STA, 1 August 2019 - Slovenian mountaineers Aleš Česen, Luka Stražar and Brit Tom Livingston will receive the Piolet d'Or, the top award in mountaineering, in September for their ascent of Latok I in August last year (as reported here).
"Three expeditions will be awarded this year. The two others will be posthumous awards, unfortunately. The solo ascends by David Lama and Hansjörg Auer, who, sadly, passed away in Canada this spring," Česen has been quoted as saying by the website of the Slovenian Mountaineering Association.
BREAKING NEWS: Mountain Equipment Pro Team Athlete Tom Livingstone has made the long awaited first ascent of Latok I [7145m] from the North over 7 days with Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar - https://t.co/PqnzIdX1hN pic.twitter.com/N50kg6xlN2— MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT (@MTNEQUIPMENT) August 13, 2018
Česen, Stražar and Livingston were only the second expedition that ascended the 7145-metre Latok I and the first ever to reach the peak over its north face.
This will be the second Pioler d'Or for both Česen and Stražar. The former was part of an expedition that won the award in 2015, while the latter was part of an expedition honoured in 2012.
It will also be the eight Piolet d'Or going to Slovenia, since the award was first handed out 27 years ago. Only last year, Andrej Štremfelj was honoured with the lifetime achievement award.
The awards, given out by the French magazine Montagnes and The Groupe de Haute Montagne, will be conferred at the Ladek Mountain Festival running between 19 and 22 September in Poland.
STA, 16 July 2019 - Slovenian mountaineer Janez Svoljšak, a member of the Kranj Alpine Association, has died during an expedition in Pakistan, the Slovenian Alpine Association (PZS) said on Monday.
The 25-year-old from Škofja Loka (NW) died in a base camp under the 6,650 m Tahu Rutum mountain in the Karakoram mountain range in the wee hours of Monday.
Svoljšak reportedly uttered a wheezing sound during sleep, passed out and stopped breathing. His team started resuscitating him immediately but gave up after three hours of futile efforts. Arrangements are now being made to bring his body back to Slovenia.
Svoljšak was an established mountaineer, having conquered peaks in Pakistan, Patagonia, the Canadian Rockies as well as Montana and Colorado in the US.
His career highlights include climbing the Schmidt route up the North Face of the Matterhorn alone as well as a sole single-day ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc via the Innominata ridge - both achievements are considered a tour-de-force of mountaineering.
In May, he and a fellow mountaineer completed a series of climbs in remote mountains of Alaska on routes that no human ever set foot on before, conquering three virgin peaks in the process.
The deceased mountaineer was the European Champion in ice climbing in 2016 as well as the winner of one of the World Cup games.
June 28, 2019
While these days some complain about the heat, others look at the weather as perfect for trips.
Trips, however, can mean soaking in the sea or perhaps lakes, and close to lakes there are often mountains. However, the sartorial differences between a swim in a lake and a hike up a mountain are often not taken very seriously, especially by foreign tourists, who have been causing a lot of work for mountain rescue services in the past few weeks.
Good to know: Overworked with saving lives in situations that could easily be avoided, the mountain rescue service repeatedly pleads to mountaineers and hikers not to wave at helicopters if no help is needed.
Since many rescue missions happen due to hikers’ inappropriate equipment, local police and mountain rescue units occasionally check out the wannabe mountaineers even before they reach the terrain where difficulties might occur.
Earlier this week, a group of twelve heading towards Triglav lakes on the fastest route across Komarča, a quite a serious mountain to climb, was caught wearing the latest street fashions instead of something more appropriate. The rescue service, after taking some photographs, turned them around and sent them back to the Savica hut, the starting point of the trail.
The pictures were then published, for educational purposes, on the Police Directorate Kranj’s Facebook site, with a warning: only ankle-high mountain boots are appropriate footwear for difficult Slovenian mountain trails.
And thus note that worn down sneakers, the coolest trainers, and beach-friendly sandals are not considered safe footwear for Slovenian mountains. And, if we might add, dresses and skirts might hinder your climbing, too.
Inappropriate equipment Photo: Police Directorate Kranj
Appropriate equipment Photo: Neža Loštrek
June 14, 2019
Late snowfalls have delayed the mountaineering season in Slovenia’s high mountains this year, which usually begins mid-June. Anyone headed to high mountains at the moment is advised to bring appropriate winter equipment, or turn around and head down if stumbling upon an icy white surface below a mountain peak.
Accordingly, not all mountain huts have opened their doors to climbers yet. For the current situation on mountain huts please follow this website: https://plangis.pzs.si/?koce=1
Although we seem to be still far from the beginning of the season, the mountain rescue service already intervened 201 times this year and 17 people lost their lives. (source)
Finally, hikers are advised not to greet any helicopters they see by waving to it unless in need of help.
STA, 23 May 2019 - Two Slovenian mountaineers have completed a series of climbs in remote mountains of Alaska on routes that no human ever set foot on before, conquering three virgin peaks in the process.
Janez Svoljšak and Miha Zupin pioneered five complex new routes in the total length of 4,250 metres in the mountains above the Revelation Glacier between mid-March and mid-April.
The longest and toughest to descend was a 1,300 metre Slovenian route up Apocalypse North, a 2,750 metre peak never climbed before. It took the pair eight hours and a half to climb the mountain.
The expedition was supported by the Slovenian Mountaineering Association, which noted in a press release that the area explored had been visited by one mountaineering expedition a year on average over the past decade, and that the base camp was only accessible by aircraft.
"The area is remote, which means communication is limited to satellite phone messages, and access to the base camp depends on the weather," said Svoljšak, the head of the expedition.
"The weather there is very unsettled, which was hardest during the first few days when the wind bent the poles supporting our tent, and forced us to move on our knees while climbing the ridge."
The strong winds blew large amounts of snow into the face of the mountain, which they had to remove in order to hit the rock or ice, which Svoljšak said was harder than climbing.
Svoljšak, like Zupin member of the Kranj mountaineering section, won the European ice climbing championship title plus a World Cup event in 2016.
The Slovenian Alaska expedition also pioneered the conquest of Four Horsemen East (2,600 m) via a 600 metre East Ridge route, and a peak that they named Wailing Wall (2,450 m).
They also climbed the east face of Golgotha (2,724 m) up a virgin 900 metre route that they named Farther, and Seraph (2,650 m) up a 700 metre new route they christened as The Last Supper for Snow Strugglers.
STA, 13 May 2019 – May 13 marked 40 years to the day since Andrej Štremfelj and Nejc Zaplotnik made history as the first Slovenians who reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world. On this occasion, the Slovenian Alpine Museum in Mojstrana (NW) honoured the anniversary with a ceremony and an exhibition about their conquest of Mount Everest.
Štremfelj and Zaplotnik were part of a Yugoslav expedition which featured 25 members, with 21 of them being Slovenians, and was led by Slovenian mountaineer Tone Škarja.
The two mountaineers achieved their goal after 45 days of climbing the mountain's western ridge in extreme weather conditions and struggling with oxygen deprivation.
The museum located under Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain, started the ceremony exactly at 01:51pm, when, according to local time, Zaplotnik announced the exciting news to the base camp.
"Tone, we're at the top. We're sitting at the Chinese pyramid and don't know what to do," he famously said.
Books about Slovenia: Alpine Warriors, A History of Modern Slovenian Alpinism
Two days later the peak was also reached by Slovenian mountaineer Stane Belak - Šrauf and Stipe Božić, the first Croatian to summit Mount Everest, as well as Nepalese mountaineer Ang Phu.
A majority of the Slovenian members of the 1979 expedition and representatives of the Mountaineering Association were received today by President Borut Pahor, who congratulated them on the anniversary.
They also attended the ceremony in Mojstrana, with Škarja pointing out that a number of factors contributed to the accomplishment, including successful preparation, courage, experience, cooperation and pursuit of the common goal.
Štremfelj reminisced about the feat, saying that he and Zaplotnik congratulated themselves at the top and shed a few tears of joy.
"Resounding cheers from all camps told us everything we needed to know about the collective spirit. We reached the top on behalf of all of us and saved the exhibition from fears of failure so that all our efforts would not have been in vain," said Štremfelj, adding that their joy could not last since one of the members had a fatal accident.
The realisation of what they had achieved sank in later, when they were already back and celebrating in Slovenia. Nowadays, their route is considered the most difficult among eleven established routes. Only the 1984 Bulgarian expedition has succeeded in conquering it as well.
To mark the feat, the museum is also hosting an exhibition featuring items and archives about the expedition and Mount Everest in general, including a journal entry by US chronicler of Himalayan mountaineering expeditions Elizabeth Hawley, describing the 1979 expedition.
The 8,848-metre Mount Everest has been summited by 18 Slovenians, who climbed to the top using three different routes.
Slovenian mountaineers have made a name for themselves among the Himalayas' world records, succeeding in climbing a route that had never been attempted before, women's ascent and ascent without the use of supplemental oxygen as well as the first ski descent from the top of the mountain.
All our stories about mountaineering and Slovenia are here
Slovenia has no shortage of niche events and festivals for those who still enjoy the pleasures of the big screen in public, from Kinodvor’s Film Under the Stars at Ljubljana Castle to the Grossmann Fantastic Film & Wine Festival, which brings horror and honest trash to Ljutomer. However, it’s something that’s occurring next week is that’s perhaps the most Slovenian of all – the Mountain Film Festival (Festival gorniškega filma).
1. Slovenian climbers rock
We’re huge admirers of the past and present of Slovenian climbing here at TSN, be it folks with names like Čop, Kunaver, Zaplotnik, Štremfelj, Prezelj, Karo, or Humar in the Julian Alps, Himalayas, Yosemite and Patagonia, or on the wall in sports climbing with figures such as “the best climber in the world”, the still teenaged Janja Garnbret from Kranj. In short, Slovenia has played and continues to play an outsized role in the world of climbing, with many first ascents and new routes. Learning about it will help draw you closer to the land, and you may even end up on Triglav.
If you want to read more about the history of the scene here, take a look at the book Alpine Warriors.
2. Big screen adventure
So the festival’s got that Slovenian cultural heritage going for it – it’s organised by the Mountain Culture Association (Društvo za gorsko kulturo) and the legendary Silvo Karo – but for me the chief appeal is this: these films will be presented on screens far larger than the ones you have at home. They’re thus are better able to convey the full majesty and terror of the scenes on display (as Aleš Kunaver said, “in the mountains magnificence is diametrically opposed to comfort”).
That movie about the guy who climbed that thing without a rope? Imagine seeing this on something much, much bigger:
3. The programme is world class
The programme looks great, with most of the big mountain features and shorts from the last year or so, and there are also movies on topic adjacent to climbing, like the night sky or environment, so we’ll just present the following convenient selection of trailers, with a lot more to be found at the website.
4. A chance to meet the stars
What else can you expect at a mountain film festival in Slovenia? Climbers, and great ones – on the screen, on the stage and in the audience, many of whom live a short drive from the event. Sp Andrej Štremfelj will give a lecture about his ascent of Everest in 1979, when he climbed with the legendary Nejc Zaplotnik, while Aleš Česen and Luka Stražar will be there talking about their ground-breaking ascent, done with Tom Livingstone, of Latok 1 in 2018, “the Holy Grail of high altitude climbing”.
Other names set to talk about their lives and climbs include Rado Kočevar, Hansjörg Aeur, Klemen Bečan and Marija Jeglič. Beyond the Slovenian scene, Colin Haley will be talking about sport alpinism, and one event that’s sure to inspire heated opinions is a roundtable discussion: “Drilling – pitons or bolts?”
5. It’s not just in Ljubljana
While the main events are held in Cankarjev dom, the festival is not confined to the capital. It also has screenings and lectures in Domžale, Celje and Radovljica, while the winning movies will play everywhere (except Celje) at the end of the festival.
You can get a PDF of the programme here
Bonus - the website is ice cool and clean
With a website that's easy to navigate and comes in Slovene and English varieties, letting you search by day, event and venue, the Slovenian Mountain Film Festival offers a perhaps unique chance to see these films on the big screen, with an audience that knows what it’s watching, in a country in love with its mountains.
Related: see all out posts tagged "mountaineering" here
February 10, 2019
The main task of the Slovenian Mountaineering Society (Slovensko Planinsko Društvo, SDP), established in 1893, was to build, take care and then walk along the secured mountain trails. One of the first important improvements on Triglav was securing some of the most problematic parts of the route leading to the summit. In the early 1870s, a local guide, Šest, and his son eased the trail from Triglav temple to Little Triglav, cut some very much needed steps into the rock, and secured the ridge between both peaks with iron poles with loops that carried a rope fence, which now allowed even more climbers to reach the summit.
In the years that followed, more trails were built and secured, allowing the ascent to the summit from several huts in various directions, including from the north. This is a route which used to cross the shrinking glacier, but today leads to Kredarica, the most popular starting point to reach the summit since Jakob Aljaž found a great spot for a hut which was built there in 1896.
However, the Slovenian Mountaineering Society did little for a small group of daring young climbers, who were more interested in new routes than tourist walks on known and secured trails. On Triglav, this meant climbing the Northern Wall, one of the largest of its kind in the Eastern Alps. It's 1300m high (following the German route) and 3500m wide, with several shelves and ravines forming independent walls within the big one. Triglav’s Northern Wall is also home to several of the hardest climbing routes in the Slovenian Alps.
Although the first climbers of the Northern Wall were shepherds and hunters, who mostly followed the paths of animals, sports climbing was based on a different kind of logic from that which found a path that was shown to a “gentleman” by a hunter, as the so-called Slovenian route across the Northern Wall was shown by a guide (Komac) to Henrik Tuma in 1910. If the new route for the older generation meant an easier path across a newly climbed slope, the new view on alpinism involved climbing a new, more difficult route without cleared paths and instead with the help of pitons and ropes.
Triglav’s Northern Wall was considered one of the three main problems of the Eastern Alps before it was even climbed, and as such was the focus of German, Austrian and Czech climbers. After the walls of Watzmann (1888) and Hochstadl (1905), the wall of Triglav was finally climbed by three Austrian Germans, Karl Domenigg, Felix Koenig and Hans Reinl, in 1906. The route has become known as the German route, and their success was immediately followed by several failed attempts, some even fatal ones.
In 1908 the Dren society was established, a group of students interested in Alpinism, skiing, caving and photography, novel activities outside the usually promoted Alpine tourism of the Slovenian Mountaineering Society, whose members considered them as “neck-breakers”.
Slovenian Alpinism before World War One was still way behind the developments in other parts of the Alps. The first use of a piton by a Dren member, Pavel Kunaver, is only recorded in 1911, which is also the last year of attempts at the Northern Wall until after the war.
Although Dren members did introduce some novelty into Slovenian climbing, such as winter ascents (sometimes accompanied by skiing) and other more adventurous climbs, their equipment and technique at the time only allowed them to climb routes of the third level of difficulty, and their predecessor and colleague Henrik Tuma hadn’t climbed anything beyond that level either.
This situation can be seen in the fact that the abovementioned German route on the Triglav Northern Wall, which had the climbing difficulty of level IV, was the most difficult route in Slovenian mountains at the time. Hans Reinly, one of the three first climbers described the achievement with the following words: “Triglav rises its triple head angrily. Let it be called Slovenian highest mountain, but this time it was the German force that conquered its most terrifying hip and fought through dark fogs which driven by a storm descent into the depth from the grey ice at the edge of the wall.” Worth mentioning is that in those days there was no meteorological report, and the day and a half climb took place in rain and bad weather.
The guiding ideas of the Dren were to conquer Slovenian mountains before the German mountaineers, try to prevent the Germanisation of Slovenian mountain names, and to climb without mountain guides, which was the main mountaineering style of the time. Lack of manpower and resources prevented these goals being fully achieved, although the ideas persisted throughout the interwar period and became perhaps the main reason behind the increasing Slovenian obsession with Alpinism, which eventually produced some of the best climbers in the world and continues to do so, regardless of the small the size of the place and its population.
After the war, and let’s not forget that one of the bloodiest WWI fronts took place right at Triglav National Park’s eastern border across the banks of the River Soča (the Battle of Isonzo), the main concern of the Slovenian Mountaineering Society was mostly fixing what had been damaged or destroyed.
Furthermore, the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart and Slovenia joined the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It turned out, however, that in 1915 the Triple Entente had signed a secret agreement with Italy, promising it large chunks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in case of victory. With the 1920 Treaty of Rapallo Italy managed to claim most of the lands promised to her by the United Kingdom, Russia and France, which set the Italian-Yugoslav border at the peak of Triglav, a couple of metres away from Aljaž Tower.
Originally, the entire peak of Triglav was to belong to the Kingdom of South Slaves, however, Italy pushed very hard to get the land under its jurisdiction. The dispute was even more meaningful given that it was part of an attempt to extend poor conditions the Slovenes on the other side of the border had to endure in the face of the rising Italian fascism. The negotiations lasted for four years, and while waiting for the final decision certain incidents took place at the top of Triglav, in the summer of 1923 in particular. These are often referred to as “painting battles” but did in fact involve a more serious weapons beside the paintbrushes, which were used to paint Aljaž Tower with slogans and flag colours. Luckily, nobody got hurt, Aljaž Tower was eventually repainted to its original grey, and the final decision on the border in 1924 set the boundary marker 2.55m west from the Aljaž Tower, rendering the summit it effectively Slovenian.
Within the Slovenian Mountaineering Society (SPD) friction between the moderates and those advocating for “steep tourism” continued into the interwar period. Since the majority of members would not allow sports climbing to be recognised within the SDP, young mountaineers splintered off into a Tourist Club Rock (Turistovski klub Skala, TK Skala) in the winter of 1921.
Rock’s main goal was to continue the development in sports climbing started by Henrik Tuma and evolved by the Dren Society. Among the important climbing achievements of TK Skala are the first Slovenian level V difficulty route climbed by a female climber, Mira Marko Debelak, in 1926 (at the north face of Špik), and the first fully successful winter climb of Triglav’s northern wall in 1939 by Beno Anderwald, Mirko Slapar, Bogdan Jordan and Cene Malovrh, who since 1934, when the SPD finally took alpinism under its wing, had also been members of this organisation.
Foremost, however, Skala’s important achievements also extended into the field of art and culture. Like Dren, TK Skala promoted mountain photography and established a special photography department in charge of postcard production and other images for propaganda purposes. But above all, they were responsible for the first Slovenian feature film, the 1931 V kraljestvu Zlatoroga (In the Kingdom of the Goldhorn) and partially also for the second one a year later, Triglavske Strmine (The Slopes of Triglav). The first movie was produced by Skala and directed by one of their members, Janko Ravnik, while the second was produced by an independent film studio, although it featured several mountaineers/actors from the first film, including Miha Potočnik and Jože Čop.
Fanny Susan Copeland was a remarkable person whose life serves as a curiosity and inspiration. A British woman who was born in Ireland in 1872, grew up in Scotland, and moved to Slovenia in 1921, where she spent most of the rest of her life, dying at 98 in 1970, and buried at the foot of Mount Triglav.
Although she wrote an autobiography it was never published and will remain in copyright limbo until 2020. One person who’s seen this memoir is Eric Percival, whose great-great-great-grandfather, Fred Holloway, knew Fanny’s father, Ralph Copeland, once the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, with the two men meeting near Manchester in the early 1860's. Percival put together the original post that sparked my interest in Ms Copeland, and also kindly supplied some of the pictures that accompany this story. Unless otherwise stated, the facts set out below are also drawn from his account of her life, as based on her own and other reports.
Although British by birth, Fanny was a thoroughly European woman, learning French and German as a child and being educated in Berlin shortly after turning 13. She also learned Latin, Italian, Danish, Norwegian and – due to her father’s interest in the Balkans – Slovenian. This connection with the country would be enough to get our attention, but Ms Copeland holds it because she bucks the standard narrative in terms of when and how one can make a new life for oneself. A brief outline of that life is as follows.
Fanny got married in 1894, at the age of 22, to escape her mother, but her husband was a 36-year old man who she never really liked. The couple had three children and then separated in 1908, finally divorcing in 1912, when Fanny was 40.
She developed a stronger connection with what would eventually become Yugoslavia soon after this, during the First World War, when she supported herself by doing translating for London-based South Slavic organisations. As part of this she translated Bogumil Vošnjak’s Bulwark against Germany: The fight of the Slovenes, the western branch of the Jugoslavs, for national existence, as well as serving as translator for the South Slavic delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.
In "traditional costume"
With Oton Župančič at the Congress of Dubrovnik in 1933
Ms Copeland then moved to Ljubljana in 1921, aged 49, when the city was part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. She was hired as a lecturer in English at the University (which itself only opened in July 1919), a post she held until 1941, when the Germans invaded. At this point, aged 69, she was arrested by the Gestapo and handed to the Italians, who moved her to Trieste, then to Arezzo and finally Bibbiena (in Etruria), where she spent the rest of the war “in open confinement”.
In 1953, aged 81, she finally moved back to Ljubljana. The death of her brother meant that she now had some savings, and thus Fanny Copeland lived in Hotel Slon for the rest of her life, continuing to work as a writer and translator.
Ms Copeland, right, in the Hotel Slon, late 1960s
But Fanny Copeland isn’t just a fine example of a person who didn’t let their gender or age dictate what they should be doing and when, or of someone who managed to successfully integrate themselves into a new country, as she also played a key role in the development of Alpinism as a local tourist offering, and in the promotion of Slovenia as a tourist destination. This section thus draws from an article by Janet Ashton called “Buried at his feet”: Fanny Susan Copeland, Triglav and Slovenia, and from another, Fanny Copeland and the geographical imagination, by Richard Clarke and Marija Anteric, both of which are recommended for more detail.
Ms Copeland felt a great attraction for the Julian Alps, and Slovenia the Slovenes in general, claiming they were the most Scottish of the Yugoslav communities, perhaps because of the mountains, long dominance by other powers, and characteristics of pragmatism and frugality.
She first climbed Triglav in the 1920s, not having taken up serious climbing until her 40s, and did so for the last time in 1958, just before her 87th birthday. She also wrote two books on the Julian Alps, Beautiful Mountains: In the Jugoslav Alps (1931), and A short guide to the Slovene Alps (Jugoslavia) for British and American tourists (1936). As she said in 1957, this was done in the “hope of attracting to Slovenia tourists of all types, from summer visitors in search of little-known beautiful and inexpensive Alpine resorts to Alpinists in search of accessible mountain ranges not yet wholly exploited or explored”.
Such efforts to reveal what in those days was still a very hidden gem were not without their obvious dangers, as she noted in a much earlier letter from 1923 when commenting on one of her many trips up Triglav: “It is an interesting walk, but as an expedition it is badly spoilt by the path having been made fool-proof. Result, every holiday is made hideous by hundreds of trippers, and the average person has to wait for a holiday to go up.”
Slovenski planinski muzej:- Fedor Košir, president of the Alpine Association of Slovenia and Fanny Copeland.
As mark of respect for her work to promote the Julian Alps, and to establish Triglav National Park, when Fanny Copeland died her funeral was organised by the Mountaineering Union of Slovenia. She was buried in the cemetery of the village church in Dovje, where you can still see her simple grave, as shown below.
Wikipedia - Miran Hladnik CC-by-2.5
As Copeland wrote in 1931:
By fixed custom those that perish on Triglav are buried at his feet. In the pretty village church of Dovje, opposite the entrance of the stately Valley of the Gate (Vrata– truly a gate to be called Beautiful) they lie side by side. I think they would have it so. The long shadows of the regal avenue of peaks, down which they passed to their last adventure, sweep over their graves as the days and the years roll by; on All Souls’ day the mountaineers bring them pious offerings of prayer and lights, and from their tombstones their names cry greeting and warning to the hosts that go up year by year to visit the mountains, - greeting to the many who go up by the blazed trail where every danger spot is made safe with iron bolt and wire rope, to protect the unwary and put heart into the timid, - greeting to the few who seek, like themselves, to win the goal without guidance save the love of the heights, and no company except the extreme mysteries of life and death – greeting to the cragsman and the lover, to schoolboy and hunter, to smuggler and spy, and the ski-shod friend of the snows….
So if you find yourself in Hotel Slon, on Mount Triglav or by the village of Dovje, spare a thought for the remarkable Fanny Copeland, a woman who not only did as much as anyone else working in English to make the case for a separate Slovenian identity, one distinct from land’s association with the Habsburgs, Slavs and Serbo-Croatians, but also did much to bring the beauty of the land to a wider audience, and to share the best of her adoptive home with the world.
As to what life was really like under Tito for a woman born to the academic elite under Queen Victoria, Copeland addresses this at the end of her autobiography, with a postscript to the reader:
But have you really found good reasons to go and live in a ‘communist’ state? This was a question I was often asked soon after my return to Ljubljana. Well - for one thing it depends on what you mean by 'Communism'. If you mean a totalitarian regime then my reply is that no Yugoslav would put up with such a system… The Yugoslavs are stout individualists, but they appreciate law and order. Ask any British tourist who has visited Yugoslavia in recent years.
All our stories on mountaineering in Slovenia can be found here
January 28, 2019
Read part one here.
If the first mountaineering successes took place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the second half of the latter saw the emergence of mountaineering organisations, which built mountain huts, marked and maintained trails, and brought mountaineering closer to the broader public.
On Triglav, the first mountain hut (called Triglav Temple) was built in 1869 by Jože Škantar at the initiative of the local chaplain, Ivan Žan. The hut was part of the plan to establish the first Slovenian mountaineering organisation by some of the locals of Bohinj, who also sought to register the first Slovenian alpinist club, Friends of Triglav, in 1872. Unfortunately, just as the authorities returned the papers, demanding a change in the place of registration from ‘Bohinj’ to one of the villages in the area, Ivan Žan was transferred from Bohinj to Škofja Loka, and the six-day deadline to fix the problem was missed.
The aforementioned Triglav temple, a simple wooden hut, standing at the elevation of 2,401 metres, managed to defy the devastating forces of nature for about five years. Then, in 1877, Jože Škantar together with his son erected another, much stronger building, which was taken over by the merged German and Austrian climbing clubs (Deutscher und Österreichischer Alpenverein, DÖAV), and therefore also carried a German name, that is, Triglav Hütte. In 1911 Triglav Hütte became a property of the Austrian Tourist Club, which changed its name to Maria Theresien Haus and enlarged into its current size. The building changed its name again in between the World Wars, when it was called the Alexander hut. Only after the Second World War did the hut finally got its currently neutral name, Dom Planika (Edelweiss hut).
Two decades passed before another attempt at a Slovenian mountaineering society (Slovensko planinsko društvo, SPD), which was finally formed in 1893. Meanwhile, trails and huts in the mountains were built and maintained by German and Austrian clubs for German and Austrian mountaineers.
In 1892, six Slovenian mountaineers from Ljubljana met at the Rožnik restaurant at the top of the Ljubljana hill with the same name, where they founded an informal club called Pipa (Pipe), since one of the many rules, most of them hardly to be taken seriously, was that all of its members had to be equipped with pipes, tobacco and matches, along the rule that members had to visit one of Slovenia’s mountains every Sunday, or at least walk to the top of Rožnik. They also put together a single copy of one issue of a newspaper with jokes and mountaineering stories, which was kept at the Rožnik restaurant for its members to read free of charge, while other visitors had to pay in order to do so.
On one of their trips, Pipa members discussed the problem of German domination of their activity in the Slovenian mountains, which eventually resulted in the Slovenian mountaineering society, or Slovensko Planinsko Društvo (SPD hereafter), which was formally established in 1893 in Ljubljana. Numerous branches of this society emerged in other parts of the country in the years to follow, including its Radovljica branch in 1895, where one of the constitutive members was also a local priest – Jakob Aljaž, a name that still lives on the summit.
SPD begun marking the mountain trails and building its own huts, which Germans called huts of defiance, since they were often built just a few metres away from the German ones. From this defiance came the idea of Jakob Aljaž to purchase the top of Triglav and decorate it with a tower which would eventually bear the first writing in the Slovenian language in the entire Triglav massif area: Aljažev stolp.
The tower was designed by Aljaž himself, and manufactured by his friend, tinsmith Anton Belec from Šentvid (Ljubljana) in 1895. The tower was a metal cylinder with a metal flag bearing the year of its construction stuck to the top.
Parts were taken by train to Mojstrana and carried to the top of Triglav by a group of six strong men over a span of one week. It was then to be put together by Aljaž, Belec and three assistants. On the night of their final climb to the mountain the five rested in Deschmannhaus, one of the three huts on Triglav at the time, all run by the Carniolan section of the DÖAV, which fought against any bilingual signs on the mountain and also prioritised German climbers over Slovenian ones when they were looking for shelter in their mountain huts.
However, foggy weather cleared the mountain, which meant that the group could work at the top without being disturbed by potentially outraged bystanders. The fog, however, also meant that Aljaž decided not to climb to the summit but rather to “supervise” the construction from below by listening to the sounds of the hammers hitting brass. The tower was standing after about five hours of such work.
Once the tower was discovered the DÖAV was enraged and demanded its removal in a legal battle that was based on a claim that Aljaž had destroyed a triangulation point, which allegedly stood at the tower’s location. Aljaž on the other hand claimed that no such trig point was ever in the tower’s location, apart from a wooden pyramid which had been placed at the top 40 years earlier and destroyed by weather long before the tower was erected. His claims were eventually confirmed by a key witness, Captain Schwartz, who later asked Aljaž to allow a trig point’s information pergament to be placed under the tower, carrying information about its coordinates and the elevation point of its top, which effectively brought the tower under the Emperor’s protection. Later on Aljaž donated the tower to the SDP.
With the tower also came a song, which became the SDP’s official anthem. In 1894 a poem Slavin, written by Matija Zemljič, caught Jakob Aljaž’s eye, so he wrote music for it after which it became known as Oj, Triglav, moj dom. It has since been adopted as the official anthem of the Slovenian Mountaineering Association, and also serves as a basis for the fanfares starting and ending the Ski Jumping FIS Finals in Planica.
With the tower at the top Triglav thus became the main symbol of the Slovenian national identity.
Meanwhile, a struggle of another kind had emerged. SDP and its touristic culture of walking to the top of a mountain became too small to accommodate the emerging new culture of alpinism within one group. The peak of Triglav may have been conquered, but the battle for domination now opened at the mountain’s northern face, also known as Triglav’s northern wall.
Read part three here