Ice climbing in the Hell

by Jerneja Fidler Pompe

Every few years, waterfalls in a picturesque gorge close to Ljubljana freeze and attract ice-climbing enthusiasts to their beautiful, yet technically not too demanding ice-climbing opportunities.

Prior to venturing into the realm of ice climbing, the only thing I knew about the Hell Gorge (also Pekel Gorge; Slovene: soteska Pekel), was that it was a few degrees cooler than its surroundings, and as such perfect for summer chilling just thirty kilometres away from the city hassle. While its numerous waterfalls that plunge from twenty to five metres down, and emerald green pools of fresh water allure people to refresh themselves in the summer, it attracts quite a different bunch in cold winters.

This year, after a few weeks with temperatures significantly below zero, we had the privilege to see the Hell freeze and experience it in a completely different perspective. Since this doesn’t happen very often – the last time was actually five years ago – you can imagine the news of the frozen waterfalls spreading across Ljubljana and about like wildfire. A week into the frozen Hell, my friends finally talked me into giving ice climbing a fair try and the technically not too demanding Hell Gorge seemed like a good option.

  • Beginning of climb
  • Beginning of climb

We parked our car in the parking lot right at the entrance to the Hell Gorge park a few kilometres from a village called Borovnica (also connected to the city centre by bus; more information on city buses) and followed a narrow path towards the waterfalls. While the first waterfall didn’t look too promising, the second waterfall and all the rest turned out solidly frozen. Partly intimidated and partly intrigued to learn how the sport worked for me, I gladly agreed that Miha, an alpinist friend and an internationally certified IMFGA mountain guide, should take the lead.

  • Ascent 1
  • Ascent 1

His every move was carefully considered as he carved his path in this frozen water formation.

From there, everyone strapped on their crampons, a climbing belt, and a helmet, while Miha set the ropes on top. He worked his way up completely confident, looking for a pathway on an icy structure easy enough for the less experienced to follow. With ice axes in my hands and safely attached to the rope, I slowly progressed to the top. The ice was more on the soft side, which made climbing easier; still as an amateur I found it beyond thrilling.

  • Would I do it again?
  • Would I do it again?

The question is, would I do it again? The answer is obvious: definitely! Ice climbing is a great winter alternative for outdoor enthusiasts, and the location couldn’t be more suitable if you’re based in Ljubljana. The Hell Gorge really rocks!

Jerneja Fidler Pompe

An adventurer, a dreamer, an explorer. A real mountain enthusiast. A blogger.

More about Jerneja Fidler Pompe

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