After returning to Ljubljana I was super pumped and motivated from the first biwak on Pohorje. To keep up the momentum the second of the planed three trips would have to be undertaken fast. This time we would have to go higher. We needed a spot that was reasonably close to civilization, yet far enough away for a proper training session. It was to be the penultimate test before heading out for multiple days. This time we would head up on skis with all the stuff we needed for a few days and improve on the skills that proved a bit problematic on the first one trip.
It was quite the dilemma. In my original plan the destination to pick for the second biwak would have been in the backcountry of Vogel resort. If you head up to big Vogel peak you pass a mountain farm and then head up valley that is a great location to overnight if you plan to reach the peak early in the morning. But there is a problem here. All of this lies in the main area of the Triglav national park. This being Slovenia according to law, camping outside is prohibited and biwaking as means of survival are buried in gray area.
After spending a considerable amount of time during the week trying to figure out whether training for survival using a tent biwak is considered a biwak, or even if sleeping outside in the winter poses a threat to the local fauna that is buried under 3 meters of snow I was getting nowhere.
Most people just told me to basically just do it, but make sure that the location is not identifiable on any pictures. Even after trying to get some answers from the ministry that runs the park and getting nowhere, I took up the map of the whole park and looked for an alternative location.
After some searching I had figured it out. One of my favorite spots in my home country would yet again play tribute to our lust for adventure. Soriška planina or “Sorica” for short. It lies just outside the park and it`s slack-country is a nice playground. I called up Jan if he was up for it and he said sure. This would be our first trip together. Shortly after we were off. I picked him up in Radovljica, but we did not get far.
After a few 100 meters my car started making weird noises. Then all sorts of alarms went off and it started smoking :P. We barely made it to the first gas station. It looked as if I might have run out of coolant. Had to call my insurance. Half an hour later the tow truck arrived. After a quick check it was bad news… the feed belt was torn. No way to fix that. Would we be able to continue our adventure. Fortunately my insurance covered a replacement car for a period of three days. After a good 2.5 hours we were off in a stezzy little Nissan.
The whole ordeal had of course eliminated our planed time table. We wanted to set up shop at the top of Soriška planina BEFORE it was dark. When we arrived at the parking lot thou the moon was already up. Good thing was it was almost full and so there was a lot of illumination. With our headlamps we repacked all the essentials and the tent.
The Ferrino Snowbound 3 tents bag is a very practical one. It is kinda of a rope bag and as such we made a nice sling out of it and exchanged it on our way up to share the load. I also forgot my outer shell on the couch at home. Bad oversight. Still with my Ferrino Nivolet Jacket I was ok as it was not that cold. I got it more out of interest in the design, but it has proven to be an awesome mid to top layer for going up the mountain. I use it a lot these days. We made good time to the top. I did not know Jan well back then. He was pretty hyper :). Since the weather report had been great we weren’t that concerned with our location.
Soon we arrived at the top with a great view off Triglav. This time I made sure the surface was nice and narrow not to run into the same slippery matt-problem as on Pohorje. We were also a lot better with the tent and had it up in a few minutes. Once you know how it`s really is a breeze to set it up.
We unpacked the sleeping bags and the matts inside the tent. We used the same combination as last time. A HL Silver Pro who`s comfort is at around -7 degrees and a Nightec 800 that goes all the way to -15 for comfort. In Europe sleeping bags are classified according to the EN 13537 standard. That basically gives you four numbers when checking there specs:
- Upper Limit – The highest temperature that you can sleep without sweating to much.
- Comfort – A temperature at which a female can sleep comfortably
- Lower limit – the temperature at which a male can sleep eight hours without waking up.
- Extreme – The lowest temperature at which a female can remain *not sleep* for six hours without the risk of death or hypothermia. Remember this is a rating for basic survival. Not without injury so u might loose a finger or other parts of your body because of frostbite.
As an example here is one of these tables from our two sleeping bags:
When you select a bag for certain activities always keep these numbers in mind, but remember, they are a mere indicator. How people react to cold is still a question of preparations, your endurance and some genes. I usually make sure to stay within the comfort limit. This night it would be around – 10 so with the tent adding a few degrees I would not freeze in the HL Silver Pro even if it`s comfort was a bit higher then the cold outside. Jan in the Nightec800 on the other hand was way above that with its -15 rating 🙂 So with that out of the way we were able to concentrate on the thing we did not do well last time. Cooking.
Making food … the better way
Since we needed a good hour to make food on our first trip I was keen on improving that. I still had the shitty cooker and a big pot but as we were scouting our surroundings for a secluded place Jan came across a little crevasse.
Inside was some grass and to our surprise it was really nice warm an cozy. Covered by a good amount of snow suddenly we were inner architects. With shovels in hand we made the perfect little kitchenette for cooking. Carefully we took out little snow bricks and designed a nice niche lowered into the snow.
This made sure the cooker was not exposed to the wind. To it`s sides we made a tray out of the snow. Practical, nice and neat. This time the food was done quickly and we were able to hang out in our cool new “livingroom”. Happy kiddowz we were. Ramen was great yet again and since we also brought some water with us heating it up was a none issue.
The moon was up and the star sky was completely clear. Bluebird night. While hanging out I took the opportunity to make a few really nice shots of it all. Really peaceful and serene. The product of this is the cover picture of this article :).
We were far away from the noises of daily life in the city. From time to time you could hear a car driving up the Soriška Planina pass but that was it. Except for us there was complete silence. Since I did not take the big tripod with me we made a makeshift bench out of the snow and our skis. I must say we were really getting creative with playing with the snow. Soon thou it was time to go to sleep.
Morning came soon. It was a really nice sunrise. We quietly ate breakfast and headed for the woods to make a nice descend towards the parking lot. Riding with a lot of gear proved interesting as the snow was getting very heavy. Temperatures were rising fast on that day. The rope sling for the tent was a bit in the way so it was not the best solution for going down hill. Next time we will just tie it to our backpack. Soon we were at the parking lot next to our replacement car.. the little Nissan. That one, on a side note, had a surprising amount of space inside for something that small 😛
So our second test went a lot better then the first one. No big mistakes made and all the errors corrected. We also learned a few more interesting things to take into consideration:
- Plan more buffer time for unforeseen problems. Since my old car had broken down we lost a good 3 hours. It became dark. We were lucky with the weather and we knew the area well but in any other scenario that might not have turned out so well.
- Find a good place for cooking. The hole we found was perfect. But be careful that it is not inhabited. Mr. Bear would probably not take all to kindly to being disturbed.
- When packing your gear make sure to think of a multitude of ways to carry it. Sometimes up and down won`t be the same. Create a workflow and gear list that fits that terrain where you plan to go. And remember. In the winter you do not sweat so much so you will not need that much extra clothing.
- Always keep an eye on where you put your stuff in the snow. Specially at night one can quickly misplace a fork or a spoon and not find it again in the morning.
- Make sure to check if there is enough gas left in your cartridge for a few days. If you are unsure do not be a scrooge! Go buy a new one. You do not wanna be stuck without warm food for multiple days.
Since this adventure test went so smooth we were getting ready for prime time. The next weather window was open and the rest of the gear for the project from Charinthia arrived on the next day. We knew the basics of survival now and it was time to take the while thing to the next level. We deiced to go to Pitztal and be the first in the morning to claim the second highest peak in Austria the the Wildspitze 3774m and if we were to be lucky we would ski down on its icy NW flank XD.