Hiking Razor, Slovenia

Hiking Razor, Slovenia

What does it take to get large blisters? Not very much, besides mesmerizing mountains, some determination, and lots of naivety.

South-east view from Razor towards Triglav.

It’s 0:30 a.m. when I faintly recognize my alarm clock. It takes a moment until I realize what’s going on. I get up, briefly change into the uncomfortably cold clothes, put on my hiking boots, shoulder my 10kg bag, and step in the vast valley below the starlit sky. It’s chilly at this time of day and I put on gloves and a scarf, although I know this will change only a few hours from now. Where am I headed? Toward a nearby mountain, which is yet so distant.

5.48 a.m. – waiting for the sun to rise.

At the heart of the Julian alps there is Razor, a distinct peak barely reaching the 2600 meter threshold. Several routes are possible; I am taking the shortest and steepest one, from Soča Valley 1400m uphill towards Pogačnikov dom, and then another 600m altitude to reach the summit.

Why do I start so early? Because I want to be in time for the rising sun. Because I want to re-experience what I witnessed last year (twice): feeling on top of the world, as the world itself still seems asleep.

South-west view from Razor into the Soča valley.

The beginning goes smoothly; as always, nature is mysterious and the eerie sounds and schemes of the forest drive away the last tiredness. I look into the dark and pairs of glowing eyes look back, attached to invisible bodies. Although I am confident in my stamina, the long winding ascent becomes more and more strenuous. I swiftly reach the hut after 3 hours but I feel that my legs are getting heavy. In hindsight, being so fast on the first part was maybe one of my mistakes to begin with. After the hut, the path first winds along grassy slopes before leading through large screes as it gets steeper and steeper. Some sections are secured with fixed ropes to clip into. After reaching Ganja pass, a last steep ascent awaits. Then, I have defeated the 2000m vertical elevation; in roughly five hours, and an hour before sunrise.

The mighty mountain itself: Triglav in the heart of the Triglav national park.

Due to the height difference, this route is often considered to be a two day trip with a sleepover in the hut, potentially also linking other summits. And while the ascent on its own feels fine for now, the way back down will teach me otherwise.

Now, at 5:30 a.m. the morning light just settles in; the hills in the distance are plunged in a deep and profound glow with a color palette ranging from pitch black to lavender to saffron yellow. Colors I have never seen anywhere else besides when being on a mountain top at this time of day. An astounding show the sun and atmosphere prepare every day, and that far too few people ever witness. The elegance of nature has the power to amend the human heart.

Distant views towards Austria, shortly before sunrise.
Hazy valleys deep below.

I relish the brief moments, well aware how quickly they pass by; the sun appears and transforms the landscape. It rises in the distance and brings the long awaited warmth. It also brings a new palette of colors, contrasting the ones from the hour before: pastels all around.

And already, I head back again. Normally, I am rather quick going downhill, but this time is different. The path feels like it never ends and the daylight reveals what I could only suspect a few hours before: it’s steep, it’s long, and there are endless hairpin bends. My legs hurt, and a particularly unpleasant blister gets worse and worse.

Getting back down takes me longer than getting to the top, but it was worth every second.

I would do it again, right away.

Birding

Birding

Sometimes, it feels like I am already experiencing symptoms of an aging body and mind: I am getting more conservative, my back often hurts, recovery from sports takes longer, and suddenly I appreciate trees. And flowers. And birds.

In my younger days, I was convinced that birdwatching is boring; but it has grown on me. Birds are adorable. From the smallest goldcrest to the great bustard (hopefully I’ll see one someday), every type of bird is so unique and fascinating and there is so much to learn: about their behaviour, calls, appearance, and migration patterns. Depending on the employed definition, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 bird species on earth. In Scotland we saw at least 63, many of which I have never seen before. I was a real treat to experience the puffins, razorbills, and guillemots at the coast. On our last day alone we spotted a spoonbill, a barnowl, sedge warblers, and a gannet, none of which I had ever seen before.

But again, the climate is changing everything: The spoonbill populations are slowly shifting north due to the increasing temperature. We got told that it was only the second time that an individual was spotted at the small lake where we parked over night. It is estimated that 15% of all species might go extinct soon (in evolutionary timescales) because they cannot cope with the rapid changes of the climate. Around our hometown some bird populations even increase, but the majority declines. Especially endangered are those that breed on farming grounds because of the streamlined agriculture occupying large amounts of space, often with monocultures. On the bright side: At least around here there are also increasing amounts of ‘Blühstreifen’, strips of wild herbs and flowers that are incorporated into the conventional agriculture and run along all the fields of wheat and corn. And if it doesn’t work out for the birds, my personal contingency plan is to just see all 10,000 species soon enough.

Photo Post: Pause

Photo Post: Pause

A small selection of pictures taken on our way to and on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Dramatic weather made for some interesting skies during the middle of the day, but (near) constant rain spoiled the hiking and photography fun. Skye is beautiful; but so is the mainland. However, unlike the mainland Skye is flooded with tourists. So we agreed that this single visit is enough for us for now.

Photo Post: Pace

Photo Post: Pace

Here is a brief one featuring some pictures from Scotland (again). Time is tight at the moment, but there will be more posts again soon (I hope).

Time is tight, daylight confined, night comes too soon right after noon.
Despite, I fight with steady pace, I brace myself: A final race.

The World’s End

The World’s End

The road's last bend, the world does end
right here. The sphere succumbs,
a lonesome spot remains.

Mountains looming, all consuming
oceans everywhere.
The soul gets lost and tossed around
between the dunes and seagull sounds.

This place will stay when we decay,
mere joy engraved that does transcend
the end of our finite time.

Discrepancies

Discrepancies

As Berlin soils are as dry as never before, the number of applications for private wells is at an ever high.

Part 1.

While hardly anything is more important than clean energy, the compensation for private households for feeding solar electricity back into the grid is at its lowest point in 20 years.

Part 2.

While we have to stop immediately investing into fossil fuel infrastructure to keep climate warming below two degrees, a multitude of countries is opening up new oil and gas drilling sites.

Part 3.

Variation in O-ton

Variation in O-ton

There is always a first time: For a change of scenery, todays post will be in German. Don’t worry, though – the next one will be in English again.

Altbau-Büro, bald grau – heilfroh, dass Schottland kommt, dass flott Strand kommt, das raue Meer, ins Blaue, mehr entspannen, ohne Pannen: Urlaub kommt. Und, mit Verlaub: es ist auch Zeit. Bereit zu Zweit, wir sind soweit.  Für eine kleine Ewigkeit. Ciao Tagesschau und Alltags-Stau, ich schau stattdessen in den Guide der aufgestauter Fantasie jetzt Deutlichkeit verleiht: Weite Landschaft, breite Strände, steile Gipfel, Landzungen-Zipfel, gelb und grün hinein getupft. Die Vögel kühn, die Landung sanft, die Brandung tost tief unten. Die bunten Puffins sind gehüllt in Nebel der die Bucht erfüllt. Und kaum erdacht, schon ist man Fracht auf einer Fähre durch die Nacht. Halb acht, wacht auf, habt acht, bedacht: Der Linksverkehr führt gleich ans Meer, die Küste naht als wüsste sie wo unser Pfad heut enden wird. Mehr braucht es nicht, wir leben schlicht; die Straßen leer, der Ginster dicht. Wir fahren frei – der Sonne nach – der Wonne nach, wie's uns gefällt. Kein News-Beschuss, nur Bus-Genuss. C++? Mitnichten. Frei von Pflichten, nur noch Dichten, Vögel sichten: Tordalks, Möwen, Trottellummen, die Welt singt los und wir verstummen.

Untangled

Untangled

The alarm clock goes off at 5 in the morning. Fortunately, in anticipation of my morning mood, past me already crammed everything into the backpack yesterday evening so I can get started right away. Why today? Because the forecast promised heavy fog for the whole morning. So, despite the apparent lack of fog at this early time, I hop onto my bike, and drive off into nature. All trust placed in the forecast. I have visited this wood many times before; last time in late winter when everything looked naked and cold. So how about today? It’s a different world:

The fog appears as the sun rises. First, it lingers on the fields and streets, but then it slowly creeps into the forest. And with every passing minute it becomes more dense as it wraps around the trunks and branches. The greens get so intense it looks like someone slipped on the saturation slider, while old leaves are scattered across the ground. The birds already conclude their morning symphony, everything is calm and peaceful.

I drift around, on paths, off paths, through the scrub, across small glades. And, as everytime, I realize: photographing woodlands is hard. Everything is cluttered, without structure, entangled. But with enough patience even the woodlands become untangled, as does the mind.

Ocean, Swamps, and Freedom

Ocean, Swamps, and Freedom

The land is flat and stretches out,
it seems that here the birches sprout
quite willingly in swamps and marsh,
the light is golden, never harsh.
The birds sing different and fly
towards far places, as the sky
turns orange and leaves us behind,
vanishing traces in the mind,
condensed adventure, precious time,
forgetting it might be a crime.

Complex World

Complex World

We see faces where there are none. We see patterns where there is only chaos. When we are tasked to produce a series of random numbers, the result does not pass the simplest quality criteria we would demand from computers. In a complex world, we fall back to things we know, concepts we understand, and patterns we have engrained. But: It is brave to acknowledge ‘I don’t know’ – there is no shame in unintentional unknowingness. There is always time to learn. And it’s courageous to think outside the box and propose the unusual. However, this is not to be confused with refuting the consensus. And it does not equate to ignoring or denying the facts. Unfortunately, a non-negligible proportion of society does not seem to be aware of this difference. Instead of arguing in the realm of reality they spread lies. Instead of acknowledging the unknown they act as the keepers of truth. And surely: the other side does the same, however, with another truth. How can such a split society regenerate and reclaim a common truth?