This season, we travelled along with Sophie Odelberg during her mountaineering adventure in Slovenia. The below is an account of her journey to the weather station at the summit.
I take some deep breaths of the cold, fresh evening air and close my eyes. Soon I'll be up there. I feel free. Curious. Every step is unexplored land. A new country, a new adventure.
I am in Bled, in Slovenia, to join forces with Jaka Bulk and Jan Podgornik to climb up to Slovenia's highest-lying weather station Kredarica. The only way to get there is by helicopter, via a very long and demanding hiking trail or by climbing one of the climbing trails on the north side of the mountain.
With sleep-drawn eyes, I opened the car door to Jakas Volvo v70 at 4:30 in the morning. Even though I was so incredibly tired, I was very alert and ready for the adventure ahead. After a 1.5 hour drive along winding mountain roads, we finally arrived at the glade where we parked and left the car. We walked along a dirt road before Jan suddenly turned to the right, onto a small, barely noticeable path straight into the forest.
The trail is called Kratka Nemška or The Short German Route in English and was climbed for the first time in 1906 and is part of the Julian Alps mountain range. It is a 1000 m long route where parts of the route are grade IV (calculated on the UIAA's rating system) and takes between 6-10 hours to climb.
The climb felt good and we moved slowly upwards. With every meter of elevation we gained, the better we got. After a few hours we reached the end of The German route and it was time to start climbing the next section that would take us all the way up to the peak.
The climb had so far been simple but due to the earlier days' rain in the valley, snow had fallen on the peaks and made our climbing difficult. From here it was slippery and wet with ice increasing as we ascended. It was more difficult as we did not have crampons. Every step required careful reflection and we moved slowly and carefully. But despite the slightly challenging climb, our mood could not be better as we started to observe what we were here for, the research station! At 5 in the afternoon, 11 hours after we left the car, we met a spectacular view! Despite the 11 hours here, we had almost just as much left before we would reach the car again. A decent of about 7 hours. As you usually say, when you are at the top you are only halfway.
As the last rays on sun grazed the mountain, we left the hut for the descent back home. The sun glowed, the mountain peaks were colored pink and the sky shifted in blue, green and purple. 7 hours later, we finally reached the car to the delight of my tired body.
With swollen feet, I awoke to life in my hotel room. I dressed, went down and ate a long breakfast and decided pretty soon to take it easy today.
There is always a certain sadness to return home after traveling. Especially when the trips become larger experiences that shake one's life both emotionally and physically. Getting home becomes such an abrupt contrast. "Did I really get up on that mountain yesterday and experienced the most beautiful sunset of my life?" It becomes difficult to understand, to take in and I wonder if it really happened. The desire to be able to freeze for a moment therefore becomes stronger to get the brain to understand that it really happened.
I can't help but dream and think about where to go next time.