It’s been 124 years since Jakob Aljaž, a great patriot and a priest, paid one Austro-Hungarian gulden for the top of Slovenia’s highest mountain. The amount of money one could have bought 50 eggs or 10 liters of milk for. His idea was to oppose the prevalent Germanization of the Slovenian people and the mountains in the Austro-Hungarian Empire back then.
Once the top of Slovenia was again Slovenian, he had a 2×1.25 m symbolic tower erected at the top of Triglav on 7 August 1895. In the following years he also mined an almost impassable 30-cm ridge between the peaks of Triglav and Mali Triglav into the nicely wide ridge we know today; besides, he also built the mountain hut Kredarica at 2,515 m and the Aljaž Hut in the Vrata Valley below Triglav. His far-reaching idea was to stimulate more Slovenians to visit the mountains, conquer the very top of Slovenia – the symbol of the Slovenian nation, make new legendary routes, and thus make the mountains Slovenian again.
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And right here among the same jagged peaks and sheer pastel walls of this ancient range of the Alps where many heroic tales tell the history of Slovenia and its alpinism, while they also serve as the playground for many top-notch alpine climbers nowadays, a network of gorgeous trails and climbing routes open the door to the mysterious world of the Julian Alps. To first-time hikers, fresh onlookers, the impression is often theatrical: isolation awash with expansive panoramas, vertical walls, and endless routes. The further up you go, the bigger and less tamable it seems. Yet, with experience and mileage the labyrinth of incredibly scenic trails starts to reveal gorgeous interwoven passages; from one Alpine valley to another, from one beautiful meadow to another, and from one peak to another.
Having climbed Triglav quite a few times before and from five different directions (Prag Route, Krma Valley, Pokljuka, Plemenice, and Tominšek Route), I didn’t think twice when I woke up early in the morning in the Vodnik Hut, 1,817 m, where we had hiked from Pokljuka the day before, whether or not to continue to the top alone. The others I had come to the hut with had unfortunately cancelled our plans to climb Triglav together and were headed back to the valley after breakfast. I, on the other hand, couldn’t resist the pull of the mountain. I brushed my teeth, put on my hiking clothes, filled my bottles with fresh water from the fountain, and headed towards the warmly sunlit peak while the rest of the hut was still sound asleep.
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Choosing the route
Oftentimes categorized as the most scenic route to Triglav, the trail from Pokljuka couldn’t be more cozy, dreamy or just plain divine. Marmots and chamois wandering among bushes, rock walls, picturesque meadows and a winding trail – all set up against the rugged mountainous world of the Julian Alps.
The initial ascent from Pokljuka up to Studor Pass climbs about 700 m of elevation in the first hour and a half, but when past it, the trail to the Vodnik Hut stays pretty flat. From there on, it again starts to climb on a nice wide trail with only occasional exposed spots, otherwise all secured with steel cable. The ascent continues all the way to the next hut – also the last hut on the way to the summit – the Planika Hut. Yet, since the ascent is nicely gradual, the hike never really feels as hard work as it might feel on some other routes.
At the Planika Hut, I took a moment to appreciate the warm sun on an otherwise brisk early summer morning. I enjoyed the spectacular scenery and munched on my breakfast, a nectarine and a huge sandwich the cook at the Vodnik Hut had kindly prepared for me the day before. It seemed I was above the clouds and in the sun, yet the summit of Triglav, like all respectable mountains, was hidden in its own little twist of fog and mist.
After breakfast, I headed towards the most challenging part of the climb – the 400 meters of easy climbing mostly secured with steel cable. I strapped on the helmet, the climbing harness and the via ferrata set and set off. Alone.
As fate would have it, just as the first easy scrambling section was slowly merging with Triglav’s real via ferrata, a route well secured with bolted-down steel cables, I bumped into two Dutch girls, not really convinced whether they should continue up or rather return back down. I immediately invited Pauline and Lisanne to join me on my way to the top, and, to be honest, it felt nice to share the excitement of the final ascent with someone. The air was filled with excited chatter and encouraging words; I just loved that female energy!
We reached the top of Triglav together, took a few pictures at the Aljaž Tower, and headed back down since the clouds had already started to lift up from the valley, wrapping the mountains in thick fog. They continued their descent back down to the Planika Hut, whereas I climbed down to the Kredarica Hut and from there down a gorgeous trail to the Krma Valley, a glacial valley surrounded by the towering walls of the high Julian Alps. Hiking in the pristine wilderness in rugged bare mountains, I was lucky enough to keep seeing perplexed chamois, which couldn’t really decide whether to run away or not, marmots, and deer grazing in beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers. One could argue it was a perfect ending of a perfect adventure. To many more of the kind!
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