IN Adventure , Karavanke , Karawanks , mountaineering , mountains , Winter , Winter climbing

{A disclaimer for the wise: conditions in the mountains can change very quickly, therefore plan your climb accordingly; read about the planned route, check the avalanche reports, the amount of snow in the mountains, and reports about the temperature and wind changes, consult with mountain guides and local climbers,…}

A few weeks ago, back in March, I joined a guided mountaineering course to learn about climbing steeper terrain in the snow safely. It was great with the hands-on approach, so we learned the skills while actually climbing a mountain, the 2,332-m high Mala Mojstrovka above Kranjska Gora. As it turned out, the climb was unforgettable, and, me being me, I had to return to the mountains the very next day and try the easiest winter approach to Mt. Begunjščica, the 2K mountain you usually see in the background of the Lake Bled photos. Today, comfortable in my office, I’m reliving the crazy but wonderful moments of climbing that thing in a swirl of a snow blizzard, fierce wind and temperatures way below zero, and, yet, my heart melts with the fond memories. Here’s the story.

Read also:
Beginner winter climb in the Slovenian Alps: Mala Mojstrovka
Getting into the mountaineering mode with the Pokljuka’s classics
Exploring a most beautiful Alpine valley in Slovenia: hiking, climbing and flyfishing in Logar Valley

Climb mountains with us – see Exploring Slovenia’s Guided Climbing Tours

My backpack was already packed the day before, the ice axe attached to the side, the crampons, gaiters, shovel, probe, personal locator beacon, and helmet safely inside, so all I had to do was refill my food and drinks reserves for 6-7 hours in the mountains. Having been in the mountains the day before I wasn’t exactly eager for an early start, so my friend Nina and I met at 8 at the Ljubelj Pass. As it turned out, the forecasted sunshine and safe snow conditions called many people outside as the place was packed! About a half had skis on, a few (us included) had climbing gear, and the rest were Sunday hikers seeking a relaxing day in the mountains. We geared up and started our first independent climbing adventure!

Having the right gear doesn’t necessarily mean staying safe during the tour. You absolutely have to able to use it effectively! So if you feel inadequate to use the winter safety gear, I warmly suggest you join a guided tour to Mala Mojstrovka (see other guided Intro Alpine tours)

The route we opted for is a well known beginner’s favorite and for the most part it feels like you’re ascending up an expert ski slope until towards the end of the route, when it exits onto the ridge and turns steeper and thus more dangerous. Ice in the last exposed part added that extra thrill to the climb and we passed it with extreme care. 

If we started the day in perfect sunshine, thick clouds and high wind rolled in as early as the beginning of the steep slope (those darn inaccurate weather forecasts!), and once on the ridge, the wind picked up and even brought a snowstorm! 

Read alsoClimbing Mt. Stol, the iconic postcard mountain behind Bled

Small icy snowflakes were hitting our faces and we pulled our neck warmers above our noses, the hood on top of the helmets, and kept our sunglasses on. We were barely recognizable, in fact, we both looked merely like camouflaged masks wandering in the snowstorm. It happened that we stopped to chat with two random by-passers, and realized only a minute later that we actually knew each other! Nina and I had taken a hiking guide training together with one of the guys last year and I even took a long hike with him a month before!? We started to laugh. This kind of situations can only happen at two thousand meters in a snowstorm dressed up as for the Carnival!

While we could have called it a day just there and returned back down, we were adamant about making the last twenty minutes to the top regardless of the snow storm. At moments, visibility was about fifty meters, but, luckily, we had no trouble following the tracks in the snow. We basically had to follow the ridge. As we neared the top the wind calmed down a bit but our plan was still just to touch the ground and then quickly return back down. The temperatures were absurdly low especially with the wind chills. 

However, as we joined some ten other mountaineers at the top (I know! This mountain is very popular!?), who we had observed in awe climbing up the last meters on much harder routes than ours, almost vertical really, a little bit of sun managed to shine through the clouds. The high winds turned into a breeze, and it suddenly became nice and welcoming. We sat down, reclined against our packs, and ploughed through the sandwiches and hot tea, looking at the glistening snowflakes falling down in the weak sun. That thousand meters of ascent and three hours of battling against the wind had lowered our energy levels without even realizing it. Utterly grateful for a window of acceptable weather, we recharged our batteries, exchanged a couple of words with another acquaintance at the top, and then headed back down, again in worse weather conditions.

Climb mountains with us – see our Guided Intro Alpine Tours

The snow had covered our footprints, and the poor visibility made the descent a bit more challenging. Nothing that two adventurers by heart couldn’t handle, right?! We exited the ridge onto the route, our hearts racing a bit as we climbed down the exposed icy part, but once out on the so-called expert ski slope, the descent was pure fun.

Guess what happened when we returned back to the car? Yep, you guessed right. The sun finally came out, slowly breathing life into our half frozen limbs. That afternoon back on the couch I texted Nina a bit worried about my radiating red cheeks, asking her jokingly how in the world was I able to get them burned so badly in the worst weather possible. Nina, too, was relieved that she wasn’t alone in that, and we both laughed what kind of fools could become bright red in a snowstorm. Not regular ones, that’s for sure! 

Read about another hike in Mt. Begunjščica – to the Roblek Hut

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