Winter on the Vršič Pass

It was just last week that I was reading reports in the media about how there had been a record 33 days in a row during December 2013 and January 2014 where the temperature hadn’t fallen beneath freezing. Since 1900, to be exact in 1936 and 1948, there have only been two other winters with less than 10 similarly cold days. However, on Friday, as had been predicted all last week, winter most definitely arrived as temperatures plummeted and what started as rain soon turned into snow. Since then it has been dry but with temperatures struggling to get above freezing, the snow could be here for some time, especially since more is forecast for the days to come. The amount of snow, at ground level at least,  wasn’t significant and therefore currently the pavements and streets are still snow free.

The warmest winter on record in Slovenia was the one of 2006/2007, which was coincidentally the winter that I moved to Slovenia and thus led me to (falsely) believe that winters in Slovenia were mild and sunny. There have been a few since then that have proved me wrong!

 Of course many people couldn’t wait to get out and partake in some ‘snowy’ activities, be it skiing, sledging or just snowball fighting! Although everyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of the white stuff, I actually don’t mind it when it’s where it should be i.e. in the mountains, and one can choose to go and enjoy it if so desired. So, when on Saturday morning I woke up to see beautiful blue skies and sunshine, I too couldn’t resist the temptation. After a short deliberation about where to go, I settled on a walk from Kranjska Gora to Vršič, which is always scenic whatever the season.

At 1611m, Vršič is Slovenia’s highest mountain pass and was built in 1915 by Russian prisoners of war on the order of the Austro-Hungarian authorities to facilitate access to Kranjska Gora. During its building, in March 1916, an avalanche buried a prisoner of war camp, killing over 300 prisoners and the Russian Chapel (seen below), built in a typical Russian design, was built by the remaining prisoners in memory of those who died.

CIMG7028

Vršič crosses the Julian Alps from Kranjska Gora in the Sava Valley to Trenta in the Soča Valley. As well as being a vital link between the two areas, during the summer Vršič is also a highly popular tourist attraction in itself, with a number of sights to see and places to stop enroute to the top.

The pass is usually closed for the entire winter as it is not snow ploughed and is susceptible to avalanches. Last year there was up to 8 metres of snow in places and despite workers working 10 hours a day to clear it, it didn’t reopen until May. This year, so far, there is significantly less but it’s still not driveable. The road was partly ploughed up to the hut Koča na Gozdu but only suitable for 4-wheel drive vehicles or those with snow chains. There after, well you wouldn’t even know it was a road!

I parked beside the bridge over the Velika Pišnica river and began walking along the path towards Krnica, with the intention of turning off to the right to cross the v Klinu pasture to join the road to Vršič a little higher up, this being more interesting and scenic than walking up the road. However, on reaching the  pasture and trying to trudge my way through the knee deep virgin snow, I thought better of it and instead walked to the Krnica mountain hut, 1113m (Koča v Krnici). The hut is set in a clearing beneath the walls of Križ and with views of the mighty Škrlatica, Razor and Prisojnik mountains and offers beautiful views and is also a starting point for other demanding hikes, for example to Križ. It is usually open at weekends during the winter and daily during the summer. The path leading to Krnica is also a very popular sledging track, as witnessed by numerous trees complete with crash matting!

CIMG7016  CIMG7018

Imagine my delight then when, on making the return, I saw there was now something of a route across the aforementioned pasture, presumably made by one of the branches of the Slovene mountain rescue team who were there carrying out a training session – my lucky day! This pasture is home to the Mali Tamar memorial, which was erected in 1998 in memory of all those who have died in the mountains surrounding Kranjska Gora.

CIMG7019

After crossing the pasture and stream, I emerged onto the Vršič pass and took a series of short cuts through the forest, steeply in places, to eventually emerge at bend 17 (1418m). There are a total of 25 bends to reach the top of the pass, each one marked with a number and its altitude. After a short stop to admire the view I made the return trip, 7km, down the road. You can see more of my photos from this trip here – http://www.pinterest.com/adeleinslovenia/winter-hiking-on-the-vr%C5%A1i%C4%8D-pass-slovenia/

CIMG7029  CIMG7035

Meanwhile, back down on terra firma, here’s some non-snowy ideas for the coming week in Radovljica. There will be a concert of Russian music taking place in the Baroque Hall of the Manor House (graščina) on Thursday 30th, beginning at 7pm, and organised by the Chopin Golden Ring. Tickets cost from 10 euros for adult and 5 for children.

On Sunday 2nd February the monthly flea market will take place in the old town centre (or in the entrance lobby of the Manor House in the case of bad weather) from 9am to 1pm. The event also includes additional activities for children. Entrance is free.

The ever popular outdoor skating rink at the Radovljca Sport Park is open daily, midweek from 3-6pm, weekends from 10am-6pm. Kids (with their own skates) can skate for free, adults pay just 2 euros.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014