Slovenia’s Mt Triglav: 2,864m of soaring limestone beauty. The majority of the mountain can be explored with nothing but a hardy pair of trekking boots*.
*(and the rest of your clothes, obviously, but that goes without saying).
… whilst its very upper limits enter the realm of entry-level, but rather exposed, scrambling.
For this blog I thought I’d go for a bit of direct, visual mountain inspiration. And, as you can see, it’s all about Mt Triglav in the heart of Slovenia.
Now, if you live in the UK you really are incredibly lucky. That’s because not only do we have all the tremendous mountainscapes of the four home nations to explore, from the Yorkshire Dales to Snowdonia, the Mournes, the West Highlands and beyond… but also the almost embarrassing wealth of mind-blowing, pointy, high and wild peaks that sit all over Europe. You could go to Galdhoppigen in Norway or Hvannadalshnukur in Iceland or Pico Aneto in the Pyrenees or Gran Paradiso in the Alps or any number of other mighty piles of rock.
But on that list of life ticks has surely got to be Triglav.
You might not know much about it. You might not even know much about Slovenia (I certainly did it before my first visit). And I won’t try and cram thousands of years of history and a comprehensive cultural summary into this short blog. I’ll simply tell you that it’s a very small country that you could drive across in a couple of hours, it’s heavily forested, it’s heavily mountainous, it borders northern Italy and it’s one of the most delightful places that you could fly to within an hour-and-a-half that you probably haven’t yet visited.
Triglav, meanwhile, is the highest point of an offshoot of the Southern Limestone Alps known as the Julian Alps. It is also the highest point in Slovenia. This three-headed (its name means as much) peak is in fact so much a part of the Slovenian identity that it even
features on the country’s national flag. In this state of just two million people, climbing the mountain at least once in a lifetime is considered the patriotic duty of every Slovene.
I’d highly recommend it for the rest of us too. For those that are interested, there are a handful of routes that can be used to approach the summit. My own started in the car park at the outdoor centre of Rudno Polje and passed the Vodnikov Dom before spending a night at the Planika hut.
So, without further waffling, here’s what to what to expect when climbing Triglav.
Looking south across the Triglavski National Park and onwards to the flatlands beyond, from just below the Planika hut.
The Planika hut, which sits at around 2,400m - roughly a 90 minute scramble from the mountain’s summit.
This way to the summit… but best to wait until the cloud clears.
More would-be summiteers approach the Planika hut as the sun sets on the magnificent “karst” limestone landscapes of the Julian Alps.
A summit attempt begins in the pre-dawn cool.
A perfect morning breaks as the route becomes more serious. Metal posts with steel wires strung between them line all of the most exposed sections of Triglav’s upper ridges. It doesn’t reduce the amount of exposure around your feet, but it gives you a reassuring grabhandle to cling onto.
Much of the limestone steps atop the mountain have been worn smooth by the generations of trekkers and scramblers to have been this way before.
Can you spot the hut down below? This is a typical view from the upper parts of Triglav: bare ridges and forested valleys abound. Note also how casually dressed my (new) Slovenian friends were - despite the potential for big mountain weather many locals attempt it in relatively non-technical clothing. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this, it made an interesting contrast to the few expensively clad foreigners on the peak (myself very much included).
The summit itself - with perhaps the most exposed section of the ascent to come.
This is as exposed as it gets: the slenderest of ridges snakes its way upwards to the summit. This is not climbing, but rather scrambling perhaps on a par with Snowdon’s Crib Goch or Lochaber’s Ring of Steall and metalwork runs comprehensively along the way. This makes it a far less intimidating task than it appears from this picture.
Success! Celebrations begin alongside the summit’s cylindrical tower.
… and an even stranger sight is seen. It’s traditional for first time ascendees to receive a thwack upon the buttocks from a birch branch. In its absence a climbing rope will apparently do. Personally I didn’t ask questions, I just did what I was told.
Looking north from the summit. Slovenia remains one of the most forested countries in Europe, with 60 per cent of its land area being covered by trees.
Limestone karst, deep green forests and azure blue sky - a heavenly combination.
Looking north-west from the summit. The peaks in the Triglavski National Park are varied and multitudinous - it’s not just Triglav that deserves climbing.
A view from the returning trek back down to Rudno Polje.
Make sure to visit the
Lifesystems Facebook page and Twitter feed to share pictures and updates of your own exciting travels.
Until next time.
Dan Aspel is a journalist and Mountain Leader. You can find him at
www.lifesystems.co.uk to find a host of kit and equipment for your next outdoor adventure.