Although 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, clod winters the peaks become quite challenging, with long approaches, often marginal protection, loose rock and changeably snow/ice conditions. However, in the last decade or more, lack of real winter, and easier access to many other areas in the Alps, had led to big faces in Slovenia becoming deserted. Sometimes there were more Slovenian alpinists climbing hard routes above Chamonix than could be found in their home country.
But this winter brings 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 the steepest of walls. Once a period of high avalanche danger has passed, an increasing number of climbers found real climbing treasures in hills. Now many of the “most in” routes are climbed on an almost daily basis, and new routes are constantly being added. The walls are busier than whenever in “the old times”! Here is only small a selection of 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. In last years they started with dry tooling existing routes in this small, fine, step wall, always in worst – “like 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 at: http://grmoclimb.net/?str=502&aid=33 .
At the end of December first of “perfect conditions” new climbs 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: http://www.aoradovljica.com/controler.php?modul=reportaze&action=read&id=177.
On the 17th January Lukić and Grmovšek picked another fine plum of 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 and ‘90, and always ahead of time. His route Ledenka was ahead of its time to, and it received only one, aid ascent till this year. Knez led the hardest pitch trough rotten, loose overhangs in climbing shoes. But this winter the rock was full of soft snow and Grmovsek decided for a slight variation, and use of “modern” drytooling. He suggested M8 grade for it. See more on this at: http://grmoclimb.net/?str=502&aid=34 .
Perfect conditions were found by Andrej Erceg and David Debeljak in classic Špik direct route V/AI5, M, 900 m, summer grade V+. Anyway that this long and aesthetic line was climbed in winter in a day already in 1971 it's really rear to see it in such conditions. Check more on this at: http://www.pdcrnuce.si/CAO/index.php?Id=2&sid=409&type=1&part=0 .
Few more interesting ascents were done last week of January in Štajerska Rinka. Marko Brdnik and Luka Ajnik made rare (and almost free) repeat of Huliganska route, summer grade V+,A2e, 350m (more: http://picasaweb.google.com/Marko.Brdnik/HuliganskaStajerskaRinka# ) and Lukić and Grmovšek did first mix free repeat of Direct route (V/AI5+, M6+), 450m, summer grade VI-. See more on this at: http://grmoclimb.net/?str=502&aid=34.
So if you've ever thought about winter climbing in Slovenia, now is the right time for action (mountain faces or ice falls - almost all are in condition). Check the photos in the links and decide. It is possible to buy a useful climbing guide with excellent photos on http://www.sidarta.si/plezanje/zimski-vzponi.html, but it's written in Slovene.