It wasn’t a strikingly prominent rock. Rectangular and about the size of a rugby ball, it was an ordinary piece of limestone and one amongst many set into a mountain wall above a thin ledge on the Transverzala trail. But in the hands of one, Rosie Sargisson, this previously unnotable rock decided to detach itself from the wall it was embedded into…
Scrambling hasn’t been our strongest suit on this trip. Rosie has what I would like to think of as a ‘curable fear of heights’. Fear can cloud your judgement, make you move uncontrollably and put you in an unnecessarily risky position. But this day had been an exceptional display. We scrambled for almost 2 hours up a 1000m cliff clinging onto cables and iron pegs set into the walls.
We had waited patiently (and nervously) for this challenge, a day in the sun when the weather forecast erroneously predicted showers, and another when we turned back after an hour in horizontal rain. Preparation had begun months before as I trawled through the guidebook highlighting every single mention of “cables” and “exposure”. A notable excerpt left un-highlighted were the words “this continues for the next hour”… Oops.
For me it was one of the highlights of our entire trip so far. We both confidently clambered up the mountain, equal to the challenge of the trail. Using our whole bodies to lift, push or wedge ourselves up sections that many would describe as “precarious”. I was filled with the glorious feeling that we were finally on an authentic adventure!
We had pushed ourselves to the limits and well beyond what either of us had been courageous enough to do before. The problem with this was that we didn’t know where to draw the line. After arriving at the first planina of the day and stomaching a pretty horrible frankfurter for lunch (the grumpy old hut guardian claimed she had no more food left at the end of the season), we were off again to claim another scrambling scalp. Five more kilometers traversing some peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja alps toward an early arrival at a picturesque hut.
The scramble begun familiarly with nothing we hadn’t done that morning, we felt safe over the high wall drops as we held onto the cables and pegs. Until suddenly they weren’t there anymore.
Buoyed by our earlier efforts, I confidently angled my way across a 20 meter long, exposed, peg-less section, clasping the rocks just like rock climbing holds. I even posed for a picture suspended 10 meters in the air with my feet wedged into the ledge, merely 10cm wide! I faced my body towards the wall and inched forward with Rosie following hesitantly, until I heard a loud crumble and a scream.
Rosie was paralysed in terror with the aforementioned rock sitting across her thighs. Trembling, her body involuntarily threatened to loosen her grip on the remaining rockface. I grabbed her arm to make sure she was secure. I foolishly thought (for only the briefest of moments) that if we could just skip around the rock slip we can slide along a few meters more where the pegs popped up again, but she had already begun to bolt away from me, scampering right back to the start of the ledge. As a trustworthy and supportive partner, I glanced onwards at the trail we left behind, turned and followed. Shaking, horrified and with all her newfound confidence broken, Rosie led us back to nearby hut where we are welcomed with a dinner of soup made from 2-minute noodle sachets and a ska remix of ‘Hotel California’.
While obviously freaked out, Rosie was still disappointed in turning back as we went to bed that night. We discussed descending the mountain, even quitting the trail. I did remind her that 5 kg rock fell on her while suspended 10m over a cliff.
Luckily we decided to settle our unfinished business and take an alternative scrambling route the next day, conquering the fears from the day before and celebrating at a more adequately serviced hut for lunch.
Take that Kamnik-Savinja rockface!
Written by Jeff
The Slovenska Planinska Pot
A lesser known long distance trail that traverses the width of Slovenia. The trail is only 400km long but is effectively a peak bagging route with long stages and difficult ascents, often via ferrata which we will probably skip. The trail starts in Slovenia’s second major city – Maribor, traverses the Kamnik-Savinja alps, kisses the Austrian border, proceeds to climb almost everything in the Julian alps including Triglav (2,864m), before tailing off into the Adriatic coast near Trieste in Italy.
After finding Stage 1 a little tedious, stage 2 really turned it up a notch. Exposed scrambling with cables and pegged sections galore. This is a real mountain stage! The Kamnik-Savinja alps is dominated by Grintovec (2558m), Skuta (2532m) and the more isolated Storžič (2132m). We took a modified route, skipping a number of peaks (Grintovec and Skuta included) that require harnesses and via ferrata kits.
After descending from our first stint of mountaineering we also ran an exhausting 23km with +/- 2100m to climb Storžič in a day.
Distance: 57km over 3 days with 3100m ascent
Difficulty: Confidence will keep you safe, not the place for a panic attack. Amazing fun!!!
Also published on Medium.