After dinner in Dolicu hut, Paul and I went up to bed early. We had hopes that Triglav Peak would clear off in the morning. We set our alarm for 5:30 and made one final dash out into the cold night air to the outhouse, hoping to minimize further nighttime trips. Not a star could be seen. Overhead, the small turbine whirled away, energizing the compact fluorescents dimly lighting the dinning room.
The morning greeted us with her gray and cold embrace. I cracked open the heavy wooden door to the hut and then started boiling water on a metal table in the entryway. Whispered German, French, and Slovenian broke the silence as hikers crawled out of their warm beds and descended the knotty pine stairs looking for coffee. Our oatmeal was good, but we also snacked on dried apricots and salty trail mix.
We packed one backpack for the summit attempt and stuffed the greater portion of our gear under a table in the hut. After only 50 meters the trail started a steep ascent. We were far above the tree line. Dotting the rocky path, clumps of grass adorned with tiny flowers waved gently in the wind.
After 30 minutes of climbing we had fantastic views of the valleys below. The wind blew the light gray clouds quickly overhead, replacing them with darker clouds that spit cold rain down on us. We were hot and sweaty from climbing and cold from the sprinkles and wind. Triglav was shrouded in a dark, thick mist. Except for the smallest of blades of grass peeking out from behind small stones, there were no signs of life or joy.
Two hours into our climb we reached the north face of Mt Doom. A steep scree field led up to what looked like an impenetrable sheer rock face going up hundreds of feet.The cold wind made our fingers numb. Nearby, we saw a boulder that we could hide behind while we warmed up. Paul and I shivered against a large rock and slipped all of the remaining gear we had brought with us – down sweater, rain pants and jacket, and extra socks for our hands. Time passed. We huddled and waited. Why was Mount Doom so angry? Food. We needed to eat. Even in the most inhospitable of places one can always feel better after a good meal.
Paul and I sliced open our special meal…. A foil pouch of “Pink Salmon” we had brought with us from the USA. Slippery chunks of cold fish were spread on a slice of smoked Gouda. Ahhhhh. Shivering? Yes. Feeling ready to attack Mount Doom? Maybe.
The dark rainy clouds Occasionally gave way to lighter rainy clouds, but the weather did not break. We decided to go up to the cliff face. We were surprised by what we found. Steel pegs and cables wound their way up the face into the dark clouds above.
Ugh. We paused and considered the obvious. We decided to go up the route a little to get a feel for things. We pulled off the socks warming our hands and grabbed the cold, wet iron pegs. Soon we were edging across broad gaps, holding a steel cable. We looked down. A slip here, without harnesses would not end well. Paul and I stopped to consider our plans. We turned back. Really, we had only slight hesitation at bailing on our ascent. Clouds swirled around us and we would not enjoyed any views from the summit, had we survived the climb. We slowly descended the slippery rocks, walking backward down the worst edges. My fingers were white, and I had trouble holding on to the cables. A sound choice to turn back.
As we hiked back to the hut, Paul and I agreed that if you never have to turn back, the route you have chosen is not sufficiently challenging. Indeed.
Back at the hut we enjoyed a hot meal on my stove and planned our route to the next hut. I’ll have to share that part later, we have to get moving, but let’s just say it was the most difficult portion of the trip to far….