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Published: September 13th 2007
Valley of the Seven Lakes
The hut you can see was a lifesaver. We had only been walking a few hours but it was that hot we had gotten through litres and litres of water.
Ever since I first saw pictures of this little country I have wanted to pay a visit. But it looked so wonderful that I would have felt guilty going there alone. This funny characteristic explains why I have just spent three months travelling around West Africa when I actually really wanted to go to Ethiopia. Fortunately while pouring over the maps looking for somewhere less appealing to go to, my pal Dawn decided to come along. After the excesses of five days at EXIT Festival in Serbia a wholesome week of mountains, cool lakes and fresh air was just what we needed.
Quite how wholesome Slovenia is came as a shock to us. Everyone is so fit and healthy. The lakes are full of people swimming, there are cyclists everywhere, we saw whole families jogging together, the market stalls burst with gorgeous fruits and berries, and the air and water seem so clean and pure. Combined with such beautiful natural surroundings it isn’t hard to see why they are also a happy, friendly bunch. I can remember Dawn and myself coming out of the tourist information office at Bled with shocked laughter at just how incredibly helpful they were.
Apparently there are 7000km of marked paths in the Mt Triglav National Park. You would never have to do the same walk twice.
Determined to live here and become like them we decided to take the first test. Mount Triglav, at 2864m, is Slovenia’s highest peak and the highest mountain in all of the former Yugoslavia. In 1991, Slovenia’s first president, Milan Kucan, said that it was the obligation of all Slovenians to climb Triglav in their lifetime. If he was telling everyone to do it, how hard could it be?
We set off from Zlatorog, at the eastern end of the gorgeous Bohinj Valley. The walk began fairly level through woodland, but we were soon climbing. As it got steeper we lost the protection of the trees and it became very hot. I later discovered that this week was the hottest all summer. Great timing for climbing a big mountain.
The route we took was the Seven Lakes Valley that tended to alternate between long gradual climbs and really steep bits. At the top of the really steep bits came obvious vegetation changes. From broad leaf trees to pine forests to flower meadows and eventually bare broken rocks. The bright white limestone meant walking through the upper valleys felt like being in an oven, as the reflection meant you were
Jezero is lake but the map doesn't tell me what the V. stands for.
baked from all sides. The seven lakes all seemed to be just out of reach for a cooling dip.
We weren’t long into the walk when I realised that the Julian Alps here in Slovenia had just overtaken the Tatras Mountains in Slovakia as my favourite scenery in Europe. As we reached the hut where we would be spending the night I was so speechless with the view that I started comparing it to New Zealand or the Andes. True, there are no glaciers or huge unobtainable peaks, but it is just breathtaking.
It turned out that the Prehodavcih hut that the two pretty girls in the tourist information had booked for us, is, in the opinion of the seasoned trekkers staying there, the best one in all of the Julian Alps. It is smaller than most, so more personable, and you cannot fault the location. It sits on a ridge, surrounded by jagged rocky peaks and on one side the ground drops steeply to the Trenta Valley a long way below. At sunset and sunrise all of the inhabitants were out there watching and no one spoke. They sell beer too.
Following the goulash feast that
Apparently the best place to stay in the whole national park. I couldn't disagree.
most people tucked into before bed, the little but packed dormitory was full of the noises of burps and farts to assist you to sleep.
After an expensive breakfast of spam and eggs, I suppose you are paying for some poor chap to lug it up there, we set off again at about 0730. It was strange to be sweating in the heat and feeling yourself burn while passing large areas of snow and ice. A chunk on the back of the neck works wonders.
For about four hours the route went up and down through large boulder fields and across scree slopes until we reached the foot of a cliff. We had been able to see the big solid rock lump of Triglav for a while and assumed that as we got nearer, the path would take us to perhaps a gentler slope on the other side. Well, no such slope exists. The route goes up gullies, along ledges and occasionally traverses or climbs vertical cliffs. Metal pegs and wire ropes have been conveniently hammered in at the more difficult sections and I think we both surprised ourselves how quickly we got to the summit, arriving there
This was our first few of the summit. Down and left of the peak the light patch in the shadow points to the path. It only becomes more daunting as you get closer.
at 1230. It wasn’t technical; there is just a large off-putting drop.
There was quite a few people on the top, but not too many to take the shine off the achievement. The view was spectacular. It was obvious that you are on the highest point for a hundred or so kilometres until you get to the proper Alps. Descending was trickier and then we began the long slog back to bottom. This is where things went a bit awry. We knew it was a long way down to Stara Fuzina and knew that buses back to Bled wouldn’t keep going too late. We were probably already running a bit late when a moment of madness on both our parts, set us back quite a bit more.
In the Triglav National Park, paths are marked with signs showing the time it takes to get to a certain place rather than the distance. Generally we had been walking ten or fifteen minutes slower than the signs suggested. At about 4pm we decided that we would stop for lunch at the next hut, which was up the side of the valley that we were currently at the bottom of. The
Dawn and Me at the Top
The funny rocket thing behind us is called Aljazev Stolp. It was the idea of a local vicar in 1895 who wanted the Germans to know that Triglav belongs to Slovenians.
sign said it was 35 minutes away. For some reason I was determined to beat it. I set off nearly running up the valley side and arrived 25 minutes later feeling very hot and tired but satisfied. Then I realised Dawn had the food. No worries, she’ll be here in a minute. 35 minutes later there was still no sign of Dawn and then I realised that I had all of the water. I set off back down the only path expecting to see her any minute. The further I got the more I started to worry and I ended up running to where we had last seen each other, now an hour and a quarter ago. The only other way she could have gone is down the valley bottom so I carried on running down there. Still no sign. It started going through my head, “what if I don’t find her at all?” Because Dawn had our map, I wouldn’t be able to find my way back without her. Hmmm.
While marching past a knackered old farm, a big, old and very red farmer was waving a stick at me, shouting “ENGLISCH! ENGLISCH!” He then pointed up the
View From The Summit
The crowd included an enterprising local who climbs Triglav everyday to sell cans of pop for three euros fifty. Surprisingly, many people obliged.
side of the valley and shouted “FRAU! FRAU!” This spurred me on as I ran up the hill toward the hut I had left sometime previous.
Eventually I saw the hut and on a wooden veranda was Dawn being cuddled by an old lady. Feeling very relieved but very hot and with burning legs, I collapsed into a patch of bracken, almost onto a snake that quickly slithered off. I haven’t made that up to make the story more dramatic, there really was a snake. A black one.
After laughing at each other, slapping each other and cooling down a bit, we set off again, having lost about two hours. Turns out, Dawn thought she would leave the only path and take a shortcut to the hut. She tried to let me know by shouting but I was too busy racing off. The hut then turned out to be the knackered old farm. We agreed that next time I won’t run off and Dawn won’t leave the path.
We reached the village at about 2230, having walked for about an hour and a half in the dark. Fortunately the path was wide and made of white limestone so
Don't Look Down
Dawn traversing a tricky bit.
you could follow it without a torch (which we didn’t have). The buses had long since stopped running so a very expensive taxi took us back to Bled.
I realised it was all worthwhile because as we arrived back at the hostel the owner asked where we had been. We told her we had just climbed Triglav. She replied “aahh, you are real Slovenians now.”
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