Hike to the closest highest mountain – Japetić (879m)

Starting with gear check

It all started on a fresh sunny morning in the beginning of March. To be exact the 8th of March in year 2019. The weather forecast for the day told that there was a chance of rain and that it will be windy.

Packed my ruck with a litre of soy drink, two meals of Huel, two Espresso sticks, two litres of water in my Camelbak, and 200g of gummies. This summed up to approximately 2200kcal, which is more than enough for the journey

Had a traditional Croatian breakfast and off I went.

Clothing wise, just cargo shorts – a bit too heavy for my taste, but did the trick, a t-shirt and a windbreaker, which gave me an additional pocket to carry my phone in, and VivoBarefoot Primus Trail SG M Trail Runners with ArmaSkin socks. Nothing too special except for the foot wear. On my head I had a typical cap and also took a pair of earbuds with me for some entertainment along the way.

First hurdle

Right off the start I got hot way too quick and right away took off the windbreaker. From there on I have been questioning why did I take it in the first place. But since I was already on the journey even though it was just the first kilometer, there was no turning back. Because if you chose certain equipment make sure you stick with it throughout the whole journey. Just because you are starting from home doesn’t mean you will always have the luxury to go back and re-equip.

The first 4km were flat with no real elevation gain. The sun was peaking through the clouds every once in awhile, which did make it doable with heat exposure. The only real major problem was that my bladder was pressuring me from the tea I drank during breakfast. And that I couldn’t find a good enough spot to take a leak. Since I was walking through urban area. Though as soon as there was a climb in elevation, I was in rural area and even in the forest. So bladder relaxation here I come!

The pace did stay fairly constant for the next 15km in the 9-10min range, where the slower paces were usually due to taking pictures. I did take lots of pictures and within this post only the best will be presented. Also I did stop frequently due to navigation to check if I really was going the right way.

Breath taking scenary

At kilometer 15 is when it started to drizzle and thought to myself, good thing that I brought that jacket along, but I didn’t put it on. I just continued on my journey. Soon there after I got to see where the Jana factory was and also saw a sign that said 12km to the top. Well great… thinking to myself, I am already 14km in (even though I was further) and still had 12km to go, just perfect! Funnily enough as you will soon notice it is 26km to the top and 14+12=26. So as pessimistic as I was in that moment it was the truth.

View of the Japetić mountain (879m)

The scenery was just breath taking, constantly looking at the mountain range (Žumberak) and guessing which way you will be climbing up. The goal of getting to the top and proving the relatives that it isn’t as hard as everyone says it to be, was more aspiring than giving up at that moment because of distance issues. And plus that I was still being well entertained by the podcast: Darknet Diaries. It is about stories that happened on the darker sides of the internet. You know, those areas that no should know of, but do exist. Where you can get anything you want for a price tag.

The climb

21km/3:20h in and only now am I at the trail head of the climb to the top. By now I have reached an elevation of 300m which is only a gain of 200m from the beginning. And I knew from estimations that I have at least 5km to go and 500m elevation gain.

Fire salamander chilling by a pool of water

The climb was hard and strenuous but fun. And right off the start after the first turn, surprisingly enough, I saw a fire salamander at a puddle. First time ever that I saw this creature in the wild. Thought to myself I must be really lucky. Took like 5 pictures of it, only to realize when broadening my view that there was another one and another one. Okay fine, three of them at the watering hole that makes sense, right? Well as I continued my journey upwards, I had to be careful not to step into them that’s how frequent they were and saw a total of 6 of them. I thought I might be seeing them throughout the whole trail, but they really only in that section. Later when conversing with my uncle, he himself was surprised that they were already out, that means it was warm enough for them.

The climb was slow but the cleats on my shoes helped a bit. It was more difficult figuring out where to step so that one’s shoes wouldn’t get wet from the mud and also not slip away on the dried leaves. Because an injury here wouldn’t be the best thing that could happen.

Good thing that GPS signal in Croatia is great, because it helped a lot finding the trail. Since it wasn’t that recognizable and sometimes the broader trail wasn’t the correct one and one had to turn back. Thus I did check a cross points every 50m and usually at those times I got a gut feeling that it wasn’t the correct way.

It took me just over an hour to get to the top and the view was breath taking. Though once one reached the top, one is still secluded in the forest and therefore they built a tower. So that one can climb up to get a better view. Sadly the weather wasn’t ideal, but I still was able to see plenty. Took a 360 panorama picture divided into smaller sections. And then climbed down because the wind has slowly made it a bit chilly, especially when one is sweat drenched.

Franjo with the valley of Dragnić and Crna Mlaka in the background

At the bottom of the tower, I put on my windbreaker and had my lunch which was 500ml of soy drink with a stick of Espresso and 120g of Huel. This is equivalent to 700kcal. After the first meal I made the second one as well, but that one I enjoyed on the way down.

What astonished me the most is that I did 26km within 4.5h with almost 800m elevation gain. That is an epic pace of 5.78kmph.

The descent

On the way down, I turned off the podcast, because I wanted to use all my senses. Though that being said, my one hand was carrying the bottle filled with Huel. And I also went on a trail that wasn’t drawn on the map, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea. I did though have the fun of strategizing my route to get safely from tree to tree without slipping on the leaves and having no friction until crashing into a tree trunk. And as mentioned before with the good GPS signal, I was able to navigate back to path. Luckily I didn’t endure any injuries from this off-beaten detour.

As soon as I was back on the path, I took off the windbreaker and continued the journey. By then the Huel was also empty and able to store it away into the ruck. The downwards path was filled with lots of steps and went heavily onto the knees.

Decision to climb the montain Stražnik

Once I was down at the road, I had a decision to make. Either I could go home or I can go climb this other mountain right here around the corner. Well since I was in a good mood and have only done 28km/5h plus it was just past noon, why not have some more fun? So I chose the later and climbed an additional 100m.

Sadly there was no view from this mountain peak – Stražnik (709m). But there was a guest book and I signed it with a member from the Munich Rucking Club. So it wasn’t a waste of time or energy.

Refuel station

At the bottom of this hill, I was fortunate enough to come by a spring and was able to hydrate plentiful. I washed out the Huel bottle and filled it up with the fresh spring water. That is one of my bigger fears when doing longer distance rucks/hikes is having sufficient amount of water.

Refuel station with fresh spring water

Increasing the pace

Now that the hard and fun parts were over it was time to get back home. One thing I noticed is that I have been wasting way too much time and I need to pick up my pace because I have only done 32km in 6h and that is a pace of 5.33kmph. So for the next 90min I set forth to elevate my pace back to an average of 5.5kmph. And the way I achieved this is by walking the next 90min at a speed of 8kmph.

View of Japetić from the descent

While writing this I cannot believe that I achieved that pace either. Basically that translates to an 8min kilometer. Just think about it, 6h in and after climbing two mountains, first now I decide to pick up my pace and all I have eaten is some Huel. It surprises me every time when I think back to that moment.

Rolling hills while descending

The downhill did help with the faster pace, but I really didn’t notice it that much. Was still being distracted of my accomplishment. Constantly turning around to see where I just was. Still not believing that I was there just a couple hours ago.

Sluggishness and hot spots

Around the 42nd kilometer is when I was slowly feeling the damages to my feet. I was hot spots being developed, just as well blisters. Though the pace did still persist of faster than 9min per kilometer.

Finally when kilometer 45 hit all was over. Came to a dead road and the path has ended. I wasn’t in the mood to turn around and go a different route when just two days ago I walked along a close by path. So since I knew of the existence of the path, I did the only logical thing and walk through the fields to get there. The reason I couldn’t continue on the path was due to the fact that it was an active construction site and I didn’t was to test their patience if I walked along it. Really wasn’t in the mood for confrontation.

View from path of the Žumberak mountain range

Though walking through the fields isn’t probably the morally correct thing to do, at that moment I just wanted to get home. And just to hint you, I only really took two breaks where I sat down and rested a bit. The rest of the time I was either standing or on the move.

Since walking the fields is off terrain, means naturally that the pace would slow down. This alteration of terrain was welcoming on the hot spots and made in more endurable to persist. The fun portions came when I got to cross streams.

There was always two options, either get wet and go through the water or somehow find a tree that one can use to get over. I chose the latter because if my shoes are wet and continue to cross the dirt piles that the fields were, I would be carrying extra grams of dirt with me. Which I really didn’t need at that moment. Additionally getting down to the water is easy, but getting back up usually not so much.

Luckily enough I only had to cross two streams. The first one was a piece of cake, where I was able to just jump over. Though the second one was a bit more technical. I had to keep my core tight while reaching over to grab the tree on the other side. Then hug the tree, turn around and climb back out, both doable and a treat in exercise variation.

The final stretch

Once I came to the path I did two days ago, I knew that I will be having to walk through the river to take the easier path to get home. And I promised myself that I first deserve the gummies once I get there.

Cooling off feet in the water

It was the best feeling ever stepping into the cold refreshing water. All the hot spots instantly disappeared. No pain. Means that the next couple of kilometers will be a piece of cake. Like I promised myself, I got to endure the gummies. What a treat after so many kilometers(46.5km). And another benefit of crossing the river once, I get to do it a second later down the path. Means just when the hot spots are slowly coming back, I will cool them off again which will prepare me for the last stretch.

At kilometer 49 I noticed that there is less than 10min left until I reach 9h. Thus I gave myself the challenge to accomplish the 50km in less than 9h and I did achieve it with 3s still on the clock.

After ruck

The best feeling every is sitting down for a longer period of time and taking off those shoes plus socks. That moment when secluded feet get to feel the fresh air is just indescribable. Then within minutes as your body cools down and the joints and muscles seize up with swelling and soreness; at once you cannot walk anymore without any pain. The first step or motion is just to painful to attempt, but you know that each further one will become easier. Trying to negate all pain by walking in a weird form.

What surprised me the most is how awesome it felt to do the butterfly stretch and the sumo squat. It was just mind-boggling. These stretches by themselves after a typical workout one wouldn’t feel anything, but now after so much repetitive movement, it feels awesome.

After an hour break, I was almost as good as new and could walk again in a fairly normal pace. Though I still wore padded shoes and didn’t attempt to go larger distances barefoot.


To get the data and path, check out Strava.

Final thoughts

If you aren’t inspired or have a deep desire in achieving the path, then in no time will you want to quit. Thus create a deep desire in achieving the set out path. And if you want to make it a bit more difficult in turning back or taking a shortcut, design the path in such a way that when doubts come up, that the set path is the easiest and fastest way home.

And remember your mind is your biggest obstacle on the journey. Since it was designed to take the path with the least resistance.