Snowy weekend on the foothills of the Julian Alps

It was almost like I've just made the final step to fall into the lap of the bloodthirsty witch; you know, the one from the famous fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel. The one that owns the gingerbread house to lure children to her to cook and eat them. The resemblance was obvious: the small hut where we were to be spending the weekend was so similar to the candy house from the fairly tale! Well, in truth, there was wood instead of candies and solitude instead of crazy witch. But I don't need a wicked woman to kidnap me; I can do that by myself! Just to be able to spend some time off in this cute hut in the forest, sitting at the wood-burning stove and read ...

Excuse me, can you tell me where the winter is?

I was spending the weekend on Pokljuka plateau in the Julian Alps above and between the two Slovenian alpine gems Bled and Bohinj, celebrating the winter. I mean – the real white winter. It's cold in the city alright these days, but it's also green! You have to lift yourself a little bit higher to experience the proper winter.
We were staying in the Goreljek hut that's managed by Triglav National Park (TNP); pushed into the forest, far enough from the road it brings the pleasant feeling of solitude and serenity. There are some neighboring huts, but you don't even notice them. You feel like being the only one in the shelter of the elegant spruce trees that grow all over Pokljuka. (Many beech and fir trees were chopped down in the 18th century for the iron foundries in Bohinj. They have been naturally replaced mostly by spruce trees.)

Which mountain to climb?

I visit Pokljuka mostly in the winter. It's a good starting point for hiking into the mountains that stretches above the plateau: Mt. Viševnik (2050 m), Veliki Draški vrh (2243 m), Mali Draški vrh (2132 m), Mt. Ablanca (2004 m), Debela peč (2014 m) and many others.

When alone and not in the mood for a long hike I usually climb to Mt. Viševnik, the most popular peak here; you don't have to work too hard to get the superb views at the end of the climb. Mt. Triglav, the highest Slovenian peak, is boasting nearby – it seems you could almost touch it.

Veliki Draški vrh is a bit more demanding; it takes an hour and a half more than Mt. Viševnik (two hours at least) and the climb to the top can be a bit icy (although Mt. Viševnik is more exposed since you're walking on the ridge to get to the top).

I haven't climbed Mali Draški vrh yet – once there was too much snow that thawed and was making a thick sole on my crampons and once there was not enough snow to climb it.

But my favorite winter peak above Pokljuka is Mt. Ablanca with taking the steep (almost) climbing route to the top where you're awarded with splendid views on Julian Alps.

My starting point for climbing all these peaks is Rudno polje (1344 m) with the big parking area and where the Sports center Pokljuka is – the main sports spot on Pokljuka plateau. Rudno polje is hugely popular among  recreational cross-country skiers. Over 30 kilometers of trails connect different parts of Pokljuka (from Rudno polje to Javorniška planina ...). Traditionally, Pokljuka is known as the home of Slovenian biathletes; it also holds world famous biathlon competitions. However, recreational cross-country skiers are the most numerous recreational athletes in the winter.

Forests, forests, forests ...

Pokljuka is a forested high karst plateau, the largest closed forest area in the Triglav National Park. It is 20 kilometers long and almost as wide. In a span from 1000 to 1400 meters there are around 6300 hectares of forests, in which spruce prevails. A rugged surface of hidden shafts, overgrown potholes, dolines and valleys is a remnant of the activity of the Pokljuka glacier. It left behind the Pokljuka bogs that belong to the most southern high bogs in Europe. (Goreljek, the area where our hut was, is one of them.) In the summer season one of its appealing points is certainly the cattle, still grazing on its pastures. The shepherds of these pastures provide the visitors with sour milk, curd and cheese. (I was writing about this in the blog: »Cheesy« MTB day on the high plateaus above Lake Bohinj!)

No path, but lots of beauty

This weekend was about something new; I haven't repeated any of the well known hikes or climbs. We took the unmarked path (well, there was no path in the snow anyway ...) from Rudno polje to the remote area on the foothills of Mt. Selišnik with Mt. Viševnik and Mali Draški vrh on the left and Debela peč on the right; it was magnificient. It was like standing on the big cake covered with whipped cream. The clouds were rambling in the sky, but the sun made its way through them now and then. We couldn't stay still for long though; the cold wind was blowing so hard that you had to bend here and there not be to blown away. But it was a gorgeous day anyway. We ended the trip with a strong schnapps to warm ourselves up on the big terrace of the Sports center Pokljuka.

The next day was the wind blowing even harder. So we made a short but nice hike through the forests up to the Javorov vrh (1482 m). Not a very impressive peak, but the views from the top are fantastic: Julian Alps, Kamnik-Savinja Alps and  Karawanks; we got a glimpse on all three Slovenian mountain chains.

And this was the end, beautiful friend ... to rephrase The Doors, only in much more optimistic manner :-)! It's great to kidnap oneself now and then. Hope to repeat it in the near future!

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