Sunday, 23 September 2012

Triglav - super hill


Superloo on Triglav - is that why it is called Trig Lav?

Whenever anyone has asked 'what's your favourite mountain?' for me, the answer has been a struggle and usually I have said 'every mountain has its merits, who am I to judge between them'. In future, I think I may well answer - 'Triglav, until another one comes along'.
Most mountains have left me with a feeling I am glad that I have done it and will not need to do it again (sometimes with a sense of relief). A few mountains leave a feeling that it may be worth going back to them again, however with a sense that I probably won't unless it is to accompany someone else. With Triglav, I definitely want to go back and try some of the alternative routes.

 So, what makes it special?
1. It simply looks magnificent and the views from it are equally good.
2. It has the stats - it is an Ultra 2864m P2052; the highest point in the Julian alps; the highest point in Slovenia; the highest point of my trip, so far (although only the third most prominent) and possibly likely to remain so
3. It has the status - it is Slovenia's national mountain, it features on their national flag.

Flag of Slovenia.svg
Coat of arms is Triglav with two wavy blue lines representing the Adriatic and local rivers
4. It had the right level of technical difficulty. As a trainer i used to talk about a buffer between one's comfort zone and the danger zone known as the learning zone. By going into the learning zone the comfort zone eventually gets bigger and the danger zone is pushed further out. A combination of snow and via ferrata was learning zone stuff.  During my descent, three ascending parties asked me whether there was snow on the trail above and when I confirmed there was, their responses sounded like 'ooh er, missus' in their own languages - so maybe it was learning zone stuff for them, too.

So far on this trip every mountain/hill has been bagged by ascending and descending on the same day. With Triglav it is possible to do the same, but I decided for once I would spread it over two days and I am more than pleased with my decision.

In the previous two days I had been confined to the van by torrential rain. On the day I chose to ascend to the Triglavski Dom the weather had cleared although there were still clouds that shrouded the mountain tops. The torrential rain had fallen on snow at higher altitudes. It promised to make the via ferrata sections on the trails to need even more 'steady steps'.

Aljazev Dom
I started from the car par park at the head of the road in the Vrata valley, near to Aljazev Dom.
Several hundred metres up the wide trail there is a memorial statue of a giant piton and karabiner, that also marks the junction for the Tominskova Pot (way). I took this route which rises steeply into the forest to meet an impossible looking steep and wide wall of glaciated limestone.

XL protection

The path would rise for a while on the wall and give the impression that I was about to break out onto a plateau (although knowing quite well that was not going to happen) and then become a traverse around or even down a large buttress. Some of those traverses were on narrow ledges that on a sea cliff would be occupied by gulls and would only just accommodate them. After a couple of hours of this rising and traversing the track goes around the final buttress of Begunjski vrh to meet up with another route, the Prag Weg. And a sign showing I was half-way there.
Begunjski vrh

Triglavski Dom na  Kredarici (2516m)

The Slovenians invented Karst scenery and the next section provided plenty of it - with the added element of snow hiding some of the route markers as well as hiding the clints and grykes on the ever rising limestone pavement. In addition, it was misty and dusk was only an hour or so away. So no time to get lost here then. At first this was prevented by the fact that a large party of people ahead of me were visible and were leaving footprints. However, I soon overtook them - this party raised concerns later as they did not reach the dom until long after dark.

There are some steep VF protected sections on the path and on one of them the snow was knee deep. Surely the dom isn't far now? Difficult to tell in this mist and light. Please be soon I have forgotten to bring a torch. It is getting less steep, but there is a lot of scree - at last I can see some outbuildings. Please let there be a bed available. I am happy to say I shared a dormitory, a bottle of Magister and a game of Cierny Peter with a group of Czech students. And my fears about not being able to get a vegetarian meal were allayed by a large bowl of barley soup.
Snow covered limestone pavemen

Temperature inversion
Woke up in the morning to clear blue skies and a temperature inversion that filled the valleys with clouds. Said farewell to the Czech students and headed for the magic Triglav. After some initial scree the track follows a series of VF protected snow filled grooves on the buttress of Mali Triglav to meet another route from Dom Planika. Both routes then go over the top of Mali Triglav to reveal the final route to Triglav itself.
Via ferrata (VF) and snow
Mali Triglav (left) and Triglav    

Triglav from Mali Triglav

This follows a narrow ridge down to a bealach before rising steeply to the summit.
Even though quite early there were already quite a number of people sat around the metal Aljazev Stolp which looks a bit like one of those superloos to me. But who cares about that - just look at the view.

On the Prag weg
Going down I met the nervous Czech students on their way up - for most of them it was their first experience of mountaineering. As for me, no time for nerves the views were too consuming. Although it did start to cloud over a bit as the day and I progressed. Back down to the Dom back across and down the limestone pavement which seemed a little easier in full daylight and an hour or so later a stop for lunch above a large corrie flanked by the huge north wall of Triglav. Somewhere in that corrie the Prag weg finds a way back down into the Vrata valley. It did but it seemed to take forever before finally reaching the river and the relatively easy trail back past the giant karabiner and to the car park.
Vrata valley

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