FKT: Samson Leonard - Peaks of the Balkans (Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro) - 2019-07-25

Gender category
Route variation
Standard route
Start date
Finish date
Total time
2d 5h 52m
GPS track(s)

Peaks of the Balkans FKT
53 hours 52 minutes 
110.57 miles ~ 38,885 ft elevation gain (177.94 km ~ 11,852.14 meters elevation gain)
I had this plan for a few months now to attempt the FKT (Fastest Known Time) for a trail called The Peaks of the Balkans. To me it sounded very official and like a great way to end my hiking this season after doing the Via Dinarica. 
As far as I could tell there was no established records so I just felt that I needed to be somewhere on par with FKT records for other trails while at the same time I chose this trail for this very reason. Of course I could get the FKT if there isn't one? 
I started the trail with a GPS track that said 108 miles (173.8 km) while the guide book I had on my phone stipulated 119 miles (192 km).
I set off without really looking at either, just glancing at where the town was for resupply and leaving at 4.02 am heading down Pejes Pass where I slept in a cave the night before after hiking Maja Jezerce. 
I walked fast and all was well. The trail was good for a while but at some point it disappeared so I had to rely on following an imaginary line on my phone. I read the trail descriptions and followed some signs trying to follow the "true" trail as much as possible. At midnight I set up my tent with 49 miles (79 km) completed. I slept 4 and a half hours then continued on. That morning I was very slow. I had wanted to hike the trail in less than 48 hours but I was beginning to see this might not be possible. 
But for me that would be okay, I had never done this before. My biggest day prior was 34.5 miles (55.5 km).
I was also starting to realize maybe there couldn't be a FKT for this trail due to my inability to stay directly on the GPS track. At times this was because I followed a sign instead of the GPS track. Lots of little spots like this where there would be a fence locked and I could jump it and walk around on the road or walk on a trail that bypassed the area losing a few feet of "trail". Another time the trail went directly through someone's house so I had to walk around the house. All of this navigation made the trail longer for me (2 miles longer than the GPS track). I continued on stopping to eat at a restaurant in Kosovo for an hour then continued till I got to Plav, Montenegro at 10.30 pm, I ate more and drank lots of coffee and Red Bull. I left town at midnight if I remember correctly and hiked through the night literally crawling up a super steep mountain in the dark wondering if there was a better way I should have gone. I ended up soaking wet following a river up to a peak soaked in clouds. It was now around 2 am and I wanted to sleep for an hour but there was nowhere to go. I came down to a trail, scared off some wild boars and followed the trail instead of the GPS track which was longer but at least it was trail. Now the sun was coming up and I decided there was no reason to sleep. I hiked down into Vusanje and started walking back into the park here. 
Last time I went around to hike Maja Jezerce I had to pay 1 euro to get into the park. This time I saw the man who collects the fees walking his bike to set up his station. I started sprinting and he couldn't catch me! So I got another burst of energy, I was almost there, not the time I wanted but as the trail turned out I was very happy with my pace. I walked quickly through the valley where a bird ripped another birds head off then through the body at my feet. It was getting surreal.
I ran the last mile up to the pass and collapsed.
I had hiked 61.5 miles (98.9 km) without sleeping. I had done it! and I will claim to have the FKT even though it was impossible to stay on the trail the entire time. I have the GPS Track I made and the Statistics from it.
After that I had to still hike down from the pass into Theth where I stayed at a Guest House and played baseball with 3 Albanian kids, 2 German women, and 2 Dutch girls.


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