Ever since moving to the North of Slovenia, I have wanted to climb Stol. This mountain has been taunting me since June. At 2236m (7335ft) above sea level, it was out-of-bounds with no-one to look after the children. Then the snow fell and I thought I’d missed my chance for this year (I won’t risk my life in snowy conditions with two young kids to bring up!) Then my mother-in-law came just as there was a perfectly clear day, not too cold and all the snow had melted: time to make the ascent.
Stol: highest of the Karavanke Mountains
Though not as high as the Julian Alps or the Kamnik–Savinja Alps, the Karavanke are fascintaing as they mark the border between Slovenia and Austria, and they are still respectably high with several peaks over 2000m. Stol (meaning ‘stool’ in Slovenian) is the highest. During the Second World War, this area formed the front, and there are many memorials to partizan soldiers who died fighting the Germans in these hills. As I climbed, I couldn’t help but think how hard it must have been to make that ascent with guns and ammunition, not to mention all other kinds of military kit, only to meet battle on the heights and perhaps die on the mountainside. One such memorial speaks of a soldier who died on the descent, exhausted from the fighting.
Twinned with Lake Bled
Towering high above to the Northeast, Stol forms a formidable backdrop to the picturesque Lake Bled. I’ve always felt the two were somehow connected, and this feeling was only intensified in making the ascent of Stol. Lake Bled was almost continuously in view as we climbed the South face of the mountain via the Žirovniška Pot. The higher we climbed, the more the lake began to look like a puddle, but remarkably the reflection of the church spire on Bled Island was still visible from this height.
The route we took was ascent by the Žirovniška Pot and descent by the Zabreška Pot. We ‘cheated’ by driving up to the Valvasorjev Dom car park, at 1200m, so the actual ascent was ‘only’ 1000m. Had we not done this, we wouldn’t have been able to make the descent in daylight. Nowhere was the walk technically difficult: there was only a short section in ascent with an exposed drop on one side. The total outing time was 6.5 hours (3,15 up and 2, 15 down with 1 hour ‘stoppage time.’) The ascent, however, was unrelentingly steep for the first two hours before emerging onto a shoulder leading to the summit of Mali Stol (‘Little Stol,’ a subsidiary peak), where the gradient eased somewhat.
The views are breathtaking along the whole of the route in both ascent and descent, never more so than at the summit, where the panorama stretches from Triglav to the Italian Alps via Austria to the Sava river valley and Lake Bled, not to mention the dramatic sheer rock faces of the nearby Karavanke mountains. The North face of Stol presents a dizzying drop which falls away steeply from the summit ridge: if you suffer from vertigo, I strongly advise you not to look North from the summit rock!
If you enjoyed this mountain outing, please visit my Instagram page for further images from this trip. Stay tuned for more ‘Postcards from Slovenia’ (follow the tag – #postcardsfromslovenia on Instagram and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out.)