A return to the mountains - Veliki Draški vrh
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
To say that 2020 has been an unusual year might be a bit of an understatement. Following a relatively mild Winter here in the Bohinj valley it looked like we might get a bit of late season skiing at Vogel, however this idea was short lived and by early March the mountain was closed as Europe and the rest of the world found itself in the grips of a global pandemic. In the months that have followed it's all been a bit of a blur and terms like "social distancing" and "self isolation" are now a part of daily conversation..... that is, if you can find anyone to converse with.
Now if you do have to self isolate there are worse places to do it than Bohinj and fortunately throughout this period I have not witnessed anyone fighting over toilet paper at our local Mercator, which can't be said for my country of birth (Australia). However, with the restrictions on movement I have missed being able to get up into the national park. So, with life slowly starting to return to normal and the snow starting to clear on the higher peaks it felt great to get out of the valley recently for a day in the mountains.
My plan was to climb Veliki Draški vrh (2243m) which is quite a distinctive pyramid shaped peak situated to the north of Stara Fužina with Tosc (aka."Fatty") to its west and the finely pointed Ablanca (2004m) to its south east. Ali and I had attempted a Winter ascent of Draški vrh back in February, but were forced to turn around just above 2000m on the final ridge as we were running out of daylight and our legs were weary from the deep snow we had encountered on the approach.
This time I set off just after 6am to ensure daylight would not be a factor and opted for a more direct approach climbing up to Uskovnica and then on to the beautiful alpine pastures of of Konjščica covering the 9km (+900m) in just over 2hrs 15mins. It was shaping up to be a perfect day to be out in the mountains with blue skies and not a cloud in sight. About 30mins above Konjščica I arrived at Jezerce where the path leads to the left and climbs towards the saddle between Ablanca and Draški vrh. Here I finally encountered some snow and thought it was going to be a bit of a slog but fortunately the morning sun hadn't hit the slope yet so conditions were firm and favorable allowing me to make my way to the foot of the climb without too much effort using micro-spikes.
I had a short break on the saddle to take on some water and snacks and looking at the approach above I was pleased to see that it was clear of snow. Setting off through the dwarf pine it wasn't long before I had scrambled up the lower slopes and made my way on to the main ridge line where we had been forced to turn back in February. Today I had time to burn and with the ridge largely free of snow I continued on towards the summit arriving approximately 4hrs 30mins (12.3km) after leaving the house. There was a cool wind blowing on top so I put on my down jacket and took some time to take in the surrounding scenery which was nothing short of spectacular with Triglav and the peaks to the north still covered in snow.
After spending close to an hour on top eating lunch and enjoying the incredible views it was time to head down, so I descended the ridge to the saddle below and then opted for a different route back, traversing under Tosc and then down into the valley below where I picked up a scenic single track trail that hugs the ridge high above the valley eventually bringing you out near the Chapel in Uskovnica. The one tip I would offer with this return route in the Winter is not to leave the traverse under Tosc too late in the day because the afternoon sun can melt snow and ice on the upper slopes and this can be a hazard for those traversing the path below.
As always the final kilometers descending from Uskovnica into the valley were tiring and my early season fitness or lack there of was starting to show. Usually, I would stop on the way down for a cold beer however with restrictions still in place most of the mountain huts were closed so this wasn't an option. I finally arrived back in the village around 4.30pm having covered the 26km (+1700m) in just under 9.5hrs. All in all it was a great day out and this early outing has made me eager to get out and explore some new routes over the Summer once I get my walking legs back. Here's hoping we have rounded the corner on this strange period and that we can make a return to the mountains and a return to normal life.