Last Updated on September 9, 2021 by Polly Dimitrova
I have been dreaming of hiking Koncheto Ridge since my very first visit to Pirin National Park. What is known as the most challenging hiking trail in all of Bulgaria is also a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Pirin Mountains that I immediately had to have on my bucket list! This past summer, I was finally able to cross it off with one of the most adventurous hiking experiences I have ever undertaken. Heart-racing thrills are guaranteed for anyone up for the challenge that is Hiking Koncheto Ridge!
The ridge itself is only about 400 meters long, and while it generally stands at 1-2 meters wide, it can be as narrow as half a meter or less! The ridge’s name (Koncheto) translates as “the little horse” from Bulgarian as it is so narrow that you can ride it instead of standing on top of it.
Koncheto Ridge connects two of the highest mountain peaks in the Pirin Mountains – Kutelo (second highest) and Banski Suhodol (third-highest). Nowadays, there is a metal chain installed along the ridge to help you balance as you are crossing it. You will want to use it, especially once you take a glimpse of the almost vertical abysses on both sides, but especially on the Eastern side towards the Banski Suhodol cirque. As with any other peak that you would climb in Pirin Mountains, the views are absolutely spectacular, however, it is the challenge, the adventure, the pounding heart and the ultimate feeling of freedom that makes Koncheto Ridge a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Also a moment of appreciation – I got to do this hiking trail with my father and we were completely awed with the experience. Kudos to my father, who at the age of 55 years managed to complete what even young people find challenging and difficult! A true inspiration that age has no limit when you dream of achieving something!
Keep reading as I am sharing the ultimate guide to hiking Koncheto Ridge with detailed information on what to expect from this strenuous, yet incredible hiking trail in Pirin Mountains.
Hiking Koncheto Ridge
Route: Vihren Hut – Kazanite – Koncheto Ridge – Vihren Hut
Starting Point: 41.756715, 23.416217 (https://goo.gl/maps/czAuatCha1Gvi7WG8)
Finish Point: 41.783611, 23.391611 (https://goo.gl/maps/DVCFaNCbYd3WJgZo8)
Distance: 11 km (6.84 miles) roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 900 meters (2,953 feet)
Duration: 8 – 9 hours round trip
Navigation: Red Trail Marks
Note: Koncheto Ridge is not suitable for non-experienced hikers. The weather is also an extremely important element when planning your hike there. It is not advisable to attempt crossing it in bad weather, especially if windy and rainy. You might want to think twice if you are afraid of heights as well.
What makes this hike extremely difficult and challenging for the body is not only the actual process of crossing the ridge but also making it there. Before we jump into the guide with full details of hiking Koncheto Ridge, I would like to mention that this article will not have as many and as good of photos as other articles on my website. The trail was extremely demanding and full attention was needed at all times. In addition to that, I really just wanted to fully experience this hike and make the most of every minute. I barely took my phone out to take any photos as I kept soaking up the majestic beauty of the Pirin Mountains. I have previously hiked in Pirin National Park, but I decided that this time it will be different than what I have done in the past. I wanted to fully embark on the adventure and dive into what Pirin Mountains has to offer; no camera gear in my backpack, no taking notes along the way of how long each portion of the trail is. Without further adieu, let’s get into the trek!
The trail starts from Vihren Hut and during the first 20 minutes you follow the same path towards Vihren Peak, however, you will have to take a right at the little rapid stream and continue toward Dzhamdzhiev Ridge. The next 30 minutes of the path are relatively easy and flat. Once you cross the ridge, you will find yourselves on the other side of the mountain.
The path continues to meander through dwarf pines and moraine rocks, though it is fairly flat and easy until you reach “The Cauldrons” cirques. A steep, rocky ascent follows, which is often covered with patches of snow even during the summer months. After you have conquered this part of the trail, you will find yourselves at the wide-open meadow above Snezhnika Glacier. This is a good spot to stop for a longer break. It took us about 2 hours from our starting point to get here with only one very short stop. Sit close to the edge of the cirque and take a glimpse of what is Europe’s southernmost glacier. The views are truly remarkable with almost completely vertical screes nestled beneath the granite alpine ridges.
The real challenge begins once you have reached the Premkata saddle, which connects Vihren and Kutelo Peaks. You will have to take a right to continue toward Koncheto Ridge. The ascent is rocky and steep and is often extremely windy in this portion of the trail. Halfway toward Kutelo Peak, you will notice a little path to the left. If you want to make it to Koncheto Ridge without hiking all the way up to Kutelo, this is the trail to take. This narrow hiking path, despite not being much easier, will allow you to save at least another 40 – 45 minutes of hiking uphill.
This portion of the hiking path can be extremely dangerous because patches of snow often cover sections of the trail and you might be forced to take a detour across the screes and steep rocky slopes. Be extremely cautious because before you realize it you might find yourselves laying on top of the rocks. After a while, you will finally notice the metal chains in the distance ahead. This is the last portion of the path before reaching Koncheto Ridge. In the last few meters, you will have to climb over some rocks, but soon after you will be standing on top of the rim.
It took us 3 hours and 30 minutes to make it there with the last section of the path being the most challenging one. I was breathing heavily, my heart was racing and I was completely in awe with the extremely narrow, yet incredible ridge before my eyes. It is impossible to not feel the adrenaline rush as you start walking along the rim and look at the endless vertical abyss next to your feet.
We took the exact same route for the way back down to Vihren Hut; however, it took us longer than hiking up to Koncheto Ridge; my legs and knees were shaking at the end! If you think that 8 – 9 hours of hiking would be too much, you can spend the night at the small Koncheto or Khazana shelters.
Hiking Koncheto Ridge is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Pirin Mountains. Even if you try to go numerous times, I cannot imagine this being a hike that you can take every year due to the amount of effort and physical strength that it requires. Adding it to your bucket list, however, and working towards achieving this dream is something that I strongly recommend. It took me 5 years before I felt ready and prepared well enough to embark on the adventure of hiking Koncheto Ridge.
Let me know in the comments below. Have you been to Koncheto Ridge in the Pirin Mountains? And what are some of the most challenging and strenuous trails that you have hiked?
If you have not been to Koncheto Ridge in Pirin Mountains, what are you waiting for?! If you are lucky, Koncheto Ridge might just be one flight away!