Bijele stijene

We didn’t know it was going to be that hard

28 November 2020.

Written by Matija Čaić

A journey into the unknown


This time we didn’t know where we were going. Some basic plan was to climb Bjelolasica, although other options were also acceptable. Everything that was generally in the direction of Ogulin came into consideration. The discussion lasted approximately as long as one needs to drink one beer. One beer is also enough to awaken the adventurous spirit of every true mountaineer.


The decision was, “Let’s conquer Bijele stijene (White rocks).”

During our travel to Ogulin we counted inventory to see if it would be necessary to stop at the gas station, but we concluded that 8 beers, 6 sandwiches, two cans of coffee and a hip flask of brandy have enough calories to keep us on this demanding endeavor.


This was the time of first easing of measures of the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic, so we would need passes to move to another county. White rocks are mostly located in the neighboring county, but the entrance is in ours. We explained to the kind policewoman who stopped us that we were going to Ogulin, and for the rest of the trip we hoped that we would not run into a policeman – mountaineer who would impose  fines on us for unauthorized crossing of the county border.


Arrival


In the village of Jasenak, we left the asphalt and turned onto the macadam. After about 6 kilometers and 350 meters we got tired of shaking in the car and we continued on foot.


At the beginning of the hiking trail that leads to White rocks we came across a canopy with a table and benches where we immediately had to drink our first beer to get stronger for the climb. The trail further was relatively easy and led us through the usual forest landscape. The rocks that protruded from the ground here and there became more frequent, larger and whiter as we climbed. It seemed we were on the right track.

Wooden shack at the start of trail to White rocks near Ogulin, Croatia.
Shack at the beginning of the trail


The first obstacle was a tree that blocked our way, and it was very long and thick so we couldn’t get around it or over it but we had to take off our backpacks and crawl under it.


The beginning of the White Rocks is marked with a welcome board and the inscription “Goodbye” on the other side. There is a shelter open all year round where occasional travelers can take shelter, sleep and warm up. It was already clear here that White rocks were not a joke, so we immediately sipped another beer, left most of the things in shelter and chose the path to the top.


Ascent


Fifty meters from the shelter, behind a large rock, there is a real mountain lodge that was closed at this time.

Mountain lodge at White rocks reservation near Ogulin, Croatia
Mountain lodge


White rocks are not exactly an easy trip. We used our feet as much as our hands going down and climbing the rocks following the red and white markings. At one point we took off our backpacks again to slip between the two rocks. Someone of more corpulent build would have to give up at this point.


At the foot of the very top, the first doubt fell on whether to continue because all this started to look more and more like free climbing. The rocks were getting bigger and bigger so that any recklessness and deconcentration could make us falling on sharp rocks from a height of one meter. Yet our indestructible spirit did not allow us to give up.

Beneath the very top we found ourselves in a cleared space where the wind was blowing uncomfortably hard, but the view was fantastic. We were blocked by a rock over two meters high with not very convincing supports for arms and legs. After smoking one cigarette, one of the bigger mysteries is how he managed to light it at all, we decided that it was too risky, so we will go to the top in another and easier way.


Summit


We circled the summit and came to another direction to climb. We climbed through a narrow passage between two rocks. The cable is set to hold because everything is very smooth and the stones are quite high. I believe everyone in themselves has at least once thought of giving up. One member of the expedition later said he would give up, but thought, “Well, if the one with the hat and the one with the damaged knee can, so can I.”


In the end, however, we reached the top. The wind was so strong that I had to take off my hat, and a colleague needed all the skill of a longtime smoker to light a cigarette. We sipped brandy to celebrate the climb and set off with the descent. Everyone had their own style so even today we are not sure whether it is better to go down with your face or back to the rock. Anyway, we happily arrived at the trail and headed to the following localities. These were the Fingers and the Chapel.


Fingers, Chapel and return


Luckily, the whole area is well marked with hiking signposts so we found the Chapel without any problems. It is actually a natural amphitheater, surrounded by about ten meters high rocks. When you stand in front of the narrow passage under the rock Elephant’s Beard, you have no idea that behind it is a valley with a hollow in the rock and an altar with a cross.


The Fingers are stone formations in the shape of 4 tall pillars. We were unable to find our way to their base because we were already quite tired at this stage and eager for more serious refreshments. We saw them across the woods and from a distance so there was a debate as to whether they were the Fingers or not. We concluded the discussion by googling “white rock fingers” and comparing the picture we got with what we saw in the distance. It was a sought-after formation after all.

Rock formation "Fingers". Four tall rock pillars in White rock reservation near Ogulin, Croatia.
The Fingers


On the way back we came across a real grove among the rocks. Two entrances led to this hall surrounded by peaks, and in it several fairly developed moss-covered trees provided excellent shade and offered the perfect place to drink some more beer.


Peace was disturbed by the laughter and cheerful chatter of a larger group of people. Curious, we turned to one of the entrances expecting a group of revelers to appear at any moment. After about ten minutes we still heard voices, but no trace of adventurers. Apparently they weren’t in too much of a hurry. In the end, however, we met with them and exchanged information about entering the reserve and what we all saw along the way.


So that the return would not be boring as we approached the mountain lodge, a large doberman peeked curiously around the corner. I immediately tightened the laces on my shoes to be faster than at least one colleague in case the dog didn’t get lunch so he decided to sweeten up with one of the tired hikers. It wasn’t so dramatic though because there was an owner nearby who put him on a leash and let us pass happily on.


The traditional lunch after hiking was forfeit this time for the simple reason that the restaurants did not work due to the epidemic of COVID – 19 coronavirus.


However, another pain brought us down. The thigh muscles requested one month of paid sick leave, preferably on a tropical island. A walk along the White rocks is an event similar to a climb up a meter-high staircase so that thighs and shoulders suffered the most.

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