Monday, August 30, 2010

Vrsic Pass and the Soca Valley

My morning weather outlook looked favorable.

The next morning, they assured me it was still going to be wet and miserable. One man said it might even snow. I went with eternal optimism and swore the sun would be out. At 5am, I could see a single star in the sky between the clouds. That was enough for me to hit the road. I might not get the views, but I could at least get a chance at staying dry.

200m from the top and 17 cobble stone switch backs in, it was still cloudy, but dry.

I got to town, took a right, and started the 800m ascent over 12km. There were no other bikers and only a few cars. Mostly, it was just the birds, clouds, and me. It was very peaceful until I got to each cobblestone switchback. I have no idea why they have paved the road but left the big curves as cobblestone. Some of them looked like they had been paved, but then had reverted to cobblestone. I feel like that would be terrible in the winter, but I have never tried it so I could be wrong.

A unforeseen break in the clouds at 1500m!

The day before, I had been pretty bummed about not getting to cross Vrsic pass in good weather. I had heard so many people rave about its views. However, this morning I was not bummed. I was just happy to not be wet and cold on the ride. I was also trying to replicate the peaceful riding of my previous day's climb. Somewhere in the acceptance of what is instead of what I wanted though, the sun broke through. Up until 1400m, I had no idea the sun would come out at all. Then suddenly, I turned on a switchback, was above the clouds, and could start to see the mountains. I was so excited to get such an unexpected treat. There were so many clouds pushing in on all sides though that I decided I better hurry to the top to get a good look around. That last for about ten seconds before my legs said they were tired and I went back to my slow, soak up view, pace. That worked a lot better.

1611m there less clouds, but there were plenty of dark ones near by.

At the top, there were a couple cars in a pay parking lot. I asked the attendant why they were there and she pointed a couple hikes. I had really wanted to do a hike in the area, felt I had the time since I started so early, and thought the weather might hold so I went for it. I went towards the shortest one she pointed out which was Mala Mojstrovka (2332m). When I got to the back side of the rock and started the real ascent, you had to use metal hand and foot holds that had been placed by climbers. There was even a cable to hold on to or clip into. I quickly caught up to some people in full harnesses and helmets. When I saw that, I turned back because I didn't have the equipment for a serious climb. I assumed it would get harder and didn't have a guidebook to confirm. However, on my way down I ran into a couple who did have a book and said the climbing should be easy enough. The steel cable was for added safety. I trusted him and started climbing again.

A view from the top of Mala Mojstrovka (2332m).

A view from the top of Mala Mojstrovka (2332m).

Without having to clip in every 2 meters, I was able to move quickly. Even if I had the safety equipment, I would have used it for the entire climb. I would have gotten impatient. I would have just used on the places were a long fall was the only option if you made a mistake. I was surprised they had a public trail there. I have not done rock climbing enough to fully appreciate the difference between sport (where they leave stuff in the rock to make it climbable) and traditional where you don't leave anything in the rock to create handholds, but this felt like what sport climbing might be. There was no way I should have been on that mountain without the extra stuff in the rock. I don't think I liked it. Sure, it was great to be able to go somewhere on what turned out to be a beautiful day, but I think I'd avoid a hike like that in favor of one I can traditionally in the future. Of course, this might just be me not wanting to have so many places to fall to my death from.

360 view from Mala Mojstrovka (2332m).

The view from the top was great. It wasn't the largest peak in the area, but it gave a great view of where I had been and where I was going. The entire time I was climbing, it looked like the clouds were going to roll in. Luckily, it didn't. The weather held the entire time I was up there and descending. On the descent, I met entire families with their kids clipped in climbing up. That was pretty cool.

The descent was a lot scarier than the ascent.

In the states, I don't think we would make a trail like this these today, but maybe back then.

A view to the south where I was going.

When I reached the bottom, it was a very different scene that I had left. There was not a single place left to park. There was a herd of sheep passing through. It was warm. The sun was out. It was a beautiful day. I hopped on my bike for the descent and had hope to go whipping through the turns. Unfortunately, I was thwarted. There were too many slow cars in front of me and I did not feel comfortable passing them. I should have. I was flying. I don't understand why bicycles can handle switchbacks so much better. Maybe it is because we can lean into the turns more.

I have no idea what this sheep was trying to eat.

A view from the Vrsic Pass descent.

I love this sign. I am not sure if it is warning bikers or drivers.

A video of part of the Vrsic Pass descent.

Other than getting held up by cars, the descent into the Soca Valley was fun. As I got to the bottom, I took a quick side trip to the spring that the Soca River rises from. It is weird because there is so little water coming out at the spring, but just a kilometer away is a full river. The Soca river is supposed to be the most beautiful in Slovenia due to its turquoise color and great surroundings of Triglav National Park. I am inclined to agree, especially since I expected to be riding in clouds.

The Soca river.

I stopped to check my map and this tom looked like it was going to get territorial on me.

A farm in the Julian Alps.

Soca River footbridge.

Soca River bend.

Soca River troughs.

A town in the Soca River valley.

A waterfall springs from the side of the mountain.

I basically followed the river all the way until it entered Italy. Around 3pm, it started to rain again. I dodged the one down pour by hiding in a bus shelter for an hour and taking a nap. After that, I saw the two Spanish guys eating pizza. I could not believe I had caught up to them. It was great to chat with them again and see how their ride had been. At I got to Nova Gorica, I decided to possibly call it a night. I had hoped to bike enough to get my rest day back, but the double ascent on bike and on foot had put a hurting on my legs. The rain was not helping either. Unfortunately, the tourist center was closed and the roads out of town were also not clearly marked. Luckily, just as I was just about to start making some clever mistakes a tipsy German lady approached me who was on the first day of her bike tour. She showed me the way to the hostel, which is or was a college dorm during the school year. They made the decision to stay the night a lot easier. I have definitely been choosing the path of least resistance more and more on my trip. My hostel host, Dasha, was once again brilliant. The only thing she knew about America was Yosemite because she wants to go climb there.

Kanal, Slovenia in the Soca Valley.

Kanal, Slovenia

1 comment:

  1. you are easily amused. :-) that's a wonderful thing.