These days were memorable and I have kept thinking about them afterwards. If you’ll read this report you may understand why.
Lipanskji vrhFour years – for four years almost I have been a member at SummitPost but so far I have not met a single of my fellow members in person. Virtually, yes – there have been lots of discussions and I think I know some members very well already. But do I really?
Anyway, this is bound to change tonight. Ever since I announced to Vid that I would spend three weeks in Kranjska Gora in Slovenia to have a look at the Julian Alps, we have plotted to meet and maybe climb somewhere. Vid went even further, he suggested a date and a pizzeria, asked other members to join and put up a message on the Europe board. Before I left home he told me Bor would attend and ganesh70 and possible some others. One guy from Hungary maybe wanted to come but I had to leave so I didn’t get to know the details. At Kranjska Gora I had no internet access so I was closed out from any SP-discussions.
But today will be the day, Friday Sept. 14th 2007, at 8:00 p.m. at Pizzeria Kotnik. I’m exited!
Currently I stand on the top of Lipanskji vrh, a mountain slightly below 2000m, part of the ridge which contains the easternmost 2000ers of the Julian Alps, Debela Peč and Brda. I have been on both already, traversing the ridge and there will be a fourth summit today, something called Mrešce, which I suppose is a collective name for several summits. The ridge has gorgeous views across the three northern valleys which lead up to Triglav and though I have been not very enthusiastic before the start now I’m enjoying myself throughout. The summits are separated by saddles which are not very profound but there are several descents which are steep enough to be protected by cables. So there has even been a bit of adventure to this trip.
Now we’re leaving the summit and come to one of these protected sections. It’s not very long, maybe 10 – 20m but going steeply down. Moreover there is scree all over the place and I have to wait until Judith has got safely down and around a bend in the track. It’s my turn and I have to take several huge steps, easy enough for my long legs but no wonder Judith took so long. She takes some pictures of me, then we start out for the saddle and the final climb of the day. She passes by me – then I get into motion and ouch! - there is a sharp sting in my left knee. Another step – again! And another …
No doubt about it – this descent has somehow damaged my knee – inwardly I howl with frustration. It’s only the sixth day of a three week vacation and will I be reduced to hike the valleys and visit waterfalls? There has been so much on my schedule! And tomorrow will be the climb with the other members – I’m afraid I’ll have to ask them to do something easier than Dovški Križ, which Vid has proposed…
While walking I find out that I have to avoid big steps with my left leg so that I manage to get up another protected section towards Mrešce. With no big interest for views I head down the otherside immediately, hobbling like Captain Ahab. We’ll have to descend some 800m from here until we are at our car! By the time we are at the end of the first stage, at the mountain hut Bleiska koča, my right knee hurts as much as the left one. Dovški Križ definitely won’t be possible tomorrow!
The remainder is a long walkout from the hut to the car, not steep at all and my legs seem to get adapted to their new state. Knees hurt but it is possible to walk. Waterfalls, here I come…
The MeetingWe arrive at the apartment a little before 6 p.m. There is plenty of time to take a shower and have some coffee and tea. By the time I start with my tea I turn on my mobile to see if Vid has left a message concerning the meeting. Sure enough the thing beeps and an SMS comes in: “We start at 6 p.m. already”. A look at the watch: 6 p.m. exactly. I write back to say we just returned and that it would take us until 7 to join the crew. A few minutes later Vid calls to tell me not to hurry, they’d be two only with Bor having gone to fetch two friends from one of the valleys and drive them to their car in the other one. It appears that they had been overtaken by dusk and couldn’t rappel from the Julian Alps third highest mountain Škrlatica across the west face but had to take the normal route down into Vrata Valley.
As we reach the restaurant someone gets up from his chair on the platform outside. It turns out that this is Vid, whom I never would have recognized as he never appears with spectacles on any of his SP pictures. Introductions are quickly made – we are only four currently: Judith, Vid, Fabrizio (ganesh70) and myself. Bor will arrive in about an hour and Jasmina, Vid’s wife will join us around 10 p.m. Andrej Mašera won’t be able to come at all due to private reasons but says hello to everybody. I’m a bit sad as I was prepared to tell him that he is the main reason why I’m here. His last guidebook uses some half dozen of my SP pictures and as a way of saying thanks he has given me two guidebooks, “Mountaineering in Slovenia” and “Alpi Giulie Occidentale”. In her quite particular way Judith had decided that “since we have the guidebooks we might as well go there this summer”…
And then there actually will also be Norbert, morceaux, who will drive all the way from Budapest in Hungary to meet us at Kranjska Gora. He’ll be driving for five to six hours and has calculated to be arriving around 11. Now that’s devotion to SP and the mountains!
We go inside and sit down to order a beer – and since Judith and I are very hungry after today’s climb a pizza apiece is also ordered. We start to discuss tomorrow’s climb and I explain the knee-situation. Though pretending that it doesn’t matter both Vid and Fabrizio are less than reluctant to sincerely discuss alternatives. Maybe Mojstrovka? But Fabrizio has been there today already. Without so much as a final decision the talk drifts to other places and climbs, everybody trying to convince everybody else of the beauty of some place. “… it’s only up to grade II (UIAA that is) …”, “… in the Julian Alps there is no such thing as a difficult ferrata …”, “… once it’s marked it’s also protected …”, “… a fantastic mountain …”.
Somehow SP is spared out from the discussion and as our pizza arrives further talk is somewhat muffled. After eating Vid explains about his selection of Dovški Križ: “… not marked, not crowded, steep ascent, a little climbing section (not much more than grade I), beautiful views, a scree zone, perfect for surfing downwards after summitting, …”. It appears that the scree figures greatly in Vid’s mind – strange. Judith is less than enthusiastic about it but Vid tells us that the ascent route bypasses the scree. Finally we’re decided by Vid’’s words: “Jasmina will be disappointed if we don’t climb Dovški Križ. She likes the climb and has been preparing for it.”
Ok – I will go but if my knees pose problems I’ll stop at bivouac II, a tin shelter in the cirque beneath the Rokavi and leave the others the honor to ascent the mountain.
Suddenly a tall young man stands in front of our table. It turns out that this is Bor – I would never have recognized him. In order not to forget their faces I pull out my camera and my flashlight and make a handful of shots:
We discuss Dovški Križ once more and both Vid and Bor say it’s nonsense that the guidebook “Mountaineering in Slovenia” calls it the most difficult climb of the book. “I don’t know their selection, though…”
Jasmina arrives and for the sixth time we explain which mountains we have already climbed in the first five days of the vacation: Golica, Jôf de Miezegnot, Zadneškji Ozebnik, Ŝpik, Monte Cimone, Debela Peč – about 8000m of elevation gain. After tomorrow we will have climbed Everest from sea level - so to say - all in six days. Not bad – but hard on legs and knees…
Around eleven we prepare to go deciding on the time when we should start. “We’ll have the whole day, no reason to hurry” – Vid and Jasmina opt for something like 8 a.m., Fabrizio suggests 7, so finally we decide to meet at 7::30 at one of the local gas stations.
Vid’s mobile rings – it’s Norbert (morceaux), telling him that he has been delayed by a blocked motorway back home in Hungary and that now it will take until 2 a.m. until he’ll arrive. Would we still be at the pizzeria? A glimpse around us tells us that there’s no way to stay for another three hours. The waiters pointedly are cleaning up, putting the chairs on the tables… Vid directs Norbert to Vrata Valley, he should sleep in the car and we would pick him up at 8 in the morning.
That settled, it’s time for the nightly blackout…
A Dried-Up WaterfallHere we are at the trailhead, Jasmina, Fabrizio, Judith, Gangolf. Bor and Vid have gone to pick up Norbert at the parking lot at the end of the valley. After some ten minutes they arrive with Norbert coming up in their rear. Time for some new introductions, then Norbert tells us that there was a heavy traffic accident back in Hungary and that he got help up for three hours with no chance of going back or forth. He arrived at the parking lot exactly at 2 in the morning and got wakened by Vid ringing his mobile. It turns out Vid found him sleeping under the eyes of the guards who collect the parking fees. They quickly saved him from monetary bloodletting and now we are ready to go.
Not quite as it turns out – having been alarm-started by Vid and Bor, Norbert still needs to pack his things. He asks whether we had breakfast – which we had – and whether he can quickly eat something. Vid explains that there is a waterfall a third up the mountain and that it would make a much nicer place for a breakfast than the trailhead underneath the trees. If only Norbert could hike for an hour…
Being impatient we all decide that Norbert can and set out accordingly…
Vid, Bor and Fabrizio lead the way, Jasmina and Judith somewhere in the middle and I conclude the crew with Norbert in the rear. The first hour turns out to be a steep hike among dense woods. There is a path but other paths cross and it is good we have Vid and Bor as guides. There are several scree fields which have to be crossed. “I don’t remember them” – Vid searches for excuses why he didn’t tell us – probably someone put them up since he was last here ;-)
“There’s the waterfall” – we all look over to the right where Vid indicates a big step over which – he assures us – ordinarily a small waterfall trickles. Today there is no water in sight but we prepare to make our first break above its top. But there is a good view to Triglav, making it a good resting spot.
As we reach it, Norbert assures us that he finally has run out of energy. 8 hours of driving, a short sleep, no food since lunch yesterday have taken their toll. Everybody searches for a seat and watches Norbert unpack his food. I’m sure some of us got hungry again.
Vid tells us that this place is where the scree fields end. From bivouac II at 2100m a set of consecutive scree slopes leads down to here at 1600m. Finally the screes run into this little gully which ends in the waterfall. He tells us to take care in the afternoon, not to step too far. We smile dutifully but Bor tells us that a friend of his lost balance right here at the very end and they had to fish him out of the gully with three people. Maybe we should really take this thing seriously.
Norbert is happily munching his breakfast so Vid explores the area searching for the lost water – which he finds underneath a wet rock. A slight trickle runs out from there but vanishes after several centimetres. Filling his water bottle takes him forever. I follow his example and fill mine, later Norbert does the same.
Eventually we get so restless that after he has filled his bottle the whole group sets out to climb the next stage without waiting for him to pack and catch up. I realize this after some minutes and wait for him – anyway my knees need to be taken care of – and waiting for Norbert is a good excuse.
The Pancake Disaster
The going gets steeper – we are out of the woods at last and views keep getting better – and we catch up with Jasmina and Judith while the other three are stomping ahead high above us. Bor even makes a detour to explore unknown terrain. We close in on the huge cirque, in which bivouac II is located, an impressive place,, surrounded by sky high vertical walls. However, it turns out that the bivy site has already taken been taken over by the competition. There’s folks up there – and we had been promised a lonely climb!
“Dober Dan” – we pass them and search for a place for our second break which we find right behind the tin box. Bor points out the summits to me: the Rokavi, Oltar, Škrlatica somewhere behind. Across Vrata Valley there are Stenar, Rjavina and the king, Triglav with its incredible north face. Everybody takes photos – it looks like a competition.
Suddenly I see the crew smile. What has happened? “I wanted to spring a surprise on you. But now it is spoiled – I might as well tell you”. Vid explains that Jasmina and he have brought dough and equipment to surprise us with pancakes after the climb. However, the lid of the box containing the dough has opened, spilling a third of its contents. In the same backpack Vid had stuffed his anorak and you can imagine where the third of the dough went.
Now Jasmina and he are mock quarreling who was supposed to have closed the lid before packing. Smiles and laughs all over…