Summer Challenge: The three hardest routes in the Slovenian Triglav north face

The north face of Triglav is the most famous wall in Slovenia and is therefore often referred to as THE wall in the Julian Alps. The young Slovenian alpinist and climber Bor Levičnik has set his sights on climbing the hardest three multi-pitch routes on the north face in one season.

A testimonial from Bor Levičnik

Over the past seven years of mountaineering, I have traveled extensively - mostly during the summer. I mostly left out the destinations not far from my home. But why exactly?

Do I really have to travel to the other side of the world when I live in Europe and have a climbing paradise right on my doorstep?

Bor Levičnik
Last and hardest section
Jernej Kruder in the last and hardest section of the Korenina route on the Triglav north face.

That's why I decided to visit some climbing destinations in my beloved this summer Slovenia to work and discover some hidden corners that I hadn't discovered yet. Looking back, I can confidently say: “That was a great idea.”

The north face of the Triglav is 1000 meters high and offers challenging climbs with mostly questionable protection. Triglav is the highest mountain in Slovenia, a symbol of the nation and has been a playground for practically all Slovenian mountaineers for decades.

My Triglav trilogy

I planned to climb the hardest routes on the Triglav north face in one season. For the first time, this led to the question of which route is the hardest: is it the one with the highest level of difficulty, the one with the worst rock quality and the worst protection, or the one with the highest sustained difficulty?

In order to be able to experience all kinds of difficulties on Triglav, I chose three routes that are among the most difficult in their respective categories.

Bor Levičnik

That would be: Obraz Sfinge with the hardest rope length to climb freely, Korenina with the highest seriousness due to the minimal security, and Ulina smer with the highest level of persistent difficulty.

Obraz Sfinge (160m, IX+)

I started my Triglav trilogy with the route Obraz Sfinge (The Sphinx's Face), which has the highest level of difficulty and at the same time the best and most regular protection with hooks. The line is quite steeped in history, as it was the last major challenge in 1966.

Ante Mahkota and Peter Ščetinin achieved the first ascent in technical climbing. This made a dream of many from the “Iron Era” come true. About 30 years later, in 1995, Gregor Kresal and Miha Kajzelj climbed free of the iconic roof, creating the most difficult free climb on the entire face to date.

  • Krištof looks for the right path.
  • The iconic roof of Obraz Sfinge
  • Remnants from the Iron Age.
  • Easier rope lengths lead us to the summit.

Almost 30 years later, I stand under this iconic roof with Krištof Frelih and ask myself whether I have what it takes to climb through.

In the first attempt I bouldered out the length of the rope, in the second go I was able to climb it. Since it is the only hard pitch on the tour, our day was over quickly and in the afternoon we found ourselves having a pizza in Mojstrana's famous Picerija Kot.

Korenina (1000m, VIII)

Korenina is a route worthy of awe. To date, she has only seen three reruns. I was most afraid of this line because it is notorious for its poor rock quality and poor protection.

There are around 1000 pitons per 10 meters

Bor Levičnik

This line, which still represents a significant challenge, was created by none other than Francek Knez, who was far ahead of his time.

I'm embarking on this epic one-day adventure with Jernej Kruder. This line is a great example of a generational leap, as people used to climb wherever there was a logical line without worrying too much about the quality of the rock.

Today we choose new routes where there is good rock, and therefore the new generation routes are usually more difficult, nicer to climb and better equipped.

The Korenina is not difficult by today's standards, but the poor rock quality and protection make it very adventurous and one needs to have a calm mind.

Bor Levičnik

Ulina smer (1000m, IX)

The last part of our trilogy took us to Ulina smer, a line that has been on my mind for years. In 2011, Slovenian power couple Tina di Batista and Tomaž Jakofčič opened this mega line. It took them several attempts to equip and walk the route. After freeing her in a 2-day push, they named her after their daughter Ula.

In my opinion, Ulina smer is the hardest and most complex line in all of Slovenia.

Bor Levičnik

It is one of the few routes where it takes two days to climb 1000 meters in free climbing. Repeating them in one day remains a gigantic challenge.

Blaž on the first pitch (VIII+-IX-) of the day.
Blaž on the first pitch (VIII+-IX-) of the day.

This time Blaž Karner was on the other side of the rope. We set the alarm for 4 a.m. and after an early breakfast, we shouldered our heavy haul bags loaded with two days' worth of water and food into the wall.

Our day started with a negative experience when our haul bag was torn on the second pitch. We almost lost our jackets and climbing equipment.

Bor Levičnik

We were both pretty nervous because we knew how many difficult pitches lay ahead. When we reached the most difficult section of the first day, Blaž tried but fell. He decided not to repeat this section, mainly because of the difficult upper pitches.

I was able to flash her in second place and continued climbing. I managed to tackle the crux of the next pitch, but a hold broke on the easier part. I fell, got off again and climbed the pitch on the second attempt.

In the middle of the tour there are easier, but still serious pitches.
In the middle of the tour there are easier, but still serious pitches.

The middle section of the route leading to our ledge where we bivouacked was much more difficult and less well equipped than we expected.

We had to install almost all of the belays ourselves, which was more of a challenge than we wanted since we were climbing without hammers or hooks.

Bor Levičnik

As we reached the large ledge in the middle of the wall, there was thunder in the sky and a light rain began to fall. Fearful of being exposed to rain for the next few pitches, we sought refuge under a small roof.

After 1,5 hours of anxious waiting, the storm fortunately passed and revived our hope of a successful climb. We continued climbing and reached «Hotel Triglav», a small cave beneath the most difficult section, just as night fell.

The comfortable bivouac directly below the last key pitches.
The comfortable bivouac directly below the last key pitches.

We slept much better than the night before and the next morning the hardest pitch, a slightly impassable IX, was waiting for me for breakfast.

Although I struggled enormously with the rope pull, I was able to climb the pitch onsight.

Bor Levičnik

From now on I only had to repeat one more IX-, everything else went smoothly. Our spirits soon lifted when we reached the famous Čop's Traverse, where we suddenly found ourselves climbing in easier and much more secure terrain.

The project is completed and we are overjoyed.
Triglav Trilogy: The project is completed and we are overjoyed.

With only 100 meters of climbing left to go, our two-day adventure was slowly coming to an end. We enjoyed the moment before descending at a leisurely pace to the mountain river in Vrata. There we refreshed ourselves and quenched our thirst.

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Credits: Cover picture Gregor Kresal Pictures in the article Bor Levičnik

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