“This is the shittiest top ever” – this was the first thing the man we dubbed ‘Van Gogh’ said to me, an obvious nickname given he had one ear. We were at the barren peak of Storžič, which strangely all the wildlife in the area seemed to use as a latrine; it was indeed covered in shit. A very chatty guy, we wondered if his hikes took three times as long as the sign specified given he talked to literally every passer-by. We generally appreciate a bit of conversation as we have become a bit B1/B2 – “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” (or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum for those too old for Bananas in Pyjamas references). But as we began our ascent to Tolsti Vrh at 3pm, by the book another five hours from our destination, he tells us we are making a “big mistake”. He was so concerned he offered to give us a ride to a place about an hour out of his way. A seed of doubt was sown, were we fast enough and strong enough to make it? Or would we perish?
His opinion came from a good place and we appreciated his advice, but this experience taught me that no one can really grasp what you are capable of except you, and in my case possibly also Jeff. He saw what lay ahead from his own perspective (a bloody tough climb) and given he looked pretty shattered I can understand his apprehension, but it didn’t mean that we had to listen. We stuck to our guns and powered on. We made it to Trižič in time to do a supermarket shop, find a hotel, and watch two episodes of my favourite Aussie show Offspring. Not even close to a starry starry nighttime hike.
A few days earlier we had a similar experience. We were questioned by day walkers about our origins and preparation – “No, we aren’t Slovenian. Yes, we have walked trails before.” We were then chastised for climbing Raduha (a 2062m ridgeline) in the afternoon given the looming weather forecast. “Are you sure you understand the dangers and weather in these mountains?” I’m not sure what time we were meant to climb given we had been running all morning just to get there! Just this simple statement threw me into turmoil. Yep, that cloud was black. Jeff, we are a team, why are you hiding the weather from me given it forecasts death? Should we turn back and forego our paid night of accommodation in Solčava? (This is always a highly persuasive factor). But what I had forgotten is that they didn’t know that we had all the gear (our tiny bags are deceiving), we had been in much worse weather before, we are knowledgeable, sensible and were always safe as houses. We arrived at our accommodation tired but absolutely fine, and as a bonus the thunder and lightning didn’t start until about one minute after check in.
For some reason everyone in Slovenia thinks we look like bunnies – we cannot for the life of us work out why. We are often told to “be careful” and to “take it slow”. On reflection we are generally much fitter, suitably packed, and better planned than those who hand out this advice so freely. Yes I tripped and smacked my elbow into a rock about 30minutes later, but I didn’t break anything. It isn’t always strangers either, Jeff’s parents have been telling us to make sure we rest, “you sound very tired”. They base this on our instagram photos but if we are honest these are usually at our toughest point each day, we want a great looking instagram account after all. I have to keep reminding myself when hearing people’s concern that we do tend to give people the most extreme view of how we feel, rather than proceed to question my own sense of fortitude.
Independently, we did come to our own conclusion that we should rest for a couple days, and although my body will probably thank me, we are both bored out of our brains and keen to get back out there – it doesn’t bode well for when we have to return to “real” life.
We are often told to not write this…write that etc. Jeff posted a comment to reddit and was trolled for wearing Barefoot shoes, “remind me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall anyone making a fastest known time in those”. OK, fair enough, we will probably both buy a second pair of harder soled shoes for racing on stones, but should we immediately throw out a pair that haven’t given us a single blister or injury in four months?
The number of opinions from my immediate family after ‘The Slip’ needed all fingers and toes to be counted. “Shouldn’t you be wearing a harness?” etc. They don’t want to see me die, but neither do I and I need to grow some balls one day or I will forever live a coward who is scared of teeth shaped jelly fish, gusts of wind, and high rock faces.
Off the trail, I think almost everyone our age can relate to career, money, marriage and baby advice. Everytime we pass through London my Mum asks if I am there to apply for jobs – nope, still intentionally being a bum and spending all my savings. I probably shouldn’t tell her how much we are spending on a sourdough bread baking course for our possible future bakery, the one month yoga teacher training I hope to do next year or Jeff’s plans to travel the breadth of Indonesia (dubbed “The east to west”). Friends hint at big parties with white dresses, but Jeff is so far from that he’s on another planet. And actually no one has ever hassled me about kids, maybe they think I won’t make a good mother…
The point is that everyone has an opinion on me. Well, everyone who cares about me anyway. Almost all opinions are because they want to see that I’m safe, happy, and successful. But to really be safe, happy and successful the opinion that matters most is mine.
To many I might sound like an arrogant brat but prior to this trip my confidence was at an all time low. I had spent much of my life directed by others into this sport, that degree, such and such a role. Suddenly I had no job and no one was telling me what to do next. My own inner voice was silent, suppressed for years and I wasn’t sure if I believed in myself anymore. Of course I still want to hear advice because it’s almost always coming from a genuine and caring place, and I need the checks to make sure we aren’t getting completely lost, but I think it’s undeniably important sometimes to prove myself, to myself.
For the moment, my recipe is:
- Take on what others say, swallow, chew the cud, then spit most of it out.
- Combine the remaining fraction with my own purely sensible thoughts.
- Throw in some instinct and back myself, I can almost always do more than anyone thought I could!
Written by Rosie
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 descending from our first stint of mountaineering we ran an exhausting 23km with +/- 2100m to climb Storžič in a day.
We then entered stage 4, the Karavanke alps. A system off limits to all but hunters prior to Slovenia’s split from Yugoslavia due to its proximity to Austria. After leaving the town of Trižič, we made our way to an exhilarating ridge climb on Begunjščica we were too exhausted to appreciate.
The highlight was a non-technical climb to the summit of Stol (2236m). A day and a half of pasture ridge walking along the Austrian border followed before descending to the small village of Dovje, the gateway to the famous Julian alps.
Distance: 49km in 3 days
Difficulty: Not technical but exhausting!
Also published on Medium.