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“When the Mountains Were Wild:” A Film About the Northern Albanian Alps

Mitch Tölderer  /  3 Min Read  /  Snow

After being snowed in for a week, the sun came out and it was time for a snow check and a quick shower. Photo: Carlos Blanchard

I was looking for real mountain wilderness in Europe. All of the roads, ski lifts, huts, dams and avalanche safety reports make it really easy and comfortable to access great ski touring, climbing and freeriding in the central European Alps. Some of the huts feel more like hotels than shelters for mountaineers. The price we pay for all this comfort and easy access is the loss of pristine mountain wilderness.

I began my research looking for a place with no ski resorts or winter tourism, a place with interesting, demanding mountains and a good chance for good snow and good riding conditions. I didn’t want to fly. I wanted to pack up the car at home and travel back in time to experience what it was like before mass ski tourism. The research finally brought me to the so called “accursed mountains” of the North Albanian Alps.

The whole crew was out of Innsbruck: skier and mountaineer Klaus Zwirner, Jakob Schweighofer and Johannes Hoffmann from Whiteroom Productions, photographer Carlos Blanchard and myself. We geared up for a winter expedition and hit the road towards Albania, to go on a journey to a place and time when the mountains were wild.

Photo: Carlos Blanchard

On our journey down the Balkan Peninsula, we made a stop to ride the mountains around Sarajevo. Many areas are still closed because of mines that remain from the war. Photo: Carlos Blanchard

Photo: Carlos Blanchard

The city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the theatres of war that I still remember from the news back then in the ‘90s. A lot of the buildings still remain shot to pieces. Photo: Carlos Blanchard

Photo: Carlos Blanchard

During the two-day hike towards our destination, we passed this scenic village which is uninhabited during winter. Photo: Carlos Blanchard

Photo: Carlos Blanchard

One night we camped out at this magical area. Waking up with clear skies, we didn’t lose any time hiking for lines. Photo: Carlos Blanchard

Photo: Carlos Blanchard

Every peak we climbed unveiled some new treasure. We didn’t stop doing this until the curtain fell. Photo: Carlos Blanchard

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