September 04, 2018
I first discovered Slovenia as a holiday destination in 2006 and have been coming with my family every year since, both winter and summer, based out of the idyllic mountain village of Kranjska Gora.
It was the family environment skiing opportunity which first attracted me to the place, as our two children, Lucy and Tom, then six and four years old, reached the ideal age to learn to ski. So, in the autumn of 2006 we agreed with a local couple to purchase their small family apartment in the village centre, and as winter arrived booked the kids into ski school with Intersport Bernik. They have never looked back.
Now 18 and 16 years old, and having skied every year for at least two weeks each season, they are both very accomplished intermediate to advanced skiers- and it is great to see!
With our base in Kranjska Gora established, a world of adventure opened up for all of us beyond our wildest expectations. as we discovered the multitude of summer activities the mountains of Slovenia have to offer. In the last 11 years we have done quite a lot, including skydiving, white water rafting, paragliding, downhill and cross-country mountain biking, climbing and hiking, zip-lining and simply lazing by the beautiful lakes, with unbelievable views and warm waters, of Bled and Bohinj.
For this summer one more adventure beckoned, which was to complete one of the via ferrata fixed cable ascents, of which there are many to choose, from the highest and hardest graded climbs to those for a complete beginner. Of the latter, the Ferata Hvadnik close to the village of Gozd Martuljek and only a 10-minute drive from Kranjska Gora, has to be one of the best for the complete novice.
In order to make sure we had an enjoyable and safe experience ascending the vertical walls of the canyon and crossing over a number of waterfalls along the way via cable bridge walk ways, we arranged to meet up with Gregor Kofler, one of the most experienced and accomplished mountain guides in all of Slovenia and the owner of Kofler Sportbased out of Mojstrana, to act as our guide and instructor for the morning adventure.
It was a bright sunny morning in August, perfect weather for both climbing and the best views. Gregor, with his co-instructor Borat, greeted our party, made up of five adults and six teenagers between 16 and 18 years old, and commenced to give a very thorough briefing on what to expect, the do’s and don’ts, and issuing and correctly fitting our ferrata climbing harnesses.
These are specially designed harnesses worn around the legs and wait with the specific characteristic of having two separate locking carabiner cables, so that when ascending the climber is at all times connected to the ferrata safety cable by at least one carabiner. The system is simple and effective, with both carabiners securely hooked onto the cable whilst ascending and then one at a time disconnected and moved over the cable fixing points every 10 metres or so, only removing the second carabiner once the first is secured on the other side of the fixing point. In the event of a slip or fall you are safe, and in addition the carabiner cables to your harnesses are elasticated to a degree so that your fall is stopped gently, without a sudden jerk. It is an extremely safe way to climb, and Gregor and Borat inspired total confidence in the equipment and, as novices, how we should use it.
All that remained was to have fun, and have fun we all did. Now considering the age range of our group was from 16 to 63 it goes to show that virtually anyone who is of reasonable fitness, without being an athletic climber, can come and do this. We started with a gentle walk through the village and then joined the path leading up through the forest to the start of the canyon about 100 metres above the valley. As we came closer to the start of the canyon the sound of the cascading waterfalls above filled the air and added to the feeling of excitement. After crossing natural stepping stones over the streams flowing down the steep valley we arrived at the first point of the ferratacable, and one by one hooked on our carabiners, ensured they were in the locked position, and started to ascend the first quite steep pitch over a huge rock buttress. It required quite a bit of forearm strength to make it over the boulders, making sure that a gap was always left with regard to the climber in front, so that in the event of a fall one person does not land on the other below. I should add at this point that for younger children making the ascent with Kofler Sport additional security is provided by being roped together to an adult or instructor, as well as having the carabiner harnesses.
The degree of difficulty on the climb varied all the way up, some parts quite easy and some providing just the right amount of challenge to test your skill and courage, including crossing over the cable bridges. On the ascent there are three separate cable bridges, all about 20 metres across. The first is a simple single foot cable with two just above shoulder height cables to which you connect your carabiners. Once secure the walk across is undertaken carefully, one foot in front of the other like a tight rope walker, all the while many metres over a gaping chasm and waterfall rushing beneath your feet. It was quite exhilarating. We all successfully made it over, and in doing so our confidence grew and the smiles on our faces stretched from ear to ear.
Further up the canyon, now brimming with courage, we ascended vertical pitches, traversed rock wall overhangs and crossed over two more cable bridges, this time with just a single carabiner cable to hook onto and a side-by-side stepping action to cross, over fierce waterfalls just waiting to take you away. Gregor and Borat were always close by, offering instruction and encouragement as well as capturing the adventure on their cameras in both videos and photos, which they then provide to you at the end as a memento, as seen below.
Upon reaching the top of the canyon a further short forest path ascends to the highest point 600 metres above the valley ,where you have the most amazing view of the Gozd Martuljek mountain range of the Triglav National Park and Mount Spik across the valley to the south – simply breath-taking.
The descent back to the carpark is a simple forest path, and we all enjoyed chatting on the way down about what an amazing experience this had been, opening up the world of ferrata climbing and leaving us all wanting more.
The professionalism, skilful instruction and encouragement of Gregor Kofler and Borut made the day, and for anyone wanting to do the same then I think you really can’t go wrong booking your Hvadnik Ferata adventure with Kofler Sport.
As for myself, I am sure we will be back to do more, maybe next time taking on the slightly more advanced Mojstrana Ferata, just 20 minutes down the valley towards Jesenice.