When you have experienced you were at the edge of losing your life, you would treasure how great it is to live and to survive! Two months ago in June I innocently guessed that hiking from Rila Monastery to the Seven Lakes should be an easy task, the ascend from 1200m to 2600m doesn’t seem a lot comparing to what I had done in the hike towards Annapurna Basecamp in Nepal which is up till 4200m. Obviously I did not do any proper research, or had the proper hiking gears. I only wore my sandals which I had repaired several times, nor would I had hiking sticks.
I set off at around 8:30am from Rila Monastery, the initial ascend was gentle, I did got lost at a point but it was not difficult to get back on track. The directory said it will take 4 hours to reach the peak Dodov Vrbh, I imagined I could return to Sofia the same day.
The higher I reached, the more I was amazed by what I had achieved when I looked back. Of course the view is magnificent and I was blessed by a sunny day.
Once I was at around 2400m, I was so surprised to see so many glaciers on all the mountains surrounding me. Then I reached a point that I had no choice but to walk on the snow. My sandals were not planned for that, you can imagine how slippery every step was, as well as my feet were freezing all the time because of the icy water soaked my socks.
There were no mobile signal up in the peak. In case the weather turned bad, I thought I would just head back the same way. The sun was still generous to shine my way as I marched forwards. Then I reached a narrow gap of a ridge filled with snow that both sides are steep slopes, obviously the original path is covered by heavy snow. I stopped and prayed God that He will guide me through this challenge. At that moment, I really thought about how to survive…
Reaching the top of 2600m, I came to a panoramic outlook which offers a beautiful view of the seven lakes. This was the ultimate goal to do this risky hike, and I made it. Now it was time to start descending. Realizing there is no path trekking down, because it was all covered by snow, I made a irrational decision to climbed down a almost 90 degrees cliff with bare hands and feet. Thanks God that He did not let me fall.
Using the maps.me apps on my phone, I located a lakeside guesthouse but couldn’t find the way to descend. Again all the paths were covered by snow. After hanging on the slope for 15 mins deciding what to do, I prayed and took a deep breath, and sledged down the vertical icy slope with huge rocks at the bottom! Using my hands as breaks, my right hand hit something, and the impact transmitted to my shoulder joint. It hurt a bit, but the scary feeling absolutely masked the pain!
Once I landed my feet at the guesthouse, and realized I was still alive, I couldn’t control but burst into tears. Sorry to shock the lady stood beside me, whom gave me a big hug that I most needed. Thanks for all the lovely Bulgarian hikers who gave me food and took care of me when I was shivering all night because of shock and hypothermia. But the rakia (strong Bulgarian liquor) they made me drink did not help, I threw up in the middle of the night, emptied everything in my stomach. Exhausted, both physically and mentally, I fell asleep eventually. The next morning I felt so blessed to open my eyes, to see such beautiful scenery and I was grateful to keep traveling and embracing LIFE.
Please be prepared if you want to do any hiking, the summer in Europe can still be cold and icy. Wear proper hiking shoes. Do not do it on your own, bring at least a friend with you.
From now on, I am grateful to breathe, to smile, to eat, to chat, to jump, to run, to hug, to kiss, and of course to LOVE…to enjoy this wonderful life that is given to me just once!!