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TR: A European Best Buds Reunion Part 2: Triglav, Slovenia July 2017

November 21, 2017

After a few days off from our Dolomites adventure, Jake and I spent a day in the beautiful capital of Slovenia, Ljubliana, before heading to Triglav National Park on July 15, 2017. This was truly one of the greenest and most beautiful European cities I have ever seen and I would highly recommend it! There is a canal that passes through the historic downtown, a castle on the hill and street performers everywhere. There was always something to do, from sitting by the canal and reading a book, to watching a movie under the stars in the Castle. However, the city becomes much quieter in August because that is when the locals head away for vacation. But in June and July, the city is full of theater, music and so much more!

 

 

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

Photo credit: Jake Jones 

 

One thing we discovered quickly is that there is a lot of false or conflicting information for transport in Slovenia. The Tourist Information Center told us that we did not need to book bus tickets for the bus that goes to Triglav National Park, and that we couldn’t even if we wanted to, but we rather needed to pay the bus driver upon boarding. Much to our frustration, this turned out to not be true as we attempted to board the 10 AM bus. In fact, the 10 AM, 11 AM and 12 noon buses were all booked full and the earliest bus we could get was 1 PM. We then attempted to catch the last train that would go to Bled, ⅔ of the distance that we wanted to go, and missed it by 20 seconds after paying for the tickets. Alas, we settled on purchasing tickets for the 1 PM bus and waited at the frozen yoghurt bar across the street from the bus station (open 24 hours! :D). Jake then found another traveller in the same situation, who happened to have a ukulele, and brought them to me. Ukulele for the win!

 

 

We were also nervous about getting a spot at the campground, which was located at the end of the bus line in Ukanc. There was a second campground in Bohinj itself, but it was further away from most of the trailheads (but close to the nearest grocery store, a 5-6 km away from the Ukanc campground). The campground at Ukanc was just down the road from the Vogel chairlift, and a 30 minute walk from the rest of the trailheads, which were further up the road yet. When we arrived, we were relieved to discover that they always have room for walk-in campers. We picked a nice spot in the trees to camp, and went to discover the unbelievably beautiful lake located only 40 meters away. This would be our base for the next week and a half. We paid by the number of cars (0) and people (2) (with the price of 11.32 euro per person per night after tourist tax included) and we could leave our tent up while we were hiking out overnight, with all our excess gear in it, for free.

 

 

 

We wanted to start our first day with a day hike to get a sense of the temperature changes with elevation and the conditions up high. For example, we were uncertain if there would still be snow that would require our ice axes. We chose a ridge traverse, which began at the Vogel Gondola and went to Crna Prst, and then down to the village below. This hike was not technically difficult, but was a long day of ~12 hours of hiking. This area is known to be a botanic paradise, and I could see why as we passed so many interesting looking flowering species! When on the summit of Rodica (1966 m), you can also see the the Adriatic Sea and Venice to the southwest. Along the entire ridge, you could see Triglav across the valley and all the surrounding mountains to the north. We also discovered that it remained very hot even at higher elevations, and to not expect much of a temperature drop. Additionally, there was surely no snow.

 

 

 Tallest peak in the distance is Triglav (2864 m)

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

The forecast suggested that we only had a few good weather days ahead of us before a week of rain and thunderstorms, so we embarked on our journey up to Triglav earlier than planned.  We packed our bags the same way we did for the Sorapiss Circuit in Italy, but doubled our water-holding capacity so as to avoid the bad situation we had found ourselves in previously. We decided to take the Seven Lakes approach, which is one of the longer, least technical, but more scenic approaches up to Triglav. The beauty was well worth it! So many beautiful lakes and flower meadows. We began the ascent up the steepest option, which from afar looked like a steep cliff face with trees on it. By the time we reached our first lake, we were drenched in sweat and ready for a swim!

 

 

We continued on towards the first Refuge (Koca pri Triglavskih jezerih, 1635 m), which is a beautiful large Refuge surrounded by beautiful lakes, mountains and bountiful flower meadows. We took a prolonged lunch break here to take in the beauty!

 

 

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

Shortly beyond this refuge, we had the option of two different routes: the route to the right (southern-more route) was 100% hiking, and the route to the left (northern-more route) would bring us to a “more serious, but easy, via ferrata for the true adventurer”. We did not bring our via ferrata gear, but decided to take our chances on the more technical route. We passed many more lakes and then made it to the next refuge. It was getting late and we had another few hours of crossing the via ferrata section ahead of us. We knew that the next day would be way too long of a day if we did not push on, so we did despite our exhaustion. We scrambled up a vegetation slope, following the faint paint markings indicating a trail and reached a ridge to reveal our upcoming path: a series of narrow (1-2 m wide) ledges alongside the mountain with sheer 1500 m drops below. I was a little panicked because we would be doing this without any actual via ferrata gear, but we pushed on. We were well rewarded! Despite having no room for error, the surface our feet walked along was extremely stable and flat, and the via ferrata cable could be used as a railing at the most exposed sections. We finished the traverse after a few hours, and then hiked up the switchbacks to the next refuge which was situated below the final slog to Triglav.  We were pretty exhausted after an 11 hour day, but still had enough water to last us at least until we reached the first refuge once descending the summit of Triglav. Because we are cheap and did not want to pay for the refuge, we stayed 30 m away from the refuge, down slope in some old ruins. We set our bivys up, tried to be really quiet so as not to be discovered and hunkered down for the night.

 

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

 

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 Our path is somewhere among those ledges...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

We woke up early, packed up our bags and began the slog to the base of Triglav. The actual ascent route is technically via ferrata in sections and can be really slow because people are both going up, and going down, with single-track traffic. We lucked out and managed to make good progress without needing to make too many awkward passings. The scrambling was technical (4th class at times I would say), but with the addition of metal rods sticking out of the rock when things were slippery or tricky, it was ultimately not too difficult. We made some friends along the way, and then made it to the top (summit 2864 m)!

 

 Approaching Triglav!

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 Photo Credit: Jake Jones

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

We took a different route down, along the ridge that was slightly less steep. We passed many groups of solo travellers and guided tours. We passed one set of middle-aged Slovenian men who told us that we were now honorary Slovenians, because to be a true Slovenian, it is said that you must summit Triglav. We made it down without any incident and bought a small beverage at the first refuge we came across, hoping that the next one would be cheaper. We began the long descent back towards Bohinj and managed to find a water tap at the next refuge in the valley. From there, the thunderstorm began to roll in and we hastily descended, hoping to avoid the worst of the wet and thunder. The descent trail that we took was very steep and it did quite the number on my knees! But eventually, we made it to flat ground, where we then had another 6 km hike to Bohinj and then another 6 km hike to Ukanc if we missed the last bus that departed at 5:50 PM.

 

 

Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

 

 

At this point, we were utterly exhausted and not speaking much. We had been hiking for nearly 8 hours, hiked up 700 m, and descended 2400 m. We just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. At least the thunderstorm had passed and the sky was blue and clear again. Suddenly and unexpectedly, we were surrounded by the most beautiful canyon features we had ever seen in our entire lives! But alas, we REALLY did not want to miss that last bus, so we hastily continued, taking a few opportunistic photos. We vowed that we would return when the exhaustion had subsided.

 

 

After our 2-day ascent of Triglav, we took a much needed rest day. However, this involved a 15 km hike in our sandals back to the beautiful canyon we walked passed the day before after spending a relaxing morning at the beach. The path there, although uneven, has no elevation change and was quite the nice break for the knees! It turns out that if you arrive at the canyon mid-day, you need to pay to see it. No one was manning the booth when we arrived around 4 PM. The thunderstorms had not rolled in yet, but the sky was overcast and dark.

 

 Photo credit: Jake Jones

 

Photo credit: Jake Jones 

 

The forecast was not ideal for the next day and we decided that we needed another rest day, so we took the bus to the town of Bled. Bled is unbelievably beautiful! We spent the day walking around the town, eating, checking out local markets and completing a circuit around the lake. The water here was much warmer than at Lake Bohinj, so we enjoyed a lot of warm water swimming and reading on the beach-side. One of the most scenic parts of Bled is a church on a small island in the middle of the lake. There are many boats that can be rented to row to the lake, but we were too cheap to pay for that.