Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Julian Alps, Slovenia

I have just got back from a week in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. This was my first trip and I was joined by Bill, Barry, Tracy and Richard who responded to my request for adventurous souls up for an adventure on our first trip out there. I was tempted in no short part by an article that I had read in Trail Magazine which described stunning mountains, hearty food and welcoming people and we were not disappointed - it was a superb week.

Slovenia borders Italy and Austria and our drive into the mountains rivalled any that I have made into either country, lush alpine meadows, rolling forests, chocolate box houses and stunning steep sided limestone mountains calling us upwards.

Our aim was to climb Slovenias highest mountain, Triglav, which sits at 2864m. The forecast looked good for the first half of the week and so on Monday we headed up to the Triglavski Dom, a mountain refuge and observatory situated at 2515m. Our route up was great fun, we chose a scramble approach that was protected by fixed equipment in all the steep places and wound its way up through the forests and onto the limestone plateau which hosts the hut.

The scrambling is hard to compare to the UK. Essentially this was a trekking week but protecting ourselves using fixed equipment on the scrambling sections. We didn't need a rope at any point and many of the people we met used a simple sling and Krab or nothing at all to protect themselves. Erring on the side of caution I took Via Ferrata kits and helmets out for everyone and we used them on the steep sections to keep ourselves safe in the event of a slip or loose rock being knocked down from above. The scrambling rivalled that found on the likes of Crib Goch or Bristly Ridge but was more sustained (it went on for longer) and had metal handrails and cable ways to clip into. This meant it was easy to protect but you needed a good head for heights.

The food in the huts was plain and the choice limited but the people were friendly and the views stunning. The mountains themselves reminded me very much of the Picos de Europa, stunning steep limestone towers, sharp grippy rock and deep gorges and valleys on either side - gorgeous.

Tuesday morning saw and early start and we summited Triglav an hour or so after dawn to incredible views. The route up was great fun, constantly interesting but well protected and we only saw a handful of other people. (A picture in the hut shows how busy it can get in peak season - think the summit of Snowdon on a bank holiday Monday but with more people!) We then descended the South Ridge and enjoyed lunch at the Dolic Hut before ascending Kanjavec (2569) in the afternoon.

On Wednesday the weather broke and we descended back to the valley via a lovely 6 hour trek through the forests and valleys and over a high pass and then made our way to the ski resort of Kranjska Gora for a fine meal and a nice night in a hotel.

On Thursday it was raining heavily and falling as snow on the mountains. Rather than waste the day we climbed Mala Mojstrovka (2332m) but had to turn round about 20m below the summit as the snow was settling fast and I was concerned about the consequences of a slip on the summit ridge. It felt like the arrival of winter and the rosy cheeks and giggles were testament to another good day out - despite the weather!

Our final night was pent in the resort town of Bled where we reminisced over fine wine and food and all agreed we would be back!

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