Friday, 30 September 2011

Slovenia - Julian Alps Traverse

On 11th September I flew out to Slovenia (a country I'd wanted to visit for several years) for a week of hiking. A 5 day traverse of the Julian Alps including a summit hike to the top of Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain.

Due to a delayed flight it was 2am by the time we all arrived at the Hotel Krim at Lake Bled. The following morning I woke up bright and early however, excited about meeting my fellow hikers (I'd met most on the plane, but a few were left to arrive). Everyone seemed really friendly, there were 16 of us in total. I was slightly outnumbered, with only one other female, Inge from Denmark in the group. The two guides were local Slovenians Miha and David.

Day 1
On our first day we just did a day walk in the Karavanke mountain range. This was approx. 6 miles and was a warm up to stretch the legs and get ready for what was ahead. There was a thunder storm in the valley during the morning, but fortunately it reached us just as we were in the mountain hut having lunch. Luckily that was to be the only rain we had that week! We spent that night in a local mountain hut where we had our first opportunity to sample the local food. Then it was time to pack our rucksacks for the next 5 days. Along with the helmet and harness we needed for the Triglav, we had to pack as lightly as possible for the 5 days in the mountains. Easier said than done, but we all managed it. It felt very heavy when I tried it on, but I figured I'd get used to it as the week progressed.

Day 2
We left the Ljubelj Valley and drove over to the Lake Bohinj and into the Triglav National Park where we would start our trek. We climbed up through the tree line (nicely sheltered from the heat). We picked up the trail of the Seven Lakes, which took us to the beautiful Black Lake. Our base for the night was Dom na Komni, a large hut giving spectacular views of Bohinj Lake from the bedrooms.

Day 3
I woke to my alarm at 5:30am and an orange glow coming from the window. I jumped out of bed to see a beautiful sunrise over the lake, which was covered in a mist of cloud - what a view! After a hearty breakfast of cereal, bread and jam we headed off for the second day of our traverse. We headed through the Triglav Seven Lakes valley, passing numerous spectacular lakes along the route, the highlight being Kidney Lake where we paused for lunch. We carried on climbing up, we were now above the tree line and the scenery was almost lunar like. This was a hard section of the walk, with a relentless climb up to the plateau. At the top though we were rewarded with a view of Triglav - it was totally clear today. We arrived at our most basic of mountain huts that evening, but also one of the most cosy! There was drama that evening, as one of the guys on our trip had pure exhaustion and couldn't complete the walk. The guides had to rescue him and they came in through the dark several hours later carrying him. He was taken off the mountain via helicopter the next day!

Julian Alps - Slovenia from Jo Kirby on Vimeo.

Day 4
Today was suppossed to be our summit attempt to the highest point in Slovenia, but ironically it was totally cloudy today. We walked a couple of hours to a higher mountain hut and sat there for several hours waiting for the weather to clear. Unfortunately it didn't, so the decision was made to cross over to the highest mountain hut in Slovenia, spend the night there, and attempt the climb tomorrow if the weather had improved.

Day 5
We woke up this morning, to the clearest day of the trip! A big storm overnight had cleared the air, making it one of the best days for the summit attempt. I headed out outside and ran around like a small child on Xmas day taking photos of the sunrise and spectacular views. This, I thought, was going to be a day to remember! And it was... the climb to the top was a bit of a scramble / via ferrata at times, but never particularly scary. I felt like a tiny dot on the Earth as I was above all the other mountains in the area, above the clouds and even above the helicopter flying around dropping off supplies to the huts. We all reached the top and could see as far as Austria, the Italian Dolomites, and all the mountains we had traversed to arrive at the top! What an amazing day. It took us 1.5 hours to get back down. We had 15 minutes to grab our stuff and then we had an 8 hour hike ahead of us that day. It was a tough day, but one of the best ever!

Day 6
A small day walk of around 3 hours today with small packs. It was a pleasant change, and we were able to look out to the range we'd walked on the day previous. Then it was back to the mini-bus to head back to Bled. What an amazing trip - Slovenia is a beautiful country and I can't wait to explore more of that part of the world.

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