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Summer Expedition 2018 - The Julian Alps, Slovenia

Liz Ewing - Expedition Officer 2018

Having met the night before in the beautiful city of Ljubljana, our team of 19 bused east to Kranjska Gora, a town sat at the foot of the Vršič Pass.

A 10km walk through woodland, and for some the first experience of hiking several kilos of kit up a mountain, led us to Poštarski Dom, where we indulged in many a Radler, beef goulash, buckwheat gruel and Kransjka sausage, amongst other local culinary delights. Sat at the highest point of an ancient route over the pass, with delightful views of the surrounding peaks at sunset, our mountain hut provided us with a snug attic room with wall to wall beds (the first of many cosy nights).

On our second day of hiking, the team split into two, with some of us tackling the via ferrata route on the north face of Mala Mojstrovka. After three and a half hours scaling pegs and scrambling over rocks, climbing 720m in total, we reached the the peak at 2333m above sea level. Following a quick lunch break, we commenced 2 tortuous hours of skidding down scree to return to the dom.

Other members hiked what has been coined the most beautiful walk on the pass, sparing their knees and their nerves of the steep and very exposed alternative route.

The following day, we took a bus to the town of Mojstrana, overlooked by Mount Triglav at the end of the Vrata Valley, the highest peak in Slovenia.

Triglav was our ultimate goal, but for now a 10km hike along the Triglavska Bistrica river, via the Pericnik Waterfall, to Aljavez Dom. Happily, we found ourselves in the most luxurious of mountain huts so far, and here we celebrated our president Charlie’s 25th birthday.

The next morning, we continued our ascent towards Triglav. Our first challenge was a hike through the Vrata Valley up to Luknja Pass at 1758m. Starting in the shade of fir trees, we snaked up an increasingly rocky path to once again battle with cascades of scree before reaching the pass. Slightly disheartened by how far away and high the next visible dom was from our current position, and disheartened further still to find our actual dom was even further and higher, we continued.

We were promised a “broad mule track” for the final few metres of ascent, but instead found a crumbly, narrow and exposed series of hair pins that cruelly lost us some of the height we had already worked to gain, before climbing once again to Dolicu hut, sitting 1141m higher than Aljavez.

With no running water and very basic toilets, this was our most isolated hut yet. As became habit for a handful of us, we hunkered down for a viewing of Love Island in our attic room, prudently downloaded in advance by our hero Chen Xi Gong, before getting an early night in preparation for our ascent of Triglav’s peak.

We arose early the following morning to climb to the top of Triglav. The sun was rising as we trekked through moonscapes, occasionally catching glimpses between the rocks of distant peaks and blankets of cloud, which reminded us of our significant altitude. And then, the steep face of Triglav appeared, and it was time to don harness and helmet once again to climb via ferrata 400m to the summit.

We reached the top before 9am - a productive morning - and took some time to enjoy the panoramic views from the highest point in Slovenia (2864m).

We descended slightly more awkwardly down the steep rock face, allowing streams of hikers attempting the climb to the top to pass us by at the least hairy points we could find.

That afternoon, we had one more gruelling ascent before our descent towards Lake Bohinj could begin - again hampered by scree on a punishing gradient. We hiked through the Triglav Lakes Valley to reach a less dizzying altitude of 1685m at Koca pri Triglavskih jezerih dom.

Naively believing the hardest hikes were behind us, the next day we had 1180m of height to drop over 9km before arriving at Lake Bohinj. But what a treat it was when we arrived! We spent the next 4 nights camping beside the glorious blue waters in tropical heat, with kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and mountain bikes to keep us occupied.

Not satisfied with the challenge of scaling the Julian Alps, we attempted (and succeeded at) a group swim across the 630m width of the 45m deep lake in true Wilderness Medicine spirit.

On our 10th and final day, we said our goodbyes as the team disassembled and dispersed to various corners of the continent.

* * * * * *

I would like to thank everyone who came along for making it such a fantastic trip. It was especially nice to hear from the lone wolves in attendance just how friendly and welcoming everyone had been.

I’ve since heard lots of positive comments from envious onlookers, keen to find out when the next expedition will be and how they can get involved!

See you next year...

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