Wandering through the land of the Alpine ibex

On the hidden slopes of the Julian Alps lies a remarkable kingdom of the legendary Goldhorn, an Alpine ibex with golden horns that had supposedly chased away everyone intruding upon his territory. Today, the rare Alpine ibex continues the Goldhorn’s famed charisma. With only about 300 left in the Slovenian Alps, their awe-inspiring image with horns as long as over a meter earned them the title of the king of the Alpine world. While there’s a big chance meeting a chamois in the Slovenian Alps, finding an ibex generally means knowing its territory well, seeing a large group of ibexes, on the other hand, only means sheer luck.

Alpine ibexes with Triglav in the back, Julian Alps, Slovenia
The guardians of Mt. Triglav

Alpine ibex’s territory supposedly spans over the rocky Alpine world around Mt. Grintovec and the neighboring mountains from Kočna to Ojstrica in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, limited parts of the Julian Alps mostly around Mt. Bovški Gamsovec and Kriški Podi, and also Mt. Jalovec, Mangart and Triglav. In short, they prefer solitude of the rugged high Alpine world where man seldom sets his foot. Their existence is so unique that many outdoor enthusiasts meander through those places just to be able to see the animals. Truthfully, I am no exception. Last week, my doggy pal Lisa and I headed towards Kriški Podi, a high-mountain Karst plateau known for the Alpine ibex, so chances were good I could find something grand and fluffy!

Beautiful Julian Alps, Mt. Stenar, Kriški podi, Slovenia
Named after the 2,410-m mountain towering above it, Mt. Križ, Kriški Podi is a high Alpine plateau of mostly rocks and some patches of grass and flowers, which provide food for the animals living at such high altitudes.

We started the hike at 6 a.m. from an already half-full parking lot in the Vrata Valley. If it seemed at first we would have to share the trail with tens of other hikers, everyone else soon turned another direction heading towards Triglav instead. Lisa and I, however, continued our hike across the steep Sovatna slope alone (that trail is really not kidding with how fast it gains elevation!). There was no one going up there or coming down, and the first people I eventually met on the trail were three hours behind me. The nature, nevertheless, was only just awakening with the sun rising above the Triglav North Face and birds and marmots filling the air with beautiful sounds of pure wilderness.

Triglav North Face, Julian Alps, Slovenia
Vivid colors of an early morning reflect in the most impressive mountain face in Slovenia, the 3-km wide and 1-km high vertical Triglav North Face.
Triglav Rose and an Alpine ibex, Julian Alps, Slovenia
The Triglav rose is one of the symbols of the Triglav National Park and closely associated with the legend of the gold-horned goat, Zlatorog, from whose shed blood the flower grew. When Zlatorog would nibble at the magical flower petals to restore its health if wounded.

After about two hours on the trail, there they were. A group of Alpine ibexes was resting in grass just in front of the great Triglav North Face. If you’re into photography, that’s exactly the place you would want them to be! And as ibexes tend to be, they didn’t really care about me (Lisa had to be attached onto a rock though) and even when I shortened my distance to about fifteen meters, they would still be munching grass and stretching themselves, flashing an occasional glance over to me.

Alpine ibexes lying in grass with Triglav in the back, Julian Alps, Slovenia
Life is grand for some animals!

Alpine ibexes, Julian Alps, Slovenia

Continuing along the trail to Kriški Podi, we kept seeing more of these magnificent animals, but then on the way back, once there were more people on the trail, most of them had already retreated into the rocks. I’m guessing your best chances for spotting ibexes is early morning.

Pogačnik Hut at Kriški Podi
Open from June to September, Pogačnik Hut (Slo. Pogačnikov dom) is one of those nice and cozy mountain huts perched on a small hill on Kriški Podi and surrounded by high rocky peaks and vertical walls. Stretched out between private and communal bedrooms, the hut sleeps 59 people easily, while the winter room sleeps another 20 people if needed.

Hiking in Julian Alps, Slovenia
A little further up from where I passed the group of ibexes, there’s a junction called Dovška Vratca, and from there it’s only thirty minutes to the hut.
A dog and a woman hiker lying in grass in the mountains
Oh man, that dog has really grown on me!!?

Mt. Bovški Gamsovec
Since ibexes tend to love Mt. Bovški Gamsovec and I kind of love ibexes (and mountains!), that was the only logical place to climb next. Climbing it with a dog from Kriški Podi would be impossible though as there are a few near-to-vertical secured sections, so I needed to return to the same spot without Lisa a week later.

From the Dovška Vratca junction, a little further up from where I had seen a group of ibexes, climbing the peak of Bovški Gamsovec only takes another 45 minutes to the top. Anyway, if you have a soft spot for exposure, you might find the final section a bit unnerving, but nothing an intermediate hiker like me couldn’t handle really. And the views from the top? Simply stunning!

Alpine ibexes in the mountains, Julian Alps, Slovenia
As I breezed my way up to the peak, I spotted more ibexes on steep grassy slopes of Bovški Gamsovec.
Hiking in Julian Alps, a lakes, an Alpine ibex, a woman hiker
At 1.880 m, the lowest and also the largest of the Križ lakes, the 140-m long, 100-m wide and up to 8.5-m deep Spodnje Kriško jezero loses its winter ice cover much sooner than the other two lakes. Btw can you spot an ibex? He was just lying on a shady ledge fifteen meters down the peak, adamant not to be disturbed by anyone.
Hiking in Julian Alps
Mt. Razor, 2,601 m, in the back. Definitely on my bucket list!
Climbing in the mountains, Bovški Gamsovec, Julian Alps, Slovenia
More often than not, at the end of the day, the fun and adrenaline parts of the climb outweigh the sweating parts, and that’s really what sticks around for years.
Climbing in the mountains, Bovški Gamsovec, Julian Alps, Slovenia
The picture might not show it, but I’m having such great fun there! 😀 The wilder it gets – the better! 😀
Fantastic views of Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain
And the views of Triglav, our highest mountain, are just fantastic!
Views from Bovški Gamsovec
Quick stats for Bovški Gamsovec: 2,392 m high, 1.400 m ascent from the Vrata Valley and marked for 4.45 h.
Hiking in Julian Alps, Slovenia
Plus, you can return down on an easier way towards Luknja.

In a nutshell, going through backcountry full of wild animals was a blast! If you’re thinking about following my steps, have fun out there but don’t forget that it’s us who are the guests up there and not the other way around. Be respectful and I’m sure the nature will return the favor!

Until next time, y’all, and stay tuned for more outdoor adventures! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and subscribe to the feed.

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6 thoughts on “Wandering through the land of the Alpine ibex

      1. Thank you for your reply! As much as possible of what you covered in this post really!. I regularly hike but not experienced with ferratas. From research and your pictures it seems Kriški Podi+ Spodnje Kriško/ Sovatna give incredible views of the surrounding mountains including Triglav. I wondered if there was a route either returning the same way or circular which covered this and Mt. Bovški Gamsovec in a day- I am stayed in Bled but will have a car.

        Sorry if this does not make sense- struggling to find much information to know what is doable? Or any other recommendations would be welcome!

        Thank you!

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      2. Hi Emma, well the trail to Mt Bovški Gamsovec from Sovatna also includes some secured climbing spots. All mountains above Kriški Podi do. The least steep is probably Stenar, Križ and Planja. For Razor you need to wear via ferrata gear as it gets vertical – only for a few meters but still… You could hike up Sovatna, go to the hut at Kriški Podi, hike to the lakes, and then the next day climb up Stenar and Križ.

        But hey, if you’re staying in Bled, you should drive up to Pokljuka and hike up to the Vodnik Hut and Tosc https://exploringslovenia.com/2017/09/27/romantic-hike-in-the-heart-of-triglav-national-park-vodnik-hut/

        Have fun and enjoy your stay in Slovenia!
        Neja

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  1. Thank you so much for your help good to know, I will look into it- definitely going to hike up to the Vodnik hut – thanks for that helpful post. I’ve followed you on instagram too, your pictures are getting me excited!

    Like

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