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In Search of "zlatorogs round".

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

I've long been a fan of the Bob Graham Round, which if you are not aware is a British fell running challenge in the English Lake District. The Round is aptly named after Bob Graham (1889-1966), a Keswick guest-house owner, who in June 1932 broke the Lakeland fell record by traversing 42 fells (or peaks) within a 24hr period. This remarkable feat of endurance has inspired countless athletes to follow in Bobs footsteps and 87 years on more than 2000 individuals have officially completed the Round with the objective being to cover the 66 miles (106km) and more than 26,900 feet (8200m) of ascent in under 24 hours.

The Bob Graham Round has inspired the creation of similar routes in other parts of the UK with the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales and the notoriously difficult Ramsay Round in Scotland, so after moving to Bohinj this past December, I spent some time during the Winter poring over maps and contemplating my own version of a round here in the valley.

Now in case you were wondering.... I wasn't thinking of calling it Carnie's Round... actually I thought a more fitting name might be Zlatorogs Round. In Slovene folklore, Zlatorog or Goldenhorn is a legendary white chamois buck, that had his realm in the mountains surrounding Triglav. The legend is well known throughout Slovenia and has been widely popularized even appearing on beer cans however, for those not familiar with the storyline; Zlatorog had golden horns which were the key to a treasure hidden high in the mountains around Triglav. Legend has it that a young, brave hunter fell in love with a beautiful girl and managed to win her heart by bringing her beautiful flowers. However, one day, a rich merchant from Venice enticed the girl away by giving her golden jewellery and promising her a life of luxury.

The hunter was desperate to win her back and so he decided to go in search of Goldenhorn in order to claim his treasure. He found the animal high in the mountains, shot it, and pursued it. After a lengthy pursuit the dying animal dragged itself onto a narrow, rocky ledge. Suddenly the hunter noticed on the ledge the most beautiful and healing of flowers. Recognizing the power of these flowers the hunter rushed to try and finish Goldenhorn, but it was too late.

The Goldenhorn had already eaten one and the flower gave it tremendous life power. Reinvigorated, it charged towards the hunter, who being blinded by the beauty of its golden horns, lost balance and fell from the mountain to his death. Now legend aside... please rest assured I have no intention of finding myself in a similar predicament to the hunter in this tale and will happily postpone any attempt at Zlatorogs Round or any other hike for that matter if an encounter with a charging chamois appears imminent.

Returning to the original theme of this post; the most obvious route in my mind would traverse the lower Bohinj mountains situated to the south of the lake before crossing the Komna plateau high above Ukanc to the west and then returning in the shadow of Triglav taking in as many peaks as practical along the way.

In early June with the snow finally clearing in the high peaks I decided to head out on the first of what I envisage will be multiple trips to run/hike sections of the trail in order to determine viable routes, assess timings and determine the general feasibility of this personal project.

For my initial attempt I decided to start from the house (Stara Fužina) and ascend from Ribčev Laz via Suha to the ridge-line connecting the lower Bohinj mountain range, a route I have done many times in the past. Leaving the house around 5.00am the day was overcast and the cool morning weather was perfect for the long climb ahead. I'll be honest..... the climb from Ribčev Laz to Suha is not one of my favorites as it is steep with lots of loose rock and good views are few and far between as you are in the treeline for much of it however, once you arrive in the meadow, which is just shy of 1000m above the valley floor the trees thin out and the walking becomes more scenic and interesting.

I continued my ascent through the meadow, eventually arriving on the ridge-line around 7.20am then started my traverse west towards Šija situated high above Vogel Ski Resort. Heading westward from Šija I found myself entering new territory, which is always exciting and while there was still quite a bit of wind and cloud around, the weather seemed to be holding. The trail between Vogel and Dom na Komna is undulating and exposed but also beautiful as you traverse a series of steep scree slopes with the stark grey mountains looming high on your left.

As I pushed on it quickly became apparent that there was still plenty of snow on the higher peaks and without any form of crampons or micro-spikes the next hour or two was a more challenging undertaking than it needed to be. Despite the tricky conditions I managed to negotiate the snow and ice along the route and began my descent towards Komna at the western end of the lake and despite damp feet I was in high spirits. Descending quickly I left the grey moonscape of the high peaks behind and found myself back among the dwarf pine just as the morning clouds began to clear revealing a clear blue sky.

Arriving at Dom na Komna just after 10.30am it was still a little early for lunch, however this would be my primary re-supply stop for the day so I ordered a hearty bowl of barley soup, a side of buckwheat porridge and chased it down with a mid-morning Radler (a combination of beer and grapefruit juice) to top up the energy stores for the miles that lay ahead. I also took the opportunity to top up my water as I'd drunk 2.5 liters in the first 5hrs and with the clouds clearing the afternoon looked like it was going to be a warm one.

Feeling recharged and ready to continue I set off towards Črno Jezero (Black Lake) and within 45mins I had rounded the small lake and was making my way up the steep climb towards Planini Viševnik. By this time the temperatures were starting to heat up and the cool, cloud covered conditions from the morning were a distant memory. From Viševnik I took the trail towards Prisvec winding my way upwards through the forest and eventually arriving on top of the peak around an hour later. It was a lovely afternoon and there was a number of groups relaxing on the exposed summit taking in the lovely views of the lake and the valley below so I took a minute to sit and take on some more fuel for the final leg home. By this stage it was about 2pm in the afternoon, I had been moving for about 7hrs and had covered about 27km with a further 9km of steep descent still to come.

It was strange to be sitting on top of Prisvec and feeling like I was on the home leg but that is exactly how it felt. As I descended the summit ridge into the trees below I was back in familiar territory and after getting through the initial steep section the trail levels out becoming much gentler as it drops down towards Vogar. I was tempted to stop at Kosijev dom na Vogarju (1054 m) for a cleansing ale and a bit of strudel which is something of a tradition as this is our local hut but by this time I had been on my feet for the better part of 8hrs and had I sat down it may have taken a very determined effort to get back up. Instead, I continued, descending the final steep section down into Stara Fužina to complete the day.

To quickly summarize the day in numbers; I managed to circle the lake covering approximately 37km in 9hrs 30mins (8hrs 6mins in motion) with around 2370m of ascent and descent along the way. Now admittedly, this is a far cry from the Bob Graham Round with its 106km and 8200m of ascent but having reflected on this effort I have a few ideas on where we can go from here to extend the route and close the gap, especially given we have an additional 13hrs to play with. Be sure to keep an eye on the Blog as I continue the search for "Zlatorogs Round".

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