SMT Chapter 3: These Mountains Kick A**

Day 7: Thunderstorms from Italy are not Bringing „Dolce Vita“

The alarm clock rang at 4:30 a.m., and at 5:00 a.m., three hikers equipped with headlamps were ready to set off in front of the farmhouse. We chose to tackle the steepest ascent early in the morning to avoid getting caught in the thunderstorms forecasted for noon.

We hiked through the lush green and water-rich valley, passing through the Robanova Planina until we reached a small hut. At a spring, we refilled our water bottles and continued through a dried-up riverbed until we reached the wall that would lead us up to Korošica. Before starting the steep ascent, we put on our climbing harnesses and helmets. For two hours and 1,000-meter elevation gain, we climbed steeply upwards, using secured sections with ropes and steel bolts embedded in the wall. A head for heights was definitely required! We kept climbing until the sun emerged from behind a mountain, illuminated the valley and started warming us up.


After we climbed the wall, a small path led to the right, where we found a tiny chapel and a closed mountain hut. We took a break at the wooden tables in front of the hut and discussed the further course of the day. We set off towards a grassy plateau with lots of cows grazing in the meadow. An hour later, we reached the makeshift hut called Kocbekov Dom na Korošici, which served as a replacement for the hut that had burned down in 2017. Built from containers one could say this hut has a very special character compared to the usually very cozy wooden huts along the trail.

After a brief check of the weather forecast, we decided to wait out the approaching thunderstorm and possibly continue hiking later. The hut keeper offered us a drink – we were surprised and gratefully ordered a non-alcoholic Radler. Uncertain about the rest of the day, we asked the hut keepers friend if it would be possible to complete the next stage in less than the indicated six hours from the map. He advised against setting off today, as most of the path led along an exposed ridge. That was all we needed to hear; we decided to spend the night here and start early again tomorrow.

In the makeshift hut, there was a group of cave explorers with us, who were investigating newly formed caves in the area. They had a laser surveying device, about the size of a phone, along with tables and drawings containing the precise measurements of the caves. We chatted with the group and they explained that they had made a breakthrough into another cave and were planning to do some “boom boom” there today. The four men set off and only returned in the evening, sharing stories of their day with us.

The first rain came at 2:00 p.m. – we were glad to be sitting indoors, staying dry. I laid down for a short nap and didn’t wake up until 5:30 p.m. Feeling a bit drowsy, I joined the others to cook dinner. Just as we finished eating, a severe thunderstorm struck. The wind howled, and it hailed heavily. Water flowed down from the mountains, forming a rushing waterfall where there was none before.

It had become freezing cold, and we wore all our layers to stay warm. At 8:00 p.m., we made our way towards our beds; after all, the alarm clock would ring again at 4:30 a.m.

Distance: 8.9 km, 1,279 hm ascent, 137 hm descent

Day 8: Blue Skies and High Notes

4:00 a.m.: The alarm didn’t ring, but I still had to get out into the cold – bloody business. When I returned, there were only a few minutes left before the others would also get up. I laid down again and enjoyed the warmth of my sleeping bag. At 4:30 a.m., we finally set off: equipped with headlamps, we had breakfast and then headed towards Ojstrica towering above our valley. I wore my gloves, a fleece jacket, and my rain jacket, yet I still felt cold. Fortunately, hiking warmed us up. The SMT led mercilessly, steeply uphill, and by 6:45 a.m., we reached the summit of Ojstrica. In the rising sun, the mountains appeared like a golden painting against the light blue and cloudless sky.


For a few moments, we let our gazes wander, but the wind blew relentlessly through our sweat-soaked clothes, so we decided to start the descent.

We hiked along a rocky ridge to the next summit, Planjava. It wasn’t officially part of the SMT, so M left his backpack at the junction and hiked up while T and I decided to take a break. Afterward, we continued hiking to Kamniska Koča, and by 10:00 a.m., we were already ready for lunch. Apple strudel, chocolate cake, sauerkraut soup, and coffee were on the menu, followed by a well-deserved rest.

At 12:30 p.m., we set off again and descended all the way into the next valley. The trail consisted mainly of scree, making it exhausting to walk, and we accompanied our descent with slipping and some swearing. Once we reached the valley, a small hut awaited us with drinks and a short snack break. Then we continued on to the next pass. We had to climb about 800 meters in elevation to cross the Jezersko sedlo. In the background, the cloud-covered peaks of the surrounding summits towered above. Part of the saddle was in Austria, so the otherwise red Slovenian signposts were replaced by yellow Austrian ones.

Behind the saddle, the trail led downhill for about 45 minutes until we reached the closed Kranjska Koča. Initially, we planned to visit this hut just to get some water, but when we arrived, the hosts were sitting outside and greeted us warmly. Since we didn’t really feel like searching for a suitable camping spot, we asked if we could bivouac in front of the hut. They agreed, and we found the most beautiful spot on a wooden terrace amidst the trees. From here, we had an overview of the valley below and could watch the sunset.

Distance: 16 km; 1,691 hm ascent; 1,747 hm descent

Day 9: Via Ferrata and Wind Gusts are not a great Match

At 4:15 a.m., the alarm gently woke us up. Headlamps illuminated the terrace before the rising sun did. We had breakfast (Ramen for me because I ran out of “breakfast food”), packed our belongings, and started moving. Lately, our trio had developed a preference for early departures as it provided us with more thunderstorm-free hours in the morning. Going to bed early was not an issue for us anyway, it actually was very welcome.

In the cool morning air, we started our ascent slowly. We had to retrace a part of the trail we descended yesterday, but in the opposite direction, until we reached the junction where we now turned towards Koroška Rinka. On a small plateau, I looked back at the faded bluish and tranquil valley behind us. The horizon slowly turned to a slightly rose color, and soon the sun would rise.


We continued our hike on a path covered with debris, being cautious with each step to avoid triggering a scree avalanche. We crossed a small snowfield and jumped into our climbing gear in a small, sheltered hollow. About 100 meters ahead, the via ferrata began. The trail became steeper and led up the right side of Kriz towards Koroška Rinka. Loose scree demanded careful and well-considered ascent beside a gaping precipice. Adrenaline surged through our veins, providing the necessary strength for the ascent. There was little conversation; everyone focused on their own steps.

Several steel cables and steps later, we reached the summit, which we had all to ourselves at this time. Up here, a strong wind was blowing, and we only took a short break for snacks and catching our breath. We gazed across the surrounding peaks and could make out Ojstrica and Planjava in the distance, which seemed much farther than just a day’s hike away. In the morning sun, they hadn’t yet revealed all their depth and appeared as bright blue shadows on the horizon.

On the backside of the mountain, we encountered some difficulties with the not-so-obvious trail markings. We descended and slid over a scree field, walked across a lightly grassy saddle, and nearly got blown away by the strong winds. The gusts were so powerful that it felt challenging to walk against them. Shortly before our next turn, we found a sheltered corner to take a longer break and make plans for the afternoon. We originally had planned to climb a second summit called “Skuta,” but with winds reaching 80 km/h and rapidly approaching clouds, we decided against it. Both T and I agreed that we already felt exhausted from reaching the first summit, and even M didn’t seem particularly happy about the changing weather, although he didn’t say it out loud. Eventually, we decided to take the lower route, which included some climbing sections but was less exposed to the wind.

Approximately three hours later, we reached the Cojzova Koča, nestled on a small saddle between several peaks, feeling exhausted. There was a bustling atmosphere with many day hikers coming and going. We couldn’t check into our rooms before 6:00 p.m., so T and I decided to rest on a bench in the dining area to get some sleep. M didn’t appear as tired after this challenging day.

After our nap, we played cards, chatted, and got acquainted with IZ, a young woman from the Netherlands, and her father, MC, who were hiking the SMT in the opposite direction. They had allotted a whole two months for the entire journey and had been on the trail for one month already. Together, we studied the map, exchanging information about closed huts or sections and possible alternatives.

Around shortly after 6:00 p.m., it was time for dinner. Equipped with gas stoves, dried meals and pasta, T and I settled on a bench outside the hut. After dinner, we were tired enough to lie down and go to bed early. During the night, we were caught in a fierce thunderstorm. In higher layers of clouds, the rain turned into hail, which loudly pounded against our small window. Lightning illuminated our room incessantly. I woke up but decided I felt safe enough to go back to sleep.

Distance: 10,10 km; 1,133 hm ascent; 1,080 hm descent

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Comments 1

  • Tomasz : Jul 26th

    4.30 gang strikes again


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