The Alpine ibex mission in the Julian Alps

»The Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), also known as the steinbock or bouquetin, is a species of wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps.« (Wikipedia)
It was quite frustrating. I met these beautiful creatures only once during dozens of trips into the mountains! So I decided to get professional help. I paid a visit to a wildlife expert in the Triglav National Park (TNP), the only Slovenian national park; its territory is nearly identical with that occupied by the Eastern Julian Alps. Smart decision! I found out that the biggest colony of Alpine ibex in Slovenia lives in the heart of the park in the areas Kriški podi, Luknja and Sovatna together with the neighbouring peaks Pihavec and Bovški Gamsovec. Half of all the Alpine ibexes in TNP presumably live in this area. Most of the rest live in the mountains above Bavšica Valley (near Bovec, the Slovenian adventure capital in the beautiful Soča Valley). All together there are around 150 Alpine ibexes in the park and around 200 in Slovenia.

So – let's go! Let's have a two-day trip into the mountains to meet as much Alpine ibexes as possible!

The plan was to start »The Alpine Ibex Mission« in the Vrata Valley, most famous and also the most popular alpine valley in Slovenia. It's a starting point for climbing the classic routes in impressive Mount Triglav north face (Triglav is also the highest peak in Slovenia, 2864 meters, and lots of the routes to the top are starting in the Vrata Valley – and you don't have to be a climber to make it to the top!) and also for hikes to the other popular peaks such as Škrlatica, Stenar ... A great deal of the history of Slovenian mountaineering was made in these big walls above the Vrata Valley. (And talking about Slovenian mountaineering – you might find interesting visiting the attractive Slovenian Alpine Museum in Mojstrana, the village, where you start ascending towards the Vrata Valley.)

But back to the plan, which was: Vrata Valley (1015 m)–Luknja Pass (1758 m)–Bovški Gamsovec (2392 m)–Kriški podi (mountain hut, sleepover; 2050 m)–Križ (2410 m)–Stenar (2501 m)–Sovatna–Vrata.

It was the beginning of the summer, an early afternoon and my had was boiling in the heat even Dante wouldn't mind for his Inferno. A nice path to the Luknja Pass seemed like a never-ending book. And there wasn't not even one Alpine ibex! »You should embrace more positive perspective! And you have to visualize them!« Metka, my friend and my companion on the mission tried to be supportive. (I wasn't sure should I blame the sun for this nonsense?)

When you reach the Luknja Pass you are rewarded with splendid views. Triglav north face on the left, Bovški Gamsovec on the right and the Trenta Valley, beautiful and peaceful alpine valley with the emerald Soča River bellow. Gray and green dominate the land. Fantastic. And just when we continued to walk towards Bovški Gamsovec – there he was! Our first Alpine ibex of the day! He kept the distance but ... there he was! And then another one!

Now this one was a natural born model. He didn't even winked when I started to make photos. Alpine ibex aren't timid; they're quite friendly actually. So it wasn't unusual that I could do a proper photo session with this poseur. (But of course from the respectful distance he was okay with.) He had to be older – his horns were long and wrinkled and he kept for himself. Older females also keep for theirself but their horns are shorter; youngsters (they are smaller and with shorter horns) are much more social.

We just couldn't stop starring at him. But we had to stop eventually heading to the top of Bovški Gamsovec. The views widened on the top, we saw the mountains Kanjavec, Pihavec, Razor, Križ, Stenar and other peaks and rigdes. I never get tired of the views in the mountains. I also don't mind experience the same peak, the same ridge, the same trip over and over again. The mountains are simply so impressive.

From the top we descended in the direction of the mountain hut (Pogačnikov dom) on Kriški podi and – well, well, look at them again! Dozens of them! Playful youngsters. Thank you Metka for positive thoughts :-)! (No more doubts about her mental health anymore!)

We reached the hut in the late afternoon and we spent the rest of the day hanging around the hut. The atmosphere inside was peaceful, other guests were quietly sitting in the dinning room, reading a book or playing cards. We shared the room with some unidentified male guests. A bit of snoring during the night but otherwise a quiet night.

We packed our bags early in the morning and crawled into the foggy day. We reached Križ quite quickly and then Stenar; lots of stones and rocks. Not the most beautiful paths in the Slovenian Alps but Stenar offers the best view on the Triglav north face; so, when you're there, lay and enjoy if the weather treats you well.

We descended through Sovatna and it was then when we fell into the documentary film. It was like National Geographic or Animal Channel live! A bunch of young Alpine ibexes searching for amusement in this cloudy day. A couple of them found it in a gentle battle – it was obvious they don't want to hurt each other, just have some fun. It was a small but a precious spectacle!

The point? Always trust a friend who bets on positive thoughts :-)!

More photos ...

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