Mount Stol 2,236 m, Vajnez 2,204 m,
Sija 1,880 m
I had the chance to go to the biannual AGMEMOD meeting, which this time took place in Bled, Slovenia. Without having done any sort of preparation (such as reading or at least buying a guide book), I arrived at the Ljubljana airport after less than two hours of flying from Brussels and upon arrival felt like I was in Southern Peru. Because just like in Arequipa, one could see various beautiful snow-covered peaks from where I stood. The weather was very nice and soon I found the shuttle, which brought me to the hotel in Bled where the conference would take place.
Bled is a beautiful place. It is really a small village that appears to have avoided (so far) to become tourist traps like to many other places in the Alpes. Sure, there are lots of hotels in town, and tourist informations as well as tour agencies, but somehow I got the overall impression that it was still a fairly quite town. Of course, it was not really the high season and I had arrived in the middle of the week, and I am sure that on a weekend in July or August Bled might be quite busy too.
Whatever, I liked it immediately and left the hotel to walk around the lake (I actually rented a bike and rode that around) and to explore the surroundings. After a visit to the Triglav National Park headquarter, I was uncertain about my original idea of climbing Triglav. Apparently, lots of snow with high noon and afternoon made the return from the summit a real postholing affair and was not recommended, at least not by the staff of the National Park. Well, I thought, I better concentrate on the conference first (it would last two days) and then focus on my hiking plans.
Two days later, Friday 4-13-2007, afternoon.
After an interesting conference I was finally ready to explore a nearby mountain. After talking to Emil and Daria (from the Slovenian Agmemod members) I had learned that Mount Stol would make a nice destination. I had admired the mountain for the past couple of days, because it was the closed snow covered peak in the vicinity and could be seen from pretty much anywhere in Bled. It was 3 pm when I left the hotel. Daria was so nice to drive me to the trailhead on her way home. I began hiking at around 3:30 and fairly quickly reached the Valsavor Hut at 1181 meters. Daria had told me to follow the bull's eyes, which were the markers clearly indicating the way to the top. But of course (as I found out on my way down) I took the wrong trail from the Valsavor Hut. I followed the gravel road, on whose side I also saw the occasional bull's eye. However, at some point I had the markers showing into each direction. I searched a bit for an obvious way up the mountain but only found a very faint use trail. I hesitated but decided to take the use trail (which turned out to be a hunter's access to his "stand") because it was already fairly late in the day. It seemed not reasonable to aim at the summit, but for the sake of exploring the trail in order to come back on another day, I set myself a turn around time of 5:30 and worked my way up the steep use trail. Soon, the already faint trail disappeared altogether and I hike cross-country up the fairly steep side of the mountain. In some instances I had to get on all fours and do a bit of rockclimbing before I toped out on a saddle connecting Stol with its neighbor Vajnez. It was 5:30, but I ventured a bit further until I arrived at a cross labeled Potoski Stol (2014 meters). Now it was 5:45 and I had to descend if I really wanted to get down before dark. I had my headlamp just in case, but did not feel like going any further, especially since Stol was only about 200 meters higher, but still over 500 horizontal meters along an up and down ridge line away. On top of it, there was lots of snow above 1900 meters and my sneakers were already soaking wet. Well, I called it a day, worked my way back down the mountain, and arrived at the trailhead at around 7:30. Bled was still nearly 8 km away and I was ready to walk, but after talking to a couple of friendly Slovenian girls, one of them offered to drive me back to Bled, because she had to go there anyway. All this was translated by her friends, because my eventual driver did not speak any English and it was an interesting drive back to the hotel. Very friendly.
Two days later Sunday 4-15-2007
On my way down from my hike two days prior, I had realized my mistake at the Valvasor Hut and arrived with my rental car directly at Valvasor (1181 meters) instead of the lower trailhead on my first attempt. I had left Bled at 5am, and after getting lost a few times eventually found the way up to the hut at around 6:30. Despite the early hour, the parking lot was almost completely full and I got one of the last spaces. Interestingly I would not see anyone on the trail until I after I arrived on the summit, so I have no idea what everybody was doing. Maybe they stayed at the hut (I saw light) and opted for a later start. However, I started hiking and made good progress (despite my very very very heavy new mountaineering boots that I wanted to try for the first time). I arrived at the snow level at around 1900 meters, but luckily the snow was already fairly soft and after the really steep parts of the trail. So, I worked my way up the gradually inclining slope to a saddle near the summit. From the saddle I checked out the mountain hut nearby (I had never seen one, they don't have them in California) and then turned towards the summit, where I arrived at 8:30. I was the only one, but soon another three single hikers (and one dog) arrived on the summit. I had a brief talk with one of the hikers, in which he named the neighboring mountains and took a few summit shots. Actually, I was now on the border of Austria and Slovenia, which runs right through the summit. I signed the registry and then turned towards the nearby Vajnez mountain. It was an interesting trek along an up and down ridge line that connects Vajnez with Stol. A few skiers had hiked up from the Austrian side, and I stopped briefly to talk with some of the skiers. At about 9:15 I reached Vajnez, whose summit I had all to myself. Looking over the Stol, I saw a long line of people (like ants) working their way up to the summit. That explained all the cars at the trailhead, but where had they been hiding?
After 15 minutes in the sun on the summit and after signing the Slovenian and Austrian summit registries (they had two), I left and worked my way across towards my way of ascent to Stol a couple of hours earlier. It was still a fun traverse, with lots of kicking steps into the steeper parts. Close to where I had ascended earlier in the day I saw a snowcovered chute and decided to follow the many footprints of people how had already come through here. I skied, skated and jumped down as quickly as I could and probably descended most of what had taken me more than 45 minutes in the morning in less than 5 minutes now. It was great fun. Eventually I rejoined the regular path on which progress was less fast, but eventually at about 10:30 I arrived at the car.
I drove back to Bled, paid for my hotel room and organized a Taxi to the airport for the following morning. Then I continued to the Bohinj Lake, where I wanted to hike around a bit more. I took the Vogel Ski Area Gondola at 1pm and arrived at the ski area shortly after 1. A tourist couple was panicking on the visitors platform from where one had an outstanding view of Lake Bohinj, because they had forgotten their camera somewhere below and the next Gondola would not go down for another hour. I took their picture with the promise to send it to them (it was a Dutch couple), and then turned towards my next goal. Mt Vogel. However, I gave up on that ambitious plan quickly. Not because it was very far away and the altitude difference was not very high either (400 meters), but the snow was so soft that the higher I got the more I sank in. Instead I turned towards a neighboring mountain Mt. Sija and I arrived at its summit at approximately 3pm. The views of Triglav were spectacular. One side of the mountain (the southern one) was green and the other one white. The same was true for the neighboring mountains. That was a interesting sight. The summit was just a larger platform and after taking the obligatory summit shots, I descended, took the Gondola back down, drove to Ljubljana, where I had a couple of hours of sunlight left to explore the city and to run into Antoaneta and the Bulgarian Agmemod representative (mind you, I did stop at the hotel to wash myself).
Another perfectly fine day in the Julian Alps and Slovenia.