Due to the fact that we had the ideal number of people for our expedition – 3 members – at home we had already solved the problem of what to do with tents. Tom had at his disposition a Jurek Atak 2 – a tent for 2 people. I had Atak 3 – a tent for 3 people, and in fact 2 years earlier 3 of us had used the tent in the Ukrainian Carpathians and we fitted in with our bags at a sideways angle.

My Jurek has only one compartment and quite a small ante-chamber. Another possibility was to take Jack’s tent, an Alpine 3, which was the biggest and had two ante-chambers, where, at a pinch it would even be possible to cook on a small stove, but unfortunately it was also the heaviest. In the end we decided on my tent, because it was the newest and in certain conditions it would offer a better rainproof floor, not to mention the fact that it was about 1.2kilos lighter than Jack’s tent. I didn’t really relish the thought of cooking on a stove in my relatively unused tent, but surprisingly enough, in the end it never came to that. With a feeling of pride that it would be my tent which would set eyes on Kackar, it never occurred to me that this automatically meant that it would be me who would carry the tent; consequently although the weakest member of the group, I would also have the heaviest bag! Thomas, however, carried the alloy pegs from the second day, and kindly took the alloy poles on the last day of the trek. But while, with the passage of time, the food, the rum and finally the petrol in Jack’s bag decreased, the tent travelling in my bag stayed just as heavy – in fact occasionally, when the morning was wet, it was even a bit heavier.

Anyway we immediately found out on the first night in the tent, that although all three of us fit inside, the bags had to stay outside, even though they were wrapped in plastic. The others had already realised this earlier, but it really surprised me, because as I already mentioned, two years earlier, three of us had stayed in the tent with our bags. Life is full of changes…

In the morning after a breakfast of soup, we packed our things and managed to get going on time – at nine o’clock. Before the cloud cover completely took over, we at least had time to see where we were going clearly, that is to say towards a pass on the mountain ridges South west from Lake Derebasi. The fog quickly descended from the pass however, and what’s more it also rolled across the other side of the valley, so from that point the situation with visibility wasn’t too rosy, even if it was an improvement on the previous day.

From the lake the journey looked, on the whole, quite easy; not even the beginning of the hill was too fierce. The final 100m of altitude were totally vertical, however. In the end, at about 10.30 we evinced the peak, with Jack’s GPS reading 3215m above sea level. According to the map we should have been able to get to the paths which lead across the Kavron Pass and an unnamed lake to Lake Deniz under Kackar by following the mountain ridges from the other side. The paths were there in reality – orderly marked by stone markings. In fact even the first part of the paths was nicely paved with large, flat stones, almost good enough for traffic.

We got to the Kavron Pass (Kavron Geçidi 3270 above sea level) just after 11.30. We bypassed the first mountain of the valley ridge exactly according to plan and here the path forked. Unfortunately the man made markings had disappeared. We disputed whether to take the Northern or Southern path. The Northern variant would mean a stronger degree of incline, but we would start climbing up immediately. The Southern path circumvented the current ridge at a gradient, which would mean descending and uselessly wasting hard earned metres in altitude, which we didn’t want. In the end we compromised by ascending the ridge a little to the south and from here continuing up to equal height, the path has a lot of unstable stones, however and it didn’t go too well for us. After a while we had to give up, otherwise we would have been compelled to navigate the rock face. From the uppermost part of the valley we then saw the man made markings, unfortunately earlier in our journey it wasn’t possible to see them. Tom later confessed to us that in all the descriptions on the internet, the path had only been mentioned in the opposite direction, which accounted for our troubles.

In front of the Nameless Lake the ascent of one mountain ridge and a smaller valley awaited us; the path here was, however, clearly marked. The nameless lake was beautiful, with good possibilities for camping. We wanted to get closer to Kackar however, so we took a left across another pass to the Sea Lake (Deniz Golü) at a height of 3350. From the pass above the lake there was a really gorgeous view. Deniz GolüThe journey to Deniz mountain lake is rather an adventurously abrupt incline with a gusty glacial hillside leading directly to the lake. Already from afar, we saw that we wouldn’t be spending the night alone that day. The guide said that there were something like 4 places for tents, and with animosity we counted how many tents were already standing there. To be frank, I didn’t want to return to the Nameless Lake. In all there were 8 tents, but when we stopped at the first tent we immediately got some information in Czech about two other possible free places, so we chose one of them and at four o’clock in the afternoon we shed our loads and started to put up the tent, until it started to rain.

We eagerly found out the nationalities of all the other campers: Israeli, French, Polish, Slovak, American or Turkish? Our uncertain suspicions were confirmed; all of them were Czech. And that day we were unequivocally the oldest…

In all the descriptions we had read, it was recommended that the ascent to the peak of Kackar was completed as early as possible, or at least in the morning with good visibility as the coming of the day would bring ever increasing cloud cover. We got up between half past five and six o’clock and after cooking and eating our morning soup we set off. Of course we left our tent and things in the base camp of Deniz mountain lake. On the whole the visibility was clear, even through clouds had started rolling in from the South. We didn’t go on our own, but naturally with the whole Czech colony from the base camp. 600 metres of altitude plus 2 or three useless descents, depending on shortcuts, awaited us.

First we had to climb up the pass above the lake. There followed a gentle descent to the valley plain beneath the ridge of Kackar, where another stone hill was amusingly situated. It would have been possible to follow an alternative route from the left of the snow around the icy lake. Then we climbed over the stone mountainside to the summit of the main crest, though we still had to cross a couple of snowy plains, quite a vigorous descent which wasn’t that easy to get across. The higher we got the more the stones became unpleasantly frozen, which caused some problems for me

Above the final snow field, I caught sight of the Turkish flag on the peak, which was quite a prominent point of orientation, particularly as by this stage there wasn’t much point in relying on the tourist markings and it wasn’t really possible to distinguish which point of the ridge was highest from below. I couldn’t see the flag for the final 50 metres of ascent, so I had to blindly continue. I walked around a really sharp ridge and afterwards safely reached the peak.

To put it mildly, I still wasn’t feeling too good, so I was glad that I had actually managed to reach the top, even though I was the last of the Czech colony. It was half past eleven and unfortunately to the north, in the direction of the Black Sea, it was foggy, so the view was nothing special. Thomas has already made the peak a couple of minutes before me and Jack, who got to the top first that day, was looking around at the surrounding peaks. After a moment of sitting still I realised just how cold it was. The temperature certainly wasn’t above zero. I was higher than I had ever been. The fantastic feeling slightly dimmed my concerns about the downward journey which would certainly be more demanding than the climb up the mountain.

I ate a biscuit, Tom and I took fotographs of each other and added a message for Lenka and Dusan in the memory book in the message box on the hill, ready for when they undertake the climb next year. In the meantime, the others had already departed, Jack returned, and so we started the climb down. On the way we met with several hiking expeditions with and without guides, Turkish and foreign. We returned to the base camp at Deniz Golü at around twelve.

After about an hour we packed and continued our slog in the direction of the village Olgunlar, which lies at a height of around 2250m above sea level. A descent of about 1100m, (from Kackar 1700m and if we count the ascent and descent together, the total daily climb would be more than 2300m – a good achievement, don’t you think?) After following a well marked path we again came to a beautiful green valley with colourful flowers, deep below the level of clouds, so we could almost see to our final destination for that day. At two o’ clock we passed the huge camp of Dilber Düzü, which had a lot of tents, a canteen along with chemical toilets and grazing cart horses. Clearly this was the base for organized expeditions to Kackar.

After about an hour we met with four fellow countrymen going in the opposite direction. From that time we decided we were no longer the oldest Czechs in the region, which secretly delighted us. According to Thomas and Jack our countrymen looked older than us. We didn’t check their passports, so I can’t be sure how Thomas and Jack reached this conclusion. Even though it may not be obvious from the photos, in reality we three look very young despite our huge experience. Nobody would really guess our age, particularly in the night from about 200m, even if it wasn’t very foggy. So, it may be the case that our four fellow countrymen only looked older than us…but I digress a little.

On the way to Olgunlar we passed an empty, but picturesque pastoral summer village called Nazaf Yayla (sometimes also called Nastaf Yaylasi). The houses, or rather dwellings, had stone walls and roofs from corrugated iron. Grand stone fences stretched out around the village.

At half past five in the evening we took lodgings in a pension in Olgunlar. For a triple room without facilities, but including dinner and breakfast, it was 45 lira per person, which wasn’t too cheap. The warm water was turned on from half past seven and dinner was served at half past eight. The others decided to explore the village, just in case anyone sold beer. I stayed in the room, as I correctly guessed that there wouldn’t be any beer.

There was pasta without meat for dinner along with some amusing cucumber and tomato salad, plus the unavoidable tea. I quite like tomatoes, but I must say, steak is steak. Even during the dinners we prepared out in the wild from our special provisions, our pot always included lunchmeat or tuna. We calmed ourselves by accepting that in the end we couldn’t have meat every day…

We had breakfast at eight o’clock, even though the owner of the pension, a mountaineer, recommended that we eat at least an hour and a half earlier when he heard that we were going to Lake Kara Deniz (the Black Sea). He said it was going to take us at least eight hours. Of course he didn’t know Jack and Thomas. Yes, I won’t beat about the bush, in the end we took only six hours to get to the next lake. I earnestly tried to substantially slow down the whole journey, but to no end.

At nine o’clock we were packed and started to search for the beginning of the path in the direction of Yukari Kavron, which wasn’t all that easy, but in the end we somehow managed to get out of Olgunlar. We went through a picturesque village again opposite a mountain stream. It was quite cloudy on the horizon, but we managed to stay in the sunshine during the trek to the pass under Çaymakçur, the result for me being that for the rest of the expedition the skin steadily peeled off my nose, because at the start I slightly underestimated (or rather completely forgot about) cover against UV rays.

We passed by another picturesque mountain village, or rather a summer hamlet (Dobe Yalya), where there were about twenty derelict buildings, and in one there were two Turks repairing something. In the meantime I enjoyed the beautiful green scenery of the landscape. I complemented it with my own colourful clothes. I was wearing my last lovely clean yellow and green T-shirt (it’s difficult to resist if it’s on sale) and on my back I was carrying my bag adorned with the previous evening’s laundry from the pension. Supposedly it was meant to be “functional” and “quick drying”. And it really did work, some things were already quite dry after two days.

Over the pass of Çaymakçur, we started to leave the valley spreading from Olgunlar to the hill of Mezovit, but it wasn’t all that easy to find our way. In the upper part of the valley the path suddenly forked. But we did reach a pass, or rather a pre-pass. Stones again began to replace the classic meadow, the incline steepened once more, the temperature dropped and snow appeared on the scree slope. We clambered up to the actual pass at around one o’clock. The altimeter read 3320, and we knew we must have reached the Çaymakçur Pass (Çaymakçur Geçidi).

After taking a rest, we started the ascent to Lake Kara Deniz through the light fog. The journey was perfectly highlighted by stone markings. After a while, it started to rain and eventually hail; the fog thickened. Getting across the stream from Lake Kara Deniz was really unpleasant, because we had to walk across huge slippery stones. Fortunately it stopped raining. We still had to face the climb to the final pass at about 3000m, however, as it was here that we would camp for the evening – the small lake below Lake Büyük Deniz (Big Sea). The ascent was once more arduous, following a zig-zagging path, which put one more in mind of a stream due to the earlier rain and hail.
small lake below Lake Büyük Deniz

It was still before four in the afternoon when we got to the pass, from which it was possible to see the nearest lake we were heading for, even through the fog. The main organiser, Thomas, wanted to find the higher lake, which should have been about 10 minutes further to the North. Because of the insidious fog, which invariably seemed to dissolve after a few moments and lure us further on, only to maliciously gather around us again, we couldn’t find Büyük Deniz Golü that night. We should have been glad that even in the fog all three of us were able to meet at our bags which we had left in the pass earlier. And so we camped next to the lower lake.

Apparently many tourists with guides were camping at Kara Deniz Golü which was relatively close by. We got some useful information for our future wanderings from a Turkish guy (a guide) who was walking around our lake with a French guy (a tourist).

That evening at almost 3000m I suddenly realised: I feel good. No weakness. No headache. Finally! In the future I could easily become a mountaineer…

Originally written for http://www.tichota.cz/kackar