HIDDEN GEMS CLIMBED IN THE JULIAN ALPS

Posted on: October 17, 2007


Pavle Kozjek on his way to the next belay of The Beauty is the Beast (VI+ A1, 550m), Devil's Pillar of Prisojnik (2547m), Julian Alps, Slovenia. Kozjek spotted the line while making the second ascent of Angel's Route (VII-, 550m, Knez, 1983) last year. He and Golob believe that the new route, which they consider one of the last great lines in the Julian Alps, will go free, after some scrubbing, at VII. [Photo] Urban Golob

The rock faces in the Julian Alps of Slovenia are some of the most "tapped" alpine faces in Europe. Even if you know every existing route, it's difficult to find blank space for a new one. On the 1000-meter north face of Triglav (2863m), Slovenia's highest mountain, there are more than 100 alpine routes of all difficulties. So, nowadays, most new routes are climbed on lower, less known faces, and often they are mediocre in quality and remain unrepeated for years. But a few good lines still are hidden among the main faces.

Kozjek working up the northeast face of Vevnica (Veunza, 2340m) while establishing Edelweiss (VII-, 550m) with Peter Podgornik in the western Julian Alps of Slovenia during mid-September. [Photo] Peter Podgornik

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On September 9, Urban Golob and I climbed an interesting route on the Devil's Pillar of Prisojnik (2547m), a mountain just above the ski resort Kranjska Gora. I noticed the possibility of a new line last year when I made the second ascent of Francek Knez's masterpiece, Angel's Route (UIAA VII-, 550m, 1983). Urban and I encountered wintry conditions; there was already snow above 2000 meters—quite unusual for September. On the first part of the route we found excellent climbing on solid limestone, mostly slabs and cracks. Then we came to an overhanging corner, where we made A1 moves on friends to avoid the most rotten rock. After 10 ugly meters, the climbing became solid again for the rest of the route. Reaching the top of the pillar took us ten hours, and we named the route The Beauty is the Beast (VI+ A1, 550m). Our guess is that it would go completely free at VII—after significant cleaning of the dirty pitch.

A week later my old friend Peter Podgornik called me to join him on another route. Peter was part of my rope team on the first ascent of Cerro Torre's east face in 1986 (Devil's Direttissima, with Jeglic, Knez, Karo and Sveticic). More than twenty years later, we still try to do some good climbs together when possible. Since he nearly has completed the guidebook for the Mangart group, he knew all about climbs in that part of the Julian Alps. We moved just across the Italian border, to the northeast face of Vevnica (Veunza, 2340m) in the western Julian Alps, a neighbour of the better-known Mangart (2679m) that has one of the best north faces in the range. Climbing through partially wet rock, we established a new line in six-and-a-half hours on the central part of the Vevnica face. Edelweiss (VII-, 550m) offers solid white limestone and nice passages, avoiding main roofs and overhangs.

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