Certain places resonate with us, hikers, in many unique and mysterious ways. Whether I can envision myself exploring one mountain top after another or just falling in love with a particular area, often-times I find myself returning to some spots again and again.
The Upper Soča Valley is definitely one of the corners of Slovenia where I have left bits of my heart.
Approximately 75 kilometers from Ljubljana, the country’s capital, on the outer edge of the Triglav National Park, the largest protected area in Slovenia covering 838 square kilometers that encompasses Mt. Triglav and most of the 400 2K+ peaks found in the country, there is a sense of contented isolation. It seems that wherever you turn there are dusty trails that wind through tall forests and eventually end up in the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Bohinjska Bistrica, a settlement of less than 1,800 people, lies cradled among 2,000-meter high towering mountains, making it a perfect holiday destination for everyone in love with hiking; mountaineers, families and complete beginners included.
Hurtling over cliffs, narrow gorges, and mysterious mists lingering in the thick tall forest now dressed in spectacular autumn hues, the waterfalls around Kranjska Gora tend to be most spectacular particularly during the rainy months in the fall. The most fascinating falls in the area, the Peričnik Fall and Martuljek Falls, make a perfect daily trip either in moody weather or sunshine.
With the early snowfall coloring the peaks of our highest mountains white, my thoughts go back to a special two-day climb in late August to three beautiful mountains in the Julian Alps I was honored to climb with my Dutch-Austrian friend Georg. Originally, we had been planning to climb Triglav over its 1-km high vertical North Face taking the Prag Route on the first day and explore the Triglav Lakes Valley on the second day, but as fate would have it, Slovenia experienced a sudden extreme drop in temperature just a few days before our trip and the mountains above 1,800 m dressed in an unexpected 30-cm snow cover. That called for a quick last-minute change of plan, and instead of climbing the Triglav North Face, we rather opted for the southern slopes of the spectacular mountains on the opposite side of Vrata Valley, also home to the beautiful Alpine ibex.
As much as I boast about Slovenia’s autumns being amazing for mountaineering, there’s still a tiny corner of my soul that’s always a little disappointed when October starts to roll around. The cold sets in, the fog sits low in the valleys until late morning or even early afternoon, the daylight dwindles, it’s too early to ski and can be too late to get up into high mountains after unexpected early snowfall. Yet the colors autumn brings make my heart sing (remember last year’s Kranjska Gora and Kobarid?). Last week, that autumn heart singing got me wandering around Lake Bohinj, searching for the entrance to its best kept secret to the heavenly views and hell of a climb – a via ferrata called Ožarjeni Kamen (Eng. Sunlit Stone).
One day in February I got the most exhilarating call. It was Alenka from the Ljubljana Guides asking me if I could join her on an organized group hike in the Julian Alps in July. The plan was to start the hike from Savica above Lake Bohinj, go to the Krn Lake Hut on the first day, then off to the Triglav Lakes on the second and third day, and finally head back down to Lake Bohinj across the Blato Plateau on the fourth day. It sounded like a blast and so I was in!
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.
The past weekend was not about setting speed records. On the contrary, it was about three friends having great fun, sharing intimate stories, laughing to tears about things others might find stupid, and making new memories to laugh about in the years to come. We immersed ourselves in our first hiking adventure together, heading towards places that offer a real feast for the eyes – forests, lakes, wild flowers and fauna.
To be fair, May was not the best month for hiking in terms of good weather. I had so many plans yet realized so few (come check my Facebook for more adventures). Thankfully, sunny and warm June is here, which started off with the bonus that May had left behind – plenty of water and lush vegetation. So, if there’s ever the right time to do the Triglav Lakes trail, then it is definitely now. Hear my story.
The king of the Julian Alps, the highest mountain of Slovenia and an iconic climb for most of the nation, Triglav rules its kingdom of jagged peaks, stunning lakes and deep valleys. Strategically positioned in the heart of Triglav National Park, actually the only national park of Slovenia, its somewhat pointed summit lures the crowds in summer, but the question today is who’s up for the challenge in the snow? Because the reward is simply finger-licking sweet!