On top of the world (or, Slovenia)!


Summit of Mt. Triglav

We’ve returned triumphant from our big trek! We were able to summit Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia (2864 m).

We left Lake Bohinj on Tuesday morning, covering the first two thousand feet by car. We parked the vans and set out in a light drizzle. The damp earth quieted our footsteps as we climbed through dense forests.

After a couple hours, the trees thinned and we entered a large pasture with ten cabins and roaming livestock. We carefully picked our way through manure piles to a cabin sitting on the edge of the field. Smoke curled from its chimney and picnic tables invited us to sit. A woman came out of the house and offered us cheese, which she made in one of the adjacent cabins. During the summer, her family brings their cows to graze in the alpine meadows. They milk the cows every morning and make cheese from the milk every third day. She gave us a tour of the cheese-making room, explaining each step of the process. Everything is done by hand, and the family powers most of the operation through solar. We marveled at the man-power required to make a kilo of cheese. 


Cheese farm

Our bellies full of cheese (or “sir” in Slovenian), we continued our journey upwards, the trail becoming steeper and steeper until we eventually reached the top of the pass. The trail then descended sharply down loose rock and lingering patches of snow. The fog persisted all day, never allowing us a view of the Julian Alps. We reached our hut around five, fully exhausted from a long, wet day in the mountains. The clouds briefly parted, and we were offered a view of our objective, Triglav, tall and imposing in the distance. Hot stews, pasta bolognese, thick bread,and marmalade pancakes were served and students fell asleep as the sun set. 


The next morning we set out for Planika Dom, our hut for the night, and also our “base camp” for Triglav. “Planika” means edelweiss in Sovenian, and we saw the white wild flowers growing on the sides of the trail, along with plenty of sheep. Fog and rain followed us up the winding path, and we doubted our ability to summit as planned. We shed wet layers and backpacks at Planika Dom, unsure what the weather would bring. After some deliberation, we decided to push for the summit. The rain had miraculously stopped, and clouds began to part as we traveled along the via ferrata. We steadily climbed iron rungs and handrails as the sun peaked out for the first time in days. We summited in full sunshine, taking in the weight of our accomplishment and incredible vistas. We celebrated with chocolate at the top, a special addition to our typical lunch of sausage, crackers, and cheese.


Making our way up the via ferrata

We returned to Planika Dom, buzzing with energy from our accomplishment. We spent the afternoon enjoying the sunshine: students built cairns, read, and played countless rounds of Uno. After dinner, we were treated to the sight of ibex  moving across the mountains. The sky was still clear and we watched the ibex pick their way down impossibly steep slopes as the mountains bathed in alpenglow. It was a terrific day. 


On Thursday, we started our descent. We crossed snow fields and passed a series of seven aquamarine glacial lakes. The sun continued to accompany us along our journey, and we made it to our final hut of the trip without incident. We started early on Friday morning, hiking to a final hut for breakfast before saying goodbye to the mountains. We reached the vans by mid-morning: we were smelly, wet, muddy, and tired, and ready for the beach. 


Students giving a shoutout home after summiting Mt. Triglav

Rivers, Relics & Treks – One Week Down in Slovenia

It’s hard to believe we have been in Slovenia for a week! We are about to embark on our longest trek of the trip to Slovenia’s highest peak, Mt. Triglav.


On Saturday morning, we packed up our belongings and said farewell to our hut on the mountain. Our Volkswagen vans hummed to the top of the road, and then we started our long, slow descent down the pass. We wound around switchbacks, taking in stunning views of jagged mountains giving way to a lush valley floor. We stopped to hike to the source of the Soca River and explored Fort Hermann, a WWI military fort.


Exploring Fort Hermann

Our drive to Kobarid took us along the Soca River. The water of the Soca is intensely blue-green, shifting from emerald to jade as the sun hits the water. Our campsite was nestled alongside the river and a short walk from the town center. The Soca River and surrounding mountains are an obvious draw to Kobarid, but it’s also an important WWI site. We visited the WWI museum in town to learn more about the devastating battles between Astro-Hungarian and Italian forces atop the nearby mountains. For nearly three years, these armies battled in trenches along the ridge line until the Astro-Hungarian forces pushed the Italians west (out of current-Day Slovenia).


The Soca River

After visiting the museum, we escaped the humidity by jumping into the river. Kayakers passed us as we jumped off rocks, eventually letting the current bring us back to our campsite.

Dinner led to bedtime in tents, which led to a long night of rain. We started our day a bit bleary-eyed and soggy, but once fortified with Nutella, we were able to make the drive to our biggest hike of the trip, Mt. Krn and Mt. Batognica.

The students set a steady pace and made their way to the top of Mt. Krn. We rested at the hut and had a quick lunch before pushing over the summit to Mt. Batognica. We were unfortunately denied a view, but Mt. Batognica is rich in WWI relics. We walked past old bunkers, trenches, and shells. It was incredible to think of the armies hauling all of their weaponry and supplies up the trail we just came. The WWI history still fresh in our mind from the museum, it was easy to picture soldiers in the trenches, enduring harsh winters and miserable conditions on the side of the mountain. We made our way down a glacial basin through rolling meadows to our hut.

I was so impressed with the students—we hiked for eight hours and covered at least 10 miles! We were rewarded with a hot meal and ice cream at the hut. Students slept well following a long day on the trail.

Yesterday, we traveled to Lake Bohinj on a car train. Lake Bohinj is Slovenia’s largest lake, a beautiful glacial deposit of crystal blue water in Triglav National Park. It was quite the novelty to be seated in a car as we passed through a 6 km tunnel on train! We spent the afternoon resting by the lake and preparing for our big trek. We leave today for Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. Wish us luck!


The rain came down, and we went up!


The group at the top of the saddle

We finished our first trek! On Thursday morning, we were awakened to the sound of rain on our tents. The mountains were shrouded in a dense fog and the wind whipped through our campsite. Despite the inclement weather, students were in high spirits. We sat down for breakfast (Nutella was present), and loaded our packs in the van. A short drive deposited us at the trailhead above Kamnik. We donned rain jackets and pack covers and hit the trail. 

The going was slow, but we made steady progress. We climbed through a dense forest, the green canopy providing welcomed shelter from the rain. Slovenia’s wildflowers were in full bloom, and we marveled at the variety of colors and blossoms on the trail. The trail left the forest and continued to climb through limestone mountains. The students were challenged by steep switchbacks and loose rock, but they persisted until they reached the hut at the saddle. 


The steep gully we ascended.

Our efforts were rewarded by a spectacular view and warm lodging. An elderly Slovenian couple welcomed us to the hut and ushered us into a warm common area with a wood-fired stove and plenty of board games. After lunch, many of the students elected to go for a short afternoon hike, and we marveled at the green and blue landscape dotted with the last patches of snow and limestone cliffs. 

After games and a hot dinner of spaghetti and apple streudel, students fell asleep in bunk rooms, listening to the sound of the wind, 3000 feet above the valley floor.

Today, we descended the same trail (again in the rain), and made our way to Triglav National Park. We stopped at a pristine alpine lake at the foot of the mountains and spent the afternoon jumping into the water and bathing in sunshine. We eventually made our way to Erjavceva Koca, a hut near the top of the mountain pass. Students are once again playing Uno and board games as smells of dinner waft from the kitchen, relaxing after an adventure-filled day. 


In the Land of Dragons: Day 1

7C1B9CF1-5C3F-4504-8E42-E55093023A86It’s been an exhausting 24 hours, but we’re having a blast in Slovenia! After a long journey, we were transported back in time to the cobblestone streets of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Our hostel was steps away from the historic pedestrian district, and we spent our first evening watching performers in courtyards, venturing down narrow side streets, and walking along the canal. 


This morning, we set out for breakfast as street vendors were putting out their wares. The farmer’s market was in full swing, and we passed stall after stall of fresh fruits and vegetables. We found a restaurant that provides vocational training for disadvantaged populations. We ate our fill of farm fresh eggs, homemade bread, locally cured meats and cheeses, and, of course, Nutella. 

After breakfast, we spent the remainder of the morning exploring Ljubljana Castle, which sits atop a hill that overlooks the city. The castle has a storied history in the city, and has served as a prison, military base, and fire lookout after noblemen and heads of state stopped using the castle. 


View from the top of Ljubljana Castle

Students spent the afternoon wandering through Ljubljana before we set out for our first night of camping. We are looking forward to hitting the trail tomorrow morning. We will certainly have lots more stories and photos to share when we return!