A Weather Dilemma
Mrzla gora means in our language Cold Mountain. Many years it was left alone, standing remotely on the border between Austria and ex Jugoslavia. With the independence of Slovenia it has been receiving more and more attention. In October 1995 it became almost a must also for us...
There were so many beautiful days that the three of us leave despite heavy clouds. In one good hour we are on Ledine. It's foggy, water drops on wires are freezing, two climbers are returning back, founding below Kriz only a fog. Some hundred meters higher we come above the first layer of fog, but above there's another one. So we continue slowly on Savinjsko sedlo and then wait there for a whole hour, undecided. Where's the good weather from the forecast? Trembling already of cold we are ready to turn back, when through the fog the sun ball appears and there's also some blue sky on the northern horizon. Jasmina is skeptical, but at last we go forward.
Let's Go On Top
It clears already while we are descending towards Okreselj. Fog rests make wonderful scenes and suddenly all becomes nice and even warm. Soon we reach the crossroads, turn towards Mrzla gora and fastly gain altitude. The route becomes interesting. A few exposed places, first good protection devices, later less and less of them. But the rock is good and even where there are pegs, we feel they are not really needed. It's all the time an easy climbing tour, higher on the ridge very panoramic. Here's the fore-summit and soon also the main summit. From the crossroads we cut the proposed ascent time more than on a half. The whole world is sunken in a slowly rising fog, only the main summits are peeking out.
Now Only To Descend
Climbers, resting on top, are warning us that the route to Matkov kot is poorly marked. At 12:45 we start descending. In the summit ravine it goes slowly, marks are still good, lower, when crossing on the East ridge, the route becomes harder and on a crumbly terrain we need a full attention to come around one corner. On the ridge it's again better, after searching a little we find the continuation to the towers in the East ridge. By the ledge with poor protection devices we carefully cross towards the notch, where we finally leave the East ridge.
Descending through Zgornja krnica (The Upper Basin) we still have sun, standing low, just above the main ridge. Yes, we are descending towards the North and days are already short. On the first grassy slopes the sun and a dense fog make a splendid projections of our silhouettes, surrounded by clear and strong rainbows. Time for playing! We are jumping, waving with hands and the figures on the foggy wall are doing all the same. But as we descend a bit more the show is over. For today.
Over steep grass and slabs the route descends on a ledge, where marks end abruptly. There is a ciarn, but it brings us into a ravine, where big snow rests lie. We are surprised as we are too high to be at the famous Skaf already. And there's no way down. From the last marks there's also no trace of a trail towards the left. So we carefully descend directly down over the rocks. We were warned to take care on marks, so we often search left and rigt. But we find nothing. On one place a big rock suddenly losens below my legs. Already in the air I am looking where to land, skillfully do so, waiting until the rock and all the rubble is finally down. Uh! Now we decide to find a passage down towards the snow, hoping that it is Skaf (an often visited attraction), where the marked path should continue. But there were none. Instead we find in steep grass good trails, certainly done by many mountaineers. Even if unmarked, we follow the path, because it goes by a ravine, as it is written in the route description. Of course the 'path' ends in a dense dwarf-pine and finally also with a steep rocky wall. We are clearly wrong!
We are in a dense fog, supposedly still high enough on the mountain, so while searching for the marked path left and right, we take care not to separate too much. There's allways one of us in the middle, relaying calls from one and another side. Matevz tries quite towards the right, but finds no marks and also slopes there end with steep rocks. Then I'm going towards the left. I'm crossing one ravine, and another one, there are all the time week trails, but nothing certain. Because of the fog it's all wet, slopes are very steep and I slowly return. As Matevz is certain that there's nothing towards the right we try again on my side. I'm crossing all those slopes again, go even further and a bit down around a rocky tower. Allways weak trails, probably done by animals. Now there are towers also below, watching me out of fog as if they wanted to ask what the hell I was doing there. As it's too steep below, I try by a ravine up, climb around a corner and reach a bit less steep slopes. I must first wait until Matevz establish a voice connection, then I get another try to search down. I descend some 50 meters, but when Jasmina reaches Matevz's position, she is reasonable enough to stop this useless search. It's too steep here, and obviously no signs of a man presence. We can have 500 meters of such wild slopes beneath us, and so no chance to get down today. So, back again.
After two hours of searching we are on that trail again, but still not on a marked path. Time to take a short rest and think it over. It immediately gets very cold. Nobody is of course equipped for a bivouac. It's autumn only, we are on a tour with market paths, so we have only light clothes and no battery. The decision is obvious. We must ascend again that half an hour to the last marks. If someone will be searching us, they will do so there, not here. Now we hurry. Ascending up, I nevertheless allways tend towards the left, where below Matevz was searching. There must be somewhere this damn passage! It's getting dark already. Just before reaching the snow, I spot in the middle of the ravine a pale red mark. The one, I was most happy to see it in my all life. It was the last time.
Do We Have Enough Time To Get Down?
The slopes are still very steep. We still need to take care when crossing, also to climb a bit on some places. I am forcing Jasmina and my friend more and more to hurry. Now we are descending again, following weak marks. On a few places we throw down poles, climb a rocky step and continue almost running down. We are less and less able to see. Finally the last, main ravine, which already ends in the valley below. But we are still quite high. The last tricky passage, when throwing poles down, Jasmina is asking if we shall be at all able to find them. In the dark they are very useful. In the middle of the ravine we see a light below in the valley. It's Urban, Matevz's son. With his mom he must have been waiting us for hours. But the distance is too big, screaming we can't communicate. Soon the light disappears.
Below the path goes from the ravine into the forrest. Now we really see nothing more. Soon we decide to continue by the scree field. There's no path, but at least you can see where to set a step. We proceed very slowly. An hour or so, we use our poles and all own senses in order that no one gets hurt. The scree field splits, joins again, we have no clue where to go. It is strange where is Urban. He could help us with his battery. Suddenly a scree field turns into a forrest road. A bit better though. After another half an hour we reach a crossroads. Where now?
The dilemma is resolved by the light of a car, approaching from behind. This will not be a hitch-hike. This will be almost a kidnapping! The driver is not enthusiastic at all to take us. Finaly we are in the car and soon in the first farm where we see lights. They must have a phone (in that time we had no mobile phones yet!). Also Marjeta and Urban are there. Of course they alarmed the police which moibilised the mountain rescue service. They are on their way here. But I cen get them on the phone.
I explain shortly where we lost our route, the guy from the mountain rescue service listens calmly and then stops me saying: "Nothing strange. Every now and then somebody gets lost there, and even killed. We are used to this. But despite warnings we have no money to renew the route". I had a feeling that they are even happy to be able to break the action and turn into an inn to relax.
Even very fit, only for a descent we needed 6 hours, if not more. But we made no mistakes and that spared us a very unpleasant bivouac. Every now and then it's also good to take such a lesson. And in future similar tours also a bit more additional equipment.
(Today I'm almost certain that these routes are better marked, but I haven't repeated this nice tour so far.)