Pictures from Mt Doom

The pictures from our attempt on Triglav:


The path to Triglav


A moment of only light clouds


Somewhere in the distance is the peak we never found


Salmon – tuna – German bread sandwich


The initial easy part of the vertical northern route.

Bits of blue sky later in the day

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The Endurance

It was good to turn back from our attempt to reach the summit. Decision making is only taught via experience. Yet failure can be a powerful spark. Thwarted from the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, we felt the need to struggle against the mountains, or maybe just ourselves — to strive, fight, and ache. We walked in silence for a time after leaving Dolicu. We each felt the long day calling.


Patches of sun broke through the shifting darks skies, but only on distance peaks. The white patches scrolled across faraway mountains, avoiding our paths. We slowly climbed higher, sometimes holding steel cables as we rounded exposed sections of the path.

Paul is strong. Amazingly so. Physically, he is in great shape, but on the mountain, strength is inferior to mental stamina. Paul can push himself too. He understands the drive required to climb up a steep trail for three hours with only a few breaks. Paul is still learning how fast to hike when he takes his turn leading, but choosing a pace that can be sustained for several hours may take years of hiking to perfect.


When Paul and I had breakfast, we pondered several distant huts. As the day wound on, we became convinced we should walk to the hut near the edge of the map, several hours away. We summed up the remaining trails. If all went well, we could make it to Kovinarksa Koca. Including our relatively short food breaks, it would make for a 10+ hour day.

In our attempt of Triglav, we reached 2500 meters. The hut we were targeting was at about 850 meters, more than a mile straight down.


After 8.5 hours we were exhausted, and beginning to stretch our water supply. I stopped drinking. We started the day with 4 liters. Less than a liter remained. We began to dream of strudel, of a plump Slovenian grandmother holding an enormous platter of apple heaven. Our steps started rhythmically chatting stru-del, stru-del.

Out feet were hot, toes ached, muscles quivered. When we stopped to catch our breath we had “sewing machine leg”. Ten hours had elapsed and we were still not to the hut. We alternated between laughing and silence.

The small hut was welcoming. A road led to town. We had electricity and water. Hot water for the shower cost 2 euro for 3 min, but it was a fantastic deal. We dumped our gear into a small common sleeping room with 3 bunk beds. Our mattress spots were just 8 euro each. We took turns taking showers.

Clean and refreshed we sat outside looking up at the powerful vertical walls towering more than 3000 ft up from our green valley. We started drooling as we imagined the glorious meal were about to gobble up. Our wonderful Slovenian grandmother appeared. After attempting some english and then switching to German, we ordered goulash and wurst mit senf. The picture below can’t begin to describe the wonderful goodness that is hearty meat and gravy meal after a 10 hour day. Wow. The goulash was not some California low-fat organic peppers with spring radish garnish in a tiny cup entree. No. Sparkling orange jewels of fat floated around the bowl. Wonderful lovely fat. Paul and I used two hands to lift the calf-sized chucks of meat from the deep rusty stew. Oh my. The stew included REAL bread. Not the white marshmallow bread we find in the US, but bread so coarse it could be used to sand wood. We tore the bread into chunks and plunged them into our rich reward.


The sausages with mustard were similarly awe inspiring. We sliced them open and watched cubes of melted fat and meat ooze onto the plate. I slathered on the mustard. Even Paul dipped the grilled meat into the yellow-brown garnish. Mmmmmmm

We spoke only to admire the grand meal before us. Wow. I’m salivating just writing about it.

Our only disappointment was that our Slovenian grandmother had not made strudel. She told us the it was only made on weekends. It was Thursday night. No strudel. Paul and I did find that they had ice cream (the wonders of real electricity). We went to bed exhausted, fed, happy, and with bits of goulash and ice cream on our shirts. A perfect day in every way.

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Over the Mountains

It would be our last big climb – about 3200 feet up. I pulled on my wool shirt and faced the brisk, scented air. Grandma’s cat ignored me, slurping up a bit of scrambled egg from a saucer. The tips of the peaks were golden. The sun would not reach the grassy valley until midday.

We decided to eat the hut breakfast instead of cooking up our last batch of oatmeal and coffee.

Our grandma didn’t seem to have as many options as we expected. “Yogurt und muesli?”. She shook her head, then replied “homemade sour milk”. Paul let out a bit of a laugh and looked up at me. “Ya, mit honig, bitte”. Then we followed up with Paul’s favorite. “brot?”. Grandma laugh, “ya, ya, ya” as if we had asked if she had a double chin. There was a long pause, then she disappeared into the kitchen.

Paul and I pulled out the maps and spread them across the kitchen table. We would backtrack a mile or two on the road to the hut, then start straight up the mountain, breaking out of valley so perfectly formed by the bright stone cliffs.

A bowl of sour milk, somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese was pushed across the table. It had been cultured in the heavy bowl. I began to mix in some honey while Paul put a 1/4 inch layer of alpine butter and then marmalade on the bread. Grandma paused and asked one more question. “strudel?”. Paul and I looked at each other and laughed. Ya! It was Friday… The strudel was ready for the weekend hikers.


We finished our dessert breakfast and stretched our sore muscles. Paul claimed to not be in pain, but I’ll admit that my calves hurt. We met the cool air with relaxed careful strides, stretching as we walked. Looking straight up the mountain towers surrounding us, it seemed impossible for a path to wiggle up through the mighty cliffs protecting the pastures. But there always seems a way.





The climb took more than three hours. We paused only briefly to catch our breath, dreaming of the Ramen noodles we would cook when we reached the summit. We didn’t want a hot meal, but the thought of salty noodles gave us strength. The bright green pastures and dark green forests climbed the mountain walls until only small flowers and bits of grass remained.


Suddenly we had reached the pass. We could see the bright white mountains give way to distant lavender ranges and finally blend into the hazy sky. Wow. How could we say goodbye to such a view of God’s amazing planet.


From the pass it was a 30 minute race down the mountain to food, a Radler, and reflection.



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To Bled

The morning skies were once again clear and blue. Shivering in the shadow of Mount Doom seemed almost like a previous adventure.

We settled up with the hut manger for the cost of our beds – once again 8 euros each, and schlepped our gear outside. I unpacked the essentials. The Starbucks Instant coffee begged for boiling water. I could hear its soft melodic chorus. Yet Paul assembled the cook set, attached the pocket rocket burner to the gas cartridge and began oatmeal breakfast instead. Until Paul finishes college, his caffeine priorities will continue to be misplaced.

Like grouchy old men we poured over the map and discussed the possible routes and their advantages to reach the city of Bled. The hike down to the city would take about 7 hours if we could find an efficient route. While still gearing up we began to hear the chime of cow bells. Within moments a small crowd of wandering milk factories descended on our breakfast and began looking us over suspiciously. They looked “mostly harmless”. However neither of us knew “hello mr cow” in Slovenian. The largest of the bovines started mooing and grunting loudly, displaying her obvious dissatisfaction with us. We just sat quietly and after they moved on, so did we. Down the mountain.



The hike down was relaxed. Our muscles were still a bit sore, but the trail was not steep. However, we were not alone. We caught glimpses of people deep in the woods, looking down, carrying a knife and a basket. They were not on trails. We each came up with explanations. Eventually we ran into a couple as we asked for directions.



Weekend mushroom hunters.

After several more hours of walking through the woods and eventually between farms and small towns, we arrived at the tourist town of Bled. We spent the entire next day just relaxing, eating, and stretching our legs on short walks.



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Bonus Day: Amsterdam

Eight years ago while on a trip with Paul in Belize we returned our rental car, checked into a hotel, and prepared to leave the next morning. I texted Beth “see you in the morning!” Beth corrected me… We had one more day in Belize, and somehow we had nearly realized everyone’s travel nightmare, showing up at the airport on the wrong day. At least we had an extra day, instead of missing the flight that day. Paul and I declared “Bonus Day”! And quickly made plans to take a water taxi to a nearby island and go snorkeling on our Bonus Day. It was a wonderful end to a trip that focused on the jungle, howler monkeys, carpenter ants, and ancient Mayan ruins.

Two days ago we realized that there was no need to spend an extra staying Ljubljana. Sorry Slovenians, the city is great, but pretty small. Our return flight was via Amsterdam. Beth called United and for no change in price, just $15 in taxes we could go to the Netherlands a day early and explore the old Dutch city that is the cultural center of my mother’s homeland.

Bonus Day!


We started with a visit to the Rijksmuseum, the home to the Dutch masters…


Time for fresh herring, a pickle, onions, and a roll. I think it tastes great. Paul is not convinced.


We then head to get a specialty… Strop waffle, which when warm and fresh is fantastic


Finally, the van gogh museum and more exploring.

Sorry we don’t have time to describe the paintings, we are heading back to the USA in a few. Let’s just say spectacular.

We will sum things up when we land in Chicago


We are home and safe. Thank you to everyone who followed along. It was a great trip.
-Pete and Paul

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