MOUNTAIN OF THE SNAKES St. Elias Peak on Pelješac is Simply Stunning

Author(s): Olja Ljubišić Photographer(s): Olja Ljubišić
'Although 961 m does not sound very high, you should not forget the fact that many of climbs on Peljesac start from the sea level, so climbing 961 m of Sv. Ilija or any other summit on Peljesac means that you climb the absolute height of the mountain,' Summitpost.org advises. 

'Peljesac in Dalmatia (Croatia) is, after Istria, the second largest peninsula on the eastern Adriatic sea, and looking at its morphology it is in fact a long mountain – or even more precisely, it is almost 70 km long maritime chain of summits and hills that rises up to 961 m above the sea level. Sveti Ilija (Saint Elias) is the highest summit on Peljesac, situated on western part of the peninsula, above the coastal town of Orebic.

Although 961 m does not sound very high, you should not forget the fact that many of climbs on Peljesac start from the sea level, so climbing 961 m of Sv. Ilija or any other summit on Peljesac means that you climb the absolute height of the mountain.

Despite its lenght, the peninsula and its mountain ridge are just 3 to 9 kms wide, and from the summits of Peljesac you can get impression that youre climbing a mountain on some of the islands, without connection to the mainland. And Peljesac mountain ridge is just a long branch off the mainland Dinaric Alps, surronded by sea water (Neretva, Korcula;Mali Ston and Peljesac channels) from three sides and connected to mainland with only one narrow part (Stonska prevlaka 1,5 km wide), east of town of Ston.

The peninsula is mostly mountaineous and hilly, with well-indented and on many places steep coast, but also with some larger fields and many smaller ones, valleys and even canyons. Limestone prevails in hills and mountains and dolomites rock in valleys.

Although the most of the terrain is carstic, very hard and harsh, unhospitable and without surface water, you will be able to find here many pictoresque beaches, very small islands, vineyards, olive trees and small rustical settlements. The peninsula has typical Mediterranean climate, with average year temperature from 15-18 °C. 

Some of the summits are already recognized as nice and interesting mountaineering destinations, thanks to the all year round accessibility and nice views. 

Sveti Ilija (Saint Elias, 961 m) is the highest summit and the most famous mountaineering destination on Peljesac peninsula, situated on its western end. Massif around the summit of Sv. Ilija stretches from NE to SW coast of the peninsula, it is 6,5 km long and around 2,5 km wide.

One legend says that the summit was called Perunovo brdo (Perun´s mountain) after old Slavic word for god Perun, the master of thunders. With the coming of Christianity the name of St. Elias replaced that of Perun. Later in history the Italian name Monte Vipera (Mountain of the snakes) was in use, also. Some think the name came after poisoned snakes (poskoks) that live in the area and the other think it is because of configuration of some steep rocky slopes above Orebic that resemble to snake, with their zig-zag lines of geological layers. Local people call it simply Ilija. 

On the summit od Sv. Ilija a small chapell dedicated to this saint used to stand, but was destroyed by many thunderstrucks. 

In lower areas of the mountain a mediterrainean oak and holm oak tree prevail. Above 750 m you can find nice forests of mediterranean pine tree (although some of the forests burnt in forest fires, recently). Other areas are covered with lower underbrush or are just rocky covered with fragrant mediterranean herbs,' Summit Post.org reports.

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