When we test our bags, we do it properly, pushing them to the limits in the world’s toughest playgrounds -- and this time we challenged The British Adventure Collective to test our NEW Adventure Bag to see how it performed over a long weekend in Slovenia.
Having been tasked by Stubble & Co to test their all new Adventure Bag to the max, we headed to Slovenia to showcase what’s possible to squeeze into a long weekend. Slovenia is perfect for this sort of short trip. A patchwork of lush green forests, rolling hills and vineyards, the small Balkan nation may be similar in size to Wales, but it rivals its immediate neighbours – Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia – when it comes to adventure. Boasting more than 350 2,000m-plus summits, the ranges of the Julian Alps, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karawanks make the former Yugoslavian state a mountaineering playground.
I’m lucky enough to call adventure – skiing, biking and paddling to some of the world’s wildest spots – my full-time profession. Joining me on this expedition are adventurer and model Jess Clark and ex-pro rugby player turned ultrarunner Lewis Robling, whom I first met in Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Arriving by train on the Italian border to Slovenia’s Triglav National Park, we’re met with sweltering heat of 37 degrees. not usual for this time of year but thankfully the 880sq-km park’s crystal-clear waterfalls, gorges and plunge pools provide great spots to cool off. We spend the first two days sampling this effortlessly dramatic landscape.
Continuing east, the medieval town of Bled in the foothills of the Julian Alps offered an afternoon of good food, its cobbled streets soundtracked by traditional live music. The small town also shares its name with the vivid blue lake upon which it lies. Rising majestically out of Lake Bled on a small island, the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria presents an iconic image that has become synonymous with Slovenia, and while no longer a ‘hidden gem’, it does live up to the hype.
Even a wet night of wild camping above its vivid blue waters couldn’t dampen our spirits. Catching a glimpse of the first rays of golden sunshine forming a perfect ribbon around the silhouetted island was well worth the soggy sleeping bag. After returning to its shore early for a quiet swim, it was time to pack up our kit and head into the big mountains.
Near the Austrian border, in the shadows of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps’ tallest peaks, the only way is up. The zigzagging trails are relentlessly steep, with heavy loads, we’re all sweating buckets but our circular route allows us to call at the unmanned refuge. Precariously positioned over a clifftop more than 2,000m above sea level, the Bivak pod is a compact, unmanned refuge that’s little more than a glorified tin can, but here, on the stark, rocky side of Grintovec mountain in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps of northern Slovenia, it gives off vibes of an alien monolith.
Even after doing it thousands of times, a sunrise wake-up never gets easier. It’s 4am when my alarm goes off and I poke my nose out of our overnight accommodation. I’m met by a dark sky gleaming with stars in every direction. Aiming to summit at first light, we’ve got our sights set on Skuta – the third highest in the range, topping out at 2,532m. The sunrise summit is on.
"Navigating the rocks before sun-up requires all of our attention as we weave through deep caverns that appear to plunge indefinitely into the undulating bedrock. This isn't somewhere you want to take a wrong step, and the route becomes progressively more technical as you progress."
Looking up at the peak, it’s now blue hour, which occurs just before the sun has crept over the horizon – my favourite time of day. I can see the first rays of light kissing the highest peaks and casting shadows, which only makes the impressive landscape grander. Leading towards the ridge, I take care to avoid knocking loose rocks down the gully into the team below. Eventually, we take those final summit footsteps.
The views open up and there are mountains as far as the eye can see, the pale limestone peaks emerging from forests at times giving the appearance of snowcaps. At this altitude, the air is refreshingly cool and contrasts with the sun's gentle warmth. We pause and take it all in, independently enjoying these special moments of solitude while also sharing the experience without a single word spoken. Alas, we can’t stay here forever, and after a while we head down the impossibly steep east face, which demands our fullest attention. Completing the arduous descent is celebrated in true Slovenian style – a refreshing river dip – before we make the short trip to the country’s capital city.
"With a population of less than 300,000 in an area little more than 160sq-km in size, Ljubljana is small but vibrant in history and rich in varied architecture."
Our next and final stop is east towards the Croatian border in the Kojanski National Park, where we’re thankful for the slower pace of life. The gently rolling hills are green, rich and littered with grapevines. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening to wrap up this quick fire Slovenian traverse. This country offers all the European home comforts and rich culture for a fraction of the price. Anyone looking for a wild alpine adventure with a unique Eastern twist, look no further!
Discover the ALL-NEW Adventure Bag.
Thanks to Aaron Rolph for sharing this journey, and to The British Adventure Collective for taking our ALL-NEW Adventure Bag into the wilds of Slovenia and testing it to the max.
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