Climbing Big Duke

Ok, so my weekends shot, right?

Wrong! Fortunately for me, I had a back up plan. It was an unintentional back up plan to boot. See, there is this mountain in Kosovo that overlooks our sector. Its official name is Lubojan, but the soldiers seem to prefer to call it Big Duke. Anyway, when we first got here, we were told that they might give us an opportunity to climb the Dukedom, just for bragging rights if nothing else.

This is Duke, back when there was snow on top. . .

I was bent on climbing duke ever since. And the first opportunity we got conflicted directly with my Pass to Bulgaria! GAAAHHH!!!

Well, since Bulgaria has since been blown out of the water, for this weekend at least, I fell back on plan number 2.

I found out what I needed to do so that I could climb Big Duke. Because we don't take rifles to Bulgaria, I found out I had to get my weapon out of the safe because I would need it for this climb up the mountain. Then I had to make sure there was a slot for me to go in as this is rather last minute.

Fortunately for me, two people in my task force had to drop out. So I slid into one of their places instead.

Which meant, I had to be prepared to leave Bondsteel at 6 in the morning. So I was up and eating breakfast, ready to go by six. Then I headed for the TOC. And ran into a snag.

I wasn't on the Mission Request. Enter Explative here. For a moment I didn't think I would get to go and was gettin prepared to back to my room and sulk about how rotten this weekend was going to be when the Sergeant in the TOC fixes it for me. Now I'm in the Clear! WooHOO!

Time to head over to the busses. Where we wait for an extra fifteen minutes. . .

. . . and when the busses do come, they take us to Brezovica. . .

Which is a Ski Resort, not the start point for Lubojan. But oh well. Kodak Moment!

We were supposed to be up on the mountain ready to ascend by 0800, or something like that. After getting the location squared away and everything in order, we were at the Sawmill at 1000.

Then came the ride up, which is in a POLUKR Deuce and a Half, as this is a POLUKR sponsored event (for you civilians, POLUKR is Polish Ukrainian, and a Deuce and a half is a really big truck) and so we load up into the back of one of these things and head up the mountain.

That road is not meant to be driven on. Especially in the back of a Deuce and a Half. Its this really beaten dirt road with ruts and turns every which direction and I think some people were asking for some Preperation H by the time the 30 minute ride was all said and done. I just laughed, I thought it was a riot.

So we get to the top of Lubojan, to our start point, and I'm looking at this at first and thinking "hmm, this isn't bad."

The following picture is me at the start point, the end point is the tall point in the background.

It is further then it looks. . . and it's steep!

So off we go! Loaded down with food, water, and an Amber M16 (magazine loaded, no round in chamber). Along with a video camera and a digital camera. This is a kodak moment through and through folks! From start to finish!

Well, we started our ascent at about 1115 or so, give or take a few minutes. The first little uphill battle already had me breathing hard but I was determined to finish this! I've wanted to claim Duke since I got here. So as you can see, the pathway behind me is laid out, I just need to head up.

So we started heading up, everyone at their own pace. And I was drinking LOT'S of water.

It still had me smoked very quickly, but not smoked enough to take away from the photo whoring. . .

Man I was already hurting at this stage, as is evident by my posture. But no, I wasn't going to quit, see the little black dots to the right of my head? Those are the start points, which is the vehicles that bussed us up this insane mountain. Are you getting an idea of how steep this thing was? Yeah, it was steep. . .

But don't worry, I reached the pinacle, I mean, it felt so close, I felt like I had gone so far, and I could see out into the horizon of Kosovo smog. . .

. . . only to discover, um, not quite!

Yes, I hadn't reached the top yet, but I was through the tough part, now I had a bit of an easier walk going to the next hill as we were gifted with a ledge to walk along. But this did not make the last leg of our trip that much easier. This thing was uphill the entire way. And my feet were seeking revenge by producing blisters. . .

But I did make it to the top! It was my goal, and I swore to succeed! They even had nifty little certificates of achievements to hand to us upon completion!

Only thing is, um, it doesn't have my name on it. Somebody told me to pose with it anyway, as nobody can read it *true* but because this was a last minute thing, I didn't have one made for me. The Pols said they would make me one and send it to me, so cool Beans! After all, I did make it to the top!

This is a ridgeline of mountains (obviously), and Brezovica is somewhere to my rear. I don't think you can see it.

I was so freakin' dirty. And sweaty. And altogether smelly.

I had an orange for a snack. I reached the summit a little before 1400 (2pm for you civilians)

And just to reiterate the Kosovo Smog. Yes, that is smog behind me, not landscape. I think that's Bondsteel on my Left Shoulder, but I might be wrong.

And to make it known that I indeed conquered this mountain and it didn't conquer me!

I was the champion! I had climbed its summit! This mountain was now mine!

Oh wait, we still have to go down, don't we?

Um, my feet are soar and I'm tired. And I have to now hike DOWN this thing to the little area to the right of the screen. Oh well, its all down hill from here, right?

I learned the hard way that going down hill can be just as painful as going up. I acquired more blisters, on other parts of my feet, and my former blisters were getting worse.

And because we were going down, I took advantage of my battle buddy's photography skillz. . .

But anyway, I made it all the way down in just under two hours. I had stayed on the mountaintop itself for a little over an hour (and proceeded to be eaten by bugs, which had me wondering what bugs were doing all the way on top of this mountain.

And then, when we got to the bottom, we were bussed back, soar and tired, in the back of a Deuce and a Half, on a rickety road, for the next 30 minutes.

My feet got even with me in the shower by letting my blisters all pop. But honestly, it was worth it. For bragging rights and whatever else, (plus I got a T-shirt!), I can now say I climbed to the top of Mt Lubojan.

Man I'm beat!

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