Driving away from Sophie from the foot of Triglav onto the next mountain, Grossglockner, it’s hard to fully appreciate that we are finally doing this. We are finally on our biggest adventure yet, the Alpine Coast to Coast, an idea we came up with together for Sophie to step up her Challenge Sophie accomplishments and a once in a lifetime adventure for us to enjoy together.
Life in a supporting role
In the beginning I was not completely sold on my life in a supporting role on this trip. I am used to being out there, on the sharp end, as they say, and not the one making base camp. Sophie and I have had a number of talks about how this would play out with both of us equally worried but, do you know what? Three days in and I am loving it!
I didn’t realise how much there would be to keep me busy but the idea of sneaking off for a days climbing or getting up to mischief elsewhere seems very far fetched and I am rather happy about that. I am currently sitting in a very smart Austrian campsite with the tent set up, dinner ready to go on the cooker, and our dirty laundry in the washing machine (yes, they have a washing machine here!). Very 21st century man.
Day 0 – getting to Trieste
Sophie and I set off from Chamonix at 9.30am on Wednesday 30th July, driving through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and across the north of Italy to Trieste, a beautiful and buzzing Mediterranean town that, on another trip, Sophie and I would love to return to for parties and late nights.
We arrived with a very different objective though.
Setting up in a campsite that can only be described as off the beaten track, there was an excitement in the air. I’m sure it was down to the fact it was the first time we were using our brand new camping kit.
After a carb heavy dinner set to load up Sophie’s bionic legs, we sat back and let it all sink in. We were finally here and it was about to begin.
Day 1 – Trieste to Trenta
Sophie wanted to get off early as the first day was going to be a big one; She was going to cycle 146km from Trieste to Trenta then we would walk up to the hut, halfway up Triglav, the highest point in Slovenia. As she set off at 6am, I did the honorable thing and stayed in bed. Besides, I had a long drive that day.
Getting up an hour later, as I packed up camp I started to receive texts from Sophie. She was making amazing progress and was well on her way. She had, however, forgotten her passport and was approaching the Italian/Slovenian border. I better get a move on.
Racing along to catch up with Sophie Froome, the countryside changed remarkably, from beachside trees and greenery into more mountainous plant life. Texts kept coming and it soon became apparent that, due to the wonders of the EU, Sophie didn’t even notice when she crossed the border.
I finally caught up with her 40km into Slovenia and on a long, though gentle, hill and stopped to give her some more water, food, and a cuddle. Spirits were strong and we were off to a good start.
I took off as we didn’t have the route sorted out nor accommodation at the hut. I was letting the side down and needed to get on with my chores.
Arriving in Trenta
I arrived in Trenta an hour or so later and was surprised how small it was. Coming from London via Chamonix, I was expecting a key departure point to the highest point in Slovenia to be a bit bigger but all it consisted of was a small minimarket, a restaurant, and the tourist information centre.
After a disappointing coffee I cracked on with my chores and headed to the tourist centre. In the middle of nowhere, in a tiny village it was amazing that everyone spoke such incredible English, heightening my feeling of complete ignorance as I didn’t even know how to say Hello, Goodbye, nor Thank You.
The very kind people there helped me book the accommodation and generously let me abuse their internet for an hour. Sophie and I had been planning on heading up to the hut that day but I had thought it was a two and a half hour approach, not four and a half hours with over 1500m of ascent it now turned out to be.
I sent Sophie a text with the news and got a very positive message back saying we should head straight up – it was on. Sophie was on fire.
A little shopping and slightly better coffee later, Sophie rolled up with a big smile on her face, 7 hours and 15 minutes later she arrived. It was 13.45 and I set about feeding her, packing away the bike and getting our gear ready for the approach to the hut.
Sophie bundled herself into her climbing clothes, packed her rucksack, and was ready. What we didn’t realize until later was that, in her tired state, Sophie left all our food and nutrition in the car. But I’m not going to mention that. We set off and Sophie started to tell me about her day.
The approach to the Dolic Hut
Trenta sits very low in the valley, at 650m above sea level, the Dolic Hut was most of the way up Triglav at 2150m with the summit a little higher at 2865m. We had a long way to climb.
Unlike a lot of people just visiting Chamonix, living there we have the luxury of going out climbing when the weather is nice, this is not going to be the case on this trip and Triglav was not going to let the approach be easy. In a light but persistent drizzle, we set off into the beautiful, if wet, alpine of the Triglav National Park (or Triglavski Narodni Park, to the locals) and began to gain altitude.
An hour or so into the walk, feeling a little peckish, I suggested a food stop. As Sophie rummaged around through her bag her face dropped. She looked up and quietly asked if the food was in my pack. Wanting Sophie to have a lighter bag, I was carrying both our crampons, ice axes and climbing paraphernalia, Sophie her clothes and the food. Well, not the food it turns out. But I’m not going to mention that.
We carried on up the never ending zigzags, making progress but the hut still felt oh so far away. After two hours we finally turned a corner and, breaking through the clouds, we could see the Dolic Hut. It was still at least 700m above us and looked a very long way away but at least we could see it through the rain.
After 4 and a half hours we finally made it up to the hut and were greeted by a warm hut, the delicious smell of cooking food, and yet more Slovenians speaking amazing English. We arrived just in time for dinner and, after checking in, got down to business sampling the local goulash, sausages, and beer.
Alpine huts are often very remote and need to have supplies flown in by helicopter; this means that even normally cheap things such as water can be very expensive. Sophie and I decided that it was worth taking a risk on their tap water and, though clearly marked not for drinking, filled up our water bottles. The water was obviously stored next to the fires of the hut as it tasted distictintly of burnt wood. Sophie accurately said it tasted a little like whiskey. We drank some more.
The climb the next morning was only going to be two and a half hours and, without a glacier to cross or any objective dangers, an early start wasn’t necessary. Needless to say, we went to bed pretty early as Sophie was rather tired and had earned her sleep.
That night we were sharing a room with a German pair that alternately sounded like Darth Vader breathing and a Harley Davidson revving its engines. Giving up on sleep at 5.30am, we got up, made a tidy racket getting ready and headed down to breakfast.
The hut guardian greeted us with a beaming smile and declared breakfast as either ham and eggs or bread and jam. Neither option leapt out at me in my groggy state but a boiled egg and slice of ham appealed more than bread and jam. I was completely taken aback by what turned up a few minutes later as a plate of piping hot grilled ham and fried eggs turned up. I could tell this was going to be a good day.
We set off at 6.30am into a completely different day to the day before. The sun was out and there were just a few clouds in the sky. Beautiful. The threat of storms that afternoon was a long way off and so we enjoyed the final approach to the climb at a leisurely pace.
An hour later, we arrived at the meat of the climb. Described as a very challenging via feratta, we geared up in our harnesses, helmets, and homemade via feratta climbing gear. A few bars of wafer later (as Sophie had forgotten our food the day before, but I’m not going to mention that) and we were off up onto steeper ground onto a route without another person in sight.
The climbing was very straightforward and we made quick progress, we would have happily soloed the route without harnesses, etc. but better safe than sorry.
At 9am we arrived onto the very busy summit. Though our route had been very quiet, the fact Triglav is the highest point in Slovenia makes it a very popular objective with hundreds of people coming up other routes. A few summit photos, some more wafer, and a little whiskey water and we were done. Now, to get back down.
We aimed to get all the way back down into the valley so that we could sleep in our tent and be in a good position to start Day 3 on the bike. We were at 2865m and needed to get all the way down to 650m. We braced ourselves as we knew that this much descent in big mountaineering boots was going to take its toll.
We made it down to the hut in only one and a half hours and, topping up our water bottles with the whiskey water, carried on down.
The descent was long. Very long, but we were able to take a few shortcuts, cutting through the zigzags and, with very sore feet, made it back to Trenta in three and a half hours. We had been going, pretty much non-stop for nine hours and needed to rest. We headed down to Camp Triglav, a campsite by the river and finally took our sweaty, smelly boots off. As we arrived at the car, our food bag that Sophie had forgotten and I am not going to mention sat smiling at us from the back seat, ‘next time’ it whispered.
Back in Base Camp
The campsite by Triglav was much nicer than Trieste and, after getting our expedition admin out the way, we headed to the river to bathe our weary bodies.
Arriving at the river we saw a small family playing in the water. Perfect, it looked lovely and refreshing. I threw off my shoes and, dipping one foot into the stream, let out a squeal like a little girl. It was bloody freezing!
Sophie is never one to be shy of water and was jumping in before I knew it, I decided that the water would serve much better as cooling our beers and so set about setting up our fridge. A little foot soak, a few beers and some photos in the water later and we were done. Dinner time and rest o’clock.
A well-deserved feast of mixed grill and sweet potato was cooked up and consumed and before I knew it, the sun was setting and it was time for bed. A quick shower and some chocolate and we were done, we were both asleep in minutes.
Leg 1, tick
Only two days into this epic adventure and I am loving it. It feels like we have been on the road for much longer but in a very good way. Hanging out with Sophie and being focused on this one objective is incredibly liberating, cutting off distractions and life for this short time to focus on something fun and original.
I am on the adventure of a lifetime with the most wonderful wife and we have plenty more to go.
Day 3 is over 180km but I know Sophie is going to keep smashing it, I just hope I can keep up!