Boris Tuechki started climbing mountains when he was 30. “I started a bit late because I had evening classes, I had a job… But what I needed was a way to unwind, so I took to the mountain,” says the climber, now 88.
Boris Tuechki has never forgotten the beauty of the world he has gazed upon from peaks in Europe and Asia: Island Peak in the Himalayas, the challenging Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in the Alps, the 4,000 and 5,000 metre high peaks in the Caucasus, among them Elbrus. He has received all possible distinctions by the Bulgarian Tourist Union – a bronze, a silver and a gold Aleko Konstantinov medal, and has earned the title “Master of Sports”. In 1984, when he was 54, he joined the Bulgarian expedition to Everest. This expedition went down in history when the first Bulgarian ever – Hristo Prodanov – conquered the highest peak on the planet alone and without an oxygen mask, losing his life in the attempt.
“Actually I was not part of the expedition which was made up of younger people, but with one other climber we decided to go and help, so we tagged along later,” Tuechki says. “On the very day we arrived Hristo Prodanov climbed the peak and we were so excited. When he started on his way down it was 6 o’clock already. To lighten his load, he had left his rucksack on the way up. Darkness fell and he had to spend the night somewhere, but ultimately he lost his life. As a climber Hristo Prodanov was the best one of us all.”
What Boris Tuechki remembers most vividly took place 10 years before that. In 1974 he was leader of an expedition to Ararat in Turkey and they were to become the first Bulgarians to have climbed the peak, best known for the Noah’s Ark legend. The expedition, organized by the Aleko Alpine club comprised 7 people. “Four climbed the peak, the others stayed behind with the luggage and the two cars,” Boris Tuechki remembers. He has captured the beauty of the world in photographs which he has arranged in numerous exhibitions.
“I have travelled extensively – to the Alps, the Caucasus, Pamir… But to my mind, Bulgaria is the most beautiful country. It is a pity people here do not value nature, whereas in Austria, in Switzerland, for example, people do not litter, they protect nature, they respect and love mountains.”
He may be 88 now, but Boris Tuechki still goes up the mountain in snow, storms and high wind. Every weekend he climbs Cherni Vruh (Black Peak in Mount Vitosha), and in winter – he skis below it. But which Bulgarian mountain does he love best?
“I love them all, but Pirinholds the deepest place in my heart. It is more untamed, more beautiful, with such breathtaking landscapes, with so many lakes and peaks. I have been there in summer, but most often in winter. With our club Aleko we would do the most difficult traverse of all – the 6th category Rila-Pirin traverse.”
For some years now Boris Tuechki has been guide of the Rila Miracle Worker pilgrimage trail. The initiative goes back to 2010 and was organized by the Faculty of Theology of the St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia with the support of the Sofia archdiocese and Sofia municipality. In August every year pilgrimsfollow the trail from Sofia to Rila Monastery, traversing several mountains – Vitosha, Verila, Rila, as well as the Seven Lakes of Rila.
“Different kinds of people take part in the pilgrimage trail. Some join us along the way – you don’t have to cover the entire trail from beginning to end. We carry our own tents, sleeping bags. We sleep in the yards of houses, of churches. There is an accompanying car for the heavy luggage, we only carry the light stuff – food and clothes. We cover 25 kms every day. There are no technical difficulties along the way and any tourist can join us,” Boris Tuechki says.
English version: Milena DaynovaPhotos: courtesy of Boris Tuechki