Exploring the Julian Alps – The Ascent

Slowly I was putting one foot in front of the other, careful not to step on the bits of snow on the narrow path. On the right side there was the rock of Mount Pihavec  in the Julian Alps of Slovenia steeply ascending, on the left side there was a shear drop a hundred metres down. I was trying hard not to look down there. I knew that I must not make a mistake, so I held onto the rock and went on. Finally the path got a bit wider with no drop to one side. I laughed in relief, today wouldn’t be the day I’d die. Looking down into the valley, I could hardly believe where we had come from that day.

We had started at Aljažev dom at an altitude of about 1000m. From there, we intended to hike to another chalet, called Pogačnikov dom, stay there the night and then descend again the next day.

The first bit of the path lead through some woodland. It was smooth and even at first for about 20 minutes, until we left the main path and started ascending along the slope of the mountain. Not being able to see very far ahead, it felt like walking forever, and yet we knew this was nowhere near the finish. When we finally left the woods, the view was breathtaking. Mount Triglav was rising majestically on the other side of the valley, snow on its top.

The panorama view of Mount Triglav on the way up to Mount Pihavec.
The panorama view of Mount Triglav on the way up to Mount Pihavec.

We made an extensive break, had some water and took pictures. On our side of the valley, we could see Mount Stenar and Mount Pihavec rising high above us. Knowing that we needed to pass between those two, we tried to figure out where the path was leading us. It didn’t look like there was an easy way. Walking on, we zig-zagged up the slope. The ground we were walking on got gradually worse, turning into gravel. At some point, we had to climb up a rock, having only a steel rope to hold on to. I was trying hard not to look down and not to think of the way down again.

After what felt like ages, the ascend flattened a bit, we were up on the pass between Stenar and Pihavec. And we couldn’t believe our eyes. Almost as high as Triglav, we now saw the substantial amounts of snow up there as well as a chalet, which seemed tiny compared to the massive peak. On the other side we, now saw the endless peaks in the distance, surrounding the valley of Soča River far down. Some bits of snow where spread over the rock, and the wind was cooling it down to 4 °C. I put on a Beanie and gloves. Who would have thought that would be necessary in early September.

On a massive mountain high, we decided to try and climb the peak of Mount Pihavec at 2419m. This is what brought us to the scarily narrow path. We had to admit, we wouldn’t make it up the last bit to the top without proper climbing equipment, so we turned around again. Nevertheless, we felt incredibly proud of ourselves to have come up all the way as we looked back down into the valley.

On the other side of the mountain, we saw Pogačnikov dom in some distance. It was only about 300m down, over rock surfaces that must have been smoothened and polished by the rain of a thousand years.

The last sunrays were bathing the mountain tops in a golden and orange light.
The last sunrays were bathing the mountain tops in a golden and orange light.

Thirty minutes later we dropped our hiking poles, opened the wooden front door and stepped into a nicely warmed chalet. Just 4 other hikers and some staff were there. It was like entering another world, not the one we had come from. Hastiness had no place in the comfy room with a big tiled stove heating it. Some apple strudel was our reward for the long way up.

The sunset was magical as the peaks around us were bathed in an orange light as if they were on fire. In the distance there were dark black clouds and we saw lightning coming down over the mountains on the horizon. The moon rose over Mount Pihavec. A milky light surrounded the hut as we lay down on the bunk beds. I slept like a stone that night.

From Pogačnikov dom we could see lihtning in the distance over the mountains.
From Pogačnikov dom we could see lihtning in the distance over the mountains.

 

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.