Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Slovenia: Vršič Verticality

I'm a few days back from two weeks in Slovenia, a rematch, after our first visit in 2010, where we enjoyed wonderful walking, but couldn't get in to the higher areas due to lingering winter snows. This time we went back with reinforcements in the form of friends Toby Davies and Robin Barnden, who we'd enticed with photographs of sun kissed vertical limestone.

The trip didn't start so well-  Wally discovered at the quayside in Newcastle that his passport was out of date.  No matter, Robin and I abandoned him and pressed onwards, via a ferry to Amsterdam and endless hours on the German autobahn, to a rendevous with Toby in Austria 36 hours later. A good nights sleep, and the following morning, the three of us were ready to hit the Julian Alps of Slovenia, just an hour down the road.  

 Mala Mojstrovka, on the west side of the Vršič Pass.  The normal route takes the a steep scree path through the notch on the skyline before turning towards the summit.

Many of the most accessible walking and via ferrata routes in the Julian Alps start and finish in the Vršič Pass. This awesome piece of engineering was built by Russian P.O.Ws under terrible conditions during World War One.  It links the villages of Kranjska Gora and Trenta via 50 improbable hair pin bends.  It also provides easy access to a number of peaks.  We headed up to the  top of the pass to begin our Slovenian adventure with a quick ascent of Mala Mojstrovka via the normal route. Looking up at the steep path from the top of the pass, even this route looked scarily vertical, Slovenia specialises in big walls, long drops and scree.

 Looking back down through the notch that leads to the ridge. 

Once we were on the trail it was more straightforward than it looked and we were soon on the ridge above the pass and heading to the summit.  At 2332m Mala Mojstrovka has stunning views of the Julian range. This walk was a great way to begin our acclimatisation and get our heads around the geography of the area. The easiest descent is via the same route. 

On to the stony ridge of Mala Mojstrovka.

The following day, we returned to the Vršič Pass, to explore the massive bulk of Prisojnik on the east side of the pass. At 2547m this mountain dominates the view on the Kranjska Gora side of the pass. Despite being so vast, it is pierced in two places by massive windows, that look out over the precipitous northern walls, and largest of which is easily accessible from the top of the pass.

 Prisojnik from the Pass- there is an overwhelming sense of bulk when trying to comprehend this mountain! 

 An easy(ish) path leads up to the window on the south side of the ridge. The window can be made out as the dark orifice in the centre of the picture to the right of the lowest point on the skyline.

 The window itself is absolutely cavernous.  Later in the week the boys explored a via ferrata route that took them right through this giant hole in the mountain. 

On the way we stopped to admire clumps of Campanula zoysii, a a local speciality of the harebell family that I respectfully renamed Triglav trumpets.

Above the window, the route became more technical and we donned helmets and harnesses. 

Beyond the window, a steep ramp led up to a narrow ridge. There were sections of cable where we were happy to clip in our via ferrata lanyards above yawning drops. In other places, the drops continued, but the cable ran out.... The ridge rambled on and the cloud lowered, until our view was obscured.  Eventually we stumbled upon the summit, which in the poor visibility felt more British than Alpine. 

The descent also required care- steep scree covered ledges and short sections of cable. 

Our descent path took us down and across a series of scree filled gullies, via small rocky steps and short sections of cable.  We emerged blinking from the cloud in to brilliant white sunlight and dropped out of the final gully on to a beautiful meadow. Here we spied a solitary and huge ibex and I'm sorry,  my photo below doesn't really do him justice...

 Spot the ibex...

That evening Wally finally joined us, and the following day we threw him in at the deep end with an ascent of Mala Mojstrovka, this time not via the easy route.  The Hanzova Pot is very accessible, so Wally at least got a lie in on his first day in Slovenia, but this secured route is fairly steep, taking the north wall of Mala Mojstrovka via a series of ramps and chimneys well adorned with cables and pegs. From the summit, the usual descent is via the route that we climbed on the first day, making a nice circular round trip, all do-able in an afternoon!

 The north side of Mala Mojstrovka.  The route follows a slab and chimney system that splits the wall under the middle peak. Compare this photo with a similar one we took when in the area in 2010.

 Wally relaxing in a cosy chimney with nice chunky cables. 

 The cables were fantastic, where they existed, but they weren't always there when you wanted them.  At times a precipitous scree covered ledge masquerading as a path wound its way across the face.

 Robin enjoying the stupendous views of the peaks above Trenta. 

The following day, the boys took Wally on a wonderful adventure through the Prisojnik window along vertical cables on the north side of the mountain and out on to the sunny meadows of the south.  I rested my legs at camp, with my mind on a bigger target, and spent the day dozing in the sun watching three different kinds of buzzards drifting overhead. By the time the guys had returned, I'd sorted my buzzards from my honey buzzards from my rough legged buzzards.  A day well spent. Next up on the blog: Triglav. Yippee!

No comments: