Dobrodošli v Sloveniji. A reassuring sight after being somewhat lost in Croatian backwoods.
Farewell Croatia, your country is beautiful but your campsites too steep for us; back to Slovenia where the same applies. And so, in a moment of genius, we decided to live on the highways. 15€ for a vignetta and you can sleep with the truckers all over Slovenia. In a platonic, neighbourly kind of way. Conveniently the highway is thronged with crags all the way to Grosuplje where we were to arrive on the Saturday. As follows, a slightly strange way to crag on a budget.
We crossed over on Tuesday 9th June, in a kind of childish fit of petulance. A campsite we were looking for in Croatia had the discourtesy to be about a million miles down an ever worsening 'road'; hyperbole aside, we decided pretty swiftly to sack off a search that was becoming increasingly irritating. We headed for Slovenia. The border control can only be described as cute, sat amidst a plateau of long, faded grass and staffed by far less intimidating officers than the svelte, business-like persona of the main crossing. We bypassed Osp (soul-destroying, but we were determined to explore some more) and bedded down at the nearby service station. Following an uneventful night we headed to 'Risnik', which is only visible on very close inspection as it is a large sinkhole. Close inspection was unnerving; a significant drop (one big enough to do some mortal-ish damage) opened up suddenly, plummeting to the forested floor.
Once we had negotiated a safe descent, it was quite other-worldly, very quiet and isolated. Our climbing session here was mostly memorable for two near death moments; firstly a hold breaking off in Sam's grip of steel and flying down mere inches from Amber's head, and secondly when a violent thunderstorm snuck up behind us as Amber was halfway up a taxing 31m 6a. She finished the climb brutally and beautifully. Death successfully avoided and climbing temporarily off the cards due to (a possibly irrational) fear of lightning, we went to Lipica, origin of the famous Lipizzaner horses (and the opportunistically tagged on 'Lipica Casino'). They roam a huge green estate and wandered up for a head rub when we visited, but seemed disappointed in our lack of apples.
If this wasn't enough for one day we hit up Retovje later, a spanking little crag about an hour northeast in Vrhnika (also home to the Human Fish Brewery, purveyors of excellent craft beer) that has erupted from the earth at the source of the Ljubljanica river. The access is a pretty five minute amble and although there are no really easy routes, the overhanging slab of limestone is so magnificently featured that the holds are bomber on all but the hardest climbs. The only downside was that it got a little hectic in the afternoon; it is quite unnerving to find a climber descending arse first onto you just as you reach a delicate move. Perhaps we blew our load too early, for we were unable to climb as much as we would have liked even when returning the next day; notable 'ascents' were Amber's jugfest Sexy Blue Jeans (6a+), and Sam's well-deserved Hrabroslav Plaševiti (7a) sent on the 3rd go, after taking some epic falls on literally the last move. A final touch of awesome - a grassy bank on the flesh-numbing Ljubljanica, perfect for post-climb sunbathing.
That night's sleep was in a new service station, which also came with those essentials, a cat and people peeing everywhere. It was a particularly good spot as someone left their lunch behind, so we ate that, and we found an only slightly slimey lettuce. Winner. A little bit north, and a little bit east took us to Iški Vintgar where a clear and surprisingly turquoise river glimmers over smooth white rocks, and half of Ljubljana appeared to be hanging out and tempting us with bbq smells. Tics are insidiously everywhere, proving very distracting to the belayer and subsequently the climber. We scoped it out in the evening then scurried off to the nearest service station which was unusually pleasant; vast and bordered with long grass filled with fireflies. This also meant we could go for a free wee - many Slovenian stations charge you for the toilet. Bastards.
In the morning we set to rather road weary, possibly due to the football stadium style lighting favoured by the service station. The crag itself is a huge lump of rock that looks almost as if it had been dribbled into the woodland. Amber climbed two 3's barefoot, that may have been a little less spicy with shoes. Sam sensibly donned shoes for the second, and then decided to work a 7b called 'Shit'. It was aptly named as it turned out, uninspiring and a bit heinous to belay, but he persevered and again, third time lucky. We both climbed a bizarre but fun bouldery affair, and finished off with a dubious 5b that teetered halfway up a hill.
Here finished our experimental haunting of the service stations, and although it was cheap and fairly convenient, it was definitely a bit weird at times. It was certainly a pleasure to return to Cvetka's for a couple of days partying Slovenian style, which, we can say with complete and concrete confidence, is far superior to pasta dining by artificial moonlight on the tarmac carpeted mecca for those in transit.