Perfect winter climbing conditions in Slovenian Alps
Almost unreal winter conditions in the Slovenian Alps have resulted in a flurry of interesting ascents. Slovenian alpinist Andrej Grmovšek provides the report.
Although the Slovenian Alps are no more than 2864 m high, they have provided the traditional training ground for Slovenian alpinists aspiring to higher walls or even Himalayan expeditions. In snowy, cold winters the peaks become quite challenging, with long approaches, often marginal protection, loose rock and changeably snow and ice conditions. However, in the last decade or more, the lack of a real winter and easier access to many other areas in the Alps had led to the big faces in Slovenia becoming deserted. Sometimes there were more Slovenian alpinists climbing hard routes above Chamonix than in their home country.
This winter has brought almost unreal conditions to most of the Slovenian alpine walls. In December it rained, right to the level of the summits. This guaranteed that, subsequently, snow and ice would stick to even the steepest of walls. Once the period of high avalanche danger had passed, an increasing number of climbers found real climbing treasures in hills. At present many of the "most popular" routes are climbed on an almost daily basis and new routes are constantly being added. The walls are even busier than during the "the old times"! Here is only a small selection of some of the harder and more spectacular climbs achieved.
Back in December, before the arrival of the "perfect conditions" Marko Lukić and Andrej Grmovšek added another free dry-tool ascent to the north face of Raduha. They climbed the route DD, summer grade VI+, 185m at tricky M7. During the last few years they started dry tooling existing routes in this small, fine, steep wall, always in worst "Scottish" conditions and started something of a revolution, bringing Scottish mixed climbing techniques onto the steep walls of Slovenian mountains that form no ice smears. See more on this here.
At the end of December the first new climb to benefit from the "perfect conditions" was put up by Urban Ažman and Jurij Hladnik, who added the route Kozmična kataklizma, V/5, M7, 500 m to the North face of Prisojnik. More about this here.
On the 17th January Lukić and Grmovšek picked another fine plum in Slovenian winter Alps. Route Ledenka, VIII+, 95o, 550m in Štajerska Rinka was climbed in 1991, by legendary Franček Knez. Knez was the best, most productive and visionary Slovene alpine climber of '80's and '90's and always ahead of time. His route Ledenka was ahead of its time too, and it had received only one, aid ascent untill this year. Knez led the hardest pitch through rotten, loose overhangs in climbing shoes. But this winter the rock was full of soft snow and Grmovsek decided for a slight variation and the use of "modern" drytooling. They suggested M8 grade for it. See more on this here.
If you've ever thought about winter climbing in Slovenia, now is the right time for action on either the mountain faces or ice falls - almost all are in condition. It is possible to buy a useful climbing guide with excellent photos on www.sidarta.si. This guidebook has only one drawback - it's written in Slovenian.