Unlike many other winter sports, which started to become popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, the rise of ice climbing only began in the 1970s when Scottish and Canadian adventurers started to ascend frozen waterfalls for sport.
By the 1980s, the popularity of the sport had caught on and spread to just about all of the alpine countries, including Slovenia, which is widely considered to be among the top ice climbing destinations worldwide!
For anyone who has ever been to Slovenia, it is not hard to understand why.
“Slovenia is a gorgeous country, with many natural treasures,” Gregor Kofler, a ZGVS-certified mountain guide who has spent about three decades exploring the Slovenian Alps, tells Explore & Share.
“You can find a wide range of ice climbing possibilities all around Slovenia, but the most are in the Julian Alps and Kamnik Savinja Alps,” he adds.
In between guiding various ski touring, snowshoeing and ice climbing trips, Gregor recently took some time to explain to Explore & Share a bit more about why ice climbers should come to Slovenia, where they should go and what they need to have a successful trip.
Slovenia is frequently credited as having some of the world’s most sustainable tourism. That is because the stunning natural beauty of its rugged and snow-capped mountains, enchanting evergreen forests and pristine alpine meadows has led to a lack of large-scale environmental pressures.
The government long ago realized the precious asset that these large tracts of unspoiled wilderness are and has worked hard to preserve the country’s stunning scenery.
One of the many advantages of ice climbing in Slovenia is that there are icefalls, frozen waterfalls and glaciated peaks that are perfectly suited for climbers of every level.
Plenty of places, for example, the Mlačca gorge, even boast multiple ice climbing opportunities for differing ability levels all in one place.
“It is suitable for beginners, children from the age of 10, and for the more experienced,” Gregor says. “My favourite thing about ice climbing trips is that the guests are usually first-year beginners and the following year, they come back and we climb more and higher.”
The overwhelming majority of people like to head out on a holiday and leave their worries behind at home, in the office or the classroom. Few things are worse than arriving at a destination to unwind and relax only to have more problems spring up.
“We take care of everything,” Gregor says. “Our visitors won’t have to worry about climbing equipment or arranging a transfer. We can hire equipment for you and arrange the transfer from your accommodation to the climbing point.”
“To me, that shows that we really care and allow you to have the best ice climbing experience,” he adds.
Situated in the northwestern corner of Slovenia, not far from the picturesque village of Mojstrana, the Mlačca gorge boasts plenty of incredible ice climbing opportunities for participants of every level.
“The gorge is sectioned into three parts,” Gregory says. “The left-hand side is for beginners and the right part of this section is steeper, so it is also suitable for more experienced climbers. Here the left part is 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet) high and there are 10 different climbing routes.”
“The middle section is for more experienced ice climbers,” he adds. “It has an incline of 90 degrees and a height of around 40 meters (130 feet). The right part is suitable for beginners as well as for more experienced climbers and features around five different climbing routes.”
Boasting stunning views into Triglav National Park and with so many options to choose from, heading to the gorge is perfect for a half-day of climbing as well as a weekend-long excursion.
Rising to 1,684 meters (5,525 feet) in elevation and situated just eight kilometers (five miles) southwest of the mighty Triglav Peak, Prednja glava is another excellent ice climbing destination that Gregor recommends.
There are four main spots on and around the peak that are frequented by climbers, including Prisnak mountain and the Tamar valley.
“For every taste and physical condition, you can find really great spots on Prisank mountain and in the Tamar valley,” Gregor says. “Here, there are more than nine waterfalls that are in good climbing conditions, ranging from 80 meters (260 feet) up to 300 meters (985 feet) in length.”
Presenting some more technical and physical challenges than many spots in Mlačca gorge, the area around Prednja glava is best suited to intermediate and advanced ice climbers.
Farther east, in the Kamnik Savinja Alps, are the village of Jezersko and the Logarska Valley. These picturesque and out of the way areas boast even more excellent ice climbing opportunities.
Around Jezersko alone there are four main icefalls and frozen waterfalls – Spodnji Ledinski (140 meters/460 feet with a 90-degree crux), Zgornji Ledinski (60 meters/200 feet with an 85-degree crux), Vikijeva Sveca (150 meters/490 feet with a 90-degree crux) and Sinji Slap (150 meters/490 feet with an 85-degree crux) – which can be climbed in one day.
One of the highlights of heading here is the approach through the snow with excellent mountain views before the climbing even begins.
Meanwhile, the Logarska valley is home to more than 20 different icefalls scattered throughout. Palenik Waterfall, which sits in the very center of the valley, is among the top attractions and boasts great views as well as a fun ascent.
Once you’ve made your travel arrangements, decided where to go and booked your trip, it is important to bring all of the appropriate equipment and clothing. Most technical climbing equipment can be loaned from the guide at an additional cost.
For those who plan on bringing their own gear, the following is a list of the equipment required for any ice climbing trip:
While Gregor offers ice climbing trips of varying levels and difficulties that are appropriate for a wide array of climbers, it is important to note that ice climbing is a physical sport and requires some core and upper body strength.
For basic ascents, no training is necessary, but in order to enjoy longer and more intense ascents, climbers should have a good level of physical fitness.
While ice climbing may be your main reason to come to Slovenia, it certainly shouldn’t be the only one.
Since most trips last a day or two, it is highly recommended that you spend a bit more time here, so why not try out some of the other incredible wintertime activities that abound in the area.
For thrills seekers looking to get their adrenaline pumping, Gregor offers a four-day ski touring expedition that includes climbing Mount Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak!
If you’ve never been skiing off-piste, but want to try it out, not to worry, Gregor also offers ski lessons in Kranjska Gora.
For those who are looking for something a bit less intense and want to enjoy more of the incredible natural beauty on offer in the small Balkan state, then Gregor’s one-day snowshoeing tours will be right up your alley.
Slovenia is an amazing place to visit any time of year. However, if you haven’t made winter plans yet, you should highly consider heading to the small and idyllic country for an ice climbing adventure!
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