It was several days since I have returned from Luxembourg to Zagreb. It was a premature return since my grandmother had passed away, and the celebration of death and life was in progress in the best way we Croatians know, drinking heavily.
The plan that I had with my brother was to do the first alpine climb on the highest peak in ex Yugoslavia, that is, Triglav. However, our joint plan did not work as my brother noticed that on the third day, I had a hangover and apparently that I am no fun when I am in such a condition. I was seated there in a small bar in Zagreb, drinking coffee and decided, what the hell, I am going. One of my friends told me ‘come on, drink one more ‘Jameson’, and I said that if I drink any alcohol, I am not going anywhere and hastily went away. And so did the journey begin.
I first had to go to Hreljin, where my brother and all my equipment were. I took my time on the long-forgotten ‘Old road’ to Rijeka, but this journey would be another story so that I won’t go into details about that one.
When I got to Hreljin, Kristjan (the brother) just came down from the ascent on Risnjak, that was his kind of compensation for our original plan. We had a cup of coffee, I took my equipment, when he asked my ‘Wait, where are you going?’ I shortly replied ‘On Triglav’, he said ‘Well done’ and I was on my way.
I crossed the border with Slovenia in Istria peninsula, surprised that the queue was not so horrible as the COVID situation usually made big jams on border crossings. Finally, I have continued my way in the direction of Mojstrana, which lies under the North face of Triglav. As it was getting late and I was not really in the mood for other people, I had sat up my tent in the forest near Aljazev dom. At first, I was walking around, searching for the best location and the beauty of melting ice spring water was astonishing. Yet again, it was so loud that I realised no way that any sleep could be had there. Therefore, I went to the forest and found a lovely plateau that seemed the perfect location for the much-needed rest.
I really did enjoy the rest of the evening there, and the beauty of the North face of Triglav offered me with both admiration and respect.
As the night had fallen, I got into my tent and was ready for the world of dreams. On the other hand, I had the feeling that all of the forest animals were gathering around my tent and demonstrating their right for noises. Immediately thinking about the Pink Floyd’s ‘Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict’. After one hour and with the sounds of Ummagumma in my head, I have decided that no sleep will occur here. So I went to sleep in my car that wasn’t the most comfortable experience.
As I ‘woke up’ around 4 a.m. I made a check of my equipment that included a very spacious IronMan bag, via ferrata set, helmet, mountain guides, harness, climbing poles, climbing shoes, wind stopper jacket, a couple of t-shirts, 1l of dextrose, 1,5l of isotonic drink, 1,5l of water, some grapes, bananas and two books just in case if I will feel an urge to read something. It was quite a heavy backpack!
The scenery just kept me excited.
And at about 5 a.m. I found many people heading in one of the directions up to Triglav.
As I came to the point where the choice had to be made which route to take, I decided, as I was alone and it was my first alpine ascent to take an easier yet longer way ‘Čez prag’. So I crossed the creek and the climb commencé.
The first hour of the climb was like walking on any other mountain I have been before, enjoyable and panoramic. Still, very soon it started to be the test of endurance and nerve.
I found myself looking around and noticing that one wrong step, a slip would most likely result with, well, preferably death, rather than massive injury. However, the impressions around me and a song in my head ‘The only way is up’ kept me going.
The moments of silence in the solitude I have found myself filled me with peace and joy.
I wasn't just running up the mountain, I was enjoying every moment of it, surprised how something such enormous and glorious could provide such a perfect silence.
The route was not very demanding, and I found it pleasurable when every now and then a small ferrata would appear.
At least, these were the parts where small rocks and stones were not a constant threat for a slip or a twisted ankle.
And, at about 1800 meters, there were only stones and rocks all over the place when the plateau opened up; however, I was finally on the mountain, with only one more kilometre to go.
Suddenly, I found myself in winter conditions, lovely winter conditions, but some parts were quite risky as I did not have any winter equipment.
And the first memorial plaques started to show.
This mountain took lives, and those who fail to show some respect are always in danger of leaving theirs. Usually, it is common to find egomaniacs in such places. You will recognise them as they are not doing ascents, but races. Still, completely neglecting everything but their own personal aims for false glory. Or often called adrenaline junkies. In the moment of, not the one of complete mindfulness, but a complete thoughtlessness, you can notice all the disturbance that happens around you and still remain calm. That is the power of the mountain which will always show the path to the clear-minded.
And all the beauties of Slovenia and surrounding countries revealed themselves.
After 5hours of ascent, I had only one more ferrata to climb, the Kotel. The Triglav summit, along with the mountain lodge ‘Triglavski dom’ on Kredarica showed up, where I have spent the rest of the day and night, completely exhausted. The funny thing was that I had to wait till 8 p.m. to see if they will have a bed for me, as the COVID triggered people to run for the hills. I went to the canteen, checked the menu and choose the meal as it was written ‘Beans with sausage/meat’, and I asked for that. Another funny thing is that even Croatian and Slovenian language is very similar, sometimes our conversations are ridiculous.
Can I get the beans with sausage and meat? — I asked
Oh, no. It is sausage or meat — the waiter replied
Ok, then the beans with sausage — I asked again
But, we have run out of sausages — she continued
You probably get the picture.
As I made final arrangements for this dish along with a goblet of red wine, this lovely reminder of the day provided fever in every muscle in my body.
As I climbed the little Triglav, I stopped there for a cigar, and I got the impression that I am not on the mountain, instead of in the middle of a traffic jam. I took a look at the top that was maybe 20 minutes away and said to myself ‘fuck it, I will come back at another time’ because the idea of standing there with 100 people did not really attract me.
As this was one of the most challenging physical experiences that I have endured while there was still the way down the North face to do, I promised to return and started with a descent.
The story about descent could be even longer than the story of climbing, so I will simply state that it was a horrible experience. I came down to the valley hypothermic and with sunburns, while halfway down I was thinking how nice it would be if I could catch a helicopter ride. All the people that I met on the way were speaking about the knees and wishing a ‘bon voyage’. So, a word of advice, take the Southern route back if you can, because ‘Čez Prag’ is not the best option.
When I came down to the freezing creek, I took everything from myself and jumped right in, and the pleasure I could feel in this cold water just cannot be described. I drank some of the water, to notice that the melting water is pouring down all over the cow excrement, which was everywhere, as they are coming down there to drink and obviously relieve.
I was perfectly fine with it, and the water never tasted better.
It has been two months from since I have climbed several peaks in Croatia and wishing myself a safe return to Triglav.
And the next time for real.
Keep on climbing!