Climbing Bobotov Kuk – A guide to one of Montenegro’s highest peaks

Montenegro - climbing Bobotov Kuk

Montenegro’s very name, meaning “Black Mountain”, already implies, that there’s no shortage of mountains in this country. At 2.523 m Bobotov Kuk had been thought to be Montenegro’s highest peak, until recent surveys showed, that there are actually three higher peaks at the border with Albania.

Montenegro - climbing Bobotov Kuk

view from the saddle underneath the summit of Bobotov Kuk

However, Bobotov Kuk is still one of Montenegro’s highest mountains and due to its beautiful location in the rugged mountain scape of Durmitor National Park, it is definitely worth a visit. There are numerous hikes in Durmitor National Park but the one up Bobotov Kuk is the ultimate one. The first recorded ascent of Bobotov Kuk was in 1883 by an Austrian cartographer. Nowadays, every reasonably fit person can attempt the quite strenuous hike. Although numerous companies in Zabljak offer tours up Bobotov Kuk, it is not mandatory to hire a guide or anything. It’s highly advisable though, not to set out alone, or at least to inform someone before leaving.

 


Bobotov Kuk – Which route to choose?

There are basically two main trails leading up to the summit of Bobotov Kuk. A short one starting and ending in Sedlo and a very long one starting and ending in Zabljak. You can also combine the two trails and hike from Sedlo to Zabljak or vice versa since the two trails converge right underneath the summit of Bobotov Kuk (from where it’s another 60 minute climb).

Before picking a route, you should ask the following questions: How fit am I? How much time do I have? How much do I want to see?

 


The Long Route – Roundtrip from Zabljak

The longer trail starts from the resort town of Zabljak and covers an altitude difference of more than 1000 m. It still seems to be the more popular route though, which is probably due to the easily accessible starting point.

Just follow the street leading out of Zabljak and towards Black Lake and the park entrance (3€ per person). Here you’ll find a large, wooden board listing all the hikes in Durmitor National Park. Although all the trails within the park are well-marked with clear signposts (red and white dots), the ten-hour roundtrip to Bobotov Kuk is still very tiring.

Montenegro Road Trip-Durmitor_2017

Black Lake / Durmitor National Park / Montenegro

The first part leads you along beautiful Black Lake before it dives into denser forest. After leaving the woodlands, the trail gets more and more rocky and harder to navigate. Especially the steeper sections covered with loose rocks and boulder are quite a challenge. A pair of hiking poles can come in handy and provide an extra bit of stability.

After tackling numerous smaller mountains and hills you’ll reach the saddle where your trail converges with the trail coming from Sedlo. Now the paths gets steeper and it doesn’t take long till the “climbing” part begins.

 

 


The Short Route – Roundtrip from Sedlo

The other trail starts from the western side of the mountain range, from a place called Sedlo. This route is significantly easier and shorter. The roundtrip takes between 6 and 6.5 hours if you maintain a moderate walking pace and the overall altitude difference is around 800 m.

Montenegro - climbing Bobotov Kuk Montenegro - climbing Bobotov Kuk

Sedlo is a 30 – 40 minute drive from Zabljak. It is not really a village or anything but there’s a small restaurant hut at the trail head, close to the parking lot. Having a car is definitely a big advantage if you decide to tackle Bobotov Kuk from this side of the mountain ridge. You can just drive here early in the morning from Zabljak (30 – 40 min) and start hiking.

However, I would suggest to arrive the day before and spend a night wild camping close to the trail head since the scenery here is absolutely stunning and you can set out early in the morning.

Montenegro - climbing Bobotov Kuk-Durmitor_2017

If you do not have your own wheels, you can also reach Sedlo by taxi (around 17€ from Zabljak). Just be aware, that it’s very unlikely to get a taxi back to town. You can tray and ask at the restaurant for them to call one but it’s not gonna come cheap. Otherwise you can also try to hitch a ride back to Zabljak.

The trail from Sedlo is equally well-marked as the one from Zabljak. It winds through lush grasslands and over a few rolling hills before you reach the rocky and steep section that leads up to the saddle.

Montenegro - climbing Bobotov Kuk

Bobotov Kuk soaring in the distance


The final ascent – The summit of Bobotov Kuk

The two trails converge at the saddle of Bobotov Kuk from where it’s another 60 minute climb. This is also where the really steep and slightly unsettling part starts. If heights are not your thing, you might want to turn back here. Otherwise just try not to look down, cause yes, it is a quite dramatic drop and the path is steep and narrow. But if you take your time, go slow and carefully then isn’t such a big deal.

When we approached the last section, dark clouds started rolling in and very soon the visibility decreased to just a few meters. Shortly after, sleet had turned the trail in to a muddy slide. At this point the ropes and chains installed at the really steep parts were an appreciated support.

The summit of Bobotov Kuk is one of the highest in Montenegro and you are supposed to have a breathtaking view from up there. You eyes wander from Bosnia and Herzegovina all the way to Albania. Well, it would have been awesome to enjoy this vista, but all we could see was basically nothing. The weather had changed dramatically, the wind had picked up and temperatures dropped significantly. Therefore we only spent a few minutes up on the summit which really was a pity.

 

The way down was horrendous. Rain poured down on us with temperatures around freezing point. The trail turned into a sludge pit and the rocks became extremely slippery. We had to slow down in order not to risk slipping and spraining an ankle or worse.

After what felt like an eternity we finally reached our car, soaking wet and frozen to the marrow.


The combination – Sedlo <-> Zabljak

Of course it is also possible to combine the two trails and hike from Sedlo to Zabljak or vice versa. This option provides the best of two worlds. If you start from Sedlo you have to cover way less altitude difference and the ascent is easier and shorter. Still you can enjoy the contrast of the lush green hills on the south-western side and the rugged, rocky and densely wooded terrain on the north-eastern side.


 

Tips and suggestions

No matter which of the two options you decide for, there are some general suggestions worth considering before you set out to tackle Bobotov Kuk.

  • both hikes are quite strenuous and you should be reasonably fit
  • start as early as possible in order no to be overtaken by nightfall and to avoid the midday heat in summer
  • always check the weather forecast since the conditions up there can be quite harsh
  • bring enough water and snacks
  • proper clothing is an essential – we started in t-shirt and shorts and ended wearing thick jackets, a hat and gloves
  • sturdy shoes are a big advantage and hiking poles can come in very handy too, in order to take it easy on your knees and for that extra bit of stability

 


 

Do you have any questions or comments? Did you climb Bobotov Kuk or do you plan to do so? I’d really like to know what you would recommend and hear about your experience. Just drop me a comment below. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

And if you like what you see, feel free to connect on Instagram for more photos from Montenegro and around the world.

 


 

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