TRIGLAV IN WINTER: A PROPER BEAST — Marko Prezelj on Slovenian alpinism
Marko Prezelj detests what he calls “tasty talk”. Tasty talk is bullshit. Marko doesn’t want to hear superlatives or extraneous babble when he’s climbing. He’s a dedicated alpinist from the heart of the Slovenian Alps who is straight-edge serious about his climbing and his gear. A bit hard-lined? To the uninitiated or uncommitted, perhaps—but for Marko there is no other way.
We devoted our 2010-2011 Alpinism brochure to Marko’s winter ascent, with fellow countryman Luka Lindic, of Slovenia’s famed north face of Triglav because it highlighted his no-nonsense philosophy, one that we passionately share with him in the design and construction of every piece of alpine equipment we make. Forget the gizmos, gadgets and gimmicks—Marko’s not having any of it and neither are we.
For more than 25 years we’ve been focused on developing and making the most innovative, durable and lightweight alpine climbing gear possible, from using stainless steel in crampons to carbon fiber and hydroforming in ice tools to significantly increasing the energy efficiency and lumen output in headlamps. Zero tasty talk, 100% function. Why? Because it has our name on it and we don’t make bullshit. A bit hard-lined? To the uninitiated or uncommitted, perhaps—but for us at Black diamond there is no other way.
Below is the essay Marko wrote for the 2010-2011 Alpinism brochure, along with some excellent photos he and Lindic took during their ascent. If you want your own copy of the 2010-2011 Alpinism brochure, you can email our customer service crew at email@example.com and they’ll mail you off a copy asap. You can also click here to download a PDF version.
To see a sampling of the gear Marko had on his climb, go here
TRIGLAV IN WINTER: A PROPER BEAST
By Marko Prezelj
Winter climbing in Slovenia is alluring. The public doesn’t hold Slovenian winter climbing in high esteem—stimulation for every alpinist who wants to play the game away from the influence of the crowds. Luka, a 22-years-young Slovenian alpinist with whom I have shared
a few memorable moments in the mountains, was keen to join a 45-years-old man for some winter fun on Triglav. As a myth, a symbol (on the 50-cent Euro coin and on the Slovenian national crest) and a proper beast for alpinists, Triglav was the obvious choice. Slovenes refer to the northern face of Triglav as the Wall—the only one in Slovene meriting a capital letter. The varied, rocky relief of the Wall offers room for more than a hundred routes and variations; it’s more than a thousand meters high and over three kilometers wide. In winter the Wall’s reputation and proportions protect it from the crowd of modern conquerors.
When we started to rack up at the base of the Wall with climbing equipment and a compact camera, I teased Luka with the provocative question, if we will go for “living a moment” or “capturing a moment”... a classic dilemma of modern adventure activities. a camera often acts like a sort of climbing partner, directing the rhythm and affecting the experience in general. Luka smiled without comment. When others babble, it is a precious skill to remain silent and say enough.
We decided to start on the great classic Skalaska since conditions were variable and the more ambitious options didn’t look edible. After the first two pitches I wanted to continue climbing on a vertical direct variation. However, my intention was thwarted by constant spindrift. After some spicy mixed climbing back to the original line, we reached a prominent tower in the middle of the wall. After another three pitches of steep mixed climbing we found ourselves at the end of the daylight. I knew of a good bivy spot and we traversed into a crevasse between the rock and snow.
Good sleep prepared us for our second day on the climb. The start looked fearful. Luka expressed his concern... if we can climb the overhang that was guarding the exit couloir. “Why not try?” was my rhetorical thought for the start. It took some snow cleaning at first and then I enjoyed every delicate move. I swung my tools over the bulge, pulled myself up and then noticed a hairy rock in the middle of a steep gully. Once I moved closer, I realized that it was a mouse frozen headfirst into the snow. While I was climbing, I kept thinking how that creature came to be there and what instinct made it believe in surviving the winter in such a place. Wonders of nature are an addictive part of the glue that keeps me connected to alpinism.
After plenty of unexpected situations—spices that make the climbing game tasty—we reached the edge of the Wall (the point “where the difficulties ends” as many say) and I hesitantly asked Luka, “Shall we continue to the summit?” I liked the way he said “yes” with honest enthusiasm and joy. Two hours’ climb to the summit of Triglav was disturbed only when Luka realized that his camera had been broken—a piece of ice broke the lens, emphasizing the “living the moment” approach.
On the descent Luka looked right to a steep wall, illuminated with setting sun. “Shall we go there next week?” was his impulsive reaction. As I philosophized that we shall check the weather forecast and try to plan the approach and descent, I heard myself talking and I realized that the days when my mouth and eyes answered that question with just a simple “yes” are over. There are no regrets, awareness of the honest joy instead. In alpinism I can still be naïve, but not any more a virgin. Aging doesn’t kill the curiosity in me; it just smoothes the emotions and enriches the treasure of feelings. The feelings from my early years were awoken with a fleeting glance in Luka’s eyes. nice. I know now that the game is endless... the wonder just gets more intense.