Climbing Triglav – from Krma Valley to Slovenia’s Highest

While September 24th was our last Saturday in Slovenia, it turned out to be the biggest adventure of our trip. We set out with a goal to climb the highest mountain in Slovenia – Triglav at 2,864m (9,396″). An epic journey – some would call pilgrimage – to the mountain featured on our flag. Although we have hiked the Idaho wilderness for the past couple of years, the idea of climbing Triglav made me anxious. Slovenian mountains are mysterious with unpredictable weather that can turn dangerous if underestimated. Luckily, they are concentrated in a small surface area and accessible by rescue helicopters. Even on the most “remote” mountain tops you will feel close to somewhere – quite the contrary to only a couple of hours in the Idaho wilderness.

After the situation I experienced on our Češka Koča and Ledine adventure, I wanted to connect with an experienced mountain climber to tackle Triglav with. Luckily Nejc lives just a village ahead of us. You can follow his daily tours and see the beauty of Slovenian mountains through his perspective on Instagram @nejo737. His climbing is the equivalent to a mountain goat. Nejc agreed to go with us, and I would call our tour – Tour de Triglav with Nejc.

Robby and I picked up Nejc at 4 AM sharp, headed to Krma Valley, and arrived to the parking lot after a bumpy road at 5 AM. We started our great day-long adventure in the dark, unable to see the beautiful peaks towering over the valley. Hiking in the dark lasted a quick two hours, and along the way we passed a couple that complimented us for being “hardworking” so early. It was 7 AM when the first glimpse of daylight began to show. The stars filling the sky before the dawn on a forest clearing was magical. There was no degree of separation between the Himalayas or Slovenia for me at that moment, just sky full of stars I will cherish for the rest of my days.

Another hour and the sun started to break through the clouds. First sight of day.

Krma Valley, Triglav National Forest, sunrise, Climbing Triglav, Slovenia
The sun peaked through the clouds and greeted us as we made our way out of the Krma Valley.
Stunning sunrise light trailed the early part of our hike.
Stunning sunrise light trailed the early part of our hike.

We continued our path upwards. Nejc commented that if he knew we were such good hikers in the dark, we would start earlier to catch the sunrise at Triglav. Maybe next time.

The hike continued to reveal the most beautiful natural treasures of the Julian Alps. Northern rocky-mountain walls with grass carpet on the other side were an amazing sight. Everything in the distance was green. Something very different comparing to the brown and mundane high dessert terrain. Here, you can feel water molecules as you are breathe the humidity on a steep incline. It was nice and warm, even for what Slovenians would consider a chilly morning.

trail to Triglav, Triglav National Park, sunrise
The light continued to put on a show once we made it above tree line.
Vernar Peak, sunrise, Triglav National Park, Julian Alps, climbing Triglav, Slovenia
Morning light above Vernar Peak.

Steep, continuous climbing eventually brought us to the area above tree line. Rocky terrain made for a bit more challenging hike, but with each step the view was more beautiful and watching the clouds change was like a natural slideshow.

With each step we were breathing less oxygen.
With each step we were breathing less oxygen.
Catching our first glimpse at Mali Triglav, a smaller summit just before the top of Triglav.
Catching our first glimpse at Mali Triglav, a smaller summit just before the top of Triglav.

After I had already broke the question of “How much more to go?” we came to the point where Mali Triglav or “Little Triglav” revealed before our eyes. Nejc responded: “If you’d hike a bit faster, ten more minutes.” Classic example of Slovenian humor. I like it when people tell it how it is. It was time to kick it up a notch and give it our best.

Fog continually danced around the sky.
Fog continually danced around the sky.
Into the clouds.
Into the clouds.
Morning light peaking through.
Morning light peaking through.
Upwards.
Upwards.
climbing Triglav, Slovenia
Catching our breath and shadows.
One of the Kredarici lodge administrators descending after an early morning shift.
One of the Kredarica lodge administrators descending after an early morning shift.
Walking through the fog.
Walking through the fog.
Mordor or Slovenia?
Mordor or Slovenia?
One of the many gullies.
One of the many gullies.

A few more steps on a steep zig-zag rocky terrain and the Kredarica lodge is quickly comes into view.

Kredarici looked surreal, and was a welcome sight after a morning of hiking.
Kredarica looked surreal, and was a welcome sight after a morning of hiking.
Arriving at Kredarica, we were able to see our climbing route along with many already en-route to the summit.
Arriving at Kredarica, we were able to see our climbing route along with many already en-route to the summit.
On the way.
On the way.

Arriving at Dom na Kredarici before 9 AM was quite a surprise to our friend Nejc, but it also allowed us to have a bit of a rest before the crowds show up and demand their piece of land.

European mountain huts make for quite a different alpine hiking experience than in the United States.
European mountain huts make for quite a different alpine hiking experience than in the United States.

A short break and snack, and we were ready to hit the rocks.

After 3 hours of steep hiking and a brief break, we’re ready to take on Triglav.
After 3 hours of steep hiking and a brief break, we’re ready to take on Triglav.
Here you can nearly see the entire route of the final climb to Triglav.
Here you can nearly see the entire route of the final climb to Triglav.
The hike ends here…
The hike ends here…
…and quickly turns in to a climb.
…and quickly turns in to a climb.

The trail soon turns into a climbing like line trail with a iron rope to hold on to – called a via ferrata.

The clouds swirled around the Kredarica hut as we climbed our way up.
The clouds swirled around the Kredarica hut as we climbed our way up.
climbing Triglav, Julian Alps, Slovenia
Thinking carefully on hand placements was critical.
Once the vertical section of the climb was done, we made our way to a ridge with plenty of exposure.
Once the vertical section of the climb was done, we made our way to a ridge with plenty of exposure.
Watching carefully for ice.
Watching carefully for ice.
It was hard not to be amazed at the stunning scenery surrounding us.
It was hard not to be amazed at the stunning scenery surrounding us.

The ridge section of the hike is most memorable for most Triglav visitors, as they will tell you how scary it is to walk on top of the ridge with chasms on both sides.

Vertical march.
Vertical march.
Some areas do not have the ferrata.
Some areas do not have the ferrata.

Final few ascends approaching the top felt like we have climbed over 1,000 stairs that day.

Obligatory Triglav summit photo with the Aljaž Tower.
Obligatory Triglav summit photo with the Aljaž Tower.

Finally on top! What at first seemed like an empty lodge at Triglavski Dom na Kredarici was hiding quite a few people inside that were ready to experience the top in the early afternoon. Many characters were truly admirable and, if you speak Slovenian, quite amusing along the way.

A crowded summit as we began our way back down.
A crowded summit as we began our way back down.

After we caught a short break, many more people started to arrive to the top. It was time for us to descend.

After the summit we headed down into the fog.
After the summit we headed down into the fog.

Down climbing presented almost more of a challenge than going up. With climbers coming both ways, we had to avoid, move and sometimes even sit down on the edge of the cliffs to let others pass.

The sun briefly poked through at certain moments.
The sun briefly poked through at certain moments.
Triglav clouds, Slovenia, Triglav National Park
Alpine paradise.

Once we came back down to the lodge, we afforded ourselves a well deserved Slovenian combination – tea and a “short one” (home-made schnapps). The party started to evolve and we could hear the sound of an accordion in the distance. People of all ages were enjoying a very casual afternoon and I even ran into an old friend along the way! This gives you an idea of how small Slovenia really is, even after being gone for a couple of years I still know the people around. What a great feeling to have.

After a short rest and relaxation and we were ready to head downhill.

Kredarica Party.
Kredarica Party.
Heading back to the Krma Valley.
Heading back to the Krma Valley.
Veliki Draški towers above the Krma Valley in the distance.
Veliki Draški towers above the Krma Valley in the distance.
Beautiful clouds stayed with us all day.
Beautiful clouds stayed with us all day.
Natural lawnmowers.
Natural lawnmowers.
Looking at the long downhill slog ahead of us.
Looking at the long downhill slog ahead of us.
Afternoon light.
Afternoon light.
An empty mountain hut.
An empty mountain hut.

This house was our que that we were close to the parking lot. It was amazing to observe the natural beauty we hiked through in pitch darkness with only headlights lighting our next steps. After conquering the Slovenian giant, nothing seemed scary anymore. I was grateful we made it back safe and excited to have the memories and share the stories of this extraordinary day.

Krma Valley, Mojstrana, Slovenia.
Catching the last rays of light over the Krma Valley as we make our way home through Mojstrana, Slovenia.

This article has 5 comments:

  1. Amazing story. So happy you two were able to go back home for a visit! Wonderful climb and incredible photos of your day. Thank you for sharing. Love Aunt Lin

  2. Rob & Sasa, This video is fantastique!! I did not realize that you both are true ‘mountain goats’ !!
    Thanks for sharing the beauty of Slovenia. with gourds of love, ~AK~

  3. I’m so glad I came across this post! Your pictures are amazing!! I am trying to figure out how to summit Triglav without a guide- was the trail easy to follow? I saw the harness around your legs- did you need those for anything? How long was the round trip in total for you? If you could email me, that’d be great!! Heading to Slovenia in September. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Jennifer, I apologize for a late response, we’ve just gotten back from this year’s trip to Slovenia. I’ll try to best answer your questions, although there are many variables that can fluctuate the answers. To tackle Triglav without a guide, I would consider the level of physical preparation, hiking/climbing experience, and the ability to gage weather conditions (these can be tricky in Slovenia’s mountains), first. There are several trailhead points that lead to Triglav – you could start at Vrata or Krma. There are markings on the trail with the occasional signs, it gets a bit more nitty-gritty past the green, where there’s rock and you kind of have to find a way – but again, doable depending on the experience and circumstances. I had worn the belt for feratta, but I didn’t ended up clipping in and out, however many people did. The total trip for us starting at around 5AM (1,5 hrs before sunrise) and getting back at around 4:30 PM took about 11-12hrs with stops. I hope this helps, I’m sorry I couldn’t be more detailed, but lots depends on your experience in the mountains. If this is your first time in the Alps, I would highly recommend finding a partner or joining a group for this adventure. Best of luck to you!

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