Saturday, May 23, 2015

Adventure in Slovenia

On Tuesday May 18th I enjoyed a new adventure.  Gregor and I climbed a mountain named Velika Baba using a via ferrata, which is basically an augmented trail that includes iron pegs and cables to provide secure hand and footholds.

Baba is in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps of Slovenia, and is just about on the border with Austria.  It was the only peak in the group that remained in open sky during out ascent (lucky for us!).  The rest of the peaks were shrouded by clouds for most of the day.  The taller peaks seemed to be making a rain shadow for Baba, and clear skies above held out until about 3:00 when we were already most of the way back down.  Safely on the trail section, the rain and hail just reminded us of the wisdom in going early, light, and fast.

This was my first alpine experience and I found the route to be a wonderful challenge both physically (in terms of fatigue from the hiking) and mentally in terms of maintaining focus.  The pictured section above was one of several stretches where the route ascended dramatically and the rock was relatively solid and reliable.  (Though note the loose gravel and kitty litter on the ledge that I am inspecting.)

I found the less steep but looser traversing sections to be more difficult mentally.  It was often a matter of finding a combination of holds and foot placements that were good enough to use briefly on your way to something better.

This partial view of the mountain was taken during the descent of the route.  The summit is on the rocky peak on the left, though the first half of the route climbs and then traverses the mass on the right.  After the gulley in the first picture you strike directly up a steep slab and follow that slab for several hundred feet towards the point of the red arrow, marked above.

Here I am standing about in the location of the red arrow in the previous photo.  This position comes after several hundred feet of exposed climbing.  After this is a scramble through some bushes, and then another lower angle slab on eroded Karst-like rock.  That ferrata section ends just below a large boulder that sits menacingly on the slab.  From there, the route scrambles around to the left, under the final rocky wall, and ascends the left skyline to the summit (as shown in the distance shot).

Part way through the climb I was reminded of the hidden value in the many hours of low intensity training that I had spent bouldering in the dojo.  During my ARC workouts I often like to focus my attention on how I execute every single movement, as a type of moving meditation.  I aim to place each foot and hand exactly where I intend.  That mental practice was key to feeling comfortable on this route which was a bit more challenging and technical than I had expected it would be.  The route required complete focus for long stretches of time, not just to find hand and footholds, but to place feet and hands in ways that would not dislodge the abundant loose rock on the route.

Practicing maintaining mental focus while ARC training helped me bring that same focus to this alpine route, where that capacity to focus was crucial for my own safety.
Soon I will add photos from other stages of the route, and from climbing at Misja Pec, and the climbing center in Ljubljana as well.

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