Travel | 5 comments
Traveling Slovenian Alps
The Vršič pass (1,611 m)
Every time when we spend our holidays in Europe, I bring my bike with me and together with my cycling buddies, we do lots of bike riding. Two years ago we climbed Passo dello Stelvio and Passo Gavia in Italy. This time I brought a group of my friends with me, to climb the highest pass in Slovenia – Vršič.
The 1611m high Vršič pass is the heighest pass of Slovenia. This climb is almost always used in the “Tour of Slovenia” bike race and it is considered as legendary climb for many slovenians. We attacked the climb from the Bovec (south) side. There were only five of us: Ljiljana, two Ivan’s, Kreso, and me.
From Bovec, on the almost flat road we could enjoy the view to the rocky, narrowing valley. The road leads north over the Vršič Pass to Kranjska Gora. The first part of the route follows the Soča River to Trenta, where there is an information centre for Triglav National Park. We started slowly as everybody was aware of what was to come…
The scenery is fantastic…On the road to Vršič Pass The road on this south side approach to Vršič, is much more difficult, than the road from the Kranjska Gora (north) side. It has been completely renovated and has no more cobbles. The hairpins are sharper here. The traffic is not heavy; however there are numerous tourist buses that take hairpins really slow so be VERY careful descending. The altitude difference from the Trenta side is about 300 m greater and the climb is a few km longer.
Also note that the numbering of hairpins begins at the bottom of the Trenta side, goes over the summit and ends at the bottom at Kranjska Gora. Number 48 is at the beginning of the climb from this side, and the summit is at 26, if I remember it correctly. Ljiljana was having fun with the boyz…
Continuing north wards you will reach the monument to Julius Kugy, a climber who helped to draw attention to the beauty of this part of the alps. Near the statue a track heads northwest to the source of the Soča (Izvor Soče), where the stream emerges from a cave and immediately hurls itself over a waterfall. After the bridge over the stream of Trenta river, the serious climbing starts; 26 hairpin bends later we will arrive at the summit of the Vršič Pass (1611) where we can enjoy wonderful views. Or not, if you are too tired from climbing, like I was. Ivan and Zdenko
It was at this spot, that Ljiljana couldn’t follow the guys any more. From this 794m high point in the next 9km we have had to climb 817m height difference, which means 9% average steepness. In this ascent the steepness is almost just the same from the feet to the top. There aren’t any 12-14% or 5% sections.
One of the Ivan’s was dictating a very tough pace which most of us could not follow. I was climbing at my own pace and was left alone on the rode by stronger riders. If it was not for the “kids” in the following cars who were taking pictures, I would not see anyone on the road as the traffic was scarce.
In the last kilometer we meet more and more parking cars and tourists along the road and we can see some path(e)s leaving to the peaks.
At the top there is the Tičarjev Dom mountain hut at the pass. We took a few pictures and put on some warm clothing for the long and fast downhill riding. One of the Ivan’s couldn’t wait, as he is really known for his descending abilities.
It’s interesting to experience the difference between the life and vegetation and atmosphere of the two sides. While the north side is colder, the road is followed by fir tree forests for long, and there are mosses on the trees, the south side is sunnier, warmer, there are more flowers and we can meet leafy forest in spite of fir tree forest. The hairpin-bends on the north side are build from cobblestones. I think it was done to avoid the accidents because of the slippery roads. It is a nice surprise to read the height of each bend. Although it is not a light pass road, the 14% steepness on the sign at the feet of the climb is the maximum steepness. After the 3-4 kms with 8% steepness, we can cycle on light section for a while, but after the height of 1160m we have to „hold on to” the handle-bar; we don’t have time to rest. I think the last 4 km can be 10% steep, somewhere with 14% sections. In this part the pass road goes totally under the high rock walls of the 2547m high Prisojnik (photo).
The road over the Vršič Pass in Slovenia was built by Russian prisoners-of-war during WWI. In 1916, an avalanche buried and killed hundreds of them (the exact number is still unknown) so a small chapel was built in their honor. Even though I included it here, it’s a chapel rather than a church — that’s why I called it “a place of worship” — but mass is held there at least once a year.
Zdenko’s group posing for picture…
Tags: Summer 2009