Hoverla (Говерла), tallest mountain in Ukraine, August 20th, 2015 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-16-2015, 03:48 PM Thread Starter
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Default Hoverla (Говерла), tallest mountain in Ukraine, August 20th, 2015

August 20th happened to be my 43rd birthday. The weather was forecasting for heavy rain, but I was very happy to wake-up to bright blue skies. In addition, I was on vacation in foreign lands beside a beautiful woman. So why not road trip around the Carpathians and maybe take a boo up the tallest mountain in Ukraine?

We set out from Yaremche, stoping for breakfast in a little traditional Ukrainian restaurant. I had blinis with jam and kashi with milk. Bellies full, we drove through the beautiful little town of Vorokhta.





The Carpathians are very beautiful in that stretch of Ukraine! Narrow winding roads crawl through small quaint villages. Farmers, cows, ducks, chickens and goats abound. At about 800 meters elevation in the low valley, the trees are just beginning to switch over to evergreens.

Driving on, we took a wrong turn and wound up in Bukovel, an extensive ski resort and mountain biking vacation destination. That really came out of nowhere. The roads in Ukraine are well-known for being poor quality and in the rugged Carpathians they really take a beating. Huge pot holes, no shoulder, stretches of dirt, stretches of cobblestone and almost no signage. To further complicate things, my companion only speaks a little English and I only speak a little Russian, so I at one point read our road atlas correctly only to call out the directions incorrectly.

It wasn't really possible to go faster than 30 or 40 km/h and increasingly rough and narrow roads when all of a sudden, a huge ski resort? There is money for the resort, but nothing for the roads. We watched one car in-front of us with it's hubcap about to wobble off after it took it hard in a brutal pothole. Overall, driving in Ukraine is pretty dangerous stuff. Drivers will sometimes swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid potholes, and impatient drivers will pass you on non-existant shoulders. So many drivers with no patience!

Bukovel's trademark is it's upside down house ...



Finally we make it to the border of national park. There is a gate and we pay a fee of a few dollars for a permit to enter the park. They warn us that the roads ahead are "much worse and very rough". Oy! From here on it's dirt roads, but it's typical to unmaintained forest service roads in British Columbia, so it's not really that bad. I navigate our Ford Fiesta rental car around the biggest rocks and being used to driving on dirt I end up being the one passing cars this time. After eight kilometers of that we arrive at a parking lot.

The trail leads through evergreen forest and into the alpine. The trailhead is typically eastern european, with a series of booths set-up as you leave the parking lot selling wares: fridge magnets, hand-made souvenirs, t-shirts, food and drinks.





We hike into the alpine and take a break in the meadows for rest and some much needed kissing. A large group of children and a scout leader march past us, signing traditional Ukrainian hiking songs as they go. My lovely companion is from the flat part of Ukraine and is breathing hard on the steep trail. She is also wearing modest footwear that isn't really appropriate for hiking. I help her the whole way by holding her arm and preventing any falls.



Ahead of us we can see the trail goes up a large steep headwall, gaining more and more elevation. It looks fairly ambitious for our afternoon hike, but we go for it. The trail is quite popular and there are many people struggling to climb up the steep rocky trail. For a British Columbian like me though, it's no problem and I bound up it, pulling my companion up alongside me. Finally we reach a sub-summit. There is a cairn, with someone sleeping against it, and the wind if relentlessly stiff now and quite cold.







We look ahead and there is one large push of about 150 meters elevation gain to the final summit, with Hoverla topping out at 2,061 meters. However, we are tired, under slept, out of water and cold. So we decide that the sub-summit is good enough.



We head back down, passing a group of kids as we reach the treeline who are pulling live branches off evergreens and trying to start a fire from that. Other groups are setting up tents at random flat spots in the woods. The park is mostly litter-free, but it's not got quite that same sense of regulation as Canadian parks.

We chow down on microwaved subs and bottled water in our car, and then stop at the first lodgings we can. A set of rustic, newly constructed cabins. With the exchange rate of CDN to UAH being very favourable right now, out lovely cabin ends up costing about $15 for the night.

Overall, a truly wonderful day. The Ukrainian Carpathians may lack any truly magnificently tall peaks, but it's very beautiful countryside. Everything is very inexpensive and being a tourist hot spot, the people are very welcoming and hospitable to folks there to spend tourism dollars. Driving on the roads is on the dangerous side though. A safer and cheaper way to travel is by train (Ukraine trains are very inexpensive), with the rail lines crawling through tunnels and stone bridges offering scenic views. And perhaps one day I will return, only to put the summit in the bag!
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-16-2015, 05:22 PM
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Is this the first TR from the Ukraine? I don't remember another one. Happy belated b-day!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-16-2015, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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Pretty sure this is the first Ukraine trip report

It's a fifteen hour flight to Kiev, five hour train ride from Kiev to L'viv, then a six hour drive from L'viv to the Ukrainian Carpathians and given that the peaks top out at gentle, rolling 2,000 meter summits, I don't think it draws in a lot of mountaineers :P
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-16-2015, 09:09 PM
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Molod'tsi!
Small world.. My brother-in-law just sent me pics from his trek up there last month.

I've been to Yaremche and Bukovel twice with the family.. My relatives are in a little villiage just outside Lviv (Noviy Yarichiw).

Could you not get a direct flight to Lviv? How much was the airfare, if you don't mind me asking.. Was pretty expensive last time we went in 2007..

The thing about trains there is, with the population density being what it is in Ukraine, it takes a looooooooong time to get to your destination, as the train seems to just start moving and then you're stopping in another town.. Less stressful, though, for sure, if you have a good book and are in a 1st class cabin (and don't mind the wandering gypsies, and the surly attendants serving out rolled eyes and sass with the tea -always with lemon)..

Edit: Only 5 hours by train to Kiev from Lviv?! Wow, must have been some kind of express train.. When I did that route in '93 it took 13 hours! And about the same when I went camping in the Carpathians the year before (Lviv - Kolomyya).

Who needs a signature? Mine is always: Last edited by dougz; Today at 03:27 PM

Last edited by dougz; 09-16-2015 at 09:48 PM.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-25-2015, 06:38 PM Thread Starter
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You can get a direct flight to live, but my girlfriend lives in Kharkiv. So to get to L'viv we took a train across Ukraine from east to west and that took 22 hours. Which wasn't too bad, since you can sleep in a comfortable bunk at night in a coupe cabin. We shared a room on the train with a friendly Polish man who looked like William Shatner and a University student. The trains stop and stop and stop! But there are express trains, they're fairly new, I think? I've heard they haven't completed the express tracks the whole way, so part of the time they share track with the slower trains. But you can do L'viv to Kiev in 5 hours in a modern looking train now.

Airfare from Vancouver to Kiev was about $1800 in August. Pretty expensive, since shoulder season tickets can be had for $1400 and off-season for $1000.

L'viv was amazing! It's a must see for a tourist, with the historical nature of the city center. I was really surprised by how cozy and beautiful the countryside was in the Ukrainian Carpathians, I'm definitely going to go back
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-25-2015, 07:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheat View Post
You can get a direct flight to live, but my girlfriend lives in Kharkiv.

L'viv was amazing! It's a must see for a tourist, with the historical nature of the city center.
I was wondering why she spoke Russian..

Lviv (the 'old town' of it, anyways) is pretty awesome..
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-26-2015, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheat View Post
and impatient drivers will pass you on non-existant shoulders. So many drivers with no patience!
They are not impatient. You're simply driving too slow for the road conditions. In that case, pull over and let them pass. Same etiquette applies to dirt roads here.

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and being used to driving on dirt I end up being the one passing cars this time
So many drivers with no patience!
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-27-2015, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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The drivers have less patience over there, that is for sure. Driving through a small town a backhoe and some construction workers had the sidewalks ripped up for repair. They don't usually use flaggers at construction sites in Ukraine for some reason. So the backhoe is blocking both lanes of traffic, but it's getting out of the way. I wait patiently and the car behind me starts honking. The driver pulls into the oncoming lane and drives forward. Two construction workers scurry out of the way of the car. Then a guy on a moped suddenly speeds past, weaving between me and the other car, then between the construction workers, the backhoe and oncoming traffic.

On the paved roads I was torn between going slow enough to dodge potholes or fast enough I didn't block traffic and encourage dangerous passing situations. It felt like there was no safe speed.

The dirt roads were more straightforward, because cars were crawling along at 10 or 20 kilometers per hour.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-27-2015, 10:54 PM
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I found driving conditions in the back roads and rural areas not too bad (in the summer, that is), but CRAZY in the cities with the trams, weird roundabouts and side streets, general lack of lights at intersections, jay walkers, double parked cars and the sheer mass of devil-may-care and/or bloody minded drivers..

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