The slopes of Šmarna gora and Grmada are today intertwined with innumerable paths. Many paths especially shortcuts have been present only for the last years, some have been fortified by walking centuries ago. The archive recordings state that people have visited Gora already in the early era of the last millenium.
Till the last decade of 19th century Šmarna gora was mostly visited by pilgrims as it was a frequently visited pilgrimage trail. In these times there were two main trails to Gora – the one from Zavrh, used mostly by the locals and suppliers of the object on Gora with transportation of bigger loads to Gora and the trail from Tacen that lead from village church past the chapel of Tacen over the saddle to the top – today known as »The pilgrimage trail«. This trail was most frequented as it was used by pilgrims from broader Ljubljana area and served also for daily services. Among the products that had to be present on Gora at all times the sources mention wine mostly. On the trail – similar to today's Trail over roots – there were more shortcuts, but the landowners have closed them by planting bramble and brushwood until they gave up and accepted the changes that time brought. The locals from Vikrče and Pirniče have fortified also the paths – Kovač's trail and Trail over Peske.
In the eighties of 19th century in Ljubljana a group of pipe smoking friends was established. The members of this group were initiators of establishment of Slovenian Climbing Association in 1893. They regularly met on Šmarna gora and in 1895 opened an inscription book in which there were already 1425 inscriptions in the first year.
Till first world war the Šmarna gora visitors came mainly for the purpose of a trip and not as pilgrims. The majority of the trails was limited to the area of Šmarna gora – steep and rocky slopes of the neighbouring Grmada have stayed almost intact, as only a very weekly prepared path lead from the saddle to this top.
After the World War I, when Ljubljana got its highschool, the rocks under Grmada have been discovered by the students who brought fresh ideas also to Šmarna gora, or better to Grmada. In the years 1925-30 the Grmada was the location to bring new discoveries. Unfortunately this period started with the tragic death – November 6th 1926 – of Lojze de Reggi that was followed by more climbing accidents. The mayor of Tacen was forced to act and had a warning sign placed by the Vikrče well saying:
IT IS FORBIDDEN TO CLIMB TURENC WITHOUT COMPLETE CLIMBING GEAR (SPIKES, CLIMBING SHOES, CLIMBING ROPE)
The years have passed and the sign deteroriated and had been in the memory of the mentioned period archived by Vilko Mazi, the legend of Šmarna gora.
Only a month later when this accident happened, Josip Wester, a »certified and always extremely sound mountaineer«, as Vilko Mazi later on described, sent »An open letter to the president of SPD (Slovenian Climbing Association)«, Tominšek, where he suggests 'alpinisation' of Grmada. He suggests building of three paths that would go to this romantic and wild peak, as he describes it. The first, »Planinska« (Climber's) would go over Turenc and would be »in some places equipped by the security devices, common on slopes of big mountains«, other two would be suitable for »gradual tourists« - one would lead from Vikrče over the ridge over the top of Grmada to saddle, the other would go from Vikrče under Turenc crosswise to saddle. He suggests also building a footbridge over Sava between Medno and Vikrče and arranging a bathing area in the vicinity. This is how he concludes his writing:
Would it not be a downright hygienic activity to climb the Grmada to stretch the limbs, let the fresh air flow through the body, sweat and then over the field of Virkrče to bath in Sava and the over the footbridge to Medno, by choice have lunch at Cirman's and then hop on the train and back to Ljubljana? Such a climbing-hygenic trip could be done in 3 hours moderately. Today I walked in less than an hour and a half the trail B (over the ridge) over Grmada and back by trail C (over the saddle). Mister president! I may have exaggerated in length of this writing, but I hope you forgive me my public appeal to Your person, by considering the public I wanted to make aware of the plan of which you as the president of our association already approve. The issue now is that the plan should be considered from experts, from tehnical and financial perspective and to inquire what position is adopted by the directly affected circles. You, highly respected mister president, who have gained many most superior merits for the development of climbing and Slovenian tourism, should by a merry inauguration of the above mentioned plans that could benefit not only Ljubljana and Ljubljana people, but will bring joy of climbing and promote health of our contemporaries and successors, weave a new bouquet into the non-withering garland of your merits that have been acknowledged also by His Majesty the king by whose medal your chest will be adorned tomorrow. With heartly congratulation that assures you that you will also in future dedicate your youth eagernest to the development of our mountain climbing, I conclude this letter, asking you for support that our plans cleared up above should be accomplished as soon as possible, especially to alpinise Grmada that has with the death accident of young De Reggi got its climbing glory. Your loyal J.W., in Ljubljana, December 8th, 1926
The letter was published in Planinski Vestnik (Climbing Gazette) in January 1927. A year after Josip Novak in his book »Šmarna gora« writes the following: »Following the initiative of a retired commanding inspector Mr. Josip Wester the Slovenian tourist started paying special attention to Grmada and its steep and extremely rocky slope over Vikrče. It gained special attention since the station Medno was opened, as it lies opposite Vikrče. In the central commitee of »Slovenian Climbing Association« on January 19th, 1927 a »Šmarna gora section« was established with the task to make and mark all the paths and put blazes on Grmada and Šmarna gora and arranges the legal relationship with the landowners and makes a footbridge over Sava in Medno. The members of this section are: Alojzij Knafelc, Emerik Ferlinc, Živko Lapajne, PhD and Josip Wester. Already before the establishment of this section Josip Wester on General Assembly of Slovenian Climbing Association that took place on May 11th, 1926 presented and idea »to alpinise« Grmada. The climbing paths should be made to take place of tours in real mountains to those who cannot afford to go there timewise and moneywise, who cannot afford better and more expensive tours to other mighty peaks. From Vikrče there has been a trail from inn »Pri Kovaču« that gradually scales up the western slope until it reaches a bit below Gorjanc a cart track that goes from Zavrh to Gora. And also from Zavrh you can on many parts avoid the cart track by taking shortcuts. In 1927 Wester's plan started its realisation. On the upper side of Inn »Pri Kovaču« you can see a red board Slovenian Climbing Association with white insignation: The Trail to Grmada. The blazes (red circles with white dots in the middle; made by Knafelc and Wester in March 1927) are so well done that it is impossible to lose one's way. At first there actually is no path. Well-walked footprints can be seen in the clearing which is poorly overgrown by heather and bramble and the stones sticking out. The land is hanging, an actual »woman's knee«, and many open their jackets and shirts here; but there are no other nuisances, as for 10 minutes the worst grade, which is not really dangerous subsides. The second part of the path over the rough back to rough rocks (Rogljiči) gets easier and easier, the rest from Rogljiči to the first and then to the main peak is totally innocent – a nice promenade as also downwards to the pass between Grmada and Šmarna gora. All this trail can be walked also by children, but they should have nails on their soles and a caring company so they will not be wandering around on their will and go astray to some dangerous places. This path is known among the trippers as the »Trail of Wester«. This year starting June a true climbing path was made to Grmada for the most »determined« tourists. At the cement sink made in 1925 in Virkče a red board of Slovenian Climbing Association reminds you of that with white letter »An insured climbing path to Grmada«. This path is prepared by the climbing rules and is richly equipped by clings and spikes and wire ropes and especially in the lower part leads very steeply through rocks and between cliffs. Some hundred steps you walk the grass and forest to reach the foot of the renowned Turenc and you have already reached the rocks. Through the hole under Turnec they have made wooden steps so you can climb higher and higher the rocky slope. A few passages are quite romatically interesting with beautiful views into the deepness. In the upper part of the path you reach the soft floor and after carefully installed windings beforementioned »Trail of Wester« on which you continue your trip to Grmada. Where the »Climbing« and »Wester's« trail join there is a bench as a resting place. The mountain ascent on the new climbing path is 20 to 25 minutes. Despite the slope it is not dangerous at any point – you need to be careful, hold well and secure step; those suffering from vertigo should not walk this trail. The trail is done by experts; detailed plans for it were done by a known climber Knafelc, the work was carefull done by two great practitioners: Hanza Vertelj from Kranjska gora and Kravanja-Kopiščar from Trenta. A senior doctor from Ljubljana dr. Josip Pogačnik paid for the iron material from his own pocket and by this showed how he as a doctor appreciates the medical purposes of the climbing exercise. The new trail was opened on June 10th 1928… By all this paths the friends of Grmada should be satisfied in all ways. The footbridge should be made over Sava between the little station in Medno and Vikrče. The Šmarna gora section of SCA has designed a necessary plan for this and Ljubljana's authoritative comittee has allowed financial support from the loan for promotion of tourism. The footbridge over Sava is needed also for the traffic purposes, as the villages Vikrče, Pirniče and Zavrh would get the best possible connection with the train station in Medno.
The bridge was built only a few years after that – in 1934.
Already mentioned Vilko Mazi has become a legend of Šmarna gora especially due to building two paths: »Mazi's Trail« and »Freedom Trail«.
Even before war he searched every single rock to find a suitable connection between the gorge of Grmada where the Wester's trail was going and Zatrep where there was the end of the cart track from Vikrče. In May 1945 in the days where the German soldiers were backing up on the road to Medvode, he finally set the track and in memory of those moments named it the »Trail of Freedom«. In the next 12 months he with the help of his supporters from the nearby villages did a lot of demanding work and a year later on the May 9th 1946 the new trail was officially open.
At the same time he already was planning the continuation of »Trail of Freedom« - the path that was supposed to go around both tops at the same contour lines somewhere in the middle of Savska plain and 360 metres higher peaks. The major part could go over the yet existing cart tracks and they should be connected only on some parts; the only big section that should be built anew was the connection between the road and the gorge of Grmada. In the time when he was arranging land register matters, he noticed that in the first year all hellebores and other flowers have dissappeared on the part that had already been built. That's why he gave up on finishing this promenade-walking circular part.
But he had another thought, namely the connection of Zatrep with the upper part of Wester's trail, with the well visible knee on the Grmada gorge. For many years he himself has dug the rocks and paved the way through them and by that he was cautious that his acts were hidden from the eyes of the visitors. In the year 1953, when Slovene Climbing Association celebrated its 60th anniversary, he handed the trail over to his colleagues and they named it »Mazi's trail«.
Many description of paving the ways to Gora exists. One of them was also about building a funicular, namely in 1911 the highly respected »engineer« Fran Žužek thought about the wire funicular, whose lower station would be in Tacen at »Medo bar«. He even got a licence for it from the church, but the idea died out for unknown reasons.
By this the pioneer era of paving the new trails on the slopes of Šmarna gora and Grmada ended. The successors of Josip Wester and Vilko Mazi now when Gora has become a central Ljubljana's sports object have other concerns, namely to take care that Šmarna gora stays the same as we got it for our decendants.
Written by: Tomo Šarf
- Planinski vestnik (Climbing Journal)
- The book »Šmarna gora« by Josip Novak, 1928
- The guide »Šmarna gora«; published by PD Šmarna gora, 1974 and 1981