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A Birthday’s Gift

29 Jul

A Birthday’s Gift

For my birthday I gave myself a great present: a hiking trip to the Slovenian Alps. When I was a child, I would gaze upon Košuta Ridge every day from my parents’ house. It never occurred to me to actually go there, to the mountains. The ridge was just there, unmovable.

Košuta Ridge, the longest mountain in Slovenia (10 km or 6.2 miles long)

 

When I moved to the US, I developed a new love for hiking. I took every opportunity to ascend above 1000 m (3000 ft), but this time, in the Alps, I created the opportunity in my home country.

The day before, I checked the weather report, and it looked like rain. I have two weather apps: one said “Rain,” and the other said: “Cloudy.” Of course, I trusted the second one.

I woke up early, packed my backpack and after 40 minutes of driving, came to Tegošče Plateau (Planina Tegošče), right near the hut.

A couple of days ago, I visited Tegošče Plateau with my 91-years old dad

 

After parking my car, I opened the door and stepped out, but didn’t close the door. Then, I stepped back inside my car because the sky opened up and the rain fell in torrents, without warning. 5 or 10 minutes passed, then the rain suddenly stopped. It was 6:45 a.m., and I kept wondering if this was a good idea. Sitting in the car, I thought about my cozy bed vs. the cold, rainy weather. Well, my ego went with the second option.

The good thing about this hike was that I could go up to the ridge and hike there, or I could stay at a lower elevation and visit all four plateaus: Tegošče, Pungrat, Šija, and Kofce. Every plateau has a hut with amazing food. As usual, I chose the second option.

 

Pungart Plateau with the hut

 

Kofce and Šija on the right, and the far left is Pungart

 

Between Pungart and Tegošče I found a spruce tree, the roots of which were so inviting that I sat down to rest. I dozed off. It seemed like the tree gave me the energy I needed and the tip: “Go up. You will be fine.” I thanked the tree and went up.

The original plan was to hike the whole ridge: from Košutnikov Turn all the way to Veliki vrh. That would take about 6ish hours. Since the weather was iffy, I decided to go up from Planina Pungrat (1447 m, 4747 ft) to Škrbina (1869 m, 6132 ft).

The path was beautiful—steep in places, but the views were amazing! Each plateau was mesmerizing (Tegošče and Pungrat), all the way to Storžič and Mt. Kriška !

The mark for Škrbina

 

I passed a herd of cows

 

This was my destination when I hit the ridge

 

What is offered by nature, it must be good 🙂

 

Almost at the top

 

The view from the top

 

A mettal box at the top (here supposed to be a rubber stamp, so all the people who has a notebook can get the proof that they were here)

 

When I hit the ridge, there was a sign: Veliki vrh: 2 hours, Košutnikov Turn: 3 hours. I figured that I should probably go to Veliki vrh, then down to Planina Kofce, then the last hour back to my car. Afternoon thunderstorms are a serious matter in the mountains, and I didn’t want to get caught in one, especially with my hiking poles.

At the top of the ridge, I was hiking in both Slovenia and Austria simultaneously. How is that even possible? The ridge is the border between the two countries. As I was hiking, I understood why Slovenia is called “the sunny side of the Alps.” Besides the north face and the south face differences, the regions share natural similarities 😉.

The path is on the border most of the time

 

Kofce and a proof why Slovenia is on the “sunny side of the Alps” 😉

 

The paths took me over Veliko Kladivo – Big Hammer (2094 m, 6870 ft) down to Malo Kladivo – Small Hammer (2036 m, 6680 ft), and Mt. Kofce (1967 m, 6453 ft) to Veliki vrh (2088 m, 6850 ft).

A rubber stamp at the top of Big Hammer

 

A metal box on the top

 

Every peak that is on the border has two names: Slovenian and Austrian. That’s why you can find Veliko Kladivo as Hainschturm.

The views were incredible, and the mountain winds kept me cool.

The view from Kosuta gora

 

Cows are not my specialty, but every plateau has them. They are truly FREE RANGE. Farmers lead them up around June 9th. My father told me this is the local tradition, practiced even before WWII.

 

When I told my parents that I was afraid of cows, they laughed. My mom said that she would understand this if I was born in a city, instead of on the farm with them!

Well, when I was on the ridge, I was grateful not to see cows. I was in the hiking “zone.” BUT just before I came to my last peak, Veliki vrh, I saw something up ahead—what was sprawled about? A herd of sheep! They were lying very relaxed, unconcerned about my desired to hike right past them toward my final destination. I tried to scare them away. They didn’t acknowledge me, but one sheep looked at me, looked away, and looked at me again. He (I assume it was him) took two steps towards me, and I as fast as I could apologized and explained that I would just go up and around, on a little detour. That calmed him down. That was ok with the sheep.

Sheep on the way up

I didn’t want to risk aggravating the sheep. The hill was too steep, and I just wanted to come home in one piece. My family has enough worries without sheep.

After I detoured up and around the sheep, happy, it hit me: I have to go back! The terrain was very uneven, and it was risky to get off trail.

At the top of Veliki vrh

 

Mark for my way down

 

When I came back to the herd from the upper side, ALL of the sheep scattered and gave me space. EXCEPT ONE! He was merciless and had no desire to surrender his spot on the path. Seemed like the uneven hill was not his favorite either.

 

On my way down, I was already tired and at that point the sun came out. It reminded me that I needed to rehydrate.

 

The path down was uneventful, until I came to the Kofce hut. Cows were EVERYWHERE, and it looked like I would have to wade through them to find the path to Šija, which would take me back to my car. I knew I still had another hour of hiking.

 

At this point I was too tired to be afraid of the cows. I just looked down and tried to ignore them. I had to walk fast, because I could feel the storm brewing.

Storm is coming

Half-way back, the storm hit.

Storm

I knew I couldn’t go forward through the lightning, rain, and hail. I watched the cows move to shelter under the spruce trees. I did the same.

Under a tree is not the best place during a lightning storm, but it’s better than being out in the open.

I waited for 20 minutes. I could see the hut in the distance, but I knew it was safer to wait out the storm. Safety is top priority in the mountains. No one is smarter than nature!

After 10 hours of hiking, I was super tired. But I was proud of the adventure, and I told myself that of course, I’d do it again!

BACK TO NATURE: Create Your Own Vacation

More pictures

Unusal sign: I wasn’t sure if it is for babies or moms can come as well 🙂

 

Signs (marks) for the path in the mountains in Slovenia

 

Sign fo all four plateaus under Košura Ridge

 

It was cold

 

“Možicelj” or “small men” is a mark for non marked path in Slovenian mountains and in Alps in general

BTN create your own vacation

krenuser

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