Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

August 10, 2012

Triglav Summit and Hut Hike, Slovenia

The original plan for this vacation called for a multiday hut hike on the part of Sarah, Heather and Nicki.  Unfortunately Heather and Nicki couldn't come along, so Sarah and I took it upon ourselves to visit at least one hut in Slovenia.  (Actually, all we really wanted was to sleep on a proper mattress after a few days on the hard ground of our tents!)

We had to earn our soft pillows, though, with a hike up from the Savica Waterfall on the west end of Lake Bohinj.  It was about 1000 meters of elevation gain from the word go, and several hours later we were still toiling up the steep trail.  Luckily the scenery was pleasantly distracting near the top, with thick forests, cliffs, green lakes, and towering summits to keep our minds off our lack of lungpower.
Arriving at the hut
The Triglav Lakes Valley runs between two long high ridges of rock, deep in the Julian Alps.  Midday found us approaching our hut, which was set near a green lake and set back in the trees.  It was the best hut location we saw in our travels.   Luckily the hut, named Koca pri Triglavskih, had room for us, and we emptied a bit of gear onto our bunks to reserve them, regretting the sleeping bags we had carried up after seeing the sheets and blankets provided.  Turned out we really didn't need anything, either, as our tiny room (crammed with 12 bunks, 10 people, and everyone's gear) was so suffocatingly hot that we sweated through the night.  I guess no one realized the windows could have been opened wide?

Triglav Lakes Valley
With pack suitably lightened, I took my leave from Sarah and the hut, and picked up the pace for my intended destination, the summit of Triglav!  Sarah wisely decided to spend the day enjoying the views from the valley (good choice!), plus she had summitted Triglav some years back and didn't need to do it again. Climbing to the highest point in Slovenia at 2864 meters is a rite of passage for the locals, and almost without exception requires a night spent in a hut to accomplish it.   Although I was ascending from the longest approach, I felt I had the speed to make the summit about 5 p.m., before retracing my steps to return to the hut before dark.  Just.

We didn't have the best of weather for our 2 days out, as the clouds were hanging on the peaks and rain was threatening.  Once above the Triglav Lakes Valley, I was into bare rock and into the clouds.  I kept my trail only by following the frequent circular trail markers painted on the rock.  When I stopped to rest, there was NO SOUND in the still air, not of bugs or grass or wind or people or the screaming calls of marmots.  In fact the fog was the same color as the rock, and it was almost total sensory deprivation, except for the sharp rocks, and at times I had no idea which direction I was going.   Yes, I did have map, compass and altimeter in case of emergency! 

The shortest route to Triglav required a short scree descent to the next hut, Koca ni Dolicu.  From then on the clouds lifted a little and I could see the trail more easily, and the thousands of feet down into the valley below.  Triglav summit remained shrouded in clouds except for about 20 seconds, appearing to loom above me as I started the final climb to the top.   A few pegs and cables were there to aid in the climb, as the rocks were so steep I couldn't have done it otherwise.   At 4:30 p.m. I was standing on top of Slovenia, oddly enough not in clouds, but they surrounded the mountains and I had no views from where I stood.   There were a few people still on the summit, although I had only seen a few hikers on the trail. 

It was amazingly warm on the summit and I stayed in the same clothes I had warn all day, just shorts, t-shirt and arm warmers.  Darkess was looming, though, so I didn't rest long.  The descent was welcome, although I had a few moments of fright halfway down the cable section, which suddenly started to look unfamilar!?!  I realized that I had missed a trail interection and was no going down the wrong face.  Uh-oh.   Getting back to the correct path meant climbing back up the cables, with loose rock bouncing down the mountain below me. 

From there it was just a race to get home before dark, retracing my steps to the hut and up to the high valley, and back to the lakes.   The trail didn't always look terribly familiar in reverse, and I had a few moments where I had to stop and scan the area around me for a trail marker, any trail marker.   A red circle usually appeared in time but it wasn't a fast trail by any means, the rocks were sharp and jagged and waiting to shift under my feet. 

The rain held off as I got closer to the hut, thankfully, as the rocks were treacherous enough without being wet, too!  At 8:30 pm I finished my 12 hour hike and walked into the hut.  The rain started less than an hour later, whew, close call there!  I put on the hut's slippers to walk up to my bunk room, where I found 8 new souls already snoring in the bunks (at 830!) and Sarah happily reading by flashlight.  In the dining room, a few guys attempted to play the guitar and last drink orders were taken quickly.   Having missed the dinner hour, I contented myself with snacks from my pack and a quick wash in the sink before turning in myself.
Triglav Lakes Valley
So after a sweltering nights sleep, our morning goal was to walk back down to the carpark, where Rob would be waiting to whisk us out of Slovenia and into the Italian Dolomites.  But our feet were dragging as we took in the perfectly clear blue skies, white cliffs, the sunshine on the trees, and the green lakes.  We could have easily stayed up high for another day and hung out to enjoy the views.  We did linger a little by one of the lakes, feeding animal crackers to the frenzied fish (how did so many get in the lake, anyway?) and delaying the steep trail back down for just a few more minutes.

Triglav (as seen from Lake Bohinj)

Lake Bohinj

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