Climbing Škrlatica - The Queen of the Julian Alps
Climbing Šrklatica was a hike I’d had my eye on for some time. At an altitude of 2,740m and towering 1,700m above the Vrata Valley, Škrlatica is Slovenia’s second highest mountain. Its ascent offers a challenging and exhilarating day for experienced hikers, with rewards of far-reaching views across the Julian Alps.
Škrlatica was first climbed in 1880, over 100 years after its neighbour Triglav (Slovenia’s highest mountain) was first summited. Whilst Triglav has a number of huts in close proximity, allowing multi-day ascents, there are no huts near the summit of Škrlatica. This means that to reach the top requires endurance, high levels of fitness and strong legs to cover almost 2km of vertical ascent and descent in just one day.
Vrata Valley Ascent of Škrlatica
Škrlatica can be climbed from the Krnici, Trenta and Vrata Vallies. We chose to make our ascent from the head of the Vrata Valley, reached from Bohinj by driving through Bled, continuing in the direction of Kranjska Gora and then turning off the main road at Mojstrana.
Big days in the mountains require early starts, so we set off from Stara Fužina at 6am, enjoying views of the Julian Alps turned golden by the early morning light. At weekends during the summer months there is a free shuttle bus from Mojstrana up the Vrata valley to Aljazev Dom v Vratih, a mountain hut which lies at the end of the Valley where the road ends. This has the benefit of reducing pollution in the mountains and also saves you paying for parking at the Dom. Having caught the first bus of the day, we were at the trailhead and ready to begin climbing by 7.30am.
The Hike Begins
Signposts outside the Dom show the path to Škrlatica, marked as being an intimidating six hours away and with a warning sign to demonstrate that the route involves exposed and potentially dangerous sections. From the valley bottom, the top isn’t visible, just a forest merging into steep rock walls which seemed to go on for ever…
The initial ascent was on a forest path and we quickly gained height as we zig-zagged up. As the trees became sparser, the views opened up of surrounding mountains which still looked high above us, despite all being substantially lower than our target. Further walking along a rocky path brought us to Bivak IV Na Rusje at just below 2,000m. The Bivak is a minimalistic shelter designed for the emergency use of mountaineers and is open all year round.
From here, the path turned to the north as we contoured underneath Dolkova Spica with views now opening up of Triglav’s north face and back down into the valley. The sky was cloudless and the blue and green colours were absolutely stunning. The path cut across scree slopes, making it fairly difficult underfoot, but this was made up for by the gentle incline, giving our legs a rest before the steep stuff to come!
Scramble to the top of Škrlatica
After the traverse and a turn to the west, we made it to the bottom of the “scramble” section. At this point, we had approximately 400m of vertical height left to climb. Although exposed at times, the route was well protected with metal wire and pegs, allowing us to clip on with our via ferrata equipment for extra safety.
The higher we got, the better the views, giving us a taste of what was waiting for us at the top. Eventually, we reached the ridge, which we followed up to the summit.
Although there were other climbers on top when we arrived, they quickly started their descent, leaving us completely alone to soak up the vista. The views from the top were spectacular, and the clear weather gave us visibility far into the distance.
We sat down for our much needed lunch, making sure to keep a good distance from the perilous edges. As is often the case, we couldn’t linger on top for too long: by this point it was gone 14:00, and we still had a long way down.
Via ferrata and scrambling are just as challenging, if not more so, on the way down. Once again, we were grateful to have our equipment, giving us some security over the more technical sections.
We had initially planned to do a slightly different route down, going round the other side of Dolkova Spica, but we decided against. Time was running out and we needed to descend in time to catch the last bus back to Mojstrana. We therefore descended the same path we had come up, enjoying the same beautiful views in afternoon and evening light.
Time is Running Out
Unfortunately, we arrived back to the bottom of the Valley just before 19:30, and just missed the last bus. With little choice, we started walking down the Valley towards our car, which was 10km away. At least it was flat! Luckily for us, after a mere 10 minutes’ walking, a car slowed down and two ladies offered us a lift down the valley. We gratefully accepted!
After arriving back at our car, we drove back to Bohinj, this time enjoying the sun setting on the mountains. We arrived back into Stara Fužina at 21:00, tired but thrilled from an exhilarating day… and the thought of dinner!
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