Complete driving detour: Forni Avoltri-Tolmezzo-Chiusaforte-Cave del Predil-Passo del Predil-Bovec-Isonzo/Soca river source-Vrsic pass-Kranjska gora.
Detour was rewarded with nice, and followed by what easily may be called gorgeous autumn weather.
Woods already changing colors from deep greenery toward red overcast, summits backed by dep blue skies.
One thing we noticed, though, were low water levels.
Both in Carnia and Slovenia, alpine rivers look disproportionally tiny, while surrounded with large yet dry river beds.
Our main goals were Bordaglia lake, rated as prettiest lake of Carnic Alps and Getting to Bordaglia lake was an interesting drive trough the history.
This particular north-by-northeast part of Italy is still somehow deattached from the main events.
A borderzone, in the past often providing safe crossover for smugglers, a frontline during the World War I. Small towns littered with rundown military facilities.
As there is no war threat anymore, looks like nobody really knows what to do with all those heroic army lefftowers.
Logos and signs here and there reminding us that this used to be the core base of Alpini, elite mountain army force units.
Easy walking path took us alongside bursting water stream up to the mountain pastures. And inside 3 hours or so, we were already on the main Carnic ridge,
a frontier line between Italy and Austria. Pretty experience. Small, emerald green lakes surrounded by limestone summit faces on the east, and rugged reddish ridges on the west. A mixure of eastalpine landscape and something that reminded me of Mt. Korab on the far southeast Balkans.
Variety in shapes and contours, this is where Carnic Alps seem to be at their very best.
Our progress was heavily affected by the fact that we aquired some malga cheese enroute. Cheese weight didn't seem to yield any positive effect to our mobility.
So we did not summited anything. Nevertheless, beauty of the lakes compensated well for it.
Little green lake
Enjoyable view on Cinque Punte (5 peaks). All five of them bathing in warm sunlight. Bordercross on the Predil Pass. Time to leave Italy and enter Slovenia.
Our intention te leave Italy didn seem to trigger much interest from the Italian custom officer. Sleepy face gave as a short glimpse, followed by the half-hearted wave of his right hand. Just go on. And so we did. We were welcomed by even less of an attention on the Slovenian side. Small, dark haired dude with neat moustaches. Fully focused on daily newspaper in his hand.
No glimpse. No hand wave.
Then, just for a short moment, his left moustache started to winkle. As the left moustache was actually eastbound oriented, this was a crystal clear sign that we may enter. His righthand moustache, one overlooking the road toward Italy, remained still. And so, 25 seconds of bordercrossing activity was over.
Steep road infront of us was winding downhill inside Koritnica, dissapearing at the bottom of Loska stena, the widest wall of entire Julian Alps.
Whilst closing down to Bovec, a hot, almost summer-like heat started to creep inside our mountaineering vehicle. And indeed, whilst stretching our legs in Bovec, we felt almost as having a stroll alongside the Meditteranian coast.
One noteable exception was lack of sea waterfront. And another was right behind our back. Only 1653 metres high, yet impressive, matterhornish shape of Svinjak. Some towns are deprived of a backyard mountain, some are blessed with it. Bovec is blessed, really. Enjoyeable view of Svinjak compensated for everything else, as Bovec is all about rafting-canoening . We felt like being the only strangers in the town unwilling to dip into cold waters of Soca. We were heading for Soca river source instead.
As we drove upstream, every now and then we were surpassed by the motocyclists. No explanation for this motorcycle galore. And no real clue where all this people are actualy going. Once we reached the Soca river source hut (koca pri izvoru Soce), situation looked promising.
No motorcycles. Actualy, not many people inside or around the hut at all. 15 minutes later, we figured out what happened with all the human resources.
Soca spring is a typhical karst spring out of the cave with small underground lake. Also, arguably, the most crowded river spring I have ever seen. Normal route reaches the spring by the narrow rock face. It is secured with fixed ropes. But as the water level was very low, large portion of visitors literally hopped into the source by jumping from one stone onto another inside the Soca river bed.
The little cave lake was surrounded from all direction but from the inside. 15-20 minutes to get to the source, another 15-20 fighting for the good photoshoot position.
The little lake did not seem to care much about the fuzz, just following patiently the events with it's green eye.
Thinking of the past
War is first one. All present major access trails
in the Carnic Alps are descendants of the military trails
constructed for army purposes during the WWI or before that.
This part of Carnic Alps was operational playground for Alpini units.
Alpini is term for the Italian Army Mountain units and should not be mistaken for
the Alpinisti - Alpine climbers.
the 8th Alpini Regiment, composed of bataglions from Cividale, Gemona and Tolmezzo,
took part in Italy campains in Libia, before the WWI. During the war, they were engaged in Trento,
on the Carnic front, as well as around Caporetto/Kobarid battlefront.
During the WWII they were all over the place, Greece, Albania, Russian front. They retreated from Russia
following the massive human losses. What has left of the Regiment was send againt to Julian Alps and Prealps
to fight Yugoslav partisans.
These days, the strenth of the unit is reduced and those who serve are volunteer soldiers rather then drafted.
Only remain off the old glory and less glory days is the Regiment coat off arms with their "o la o rompi" (Do or die)
Another thought we face is of one of the most peculiar persons in the history of Eastern Alpine mountaineering.
Driving through small and not particulry vivid villages, every now and then you'll see streets and squares named
"Julius Kugy" - poet of the Eastern Alps.
Then, who was this guy?
Julius Kugy was born in Gorizia in 1858 and died in Trieste in 1944.
he was merchant from Trieste, organ player and pioneer mountaineer.
known for his passion toward music, writing , mountains and nice flora.
In Trieste he formed a 14 members strong chorus named Palestrinian Chorus. Twelve of them were males, other two Kugy's sister and his cousin.
Kugy himself was singing as one of two bass voices in the chorus. They performed in various churches and concert halls around Trieste.
His second musical connection was organ. He bought one from Vienna, and donated it to Madonna delle Grazie church in Trieste.
In return, he could practise there 3 hours every day, which he did for almost 40 years,
to the annoyance of the people living next to the church.
In the early days, they tried to distract him by playing harmonium atonal and beating military drum at a same time, but to no avail.
kugy would do pedals first for an hour or so, followed by an hour of new pieces.
Last hour was dedicated to repetition of the old stuff.
His favourite compositions were Bach's Fugue in D major and more famous Toccata + Fugue .
He played during the masses. His organ is still in the same church and was restaurated in March 1992.
It is believed that Kugy inherited his writing talent from his grandad.
His grandfather, Slovenian lawyer and poet Janez Vesel Koseski (Koseze pri Moravcah 1798 - 1884, Trieste)
was first man to mention name Slovenija in his poem Slovenja,
written in honour of Austria's emperor Ferdinand 1st visit to Ljubljana, in year 1844. Grandad's surname translates as "cheerful".
Kugy starded publishing his works in mid 1920's. He wrote 7 books total. They are all written in non-hero style,
with good touch of humor. His influence arose after some of his works have been translated in English
. It is known that Frank Sydney Smythe, writer and mountaineer himself (1933 Everest expedition and others) was fan of Kugy's writing.
Some of Smythe's books like The Kangchenjunga Adventure and others to follow, are written in typical post-Kugy style,
nonheroic, humorous and both informative and fun to read.
Kugy wrote all his books in German.
His accounts were also written in German and published in Austrian Alpine Association magazine.
-Aus dem Leben eines Bergsteigers (From the Life of an Alpine-Climber)
-Arbeit - Musik - Berge (Work – Music - Mountains)
-Fünf Jahrhunderte Triglav (Five Centuries of Triglav)
-Die Julischen Alpen im Bilde (The Julian Alps in Picture)
-Anton Ointzinger - Ein Bergführerleben (Anton Oitzinger: A Life of a Mountain Guide)
- Aus vergangener Zeit (From Days Past)
-Im göttlichen Lächeln des Monte Rosa (Divine Smile of Monte Rosa)
Kugy was pioneer climber of the Julian Alps.
He opened around fifty new routes and traverses.
According to the Italian sources, he was the first man to climb Italian mountain routes with difficulty grade V and above.
Some recent publications quote him as first sestogradista (sixgrader), as some of his routes equal the difficulty of
VI grade routes like Comici - Dimai on Cima Grande di Lavaredo northface, or via Cassin on Grandes Jorasses.
Short climbing timeline:
- 1870 His first mountain climbs
- 1880 First ascent of Skrlatica with guides Komac and Kravanja.
- 1881 Triglav from Trenta valley
-1882 Jalovec from Trenta valley. with guide Tozbar
-1884 il Grande Nabois first ascend
- 1885 Razor north face first ascend
-1886 first ascents of Madre dei Camosci, Cima di Riofreddo and Cima di Riobianco
- 1887 Skrlatica northface first ascend
- 1890 Prisojnik northface first ascend
- 1891 Jof Fuart east route, Piccolo Mangart/Mali Mangart first ascend
- 1892 via della Spragna at Jof di Montasio
- 1893 Cima delle Rondini first ascend
- 1895 Canin nord face first ascend
- 1902 northface diretissima on Jof di Montasio with Bolaffio and guides Komac and Oitzinger, named after him Diretissima Kugy.
First winter ascend of Canin
- 1905 fullfilled his long time dream, Jof di Montasio winther ascend over the north route
- 1908 with Bolaffio and Oitzinger on southeast pillars of Jof di Montasio grade V route opened
- 1910 aged 52, his last new route and first ascend of northern tower of Jof di Montasio
It was the physician Balthasar Hacquet, whose description of the misterious Scabiosa Trenta flower from the Trenta valley
attracted Kugy to Julian Alps. pic of the Scabiosa Trenta was published in Hacquet book from the year 1782.
However, Austrian bothanist Anton Kerner traced Hacquet's flower sample in Ljubljana museum,
only to find out that misterious Scabiosa Trenta flower specie does not exist.
Actually, it was Cephalaria leucantha, a fairly common flower of carst areas at sub1000 metre altitude.
we reached the Vrsic pass, it became clear where all the motocycling
units we met before were heading for.
Pass was crowded with Hondas, Suzukis an likes. Watching guys in leather suits, it was rather odd to think that 9 decades ago
the same spot was crowded with semi-frozen men wearing uniforms and speaking odd Slav language.
During the WWI, Vrsic pass and it's access roads were cleaned and mantained by the Russian POW's.
Several hundreds of them became victim of huge avalanche. Small wooden memorial ortodox church alongside Vrsic-Kranjska gora road,
reminding us of that fatal March, 1916.
Before reaching Kranjska gora, we made a short stopover where Mala & Velika Pisnica creeks met. They form a nice pond here, water reflecting
the mountain walls above Krnica. Having not visited Kranjska gora since childhood, had some difficulty with basic orienteering.
Small town, considerably enlarged by new wintersport accomodation facilities. Just the ol' classic Razor hotel still figting for it's right to enjoy
the commanding view of the Julian Alps walls. But, the new hotels seem to pay little respect to the old fella..
Several hours later, we were driving into Zagreb down the Slavonija avenue.
Zagreb's backyard mountain, Mt. Medvednica, was enjoying the last rays of the daylight sun. Then we noticed an alpenglow-like effect.
That was strange, hence Medvednica, as many other Pannonian mountains, is normally never hit by an alpenglow.
And this one was beneath rather then beyond the mountain. A second glimpse revealed the mistery. Someone set on fire the bus stop on the other side
of the road. As flames starded to swallow the plastic roof, they formed a purple-yellow rim, bordering the contours of Mt. Medvednica in the far background.
In an odd way, this piece of urban hooliganism took our mind back day and half ago, as we watched the alpenglow flames owerflowing the mountains of Carnic Alps from Casera di Bordaglia.