On the hidden slopes of the Julian Alps lies a remarkable kingdom of the legendary Goldhorn, an Alpine ibex with golden horns that had supposedly chased away everyone intruding upon his territory. Today, the rare Alpine ibex continues the Goldhorn’s famed charisma. With only about 300 left in the Slovenian Alps, their awe-inspiring image with horns as long as over a meter earned them the title of the king of the Alpine world. While there’s a big chance meeting a chamois in the Slovenian Alps, finding an ibex generally means knowing its territory well, seeing a large group of ibexes, on the other hand, only means sheer luck.
Alpine ibex’s territory supposedly spans over the rocky Alpine world around Mt. Grintovec and the neighboring mountains from Kočna to Ojstrica in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, limited parts of the Julian Alps mostly around Mt. Bovški Gamsovec and Kriški Podi, and also Mt. Jalovec, Mangart and Triglav. In short, they prefer solitude of the rugged high Alpine world where man seldom sets his foot. Their existence is so unique that many outdoor enthusiasts meander through those places just to be able to see the animals. Truthfully, I am no exception. Last week, my doggy pal Lisa and I headed towards Kriški Podi, a high-mountain Karst plateau known for the Alpine ibex, so chances were good I could find something grand and fluffy!
We started the hike at 6 a.m. from an already half-full parking lot in the Vrata Valley. If it seemed at first we would have to share the trail with tens of other hikers, everyone else soon turned another direction heading towards Triglav instead. Lisa and I, however, continued our hike across the steep Sovatna slope alone (that trail is really not kidding with how fast it gains elevation!). There was no one going up there or coming down, and the first people I eventually met on the trail were three hours behind me. The nature, nevertheless, was only just awakening with the sun rising above the Triglav North Face and birds and marmots filling the air with beautiful sounds of pure wilderness.
After about two hours on the trail, there they were. A group of Alpine ibexes was resting in grass just in front of the great Triglav North Face. If you’re into photography, that’s exactly the place you would want them to be! And as ibexes tend to be, they didn’t really care about me (Lisa had to be attached onto a rock though) and even when I shortened my distance to about fifteen meters, they would still be munching grass and stretching themselves, flashing an occasional glance over to me.
Continuing along the trail to Kriški Podi, we kept seeing more of these magnificent animals, but then on the way back, once there were more people on the trail, most of them had already retreated into the rocks. I’m guessing your best chances for spotting ibexes is early morning.
Pogačnik Hut at Kriški Podi
Open from June to September, Pogačnik Hut (Slo. Pogačnikov dom) is one of those nice and cozy mountain huts perched on a small hill on Kriški Podi and surrounded by high rocky peaks and vertical walls. Stretched out between private and communal bedrooms, the hut sleeps 59 people easily, while the winter room sleeps another 20 people if needed.
Mt. Bovški Gamsovec
Since ibexes tend to love Mt. Bovški Gamsovec and I kind of love ibexes (and mountains!), that was the only logical place to climb next. Climbing it with a dog from Kriški Podi would be impossible though as there are a few near-to-vertical secured sections, so I needed to return to the same spot without Lisa a week later.
From the Dovška Vratca junction, a little further up from where I had seen a group of ibexes, climbing the peak of Bovški Gamsovec only takes another 45 minutes to the top. Anyway, if you have a soft spot for exposure, you might find the final section a bit unnerving, but nothing an intermediate hiker like me couldn’t handle really. And the views from the top? Simply stunning!
In a nutshell, going through backcountry full of wild animals was a blast! If you’re thinking about following my steps, have fun out there but don’t forget that it’s us who are the guests up there and not the other way around. Be respectful and I’m sure the nature will return the favor!
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