This is Mt. Ilija, known as Sveta Ilija, or Holy Elijah, in the Croatian language. From the harbor here in Orebic, a tiny town on the Adriatic islet of Peljesac, it rises to 961 meters (3200 feet). As the highest peak in the region, the summit offers an unobstructed 360-degree view of the islands, towns, and coastline of Dalmatia.
Gina and I first attempted to climb it in mid-June with our friends Jason & Jael from St. Louis. Halfway up, Jason stepped on a rock that gave away and he fell about 10 feet, gashing his wrist pretty badly. So he and I descended to the nearest emergency room for some stitches, and our wives continued on their own and summitted.
I still wanted to see the summit for myself, so Gina and I returned to climb it on July 15th.
At 320 meters
About 90 minutes in, we were disappointed to see that we were only a third of the way up. Gina surveys the steep stuff to come.
A rewarding climb
This hike rewards you the whole way. Half the time you have an open view of the sea, islands and beaches below you. As the day progresses, the color of the water changes from a pale blue to a deep, rich blue with sparkling turquoise shorelines.
Changes in Terrain
The terrain changes several times on the ascent. It starts with typical Medditeranean vegetation--olive trees, fig trees, small bushes. Then it turns to a desert-like landscape--sand, gravel, the odd plant with thorns or prickly leaves. This picture shows the meadows that began at about 500 meters. Mountain flowers, lots of rock, and short, gnarled trees charred and leafless from a fire a few years ago.
Nearing the top
In case you were wondering, this area of Croatia was virtually untouched by the war. There are no landmines here, and there was zero damage to the towns and villages in the vicinity.
At the top
And we made it. It took four hours to get up, and another three to get down. The cross marks the summit. Everybody's Catholic in Croatia, so they put crosses at the tops of their mountains and name them after saints. Gina's studying the map to determine the best route back down.
Nothing better than a bit of stretching after a long climb.
On the descent
Here's Gina on the descent, somewhere around 300 or 400 meters. I had to wait a long time to get this picture--I was across the valley using my telephoto.
The best part of the climb
Perhaps this is the best part of conquering a mountain by the sea--coming back down and going for a swim. You know that the water here is about 25 degrees C (77F) in July and August? I'll have to post some good swimming pictures someday.