Finally Nanos

Finally – Caminatta to Nanos

Tuesday November 25th

From a guide book decription: “Il Nanos montagna di casa, montagna del cuore per triestini, friulani, sloveni”. Loosely translated, Nanos is a mountain close to the hearts and close to home for many Triestini, Friulani and Slovenians. Close to home in terms of distance – it is an easy half hour drive from Trieste to Razdrto one of the access points to the trails.   Nanos has many trails, picnic areas, a climb that has a degree of difficulty that is not dangerous but difficult enough to give you a sense of accomplishment and has a great view of the valley below.   Many trekkers use Nanos as a sort of training climb.   The sign for the trail says it is a 1 hour and 15 minute climb to the ‘Vojkova Koča’ (rifugio). We encountered a number of people that were actually almost at a running pace as they passed us and before we reached the top. The capogita tells me he used to go up in 1 hour and them come right back down.

I say finally because I should have done the climb last spring as part of my own training! But the spring was unusually rainy with many days of smog so the timing was never right.

Nanos is a high Karst plateau in Slovenia, which rises steeply above the Postojna basin and Vipavska  wine region.  The nature of the carsic stone combined with the effect of water has created over time many fissures and caverns.   An interesting history on how these “holes in the stone” have been used throughout the Carso. Until the early fifties these holes were used to make ice. Snow was packed into these holes and covered with straw. The ice created was transported by ship as far away as Egypt.

Nanos has several summits, but the most popular one reached by what is referred to as the “classic” trail is the one we are doing today. It will takes us to the ‘nose’ of Nanos where there is a television transmitter and tthe ‘Vojkova Koča’ (rifugio).

We arrive at the parking lot just past Razdrto at about 10:30. We step out of the car to a strong icy wind and I pile on the layers including a tuque and gloves. We head out across a meadow with the wind ripping at our jackets. About 20 minutes later we are at a junction with the sign that says 1 hour and fifteen minutes to ‘Vojkova Koča’ strma put.  Luckily I did not know that strma means steep trail!

And now we are climbing steadily up hill on a trail about a meter wide that takes us through a beech forest. There are no leaves left on the beech trees. The effort of the climb combined with the warmth of the sun means I can start to remove some layers and off come the hat and gloves.   The trail is now climbing the side of the mountain and I start to see the view of the valley below.

The climb is getting steeper and rockier. The roots of trees, some 6 inches thick, stick out of the thin carsic soil. The carsic stones are challenge for the balance and I think carefully about where to place each footstep. There are flat stones making steps, and I try to keep my stride short to conserve energy. I know that the last part of the climb is cables and will be challenging for me. What I feel good about is that I am picking my own way through and up over the rocks and not relying on watching the capogita. I have learned to a certain extent where best to place my feet and how to choose the points on the steep parts where I do not have to lift myself up too far. Despite this I am still struggling to catch my breath.

We have reached the part of the climb where the trail heads straight up through rock boulders. I hear a dog barking behind us and see a man and a curly-haired dog. Here there are wire cables attached to the rocks and the capogita hands me a pair of leather gloves. He asks me if I want to head up first. I think about it and decide yes because I know if need be he will “coach” me on what I need to do. Not being an experienced (or well conditioned) hiker I need to use the cables to haul myself up and over the large stones.

I stop to catch my breath and as I wait the small dog joins me on my perch. He then dashes off and up. I head up too but pick a different path and all of a sudden I am facing this large vertical rock and I cannot seem to find a spot to put my feet that gives me enough leverage to lift myself with my hands over the rock. I call out that I have made the wrong choice. The dog’s owner comes up right behind me and I feel secure enough to lift myself over the rock.

At the top he passes me and I again stop to catch my breath and this time I look around. Below and on one side is a deep layer of rolling white clouds.   The clouds form this sort of wall, ends abruptly and then there is the view of valley below.

Still climbing up and this time I am holding on to iron rods inserted into the rock. The rock face where you have to get a handhold is worn shiny from the number of climbers that have passed here before us. At one point I look down and see the drop below and just push it from my mind.

We have finished with the cables and are in a meadow walking along the edge of the plateau. The capogita is ahead of me now and I see that he has a green rope attached to his backpack there in case I froze along the way. I am happy that we did not need to make use of the rope and feel a kind of euphoric sense of achievement that I was able to do this part of the climb.

The view gets better with every step as you reach the summit across the bare top section. Wispy threads of clouds are now swirling around us and the mass of clouds is moving faster. My legs are starting to feel a little rubbery but I see the TV transmitters.

We reach the ‘Vojkova Koča’ hut almost hidden in a forest very near the transmitting antennas. The rifugio is closed but we set our packs down in the small verandah and have lunch.   Why is it that a panini after a climb tastes so good?

There is also a memorial here for a Slovenenian Partisan constant reminders of the great loss of life and battles that took place throughout these areas.

We head past the TV transmitters and are now on the “nose”of Nanos  walking through a grassy ridge. All the grasses dry and yellow at this time of year. But the sun is warm and there is absolutely no wind. We can see Mt.e Nevoso – Snesnik’s peak that is jutting out just above the mass of clouds. It feels like you are on top of the world.   We see the point where the parapendei were taking off on Sunday. Only with the capogita could you get this kind of explanation and understanding of the topography around you.

Then a bicyclist comes up behind me and passes me. I cannot believe that it is safe for him to be heading downhill on this trail made slippery by the grasses and filled with sharp carsic stones. But as they say – “to each his own”.

We are just before the church of St. Hieronim a church that dates from the 16th century but has over time been destroyed and rebuilt. It acted at one time as a point of reference for Mariners in the Gulf of Trieste.

A signpost directs you onto a path which crosses the slope back towards Razdrto.   By this time my legs are feeling heavy and I have to focus on lifting them up and over the stony trail. We are on the sunny side of Nanos and the day could not be more perfect for a fall walk.   This last part of the trail  takes us through a decidous forest and then back out onto the meadow from this morning. The wind picks up ferociously and we stop to put on the hat and hoodie and windbreaker. By the time we reach the car the wind is fierce and cold. I check the temperature on the car thermomter and it is 2C.  This is another one of the intersting phenomenon about Nanos – the lower part of the slope is exposed to the bora winds.

The climb took us 1:45 minutes instead of 1:15 minutes but as the capogoita said- today the objective for me was to reach the cima and not to race up.

There were a surprising number of people out walking and like us, lucky enough to be able to take advantage of this glorious day.






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