The past week has pretty much been dominated by the abundance of snow. Unfortunately there have yet to be any nice cold, crisp sunny days to be able to get out into the mountains walking in it, and of course at the moment the risk of avalanches is extremely high so common sense and caution are the order of the day.
Therefore, it was time for some low-level snowshoeing in the Vrata valley. If you’ve never tried snowshoeing, imagine having a tennis racket strapped to each foot and trying to walk in snow knee-deep. It can feel rather awkward and clumsy at first as one has to adopt a rather wider than usual stance but the snowshoes do at least allow you to walk in the snow without being completely waist deep in it. Well that’s the theory anyway but at the moment, with so much fresh snow, it still felt like wading through knee-deep mud wearing tennis rackets – I discovered muscles I didn’t know I had!
Vrata is one of three beautiful alpine valleys in the north-west of Slovenia. Of the three valleys, Vrata is the most impressive and is a popular start point for walks into the high mountains, particularly to Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain at 2864m.
The 12km long valley is also home to the Peričnik waterfalls which are a popular visitor attraction and are easily accessible from the village of Mojstrana. There are two waterfalls; the upper (16m) and the lower (52m) and a great feature is that it’s possible to walk under the lower fall making a great photo stop. In the summer you can walk or drive along the length of the entire valley. The 12km long Triglavska Bistrica path runs alongside the Bistrica stream. It crosses the river in places with short sections of road walking but makes a pleasant walk particularly in the summer being near the cool water and you get to see so much more than if visiting the valley by car. But it’s a long walk and there’s no public transport so bear that in mind.
At the foot of the Vrata valley the mountain hut Aljažev dom (1015m) is one of the most visited mountain huts in Slovenia. However, as you can see from the photo below, the valley isn’t accessible in the winter – this is the road which in places has a steep 25% incline. But those persistent enough (that’s me by the way!) can still visit with snowshoes or skis. Actually, this year the road was closed earlier than usual by landslides caused by flooding in the autumn but repairs were already underway before the snowfall so hopefully it will be all ok again by the tourist season.
When walking in the winter, whether in the mountains or even on low level walks, you really have to double, if not triple, the time it would usually take to get anywhere and of course you must certainly be well equipped and well prepared. I can’t stress that enough. Having previously lived with a member of the Slovene Mountain Rescue Team, I all too frequently heard reports about accidents in the mountains, both in winter and summer and these are often due to people being unprepared, ill-equipped and over-estimating their abilities.
Elsewhere in Slovenia, a public sector strike is scheduled for this Wednesday and the coalition is hanging by a thread with three parties threatening to leave if the PM doesn’t resign. Hmmm, no comment!
And here’s an interesting fact which I heard this morning on the radio and didn’t know. Ljubljana University is one of the biggest in Europe with over 64,000 students – three times as many as Oxford University. You live and learn!