With the early snowfall coloring the peaks of our highest mountains white, my thoughts go back to a special two-day climb in late August to three beautiful mountains in the Julian Alps I was honored to climb with my Dutch-Austrian friend Georg. Originally, we had been planning to climb Triglav over its 1-km high vertical North Face taking the Prag Route on the first day and explore the Triglav Lakes Valley on the second day, but as fate would have it, Slovenia experienced a sudden extreme drop in temperature just a few days before our trip and the mountains above 1,800 m dressed in an unexpected 30-cm snow cover. That called for a quick last-minute change of plan, and instead of climbing the Triglav North Face, we rather opted for the southern slopes of the spectacular mountains on the opposite side of Vrata Valley, also home to the beautiful 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.
It’s been repeated so many times that we’ve all started to believe it. The mantra “you’re not a true Slovene until you’ve conquered Triglav” drives the nation, anyone from small kids to older hikers, to the 2,864m (9,396 ft) mountain, which quite truthfully isn’t by far an easy climb (remember Climbing Triglav: the third try?). The tourists, too, are flooding the mountain, especially during the summer. Truly folks, it’s beautiful, but, quite frankly, there are mountains in Slovenia just as beautiful, if not even more so, without a continuous line of eager climbers winding their way to the top.