Premužić trail is probably one of the most famous hiking trails on Velebit, and probably one of the most famous hiking trails and destinations in Croatia. There aren’t many doubts here, and when you first go from Zavižan to Rossi’s shelter, it quickly becomes clear to you why this is so. I have been thinking for some time how nice it would be to go through this mountain and architectural beauty, and in a conversation with my friend Andy I managed to set a date back in March. Jun 12, 2021 it is so whatever happens! The idea was to go no matter what… of course if the weather conditions allow. You don’t mess with the mountain. Basically, I put it in the calendar and from the first moment my friend Branka really liked the idea, as she hiked the trail, so she was actually an ideal guide. I asked Branko what awaits us, and as the perspective of classic mountaineering is not the same as in trail running, it seems to me now that we have underestimated Premužić’s trail. But let’s go step by step. As time for action was approaching, we were collecting miles by running, but none of us is a long-distance runner, and Premužić’s is about 47+ kilometers long. We had Branka’s gpx record that spoke 51km, but with two peaks that they climbed, which we decided not to do as it would add to us the elevation we didn’t need. When you look at that gpx it seems to you that it is far easier than the 50km of the Sljeme transversal that I’ve already done. But that is not so. The initial climb and then the looooong descent in reality looks a bit different after all.
And so we met the day before, on Friday, June 11, 2021. in Novi Vinodolski. Andy and Branka came the night before because the plan was to get up early in the morning so we could leave around 4 p.m. As it was Friday, the dinner was meatless, i.e. completely plantbased (tortillas with beans, guacamole sauce, leeks, hot ajvar, tomato, …), and going to bed was at 21:00. I cooked so I know what was served. We were all pretty much agreed that we should catch maximum sleep. The deal was to leave at 4:35 latest and that was it.
The morning drive to Zavižan was labelled by Andy’s interesting selection of country and 70-80s rock music, but everything suited us because we were looking forward to our adventure. On the road to the entrance of Babić Sić we saw a bit of a hysterical rabbit who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to become a road-kill or run to the safety of the forest, and ended picking the life option. On the gravel road from the entrance at Babic Sica to Zavižan we came across a brown bear who jumped over the road fence after noticing our car and disappeared into the brushes. We sincerely hoped that was it regarding bear encounters. It’s kind of a nightmare for me. We happily and cheerfully parked under Zavižan and equiped ourselves, as Andy realized that the drone he carried will not work. Never mind. We will carry less. So, at 06:08 the race towards our goal starts. Wonderful morning. Pretty pleasant 12 degrees Celsius (a bit shy of 54 F) and the sun just throwing its rays over the peaks to the east. Marvelous! Whoever was on Zavižan (but also in many other mountainous areas) I believe will agree that sunrise and sunset towards the sea are the most beautiful parts of the day. This time we failed to check the box having the famous Travarica (herbal brandy) shot in the mountain lodge, but I think we will make up for it once.
Zavižan – Rossi’s shelter – Alan
The path to Rossi’s shelter, which I visited already several times before, went smoothly, and it was especially funny how we were chasing off bears by singing Day-O by Harry Belafonte (Come, Mister tally man, …). You run and yell. You actually want to enjoy that beautiful silence and beauty, but when you stumble upon some poop every now and then, you realize exactly where you are. We don’t linger on Rossi’s for long, maybe 3-4 minutes, I eat my second date with peanut butter and we move on. Easy ascents and descents alternate, as well as the stairs where a bit later we witnessed some snow remainings. Yes, it’s June, and there’s still snow there. That says a lot about how Velebit is a serious mountain. We run all the time, but we had to stop every so often to enjoy certain views because it would be a real shame to miss checking up some things. While running through the woods, it is much easier because the ground is often better – a dirt. There are stones, roots, branches and the remains of fallen trees everywhere, but all this is much easier than a piled stones surface that stretches a good part of Premužić’s trail. On the way to Rossi’s hut it becomes clear to us that these stones will be f…k’d up thing, but we do not grasp the extent of that yet. We designed rest stations according to the places where we can take water, so for the first route Alan was supposed to be the first rest station and indeed, we stopped for quick bite, but we decided not to go down to Alan itself but to go above, straight to the monument where we actually stopped for a short break. We all had water, and Branka and I probably drank 1dcl each knowing Andy needed more, but he himself said that he’d be ok until Korita. I ate my third date and drank another rehidromiks. It was a short rest as we were still fresh. Only 15 kilometers passed. We were fresh as morning dew!
Korita – Škorpovac
After Alana, the next stop should be Korita where we were supposed to be supplied with water, somewhere at the 28th kilometer (around 17,4 miles). About two kilometers earlier, we came across a snake over a meter long that barely dragged itself across the track, and Branka flew over it running and started shouting for us to stop. We stopped briefly to give the snake some time to retreat, while Andy said he needs some water because he’s out. I guess I didn’t drink even 2 dcl, and I didn’t even touch the bag on my back, so I poured him a whole liter, or at least what I didn’t spill over with my clumsy pouring. It was less weight on my back as well. A short break in which Andy finds a tiny Nose-horned viper (Posokok) that is like 4-5 inches long. A beautiful snake. We take a picture of it and continue to the Korita, which we quickly reach, and with a laugh when realizing that this will be a bit longer break because the water at the source of the stream is so slow that we would probably get drunk faster to suck the rock, but it is what it is. I refill my soft bottle from the chest pocket of my vest, but only halfway because I couldn’t wait. Andy fixes his 3-liter water bag to fill up slowly, and we used that time to eat something. I eat two dates and I wasn’t hungry. I also drank my third rehidromiks because we are already at the 28th kilometer. No sign of fatigue. We feel great. We were annoyed a bit with this twisting ankles on the rocks and all three of us had close encounters with falling facedown and digging into that strange surface, but there is still no contact with the surface. Miraculously! We have about seven kilometers to Škorpovac and thus refreshed by the miraculous bleating into that water that drips more than it leaks, we continue our journey. From that encounter with the snakes before Korita, we were generally often exposed to the western slopes, which were still not fully bathed in the sun, even though it was already late morning and we stepped into the fourth hour of running. We reach Škorpovac in about an hour where we filled our water tanks (I only filled the two soft flasks because I was sure that one liter will be enough for me until the end) and we took a 10 minutes break. Now for the first time I try the combination with olives and bacon so I take two and eat another date with peanut butter. I’m still not hungry, but I force myself to eat because I don’t want it to backfire later on as a lack of energy. I am taking another rehidromiks although it is clear to me that it is a little earlier than I planned, but it’s gonna be tough to do it later. From Korita to Škorpovac there is a lot of running in the woods and we were in the shade, so basically were not losing much of body fluids … except for Andy who has different physique and needs more water, so Škorpovac was his happy place with plenty of water.
Before we move on, I put additional sports under ware under my running shorts as the inner mash started irritating me. I thought that wouldn’t happen but it did. It eased it a bit but it was hard to start moving again after 10 minute break. Especially after I laying down on a bench for a minute. I though my back will snap. We’re sending message to Maja that we’re about two, two and a half hours out form our goal so she can head out from Novi Vinodolski towards Baške Oštarije where she’s suppose to pick us up. You have no idea how important this team member is but we knew from the beginning.
The last portion and f…ck ups with the pick up place
Fatigue started to show up, but we’re pretty good. The first 500 meters from Škorpovac we started slowly, walking, but we knew that we came here for some trail running, so we accelerated. Mostly Branka and I take turns as pacing rabbits, and it suited Andy to be at the rear as a security follow. From the beginning, we were joking that the first one is to watch out for snakes, and the last one is food for bears. We still haven’t come across one along the way and none of us had that desire. The outcome of the encounter would definitely not be as optimistic as it would be wonderful to see such a magnificent animal in its natural environment. I only remember how at one point we went through a part where everything smelled like being next to a bear cage at the zoo. It was wasn’t a phenomenal feeling. We started yelling and scaring every living thing around us. Loonies.
Each of us runs differently. Both in style, cadence and step length, so it suited me to be a bit at the beginning, a bit at the back and a bit in the middle. After the 40th kilometer, the fatigue starts to feel a little more significant, but we are still running. We pass 42.2 km and stop to take a photo for the marathon with a beautiful view of the island of Pag. Forests and open areas continue to alternate, becoming more and more exposed to the sun, but we tell ourselves that we have just a bit more. If we would have been running on a flat surface that would be short but it’s hard to think of what a 5:00 min/km pace (8:00 min/mile) here on this rocky surface. I am shooting a video sometime after the 43rd kilometer in which it is visible that we are still running and crossing the asphalt road for the first time. For a brief moment I thought we screwed up somewhere and we got to the end somehow, but it wasn’t. Garmin says it is another 4.5 km (2.8 miles) to the finish line. Well, it’s less than half an hour … yeah … maybe somewhere downtown Zagreb. We send a message to Maja that we are at, let’s say, one hour to the finish line. Through the woods we soon exit onto a wide forest road towards the end and force each other to run portions of at least 200 meters. Branka and I are done. I watched her run the trail for the first 40 kilometers like a female version of Legolas, while heavyweights Boromir (Andy) and Gimli (me) followed her in amazement. I would rather say we were mentally empty even though Branka started complaining on pain in her pelvic area. For me it was just like I had enough. I was just fed up, but it’s completely clear to me that there’s no chance of giving up now and asking Maja to come get us so close to our goal. But most of all, I am surprised by our Andy, who seems to have woken up after a marathon and suddenly encourages running. All the way until then, I was worried that he would twist something, fall and that we would have to carry him, which, thank God, did not happen. I had a feeling that throughout the whole run he was twisting his ankles and stumbling at least twice as often on those stones, but the man is indestructible. The last portion was definitely Andy’s. He rocked it! He rose like a phoenix from ashes and pushed us towards the end. So this is teamwork!
We arrive at a clearing with a beautiful rock on the East side of that beautiful valley and send the location to Maja, but everyone runs out of cell phone signals so Maja can’t find her way nor can we send a new location (because we kept moving). Anyway, while we try to understand each other over this broken phone connection, Branka shouts for Maja to blow the car horn. Unbelievable, although Maja didn’t hear it, she decided to use the horn and we heard her. Female brain and female intuition is just amazing. We didn’t know exactly where she was, but we kept moving even though we just didn’t wanna move no more. At least I didn’t. I just wanted to get in the car and hit the chow and a beer in Baške Oštarije. After about a kilometer, we get to the car, I hug and kiss Maja, give each other five, hugs and take a photo for the end of the route. “Maja, drives us to the hostel for a bite and a beer, we had enough!“.
We drove maybe another kilometer to the hostel in Baške Oštarije where we enjoyed a well-deserved drink and food and told Maja about some moments we had along the way. I think we mostly bitched, if so, mostly about how many times we stumbled and how miraculous it is that no one fell at least once or got bruised or cut. A true miracle. We agreed that it was pretty long, but for a serious amount of money we would probably run back the way we came. Hmmmm … I honestly don’t believe that story were we would be interesting enough to someone to pays us money, but if had to do it for whatever reason, we probably would be able to do it because the human body is a fantastic machine. And it can do just as much as the brain asks. We just weren’t asked I guess.
You need know that after lunch in Baške Oštarije we needed to pick up Andy’s car at Zavižan where we paid for tickets for the Northern Velebit National Park at 0600 AM when we arrived at Zavižan there was no one at the park entrance. From Baške Oštarije to Zavižan there is some driving. Almost two hours (respecting traffic regulations), and 40 kmh is the maximum speed at which you will drive the serpentines to Zavižan, especially the last 7km of the forest gravel road. No speeding there. But from there we had another hour and a half to Novi Vinodolski. That’s why you need that fourth team member. That the rest of the running team members can get some rest to Zavižan. Branka took a nap, but Andy and I didn’t. I didn’t need it. I was full of energy, which is quite unusual because I didn’t feel that way during the last 5-6 km of our adventure on Premužić trail.
It is quite unusual when you leave Zavižan, so you know that the islands of Krk and Prvić are “just below” Zavižan (although this time we did not see them because we were not up there at the mountain hut). As you move south you pass and watch island of Rab which is then replaced by Pag island. It was really crazy for me. We’ve passed by all of those islands! At least that’s how it seemed to me.
Diet and hydration
I am intermittent fasting. It’s no secret because I’ve been doing that for a year and a half. When we left home that morning, I drank only freshly squeezed lemon juice with turmeric, ginger, spirulina, maca powder and cayenne pepper … and one rehidromiks. On arrival in Zavižan I ate the first date with peanut butter. The idea for this was given to me by Danijela, as well as for the rehidromiks. Her menu also included olives wrapped in bacon. I made a total of ten dates and ten olives. By the end of the trip I ate a total of 5-6 dates and 2 olives with bacon (it was more to try how it will sit on my stomach for future reference). And that was it. I also had some granola and nuts on me, but I didn’t even touch it. I took rehidromiks with water in a glass every 15 kilometers, and I believe I drank a total of 1.5 liters of water, most of it near the end. Also, apart from Danijela (who told me I took too much of everything and she was right), I am also grateful to my friend Kiki Dolenac who gave me some advice on taking salt tablets (which I didn’t bring but there was rehidromiks) so I didn’t really miss anything. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t thirsty.
I think we did everything right. From the idea, putting it in calendar as if it was a race (and I missed participating in a few interesting ones that weekend), logistics in which our fourth member Maja was a crucial logistical factor, meal planning, accommodation and transportation, … mostly everything was well done, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day with occasional small clouds that just dimmed the sun a bit as we ran through the open areas. We also saw wildlife. On the road from Zavižan to Sv. Juraj we even saw a falcon landing under the road fence and catching some pray and flying off into the woods. Unreal! Although after the 43rd kilometer everything seemed very difficult, harder and harder with each step, we somehow managed to finish our adventure in running style, but the end was definitely not easy. I don’t think the body abandoned us. More like the mind did. Me at least. Nothing was hurting me, and when we came to Novi and when I entered the sea, I could comfortably swim for half an hour at a decent pace. Not at all tired. Nothing. It was interesting to me that the only thing that was hurting were my shoulders, that is, the trapezoids from the straps of my vest-backpack. I thought that I would have problems with my shins and joints from the constant ankle twisting on the stones, that my feet would bleed from the hitting the surface and the stones, but all that was absent. There was no soreness either. Not at all. I think it was the mind that nailed me and slowed me down “because it had had enough”. We just get fed up after a while and the system was shutting down, but I’m pretty sure it I needed it for some more serious reason (safety or something) there would be plenty more of energy left in me. Anyhow, I am very glad that I had the opportunity to share this experience with two wonderful people, like-minded people, and that I ran over Premužić trail, not hiked it. Honestly, I think I would be bored if I hiked it. We stopped when we wanted to see something, soaked it up, took photos, took videos, smelled, listened, … harnessed all our senses. But if I had to walk, I would probably have cracked much sooner. Thanks to the mountain for allowing us to enjoy and test our capabilities.
Gpx route record and details of this activity you can check on my Garmin Connect profil. I am open for all of your questions and will gladly reply so feel free to leave a comment on this blog article.
You can find this article in Croatian as well.
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