Finally by the lake (17th August)Stara Fuzina (538 m)- (46.281340 N, 13.889160 E)
And here we are. Standing by the bridge at Ribčev Laz, looking at the shores and the water of the beautiful Bohinsjko Jezero. It’s been rather a long way from Spain. We’ve had to drive across France and Italy for 1800 km, two long days with about seventeen hours behind the steering wheel. My body has not felt the effort, it was not that tiring while I was driving, but this is the moment where fatigue is claiming its rights. Never mind that. It’s worth it. This landscape is worth it. I like this huge lake surrounded by mountains covered by green forests. The sun is slowly falling towards the west shore, staining the waters with a slight golden touch. The white church of Ribcev Laz completes this calm scene while we look for a place to have dinner. That pizza slice we’ve had on the Italian highways is already way behind us. Right now, nothing can bother me. Not even my (rather hidden) doubts about my ability to cope with the climb between Dom Planika and the summit of Triglav. Anyway, we haven’t scheduled that to happen in the next two days…
Hiking in the rain (18th August)Starting point: Stara Fuzina (538 m) - (46.281340 N, 13.889160 E)
End point: Vodnikov Dom (1824 m) - (46.355810 N, 13.861460 E)
When we went back to our penzion yesterday, still enjoying the taste of a good dish of grilled meat (and of our first bottle of Laško Zlatorog beer), the weather outlook was not too bad. But that has changed. Our first look outside has shown a wet ground and low clouds covering the mountains, proving that the night has been a rainy one. Not that it mattered, as we have to face the climb to Vodnikov Dom anyway, but it is not a nice feeling. Doesn’t look as a good starting point for our holidays. First of all, let’s have a good breakfast. The backpack is heavy and we will need every little bit of energy we can gather.
This is not our lucky day. No. For the moment, it hasn’t been easy to find a place to park our car. Yep, there is an ample parking area close to the beginning of the path. Close to the upper side of Stara Fuzina. But the fares are rather expensive: 18 €/day. We might have assumed that cost for two or three days hiking, not for our scheduled five days. After finding a suitable parking space and taking our first steps towards the mountains, a thin rain has joined the general picture and we have had to put the waterproof covers on the backpacks. It is a disappointing start. And doesn’t get any better for the first kilometers. Ranging between a thin drizzle and a heavy rain, water falls from the dark sky as our constant companion. Along the Korita Mostnice, a beautiful gorge carved in the limestone by the Mostnica river, to the planinski Koca na Vojah. We leave the shelter offered by this hut along a dirt road, follow it for about thirty minutes and when we find the signpost to Velo Polje it is still raining. And it rains during our whole traverse of the forest, climbing westwards from the Mostnica waterfalls. We don’t feel like talking, we just keep going on. Our lodging for the day is up there, we’ve made a reservation and there is no way around it: we must reach the hut.
So this is Grintovica. For me, a double disappointment. It was obvious that our first sight of the south face of Tosc would not take place, never mind what our guidebook says, but I was also hoping to fill my water bottle in the fountain. And there is no water at the fountain. Hard luck. Apart from that, I can’t even make myself understood by a fellow hiker when I point to the fountain from a distance asking “Voda?” I thought that was the Slovene word for water, but he doesn’t get my point and answers “Grintovica” pointing to the ground. Well, never mind that. There’s still a long way ahead before we reach the hut. Leaving the pastures, we enter the forest again.
It’s already half past one in the afternoon. Five hours have elapsed since our departure from Stara Fuzina and we’ve got our first good news: it’s not raining. For the first time. We celebrate it with a short stop in the forest, and I take the water bottle out for a fast drink. The path has changed, it’s not steep anymore but winds instead between limestone rocks, pines and a dense vegetation where big ferns are quite remarkable. And suddenly we leave the forest. The rocky pyramid of Vernar stands before us, heralding the high summits. The backpack is still heavy, but it feels a little bit lighter now. And there it is, on the western slopes of Tosc and overlooking the pastures of Velo Polje: the hut. The Vodnikov Dom. If I’ve got it right, named after the XIXth century poet Paul Vodnik. It doesn’t rain anymore, but it sure feels nice to see a shelter where we should be able to dry our clothes and get rid (temporarily, of course) of the backpacks. A big group of climbers stands by the building, getting ready and-some of them- starting for the valley. They’ve got to be climbers, some of them even wear a helmet and that sets them in our mind as coming down from the summit.
The hut has rather a dark hall, with an open door leading to the kitchen and another one that gives entrance to the dining room. We’ve got to wait for our turn, as the hutkeeper is getting a meal ready for a fellow hiker, but she soon asks for our names and confirms that she registered our reservation for tonight. Well, that’s good news indeed. I made the phone call about four weeks ago, and the phone connection was not too good. Therefore, it’s a relief to see that everything is in its place. Another one of the wardens provides us with disposable sheets, shows us to the common room where we shall sleep and that’s it: we have established ourselves for the afternoon and the night.
After that, it’s just a matter of practical issues. Mainly drying the wet clothes, which we try to settle in the scarce empty places around the ceramic stove in the dining room. But also a little bit of washing in the lavatories – no showers available-, lazing around for a while in our beds and taking some photographs when the clouds start withdrawing from the surrounding mountains. For a change, it’s nice to be able to see where we are. Even if Triglav remains hidden behind the cloudy curtain. Looking north, there is no way to see anything higher than Dom Planika. A good dinner makes for a nice closing to our first day in the Julian Alps. Jota, a good local stew, and some eggs with ham. And beer, of course. We need to replace what we have been sweating during the climb.
It’s got to be today (19th August)Starting point: Vodnikov Dom (1824 m) - (46.355810 N, 13.861460 E)
End point: Dom Planika (2401 m) - (46.371340 N, 13.846200 E)
Summits: Triglav (2864 m)
A sunny dawn has lifted our hearts today. There are still clouds adhering to the rocky cliffs of Tosc, Vernar and Miselj vrh, but we can see Triglav for the first time. It’s there, to the north, between the clouds, but it’s there. We had originally intended to climb Tosc and Vernar today, on the way to Dom Planika, but the sight of Triglav makes for a breakfast full of doubts. We talk about the subject while enjoying our dense black coffee and the palatschinken (pancakes with jam). What to do? My friend Rafa does not have a definite opinion, but feels inclined to forget our original plan and head towards the Dom Planika hut and Triglav. He feels the weather could be right today, and –that’s for sure- tomorrow is still a question mark. I don’t know what to say, my own thoughts range between a certain feeling that Rafa is right and my own respect for the Triglav climb. I can’t make up my mind, and we finally follow Rafa’s heart taking the path northwards, to Konjski preval and Dom Planika.
The route goes through scree fields at first, and reaches soon the area under the western cliffs of Vernar. That’s where steel cables and iron sticks offer help and some more comfort for me. And, of course, for anyone who needs a complement for not-too-sure steps. I’ve never felt at ease with these things, but have to recognize their usefulness and take them as training for whatever is waiting for us at the summit climb. Then comes the Konjski preval col, where the path from the Krma valley comes in from the east and we turn northwest to face the final climb to Dom Planika. A group of Slovenian climbers shares these slopes with us. They have already begun walking uphill by the obvious path, but we soon catch up with them as they stop for a rest. After that we get going, slowly but steadily, entering the limestone world of the upper Triglav massif and finally reaching the hut. Dom Planika. There it is. Not really a single hut, but two huts. The bigger one on the south side of the complex and a smaller one to the north, close to the first one. A couple of groups stand by the wooden tables placed in front of the buildings, taking off their helmets and climbing harnesses. They look happy, really happy. They have just come down from the summit. I don’t have any doubts about that.
We won’t stay here for a long time. There’s no need for us to talk about it, we both know that the weather is good and that this is our moment for a summit bid. In –scarcely- thirty minutes we enter the building, ask for permission to leave the backpacks, and take our harnesses out. Wearing them, we set out upwards following a small group. At first, it’s just an uphill path that winds on loose scree slopes. Then it turns left, entering an area where limestone ledges climb towards a spot where those preceding us have stopped their progression. They are waiting for a party to come down along a narrow section of the route, at first just a short ledge and after that a rocky gap equipped with a steel cable. It’s the beginning of the real climb. A section with –more- loose scree follows, equipped with some iron sticks. I manage to get across it, and also through the next steeper climb. We come across a downwards group there, allowing them to leave the cable and sticks equipped section before entering it. And then, suddenly, the Kredarica hut is under our feet. We have overcome the climb to the ridge and that gives us the chance to have a look at the north side of the route. A couple of additional sections, always with a steel cable handrail and/or some iron sticks, take us to the route junction where climbers coming from Kredarica join the ridge and to the summit of Mali Triglav. It’s got to be Mali Triglav, the route loses height here and enters what I guess to be the east ridge. The direct route to the highest peak of Slovenia. I don’t feel bad, nor at ease. This kind of terrain is not my favourite one, but I must admit that I’m not having any feeling of real danger. I have to stay absolutely concentrated on what I’m doing, move rather slowly, and always using my two biners to secure myself to the steel handrail. My friend Rafa always goes some meters ahead, giving support and some advice. Not being able to see what lies ahead is not a problem for me. In fact, I’m happy not to see it. Whenever the clouds split apart, the sight of the ridge is absolutely spectacular but I prefer to concentrate on the next two or three steps and the cable handrail. That way, we keep a –rather slow- steady progression and finally reach the Aljazev Stolp. That’s the name for the small metallic cabin placed on the summit of Triglav. The highest point of Slovenia. There’s a lot of people here. Many of them open their backpacks to grab some cans of beer and make an on-site celebration of the successful climb. Some others wear coloured T-shirts and take group photographs before the Aljazev Stolp. We can also see –for sure- the traditional whipping with ropes of first-time summiteers. Most of them –if not all- speak what my ears recognize as Slovene. Triglav does indeed seem an important target for Slovene climbers. I feel happy. In spite of a slight touch of preoccupation, can’t help it, as the descent is still ahead and there will be no chance to avoid looking at the void under our feet, but Rafa scares away those ideas: “No worry, you’ve done fine on the way up and going down is even easier”. That’s enough for me. Happiness takes control and my smile of the big days comes out on our summit pictures. This will be a summit to remember, and I accept gladly a bottle from a fellow climber… cough! cough! It happens to contain strong liquor with some kind of small fruits. Tasty, ideal for the celebration, but a sip is enough. Our host wants me to drink more, but I reject his offer as kindly as I can. Don’t want to have trouble on the way down…
Rafa was right: the descent has been easier. Just a matter of repeating the climb, slowly, without hurrying and doing things properly. As a matter of fact, I’ve felt a little bit more comfortable and we have stopped a number of times to take pictures of what I will remember as a great mountain and a great day. As a whole, a couple of hours to get back to Dom Planika. I reach the huts feeling absolutely happy. Nothing matters. Not even the impossibility to –for the moment- rest in the sleeping rooms. Following the suggestion of a hut keeper, we take a seat in the tables before the main door and enjoy two well deserved cold beers while talking about the climb.
Dinner has been another great moment. The goulash with macaroni was badly needed after a long day efforts. And after that, we get out of the hut to enjoy a glorious sunset. For the first time in two days, clouds withdraw. There’s absolutely nothing to obscure our sight of the massif. No clouds, but some thin white strips that roam high in the sky. For the first time since we started walking yesterday, I feel that we have really gained altitude. A wide horizon stretches before us while the sun goes down, staining in pink the summits and the cotton strips that witness the scene up there. A couple of groups share this dusk with us. One of them, smoking at the southeast corner of the hut. The other –smaller- one with some beers. A cool breeze blows along the stony ground and, behind us, the mighty and beautiful Triglav stands powerful. It’s been a great day, we’ve climbed a great mountain and the main target of these holidays is already a success.
Limestone (20th August)Starting point: Dom Planika (2401 m) - (46.371340 N, 13.846200 E)
End point: Tržaška Koča na Dolicu (2151 m) - (46.3364900 N, 13.819600 E)
Summits: Kanjavec (2568 m)
And after breakfast, out we go. Into the open. The sunny sunrise has vanished, substituted by low clouds that cover the hut surroundings in a foggy ambience. Therefore, no last looks to “our” Triglav are available.
It’s simply a matter of heading downhill and south-southwest in the path to Dolic. At first it’s just a rather wide path, a downwards one, that heads towards the southernmost end of the Triglav south ridge. But when the ridge is above us the path meets its end, being substituted by a rocky ledge with a steel cable. And after that, there is a new longer one that leads along a descending ledge. Never mind, I feel much easier with these things than I did three days ago. I might even like them in the end…
It has taken a while, but there it is: the Dolic Hut. Well, according to my map it seems to be known as Tržaška koča. Dolic seems to be the name for this small col I’m standing on, placed 2164 meters above sea level. The final thirty minutes have been a little bit tortuous, walking in the fog with a lot of limestone rocks around, but I’ve enjoyed their poetic aspect. And there it is: the hut. It’s time to ask for permission to leave the backpacks somewhere, maybe have a drink and take a short rest.
It’s hot here. Well, it is hot but I might also have left some clothing at the hut. At least the polar tissue layer. But the wind was blowing down there, at the hut, a cool wind coming from the Trenta valley, and there is no wind in Hribarice as we walk along a good path on the east slopes of Kanjavec. Moreover, short breaks in the cloud layer give way to a little bit of sun from time to time and consequently raise the temperature. But that is not a big enough problem, as we finally reach the wide northeast ridge of Kanjavec and turn left in search of the top. A short section has to be climbed down, but it’s the final obstacle. After that, ten additional minutes hiking and we reach the summit of Kanjavec. A rusty iron mailbox marks the spot and contains a summit log, which we sign with our names and the arms of our mountain group. Summit pictures come after that, of course. A sip of water and a short rest. And a fast visit by Rafa to the next visible summit, trying to measure it and decide which one of both summits is higher. To no avail: both give the very same height on his GPS.
About a couple of hours later, we are back at the Tržaška Koča. I’m roasted by the high temperature, definitely I should have left most of my clothing here. But there’s no sense in crying over the spilled milk. It’s much more sensible to eat something, just a light (and late!) lunch, while enjoying the sight of the Trenta valley from this eagle’s nest. After that comes the moment to register for the night, unpack and get settled at the bedroom. The afternoon passes lazily. Some time just lying in our beds, just resting. Then a look outside, to take some pictures of the declining afternoon light. Clouds keep retiring and blue sky patches grow bigger every minute. And in the end, an early (for a Spaniard’s eyes!) dinner. A dinner shared with our occasional friends Edward and Natasha. We met yesterday for the first time, while dining at Dom Planika, and I’m glad to see them again. Their achievement of the summit of Triglav today is the starting point for a nicest evening conversation on mountains, hikes, climbs and other subjects. All of it over a good goulash (second day in a row!) and our usual beers.
Sunny sky over the lakes (21th August)Starting point: Tržaška Koča na Dolicu (2151 m) - (46.3364900 N, 13.819600 E)
End point: Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih (1685 m) - (46.318720 N, 13.778910 E)
Summits: Miseljski Konec (2464 m), Vršaki (2448 m), Mali Tičarica (2071 m)
It doesn’t last long when we get together. The next idea of my pal is to have a go at the rocky pyramid of Vrsaki, on the south side of Hribarice. 2448 meters above sea level. I’m not any keen on it, either. I’d rather get going towards the Dolina Triglavski Jezer (Triglav lakes valley, that is), just taking pictures and enjoying a more leisurely pace. So we split again and agree on a new meeting point. Rafa speeds ahead and I simply keep walking. The path soon starts heading downwards, the valley opens up under my position and more rocky summits come into my sight. The most impressive one is Zelnarica, a steep powerful pyramid that dominates the area. But there’s also the Mali Špicje and the Veliko Špicje on the west side of the valley. Or the Vrsaki, on my left hand, almost as terrifying as Zelnarica. The temperature is still rising, the summer sun makes itself felt for the first time since we entered the National Park and the height loss also cooperates in that. I soon come within sight of the first lake, though it’s still a good hundred meters below me. A small green pond which my map designates as Zeleno jez, which I dare to translate by “green lake”. Sure looks green, a shining emerald green. What a beautiful day, it was about time we could enjoy such a good weather. Even if the rain of our hike to Vodnikov Dom feels already a long way behind.
The good thing about lakes is they’ve got water. Clear refreshing water. The visit to the Prehodavci Hut has been really nice, a couple of soft drinks and the spectacular sights of Triglav, the Trenta valley and the west face of Kanjavec have made for a good rest stop. But after that we’ve had to go on, and the tiny sandy beach of the Green Lake has been too much of a temptation after all these days sweating without a shower. Therefore, another stop has been almost compulsory. Boots off, feet into the water and a little bit of face and arms refreshing. Not much, maybe, but as a whole a most satisfactory treatment to feel renewed. Almost new persons to hike down all the valley in search of the Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih. All the way down, but not always. Obviously downwards sections of the path alternate with flat ones from time to time. It’s also nice to see how the landscape is greener every meter we walk. It is a welcome rest for my eyes after three days in the limestone desert of the upper Triglav massif.
A couple of hours later, we are already able to leave the backpacks in a double room of the hut. The afternoon is sunny, warm, and we want to reach the summit of Ticarica. Its western side, a 400 meters high rocky wall, dominates the hut. No need to take a lot of things for the hike. Just a water bottle, the photograph machines and (just in case) a warm jacket around our waist. We leave the hut using the path to the Komarca and Hotel Zlatorog, along the east shore of the lake, but soon leave it to start walking uphill. Through a rather thin forest in the first place, and shortly afterwards on a scree path that goes up in search of the lower pass on the Ticarica ridge. A big group is climbing ahead of us. We reach them just before a short wooden step, preceding a kind of bridge and a narrow gap equipped with iron sticks and a steel handrail. When we get to the upper part of the gap, the landscape changes in a rather abrupt way. Limestone fields disappear here, substituted by green forests that lose height gradually to the east. This is where we turn left and face the final climb to Ticarica.
I’m relaxing at the wide grassy col placed under the east face of Mali Ticarica. Just relaxing, resting, feeling the afternoon sun in my face and the grass under my back. I’ve already been at the summit of Mali Ticarica, where you feel as if flying over the Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih and the valley. And Rafa is up there in this very moment. It is a wonderful vantage point for our last two-thousand meters summit in Slovenia. I would dare to say that I’ve seen the whole Triglav massif from that spot. It's been like saying goodbye to these slovenian mountains after sharing with them four wonderful days. Yep, I know there’s still tomorrow, but I don’t expect to have any sights of the high summits tomorrow. Judging from what I see, the remaining stage has to be a forest and pastures matter. Not more, not less. A slightly warm breeze caresses my face. A couple of helicopters can be heard somewhere.
The way down from Ticarica has been fast and easy, and we have reached the hut when the valley was already in shadow but the lowering sun was still lighting brightly the west faces of Ticarica and Kopica. Just in time to change into some –more or less- clean clothes and to head for the dining room. A powerful soup and meat stew dinner have done wonders to restore our strength, together with the usual cold beer. There is an excellent atmosphere in this hut, lots of fellow hikers and climbers enjoy their supper while chattering loudly or laughing at jokes we can’t hear. Nor understand, obviously. But we do understand a Slovene young girl when she talks to us in Spanish, while we have a couple of small glasses of liquor (we will later learn that it’s called sadjavec). It seems that she has been studying for a year in a spanish university (via the Erasmus program), and she likes to practice the Spanish language she has learnt. It’s nice for a change, a local person with whom we can share our experiences of the last days. A most pleasant conversation to mark the end spot of another beautiful mountain day.
Heat in the forests (22th August)Starting point: Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih (1685 m) - (46.318720 N, 13.778910 E)
End point: Stara Fuzina (538 m) - (46.281340 N, 13.889160 E)
Summits: Pršivec (1761 m)
Well, this is our final dawn in the Triglav National Park. But it’s a beautiful one. The forest around the hut is still dark, as are the rocky east faces of Tičarica and Kopica, but the Veliko Špicje gleams with a golden light provided by the rising sun. I’ve spent a good night and feel finely rested for the last stage back to the valley. White (well, maybe not that white…) coffee and palatschinken have composed our breakfast. It’s eight o’clock in the morning and we start walking on yesterday’s path towards the gap south of Mali Ticarica, which we reach in scarcely forty minutes. In spite of our good will, we can’t find an easy way to make for the small rocky point of Rušnata Glava. So, after a couple of attempts, we forget about it and follow the path to the pastures of Planina Ovcarija.
The group of wooden huts of Planina Viševnik is clearly seen between the trees. They are placed on a wide grassy col. Obviously: as far as I know, a planina is an alpine pasture. The tortuous path from Planina Ovcarija has led us to this spot in approximately sixty or seventy minutes, across some really beautiful forest stretches and through an irregular terrain formed by the same limestone of the higher peaks, but hidden by the luxurious vegetation. When we leave the huts behind, to go south in search of the summit of Pršivec, it’s again the same thing: a forest with high trees, and many plants and flowers all along the way. Uphill at first. Downwards soon, towards a small valley. And then uphill again, a little bit steep at times and leaving on our right hand the wide black mouth of the Majska jama. A karstic cave. And then comes the open, rounded, grassy summit of Pršivec. Crowned by a wooden post and offering any of us visitors a spectacular sight of the Bohinjsko jezero. There it is. We sit down in the grass and take off the backpacks. We deserve a good look at this south side of the massif, resting our eyes on the huge water extension and the green slopes of the mountains. It’s all there. Ribčev Laz and Stara Fuzina to the left. The summit of Vogel, and its ski hotel in front of us, overlooking what I understand is going to be our lodging for tonight. And Ukanc has to be somewhere to our right, though we can’t see it perfectly as it’s partially hidden by the slopes of our mountain.
It’s already hot. As it happened yesterday, temperatures are again summer-like. Nothing to do with our first day, when we left Stara Fuzina. That is why we refill my water bottle in a short stop at the Koča na Planini pri Jezeru, and also the reason for the beers we’ve had at Planina Viševnik after coming down from Pršivec. There were no soft drinks at the hut, and we simply had to drink something cool.
It’s a charming place, this Planina pri Jezeru, a funnel-like pasture with a lake on its bottom and the hut on the southern limit. And there’s a lot of people around. We must be getting back to the valley world, to the area you can reach in a one-day hike, up and down. A dirt track leads away from the hut and into the forest, eastwards, accounting for the good number of visitors that enjoy their lunch around here. Into the forest and downhill. Sometimes steep, sometimes almost flat, but always downwards and across a dense forest where beeches gradually take the place of pines.