Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Triglav

Triglav is the highest mountain in Slovenia (2864m) and its most magnificent national symbol. The mountain is so bound up with national identity, that the Slovene partisans during WWII wore a hat called the Triglav cap as part of their uniform.  To be considered a true Slovenian, every citizen who is able must climb the mountain at some point in their lives, and they can even stamp their passports on the summit. The mountain takes centre stage on the national flag and regularly features in Slovenian folk tales.

The Partisan Monument, a giant karabiner and piton, in the Vrata valley, under Triglav's great North Wall.

There are a number of routes to the mountain, and most people take two days on the ascent, staying in one of the many comfortable huts close to the summit. From the south, it is a strenuous walk, requiring stamina and a good forecast, but is not particularly technical for most of the ascent, with the only via ferrata being the busy section on the final summit cone.  From the North however, the only way up is to find a route past the steep and forboding North Wall that looms above the deep defile of the Vrata Valley.  All of the routes from this side are serious, although there are several that are well equipped in places with cables and steel pegs. There are also rock climbing routes, that scale the 1200m tall north face, crossing steep, overhanging and often loose terrain, for the most experienced mountaineers. 

We decided to access Triglav via the Plemenice Pot (also called the Bamberg Route), on the north side. This line follows a fixed via ferrata up and over a stunning ridge rising towards the summit from the Luknja Pass at the head of the Vrata Valley. Its a challenging route, with a reputation of being one of the hardest waymarked routes in the Julian Alps.  A rope is not necessary due to the security of cables and pegs on the steepest sections, but it might be an idea to carry one for less confident party members.

 As far as the Luknja pass, the route is a walk.  I wasn't wearing my helmet at this point, but I wished I was not long after I took this photo- climbers on the wall above sent a volley of missiles thrumming just over my head.

 Stunning views from the ridge above the pass.  The route takes some steep chimneys and short walls, before arriving on the crest of the ridge, where the exposure continues but the cables run out. 

 Higher again, and the route leads to a labyrinthine landscape of limestone tors and sinkholes. This is true "karst" country; bare, unforgiving and incredibly beautiful. 

 The summit looms above the North Wall.

The scree strewn plateau before the final summit climb-up a well protected via ferrata following the gully into the notch, and then leading over slabs and ledges to the summit.

 On the summit- a busy place!  All of Slovenia is here. You can see the Aljaž Tower behind us, an emergency shelter and triangulation point. 

 From the summit we descended a fine and exposed ridge down to the Kredarica Hut (also called the Triglavski Dom).  The ridge itself was well protected with a luxurious bannister of cables.

The view from our bedroom window at the hut.  

After reaching the summit, we descended to experience some world famous Slovenian hospitality. The hut was cosy, well appointed, and not expensive.  We upgraded to a private room for the 4 of us, which was quite affordable, and a good call as the hut was also stuffed to the gunnels with garrulous schnapps drinking slovenes. Robin got a discount with his BMC card, but we MCofS members were had to pay the full amount. There was a great atmosphere in the bar, and impromtu live music until long after I'd turned in. Water is expensive in the hut, so carry as much as you can on the mountain. Everything else is provided and good value.

The Kredarica Hut.  The equipped route to the hut follows a knife edge ridge, before descending the steep wall behind the hut on the right. 

The following morning we descended back to the Vrata via the Prag route, the easiest waymarked route on the North side. To add a bit of interest to the day, on a recommendation from our Slovenian campsite owner back in Dovje, we continued along the ridge from the hut and over the small summit of Rž towards the
Dom Valentina Staniča. From here we were able to cut back to the Prag route and avoid some of the screes at the top of the route.  The Prag route shouldn't be underestimated, it is steep, with a lot of scree covered ledges above precipitous drops in to the void of the Vrata below. Cables protect the most technical parts, but its a good idea to maintain concentration and careful footwork until you are are safely down to the valley floor.

Looking towards the line of weakness sthat the Prag follows through the North Wall and down to the Vrata.

On a stony promontory between the Prag route, and the harder Tominskova Pot, which joins the Prag at this point.

By early afternoon we were cooling our feet in the icy waters that flow from beneath Triglav's north wall and feeling very pleased with ourselves indeed.  We were definitely assisted by a couple of days of settled conditions, but even so, I found this circuit to be satisfyingly difficult. The exposure on route had been mind boggling, and to do it you need to be comfortable soloing at UK climbing grade moderate, 1000m above the valley floor.  If you'd asked me how I would have felt about that a few days earlier, I'd have said- no way! 

2 comments:

brixpoul said...

Great climb, I've been to Slovenia a few times but now I want to go back :-)

David.H said...

I climbed Triglav via this route on a sunny day in 2007. Hair raising to say the least. Stunning mountain!