Here is a brief introduction to Slovenia’s Martuljek mountain group, considered by many to be one of the most rugged and picturesque sub-ranges in the Julian Alps. At center above is Oltar, with its neighbors to the west (right) Velika Martuljška Ponca (2602m) and Mala Martuljška Ponca (2502m), three of the four peaks that most visitors will first spot when crossing paths with this group in the country’s northwestern corner.
But first: for those of you who need a refresher (or are just eager to learn!), in Slovenian č, š and ž are pronounced “ch”, “sh”, and “zh”. So Martuljška, above, is pronounced Martulshka. (We’ll skip discussion of the ‘lj’ for now; whenever you see those two letters together in that order as in the capital city’s name Ljubljana, it’s easier to just pretend that the ‘j’ isn’t there.)
To get your bearings: these photos were all taken from the the north, facing south from the bike path that connects the towns of Mojstrana and Kranjska Gora, located northwest of the Karawanken Tunnel link with Austria. As you can see on the map, the bike path and this portion of the range largely runs parallel to Slovenia’s highway 201. That’s roughly from where most people, albeit with feet firmly planted on the ground, will be introduced to the group.
Borrowing its name from Gozd Martuljek, the forest and town it shadows over –or was it viceversa?– the group constitutes one of the earliest protected areas in Slovenia and rests, almost in its entirety, within the borders of Triglav National Park.
With its northern walls towering over the upper Sava Dolinka River valley, it’s composed of about a dozen peaks and rocks topped by Skrlatica, which is at 2740m (8990ft), Slovenia’s second highest peak and third highest in the Julian Alps. Only Slovenia’s Triglav (2864m/ 9395ft) and Montaz / Spik nad policami (2754m/ 9035ft) just across the border in Italy loom taller.
In the views presented here, Oltar (or altar) pictured above and below, rules the roost. It’s the third tallest of the group at 2621m (8599ft).
Unlike many other peaks in the Julian Alps, reaching these are not day hikes. They are as rugged as they look, requiring ropes, technical gear, experience and expertise well beyond my limitations. You can however get significantly closer along a few dozen footpaths accessible from the main road roughly midway between the village of Gozd Martuljek and Kranjska Gora. Walks to the lower and upper Martuljek waterfalls are especially popular. (Directions below.)
From the east towards Kranjska Gora, we begin with from left (a portion of) Široka Peč (2497m/ 8192ft), Oltar, Velika Martuljška Ponca and Mala Martuljška Ponca.
A few more views of Oltar:
Moving on towards Velika Martuljška Ponca (2602m/ 8536ft), Mala Martuljška Ponca (2502m/ 8208ft), and the pyramid peak of Špik (2472m), perhaps the group’s most recognized peak.
- Velika Martuljška Ponca [Hribi.net] [Summitpost]
- Mala Martuljška Ponca [Hribi.net] [Summitpost]
- Špik [Hribi.net] [Summitpost]
Moving further west, this is Kukova Špica (2427m/ 7962ft). Again, from the north.
One more shot, from the bike path, a wide view taking in all the peaks above except for Kukova Špica, which is further to the west (to the right).
Getting there? From Ljubljana, take a train to Jesenice and continue west towards Kranjska Gora. I rode my bike, but there is regular local bus service from Jesenice and Ljubljana. By car from Austria, had west towards Kranjska Gora once you’re out of the Karawanken Tunnel.
For short non-technical hikes, the best starting point is via a gravel access road just across (south) from the post office in Gozd Martuljek; a small marked parking area with a few picnic tables is about 700m away. Here’s a map.