The forest was dark and still. You could hear the ominous sound of crumbling rock in the distance. We were the group of 22 brave souls, geared up for the challenge in front of us. The moon was yet to rise so you can imagine the claustrophobic atmosphere of total immersive darkness. It was exactly at midnight when we started our 5-hour ascent from the valley of Krma to Triglav, the highest peak of Julian Alps.
Hail from hell
Martin, the designated leader of our tour, set a fast pace from the start. Even though most of us were reasonably well-trained individuals (at Reebok CrossFit Ljubljana), we had a hard time keeping up. After the first hour of walking we reached a small forest clearing surrounded by rising mountains at approximately 1460 m (4790 ft). We made a brief stop to relieve ourselves and wait for the rest of the group to catch up. All of a sudden, a thunderous sound startled us. A huge boulder broke off the mountain slope and plunged down like the hail from hell. In total darkness and almost alone in the woods this kind of an event can be a cause for involuntary redistribution of weight from your bowels to your pants.
A personal corona…
In the next two hours the path got steeper, the pace slower and our company stretched even further. You couldn’t see much, only a constantly swaying comrade’s behind and a narrow tunnel of illuminated terrain in front of you. Few of us who were fortunate enough to wear prototypes of the OliLight had a much better experience. Light-emitting belts illuminated the area in a radius of 360 degrees around us. A personal corona of natural light hugely increased our perception of depth, which is very important when climbing in darkness.
Three hours into our climb the moon appeared and the mountainous scenery finally started to emerge. At approximately 4 AM we reached the Planika lodge at the altitude of 2399 m (7871 ft), just an hour away from the peak. Since we came one hour early, we had enough time to freshen up. Some even took a short nap.
Rest is over, time to proceed!
Then came the steepest and most dangerous part of our journey. The last 300 m (about 1000 ft) were a combination of well-maintained footholds and fixed cables. A patch of snow here and there, the climb went on without any hassle. We reached the peak about 15 minutes before sunrise. Enough time to catch a breath, change out of our sweaty clothes and eat a sandwich before springing into action and taking shots of the sunrise.
Triglav’s freshest coffee
Well, maybe the sunrise was not entirely what I had hoped for, however, freshly made coffee on Slovenia’s highest peak, was something unique, the icing on the cake after a tiring climb.
The knee killer
Talking about tiring – the descent was brutal. A real knee killer. It took us an hour longer to get off the mountain than to climb it. It would have been much wiser to split the journey and stay overnight at Planika lodge or Triglav lodge at Kredarica and continue the next day.
Oh well, you live and learn.
Special thanks to Reebok CrossFit Ljubljana for organizing “The night hike to Triglav”.