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The Pelci traverse

You can find many amazing places for hiking in Bovec. For instance the Soca trail or the Juliana trail. But if you are looking for something more engaging, a ridge traverse might be perfect. It is in the realm of mountaineering but isn’t as physically challenging as climbing. So if you visit the Soca valley, after you have tried the soca rafting and soca kayaking, you can pay a visit to the mountains around Trenta valley. It is a mere hour and a half from Lake Bled and about 40 minutes from Bovec. So if you want to experience the best of Slovenia the Soca valley should definitely be on your list of stops.

Although the approach is relatively long, there are plenty of amazing sights to see along the way that kept us occupied and reminded us of why we keep returning to the mountains. The hills above the Zadnja Trenta valley are home to many iconic alpine plants and animals, and since there is hardly ever anyone else around you get a unique opportunity to spot them along the way. The guidebook stated that Planina Zapotok is like a natural botanical garden. As we hiked through the glades scattered with blooms of all colours it became clear that that description was completely accurate. It would take an eternity to stop and admire every species on its own, let alone remember the name for next time.

Witnessing life and death

In the cold morning hours, I had the opportunity to capture a little green butterfly called Callophrys Rubi. It was resting on a strand of purple heather, stiffened by the chill of dawn. Intertwined with the heather shrubs were blueberry bushes, with tiny red fruits already hanging from their branches. We took a mental note to return in late summer so we can taste these blue little treats. As a backdrop for the visuals of mountain life, we were serenaded by an orchestra of birds chirping to keep our steps light. As we reached the first patches of snow we encountered the carcass of an unfortunate chamois that was most likely caught in an avalanche. It made us pause for a minute and consider how fragile life is, especially in the mountains. We continued with a cautious step. After a 4 hour approach, we reached a plateau where we took a few minutes to rest and have a snack. We attached to the short rope that would link us together for the duration of the traverse. 

From the plateau, we ascended towards the first peak of the day, Zadnji pelc.

 Finally standing on a peak after spending hours in the valley gave us a rush of adrenaline. With this fresh motivation, we started our traverse of the Pelci ridge. After a short descent, we soon reached one of the cruxes of the traverse, a smooth slab with a shallow crimp to the right. Above it a was a relatively good hold and we were relieved as we amntled onto the ridge above. A nice way to wake us up and prepare us for the long trek ahead. We knew it would be full of uncertain sections and hidden dangers, that we will need to be alert and careful for. From then on, with the exception of crossing one or two stiff snow sections, the traverse was smooth. We fell into the routine of meandering between the rock pillars and keeping track of our rope and position. This way we were staying safe as we made our way forward. The ridge fell behind us rather quickly as we sunk into our routine and made some lighthearted conversation to keep us in good spirits.

Halfway there, but far from the end

And so it didn’t feel long before we reached the second peak, Srednji Pelc. We decided, however, that since we still had a long way to go, there wasn’t any time to linger around.  With a good part of the ridge behind us, we reached a long, wide, gradual slope and it felt good to stand on secure ground for a few minutes. At this point, we were well past the middle point of our traverse. We began scouting and discussing our descent back into the valley. There were a couple more steep technical sections before we conquered Veliki Pelc and then finally our last peak Pelc nad Klonicami. So after about 4 hours of traversing and climbing, we took some time to rest and refuel with some food and water. Meanwhile, we observed our options of a descent. With the help of a rock figure, we identified the direction we would continue in. As we started moving toward the end of the ridge, we prepared ourselves for the challenges of our return into the Trenta valley.

One last crux, equipped with an anchor for safety was between us and the snowy slope that was going to be, as we decided amongst each other, the fastest way down.

We hoped the snow wouldn’t be stiff, as all of it we had encountered thus far was. This way our descent would be significantly faster, safer and easier. And as we made the first few steps onto the white slope, we were relieved as we sunk deep into the soft and damp snow. So, we decided it was time to untie from the short rope and break the bond that had led us along the entirety of the ridge, and make our ways down the slope individually. After hours of stressful climbing, it felt amazing to let go and just run down the slope into the valley. As we reached the shelter below Jalovec, we knew that we were entering the last part of our expedition.

A fun and quick return into the valley

Ahead was just an easy run along the path leading back down to where we left our car in the morning. And in fact, it was as quick as we knew it would be. We chatted about IFMGA education as we made our way down. It was the topic for most of the day since Žiga was in the process of acquiring his mountaineering licence. With that our descent back into Trenta valley was as light as a walk in the park. So at four in the afternoon, after approximately ten and a half hours of trekking, we were back at our starting point. It felt as if we had left our car a lifetime ago. As we changed into dry clothing, our minds were still buzzing with everything we had seen, heard and experienced on the ridge. We began to realize that these memories and impressions were ones we were going to cherish for as long as we know. Another trip to solidify our bond to the mountains and make us reflect upon the world we live in. I would say this trip is definitely a reason for why to come to Slovenia.

Technical data on the ridge:

Elevation:

  •  Zadnji Pelc, 2315 m
  • Srednji Pelc, 2336 m
  • Veliki Pelc, 2388 m
  • Pelc nad Klonicami, 2442 m

Elevation of starting point: 

  • 962 m

Elevation gain along the way:

  • approximately 1550 m

The most appropriate time for traverse:

  • The dry season between June and October

Difficulty:

The tour is appropriate for physically well-prepared individuals, and it is best to be accompanied by a guide. It is also welcome to have some previous experience with hiking, climbing or more technical traversing.. Along the way, there are plenty of good quality anchoring points and stabile pillars for ensuring safety. However the rock in the Slovenian alps is, for the most part, brittle, and so the ridge is largely broken. This requires caution when walking, climbing or setting up anchor points.

Dangers on the ridge:

Because of this relatively bad quality of rock, it’s also important to be cautious of falling debris. People moving above us and rope catching rock is almost definitely going to trigger some stones onto our heads. Another danger to keep in mind in the case of bad weather is lightning. We are reminded of this by the many freshly broken sections on the ridge. Lastly, navigating the ridge requires some experience with efficient and safe pathfinding, since the direction is not always clear at first glance.

As stated in the guidebook:

  • Zadnja Trenta-Zadnji Pelc, 4-5h
  • Zadnji Pelc-Pelc nad Klonicami, 4h
  • Pelc nad Klonicami- Zadnja Trenta, 4h
  • Altogether approximately 12-13h

The timing of our traverse:

  • Zadnja Trenta-Zadnji Pelc, 4h
  • Zadnji Pelc-Pelc nad Klonicami, 4h
  • Pelc nad Klonicami-Zadnja Trenta, 2,5

Shelter along the way:

  • Zapotok plain, 1385 m  (possibility for sheltering overnight in the old barn building)
  • Zavetišče pod Špičkom, 2064 m  (transl. shelter beneath špička, quality bivouac)

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