Day four finally brings me up into the high mountains, and what do I find? Heaps and heaps of snow! Last winter was exceptionally snowy in this part of the Alps; two to three times the normal amount, I’ve been told. That makes the going tough now, and the steeper paths are rather dangerous.
Trees everywhere; that storm must have been powerful.
Heading up the valley from my campsite this morning, the path was blocked by dozens of trees felled by an ice storm which i was told raged here last winter. A lot of climbing over and squeezing under trunks was necessary. An interesting variation on mountaineering!
Lovely pasture halfway up
Reaching the beautiful high alpine valley of Velo Polje, it turns out almost all of the refuges are still closed for the winter. Nobody up here! And frankly it still is winter up here. The one refuge I had been planning to stay in had been damaged or destroyed by an avalanche, some local guides told me.
One of the closed refuges
Decision time. I realise that the more direct crossing of these mountains which I had planned is tricky, perhaps incalculably hazardous, because of the risk of slipping and sliding away on the snow. My little crampons aren’t working too impressively, as I find out in the afternoon. Therefore: change of plans. So now I head almost directly west (instead of NW), and accept the necessity of descending once more into a valley south of the chain, before heading birth and west again towards Italy. The high col (2350m) I crossed in the afternoon had no other human tracks on it, so I assume I’m the first one here this season – apart from the herd of chamois or ibex whose tracks I saw in the snow.
Triglav; I’ll climb you another year
The towering clouds kept me going fast all day, as the last thing I wanted was to get in a thunderstorm. Reaching the refuge Zašavska Koca, I’m surprised to find it already operational, despite its February-like surroundings. The guardian says it’s the first day it’s open. So no need to sleep in the winter cabin as I had expected; and I’ll get some sort of warm meal. But no shower, not even a wash for the sore feet; the place is very basic. Slovenia has kept the mountain experience original, real and raw – and there’s something to be said for that, despite the discomforts.
Tonight’s refuge in sight
As I sit here writing this at 6pm, the thunder and the rain outside begin, and a large group of other mountaineers suddenly pours in. They made it just in time. Nobody wants to be caught out in the open in a thunderstorm this high up.
It was another fairly tough, long day, because the masses of snow made walking uphill very difficult, and downhill tricky. Sadly, the snow promises to remain an occasional obstacle over the coming weeks. But the mountains are extraordinarily beautiful in these conditions, and a little but of snow won’t stop me.
Heading west, I wish you -and myself- “a good way”, as the Slovenes do: srecno pot.