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Herzegovinian pearl richer for Ferata: Mountain Velež becomes a world mountaineering destination

In the magical setting of the rocky barrier of Mount Velež, in late October, the first mountaineering camp “Srce Veleža/Heart of Velež” was organized by the Treskavica Mountaineering Society of Sarajevo and their main partner MarketMakers (Embassy of Switzerland). The camp is also a promotion of the project “Heart of Velež”, which involved more than 100 climbers and mountaineers from five countries in the region, together with representatives of the municipality of Nevesinje.

This summer, the sounds of drills, a rock climbing hammer echoed otherwise very quiet Velež Mountain. Cheers and laughter were heard as well… This is a valuable team of volunteers of the Treskavica Mountaineering Society in the unique area of ​​the rocks of Botin, working and realizing the project “Heart of Velež”

MN French model

-The project is one of MarketMakers’ major development investments in rural and adventure tourism. The enthusiastic team of the Treskavica Mountaineering Society presented us with the project proposal on the north side of Velež and showed that it has the potential to become a world-famous destination for hiking and climbing, and we decided to invest in development of several climbing routes, via ferate and hiking trails. Of course, infrastructure investments are only the first step in the long-term development of this tourist destination. However, we are convinced that with dedicated work of members of the Treskavica Mountaineering Society, as well as the municipality of Nevesinje, which from the very beginning provided full support to this project, and other local partners, the Ministry of Trade and Tourism of Republika Srpska as well as the Tourist Association of Republika Srpska, over the coming years will Velež become a positive example and model for long-term development of sustainable tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina – says Gorčin Dizdar, Head of Tourism Sector at MarketMakers, for Visit B&H Magazine.

The project “Heart of Velež” itself involves the creation of a ferata, ten climbing routes prepared for sport climbing, as well as the marking of a hiking trail, from the base of the mountain to the top of Botin. But building Via Ferate is a very complicated and responsible job.

-Via Ferata involves the course of the trail through vertical sections of the rock, where by drilling metal anchor bolts and climbing feet and tying them, one creates a secured hiking trail! When designing via ferate, I had to take into account the many hazards that mountaineers could be exposed to and minimize those hazards. Our ferata is made according to the French model. It is close to 400 meters long and leads to the top of Botin. When making via ferate, 1,350 pounds of equipment were installed in the rock. The team of experienced climbers on the Feratta is coposed of Nermin Demir, Jasmin Čolaković, Benjamin Jusić, Samin Bajrić, Srđan Kujunđić and Igor Milošević – says Armin Gazić, a climber leader who tackled Botin’s 400m high rock.

The coordinator of the project “Heart of Velež” is Zehrudin Isaković, a multi-year mountaineering activist, author of numerous films about the mountains of BiH and the world, former president of the Mountaineering Association of BiH and a member of the Treskavica Mountaineering Association.

MN Alpine History

– It is important to note that the northern rock of Velež, with its 13 km long barrier, is one of the most recognizable and largest in the whole of Southeast Europe. This rock has a rich climbing history and has already been climbed by some 50 climbing routes. After the last war, the activities in this rock have disappeared, and our goal is to bring it back to the focus of the mountaineering community, but also to attract all those who love nature, adrenaline, and hiking. Also, our goal is for the project to help make this area a place for sustainable mountaineering tourism – says Isaković.

During the mountaineering camp, among other things, the “Alpinist guide Velež”, by Dragan Ilić and Emira Hukić, was presented. This guide contains descriptions of all the climbs so far on the Velež barrier, as well as a suitable climbing history on this mountain, which is a very valuable contribution to the overall history of BiH and regional alpinism.

Secured mountaineering trail

Ferata is a secured mountaineering – hiking trail through the rock. People climb with the help of the “via ferata” kit, and a helmet and a climbing belt are a must. The first ferata originated in the Italian Dolomites, where once mountaineering climbs were equipped with steel cables and handrails, and thus adapted for climbers who are not mountaineers. The last ten years have seen the true expansion of ferrate worldwide. Their popularity in the mountaineering population is increasing, and shy shifts are happening in BiH. Ferrata on Velež is certainly a significant step in that direction.

Treskavica Mountaineering Society

Treskavica Sarajevo Mountaineering Society was founded in 1950. During its existence, the company was one of the leading in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, both in terms of number of members and in infrastructure and activities carried out by members of the society.

Throughout its long history, the Company has built and operated two homes, “Sustavac” and “Kozja Luka”. Kozja Luka was the largest mountain lodge in Bosnia and Herzegovina in its capacity, and was completely devastated during the previous war. Nevertheless, the Company managed to build a new home on Mount Visočica. This hiking facility is modern and already regionally recognized.

Members of the Society have visited mountains all over the world, from the mountains in BiH to Mount Everest itself. The members are active in mountaineering, skiing, mountain photography, youth work, and the fight for nature conservation and its legislation.