IN Adventure , Alps , Hiking , Karavanke , Karawanks , mountaineering , mountains , Slovenia , Winter

As much as I tout the Julian Alps as being amazing and unique in their beauty, there’s still that corner of my heart that jumps for joy for their south-facing neighboring mountain range, the Karawanks. Stretching 120 kilometers from east to west and serving as an actual border between Slovenia and Austria, the Karawanks offer mostly sunny hiking, remarkable wild flowers in late spring and huts with traditional mountain food. To be honest, the alluring setting couldn’t be more ideal, especially on a beautiful winter day.

And we’ve seen many of those over the past few weeks!



Read also: This hike will blow your mind: Golica and endless fields of daffodils

After the copious amounts of rain and flooding in November, the weather finally turned around in December treating us with plenty of sunshine together with spectacular sunrises and sunsets (remember Bled?). However, if December was beautiful, then January went beyond all expectations. Only three days in January passed with less than an hour of sunshine, and as many as 22 days with almost unbelievable six hours or more of sunshine! Seriously, it’s been the most perfect two months for great hikes! {so perfect that I even started to appreciate a day of rain to take a breather?!}

On a particularly sunny day with perfectly blue skies and relatively warm temperatures for January, the Karawanks called again. In fact, just a week after climbing the close-by Mt. Stol a good part of the snow had already melted away and the snow that remained was softened by the warm sun. To say the least, the conditions were incredible for January with practically no ice or risk of an avalanche. Nonetheless, perfect conditions aside, it’s always non-negotiable in winter to have solid hiking experience, and the right gear – crampons and an ice axe (and experience!) for climbing bare and exposed peaks.

I parked my car and started the hike towards the most western 2K peak in the Košuta Massif, Veliki Vrh. At 2,088 m, Veliki Vrh is one of the six peaks over 2,000 m in the impressive 10-km-long mountain massif in the central Karawanks. To be precise, my plan for the day was to first climb Mt. Kofce, a 1,967-meter peak above a hut, and from there follow the ridge to Mt. Veliki Vrh, 2,088 m. From the peak, I would descend directly down to the hut and then back to the car.

The first part of the hike winded through a tall spruce forest and right on the rim of the tree line at 1,488 m I was greeted by the Kofce mountain hut. Like many huts in the Karawanks, the Kofce Hut is also famous for the traditional pastry “štruklji”, cooked for generations, yet revisited and served in authentic tasty combinations. So famous that they even opened their own štruklji shop in the central Ljubljana market a few years ago!

Traditionally filled with either cottage cheese or walnuts, you can opt for more modern tastes in the Kofce Hut like dark chocolate and raspberry, or wild blueberries. A must try!

Join us on our next tour to Kofce

Having said that, it didn’t come as a total surprise to find the terrace of the hut packed with hikers. With no free tables, I just sat down in the grass, ate my sandwich and continued my way up to the high peaks.

The first peak to climb, Mount Kofce, was generally safe. Traversing the ridge from the peak of Mt. Kofce to Mt. Veliki Vrh was another matter and even though it looked trivial, it required full attention and the use of winter gear. The trail was essentially a narrow path along a steep slope. Although it wasn't hard at all and there were minimal amounts of snow and ice present, someone with fear of heights may have found it unnerving because one false step could have led to a massive fall.

Climbing Mt. Kofce

At the top of Mt. Kofce and looking at my next goal in the background, Mt. Veliki Vrh

Knowing the descent would take a while and the sunset was just around the corner, I picked up my pace. By the time I reached the peak all the hikers from the Kofce Hut were gone and I found myself alone with a bunch of cunning Alpine choughs looking for food. With the sun slowly dipping behind hazy mountains, I immersed myself in the surrounding perfection: the long ridge of the Košuta Massif and the snow-capped peaks of the Karawanks stretching east and west as far as the eyes could reach.

Read also: Climbing Mt. Stol, the iconic postcard mountain behind Bled

With the setting sun, I descended down the golden slopes, passed the empty and peaceful Kofce Hut, and walked through a dark forest back to the valley. Even though I reached the car by dark, the snow-capped peak of Veliki Vrh still glimmered in the weak light of the crescent moon, reminding me of my beautiful adventure. Every adventure needs to end at a certain point, but at least we will keep it in our heart and mind until our next big one. So, all I can say is until next time!

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