Slovenia's Julian Alps are the toughest, most dangerous trails I've ever hiked. I've been in other dangerous situations (challenging weather, high altitude, lost without food or gear for 3 days), but as far as a "trail" nothing is harder than the Julian Alps.
To make it harder, it would have to be rock climbing, which, in fact, is easier than this because here you don't have the safety equipment (a harness, rope, carabiners) unless you bring it. I did the adventure with the healthy, super athletic mountain-lover Ana Mismas.
See video, photos, and story below. I encourage you to watch the video in full-screen and then in the lower-right-hand corner change the setting to 1080p, for very high definition. If YouTube is blocking this video, watch it in high definition on Vimeo. Turn up the volume. If you're looking for hiking trip ideas, then get inspired by the video below!
A Dozen of the best photos from a 3-day backpacking trip in Julian Alps
It's always encouraging to see a plaque next to the trail symbol (red circle) that tells you about some guy who died in right where you are walking.
Climb up this without climbing gear. This was our first of 3 major ladders. The "trail" goes straight up the middle of this photo, in that crack. If you look carefully, you'll see metal rebar. Near the top of this photo, you can see a place where you're suppose to squeeze through. If you get nervous, tired, clammy or cold hands, and slip here, then, if you're lucky, you'll get your own plaque.
This shows Ana going up the crack. It would help if you had gloves or a carabiner, but we had neither. Three tricky aspects: (1) the ladder pops out (see the third rung), which makes you dangle over 100 degrees, making you really feel the power of gravity (2) doing it with a fully loaded backpack with 3 days of food and 5 liters of water (3) having to cross over from the right ladder to the left ladder and not get vertigo. There's one section that I didn't photograph because I was too busy trying not to die – my big backpack got stuck in a crevice that I was crawling through.
Once you get through the Veliko Okno (Big Window), you're rewarded with a jaw-dropping view of Slovenia's Julian Alps.
We went through the Malo Okno (Small Window), which you can barely see in this photo (look at the 2nd mountain on the left, there's a small hole near the top). We came from the other side, popped out through the window, and then faced our biggest challenge: the third ladder. It was the most terrifying section. I regret not taking a photo of it. I was too focused on surviving! We had to descend and then traverse while a fatal drop was under us. We'll have to go back to take a photo. Then we traversed face of the mountain on the foreground, following the diabolical trail with more dizzying drops. Finally, we got down to the saddle, ate some food, and then climbed up to this place to shoot this photo.
This mountain goat was wondering why I'm making such a big deal about walking around this easy terrain.
Ana is climbing a steep section grabbing rock, the rebar, the cable, or an angel's hand. Doing it all with a heavy backpack makes it tricky. You need a helmet to protect from falling rock.
Right under that snow patch, you'll see the trail. The Slovenians really don't give you much of a ledge to walk on – it's usually half as wide as a typical trail. When it's just a quarter as wide, they usually give you something to hold on to (like a cable or rebar), but not always.
This is an example of a section where the Slovenian trail designers don't give you much of anything to hold onto. Examine this photo closely and you can see where the trail goes. You have to traverse this near vertical wall without a cable and practically no ledge. That's right, traverse, and go around the corner. Falling here, as you can see, would ruin your day.
Dušan joined us for one day of our 3-day trip. We were going up to Triglav. You rarely can let down your guard in the Julian Alps. One bad step can be your last one!
Ana is happy that she's finally a Slovenian. Slovenians say that you're not a true Slovenian until you've climbed to the summit of their tallest mountain, Mt. Triglav.
I'm not a Slovenian, despite this being my 2nd time up Triglav. Nevertheless, I'm a happy boy.