SMT Chapter 4: Sick Again
Day 10: Zero Day
On this day, there’s not much to say. Due to the predicted storm, we all decided to spend the day in the hut. That turned out to be the right decision as we watched the wind whip the rain up the mountain through the windows. Even the hut’s windows couldn’t keep out the storm, and water ran down the windowsills. I spent the day taking naps, reading, or chatting with the other hikers. In the evening, we all went to bed rested and content.
Day 11: Type Two Fun
My boyfriend T left the hut as early as 4:45 a.m. to hike down to the valley. From there, he took a bus to Ljubljana and then a train to Salzburg (Not everyone is as fortunate to hike a whole trail). M and I slept until 6:00 a.m., and since it was still raining in the morning, we started hiking two hours later. IZ and MC went in the opposite direction, so it was time to say goodbye.
When we stepped outside the hut, it was bitterly cold, much colder than the previous days. The ascent to Grintovec, the highest peak in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, provided some warmth, but as we climbed higher, it became even colder. The summit of the mountain was shrouded in thick clouds, and when we finally reached the top, a bitterly cold wind blew straight against us. Our clothes, damp from sweat, stuck coldly to our skin, and we put on everything we had. It had been a long time since I had felt this miserable on a hike. My glasses fogged up from the warmth of my face, and ice crystals formed on my jacket. We tried to leave the summit as quickly as possible, but before we could descend into the valley, we had to cross a rocky and exposed ridge. I could see better without glasses than with them fogged up, so I put them in the case and squinted my eyes.
The wind was coming from the north, so we tried to keep our center of gravity as low as possible on the ridge to avoid being blown off the mountain. On the south side, behind the protective cliffs, we warmed up and prepared for the next crossing of the ridge. After an hour, the long and steep descent to Česka Koča on the other side of the saddle finally began. We carefully made our way downhill, sliding over scree fields, and slowly started to warm up again as we left the large cloud we had been trapped in earlier.
Shortly after 12:00 p.m., we happily reached Česka Koča, and celebrated our successful descent with pancakes and coffee. Then, we hiked down to the small village of Zgornje Jezersko. We tried to find accommodation for the night within our preferred budget, but nothing was available. Eventually, we decided to stay at a nearby campsite. On the way there, we treated ourselves to a long-awaited, oversized pizza and quickly visited the supermarket.
Unfortunately, the campsite was fully booked, but the kind owner, Tanja, allowed us to set up our tents right next to a hedge on a flooded plot that was otherwise unusable. It was wet and muddy, and shortly after we had set up the tents, it started to rain. We took a hot shower, washed all our laundry, and spent the rest of the evening on the comfortable sofas in the campsite’s communal area.
A little later than usual, we went to bed, feeling refreshed with our clean clothes and charged electronic devices, content and not smelling like thru hikers anymore after the shower.
Distance: 11,5 km; 820 hm ascent; 1,692 hm descent
Day 12: Ridge Walking on Storzič
I woke up a little before 6:00 a.m. and freshened up in the bathroom at the campsite. Our laundry was drying inside the owner’s house, so we had to wait until she opened up. We sat outside the building, and I made hot chocolate for us on the gas stove. When Tanja, the owner, finally opened the door, we grabbed our dry clothes and headed into the village. We had breakfast at the supermarket: chocolate cake and a yogurt, followed by coffee-to-go, and then we set off towards Storzič. This peak is still geologically part of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, but it’s physically separated from the rest of the massif.
After a few kilometers along the main road and eventually on a forest trail, we started the steep ascent through the woods. Many fallen trees turned the hike into an obstacle course. After a few hours, we reached the grassy saddle where we took a break, dried our tents, sleeping bags, etc. which were damp from the previous night, and had a small snack. I was not feeling very great, with a sore throat, and my head began to ache. The final ascent from the saddle to the peak of Storzič was rather slow, and once at the top, I had to take a painkiller, hoping it would protect me from the impending cold.
It was cloudy at the summit, but we could still observe the surrounding mountains and our destination for the upcoming days: the Karawanks, which appeared much greener and less intimidating than the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.
From there, we decided to descend via an exposed ridge that was no longer officially part of the SMT. The views on both sides were stunning, but it was very steep and exposed. Three hours later, we found ourselves more mentally exhausted and fatigued from the constant need for concentration than from the physical aspects of the hike.
As evening approached, we decided that we would prefer to spend the night before reaching the originally planned hut. My right knee was hurting, and we both just wanted to find a place to rest.
We passed by a small private hut where a few Slovenians were sitting. One of them spoke German, and I asked if we could camp on their property. The man himself didn’t live there, but he assured us that it was okay to sleep there, even without asking his friend who actually lived there. We double-checked multiple times if it was really fine to stay there, and each time, the man confirmed it was okay.
We gladly accepted the answer, even though the hut owner and his wife didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about us staying there. The German-speaking Slovenian showed us where to set up our tent, so we quickly cooked dinner and set up camp. The Slovenian couple closed the curtains when they saw us standing in front of their window. Honestly, we didn’t feel very welcome, and it wasn’t helpful either, that we couldn’t communicate with them. M and I decided to go to sleep and leave as early as possible in the morning.
Distance: 15,7 km, 1,513 hm ascent, 960 hm descent
Day 13: Mayday
At 2:00 a.m., I woke up because my throat was hurting so much that I could hardly swallow. I blindly reached for my toiletry bag and took a painkiller. Eventually, I slept more or less well until I finally put down the camp at 5:00 a.m. M and I had breakfast and started the ascent to Tolsti vrh. I dragged myself up the mountain, feeling weak and sweating much more than usual. After a break, I even noticed salt crystals on my face. I kept checking my phone to see how much of the 400-meter ascent was still ahead, and it felt like an eternity. Once we reached the top, we took a break and admired the views. I wasn’t particularly talkative, but the fact that we could see Triglav for the first time lifted my spirits a little.
Afterward, our path led a little further along the ridge to Koča na Kriški Gori. Since the hut was closed, we had to continue without our morning coffee, unfortunately.
Now, a two-hour descent to Tržič awaited us. We lost the actual SMT trail shortly after starting the descent and ended up using forestry roads and other hiking paths. It seemed like we didn’t miss out on much. As we descended, I started feeling worse. I had severe headaches, my throat was still sore, and now my ears were hurting too. It became clear that I couldn’t fend off the cold after all. By the time we reached Tržič, I likely had a fever and felt shaky. There was a supermarket in town, where we stopped as usual. I was very uncomfortable and had no appetite whatsoever. Still, I forced myself to eat at least some fruit, a yogurt, and a piece of cake (that was somehow the only thing I felt like eating). In front of the supermarket, I told M that I wouldn’t be able to manage the planned second ascent for today and needed a break to recover. Together, we searched for accommodation and found a hostel in Kranj.
The bus ride passed with me sleeping, and in Kranj, I visited a pharmacy to get various medications, hoping they would shorten the recovery process. Then we checked into our hostel and settled into the room. After a quick shower and some shopping, we spent the rest of the day resting in a horizontal position, me trying to recover.
Distance: 9,5 km; 481 hm ascent; 1,315 hm descent
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