Hiking Ukraine’s Highest Mountain

The long week of travel ended in the Carpathian Mountains in my region of SW Ukraine. Along with about 300 Ukrainians and 99 other Americans, I hiked up Mt. Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest mountain at 2,061m (~6,700 feet; not super high, but substantial). A Ukrainian NGO organizes this trip every year, and for the past couple years a PCV working for the NGO has helped get lots of Americans on board. This is such an event that an entire train was rented out for the overnight trip from L’viv to Vorokhta, a town near the mountains.

Mt. Hoverla

I spent the day hiking primarily with Kate, Andy, Jeramie, and Abby, though I met some other PCVs and reconnected with some others I hadn’t seen in a while. The mountains are beautiful – the first section of trail is in pine forests with soft, needle-covered ground and early mosses peeping up. However, because it was the end of March, much of the trail was still pretty icy; many people fell multiple times throughout the day.

My hiking companions for the day (L-R): Abby, Jeramie, Andy, Kate

 

When we got above the tree line, we encountered a steep face of slippery, slushy snow with no visible path. So we slowly followed a Ukrainian guide up as he made steps for us. As we climbed I kept wondering, “how are we going to get back down this?” but decided I’d deal with that when the time came. Reaching the top, we celebrated with a snack before realizing we weren’t actually at the summit of the mountain. More like the pre-summit. Kate, Andy, and I started walking toward the area where people were gathering to make the final ascent, but when the wind began biting at my not-clothed-enough body, I decided to not risk hypothermia and turned back to make the sliding/shoe-skiing descent down the face we’d just climbed. That descent was easily the most hilarious part of the day, as some PCVs – about ten of us were the first to start back down – gave up trying to keep their feet and just sat down and tried to “controlled-slide” down on their bottoms.

Sliding down the mountain

We reached the end of the hike damp and cold but feeling accomplished. Total active hiking time: 5 hours. Rough distance covered: 9 miles+. Kate and I took two buses to get back to my place before midnight, and thus ended spring break.

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