Mountaineering and hiking are intricately woven into the Slovenian psyche. Embedded into the national DNA is a desire to reach for higher ground, both metaphorically and alpine, to continually punch above its modest weight in a region that so often dominated it when it was ‘just’ another republic held on a long-lead by Belgrade.
Triglav, notwithstanding the myriad myth and legend surrounding it is an iconic but precipitous symbol of Slovenians triumphing over seemingly impossible odds, to be taken seriously in a world that so often confuses it with Slovakia. If Slovenians as early as 1778 can conquer Triglav – as all are meant to do at least once in their lifetimes – and formerly economically prop up an ailing Yugoslavia that Tito held up to the world as an exemplar for the non-aligned movement in a Europe then dominated by Soviet Communism, they surely cannot justify their national character in any greater a light.
Even from those early days over 230 years ago, Slovenians sought higher-ground both topographically and of the mind. An educated but restless society containing more learned individuals than possible any other country of comparable size, Slovenia had always managed to keep itself in check – or had been successfully kept in its place by its various overlords – but when the unraveling of Yugoslavia in the early nineties took the international community by surprise, not in the least by its rapidity, not only the majesty of Slovenia’s landscape became common-knowledge but also the academic achievements of Preseren and architectural masterpieces of Joze Plecnik were given the wider audience that their talents warranted.
Those early pioneers who mastered Triglav are commemorated by way of a statue pointing at the three-headed summit from a propitious spot yards from Lake Bohinj. Even the uninitiated would now not be able to argue that Slovenia seems unusually geared up for alpine pursuits, thanks in no small part to this vanguard whose brave quartet reached Triglav’s summit with none of today’s sophistication, which can in theory at least make competent hikers out of any of us.
Slovenian’s alpine association, the PZS, maintains a terrific network of paths, provides excellent signage and continually updates its informative website. This in my view should be the first port of call for anybody researching a particular route, where up-to-the-minute conditions or closures of a certain section will be highlighted, as was recently the case when one passage was closed due to Peregrines nesting close by. An uplifting example of Slovenia putting nature first. At first glance the PZS’s website can seem intimidating when confronted with seemingly impenetrable Slovenian but an English version is available, albeit at times providing a somewhat literal translation. If though you are planning a hut-to-hut expedition rather than a package holiday, it is vital to meticulously plan your route through this website where you can factor in the usual contingencies – the abilities of yourself and your party, potential weather-related localised issues such as rockfalls and forest fires and appropriate accommodation spaced at realistic intervals, depending upon the aforementioned factors. Once a suitable route has been agreed upon I would recommend purchasing the PZS’s guide to every mountain-hut in Slovenia. Despite sounding like an unwieldy tome this little book of around 180 pages slips easily into a rucksack or jacket-pocket – its simplicity of design is heavily outweighed by the slavish detail contained within it. Along with an artists impression of every hut, no small feat itself, this guide details the following for all Slovenia’s mountain huts and refuges:
- Dates of construction and any modernisation since
- Contact details
- Number of beds in room and dormitories(if applicable)
- Availability of power and running water
- Distance and walking time to nearby peaks
- Routes to the next hut
- Last parking place and distance from
- Difficulty of ascent