June 18, 2016
Walk 16 Spik in Cicerone’s The Julian Alps of Slovenia , the hardest and most rewarding of our week in Kranjska Gora, has amazing vistas of the Julian Alps. Although the hike in the guidebook starts from Kranjska Gora we cut off the to-and-from town part (see below for parking advice). Otherwise we followed the directions as described. The trail was well signed but this early in the season it was not well maintained.
Early on we had a tricky scramble over a fallen tree on the side of a hill.
Saturday was the last of the six days we were in Kranjska Gora and the first that was predicting a reasonable chance of good weather with a low risk of thunder showers. You don’t want to be at the top of an exposed mountain during a thunderstorm. It had rained on us every day. Even Friday, for which they had predicted good hiking weather in the afternoon, resulted in several showers passing through with the mountain tops remaining cloaked the entire day.
The day before the hike we went to the Julijana Agency for hiking advice and to rent any necessary equipment (e.g. crampons). The area had a late snow fall and a number of upper routes were still under snow. The folks at Julijana recommended the Spik hike explaining that the via ferrata section of the hike near the top was not that difficult but we should have helmets to protect us from falling rocks that other hikers may knock down.
When we awoke on Saturday at 5am, just before day break, I was stoked to see just a few wispy clouds hanging about the mountain tops. We packed up in a flash, not knowing how long the good weather would last, and left the hotel just after 6AM.
The way up is long and challenging but nothing too difficult until you get to the first set of cables near the top. They can look a little daunting.
The narrow ridge before the cable got my heart racing, but if you are used to climbing at all, this is relatively easy. Just don’t look down.
This is the first of two false tops.
The grassy knob here boasts some of the best views.
The second false top, the first actual peak, is easy to reach.
From here the way to the Spik peak can look scary but is quite manageable.
The first section winds through the rocks on a path. Then there is some scrambling over rocks before the climb up to the top. This is a real climb but an easy one. Again if you have done some easy climbing it should be no problem. Just be sure to have a helmet to protect yourself against falling rocks.
The real problem for us was the snow. As it was early in a snowy year there were still considerable patches that we had to go around. With crampons it would have been no problem. Despite the snow the trail was easy to follow as enough blazes remained visible.
Going down the “short way” descends about 1400 meters in 4k and was awful without crampons. It starts with a long steep section of snow and scree. With crampons it would have been manageable but the scree still would have made it unpleasant. I think that when the trail is better maintained there is actually a trail of switchbacks that go down this hillside.
Once into the forest the trail down does not let up. It continues a relentless descent down every kind of slippery surface – loose rocks, wet lime stone, fallen leaves and tree roots.
In addition there is the need to actually climb down numerous rocky sections, many of which are aided with pegs and foot holds. For those good on the downhill this could be a faster way down in season when you don’t have snow to deal with, but for me who has difficulty on the downhill in general, it probably would have been better to go back the long way. It took us 5 hours up and 4 and half down.
Even after all the warnings I would most definitely recommend this hike for sturdy hikers. On a good day the views are simply amazing. Unfortunately just as we were summiting the sky darkened and threatened more rain. It stayed threatening for a good hour and half sprinkling just enough that I put on the rain cover to my camera, but it never really rained. It cleared again and stayed dry the entire way down to the car.
My favorite views of the day were the views to the west on the way down with a mix of sun and dark clouds as a back drop. So yes, if you are an active hiker with minimal climbing experience, do this hike and your efforts will be rewarded.
Where to find hiking advice in Kranjska Gora – With two days of possible clear weather coming up we went to the TI in Kranjska Gora for trail advice. Don’t bother. Other than the fact that she directed us to the Julijana Agency, they were totally worthless and unaware of current trail conditions. The folks at Julijana, on the other hand spent some time with us discussing the various trail options. This year, 2016, in mid-June there was still quite a bit of snow on the higher trails. Some trails have via feratta sections requiring a helmet and self-belaying equipment. That said not all via feratta trails are the same. Some are difficult requiring climbing skills while for others the equipment is more of a safety precaution. It’s best to check with someone who knows the trails before setting out.
Parking advice for shortening the hike – Following the suggestion of the Julijana agency, we shorted the hike by parking down a road on the left hand side of the Vrsic pass road just before bend 3. (The bends are clearly numbered.) Down the gravel road there is an area large enough to park cars. We never saw more than 2 other vehicles in this parking area. I’m not sure if it is legit or not because we couldn’t read the signs at the entrance, but since it was recommended by the agency we parked there anyway. We were very glad we did as the hike took us much longer than we expected.
Road closures – Be aware of any festivals that may close the pass roads on Sundays. On June 19 2016 many roads were closed for the bike festival, including the Vrsic pass road.