel the trip halfway down, would bother me a lot… But what alternatives do I have?
I could stay here and wait for better weather. Sadly I do not have enough food to stay too many extra days in the mountains… Hm. Ok. What else can I do: I could cross the mountains at a different spot and find my way back to the E4 later. Sounds promising! I am looking at the map for a possible track. But it seems hopeless! Of course, there are other possible tracks to cross, but it would cost a lot of time to get there. The time I do not have! “Damn snow! Damn heat! Damn avalanche danger!

  • pannorama vitosha to rila mountains
  • pannorama vitosha to rila mountains
  • pannorama vitosha to rila mountains

Slowly I start building the tent. Twilight is spreading. With sudden clarity, I realize that my plan to walk the E4 in winter failed. The last rays of the sun disappear behind the mountains. I breathe deeply. The cold air fills my lungs. With every breath my thoughts come to rest more and more. Of course, I am disappointed that my plan does not work. But it does not feel like a failure. When I am honest, all this was not just about hiking the E4. I never intended to prove to me or to other to be physically able to do this track. The reasons for my trip are others: I wanted to be outside, away from everyday life. And I wanted to gain experience as it is to do winter trekking in the mountains.
All of this is independent of the E4 trail. Everything I have been looking for, I have already found. Here and now. In peace with my situation and myself, I crawl into my sleeping bag and fall asleep.
The next morning comes with sunshine, warm temperature and the definite certainty that I can not continue the E4. But who cares! You always meet twice!
On my way back I take another look at the map. Where should I go next? From where I am now there is Musala (the highest mountain of Bulgaria (2925 m) reachable distance. So why not go there.
So I leave the E4 to continue on to a new adventure!

„Nothing can go wrong. The only thing that could possibly happen is that things take different turns than expected.“

Stephan Sarek, german writer

P.S.: The ascent of the Musala becomes my personal highlight of the whole tour!

panorama rila mountains musala camp
camp on Musala peak
elevation profile of e4 in winter trip
elevation profile of this trip

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