On Saturday 18 October 2015 a group of Icelandic and Slovenian climbers joined forces to climb six peaks in the Kamnik – Savinja Alps in memory of their Jure Breceljnik who died last July aged 41, in order to raise funds for Jure’s baby daughter Ela Breceljnik and her mother Natalija Gros.

Jure's Challenge, during the ascent on 18/10/2015 in the Kamnik - Savinja Alps, Slovenia Photo by Rozle Bregar

Jure’s Challenge, during the ascent on 18/10/2015 in the Kamnik – Savinja Alps, Slovenia
Photo by Rozle Bregar

As reported at the start of the month, in mid-October four alpinists from Iceland would attempt to climb 6 mountains in Slovenia to raise funds for Slovenian sports climber Natalija Gros and her daughter Ela Breceljnik, daughter of the filmmaker Jure Breceljnik who died last July aged 41. Led by Aleš Česen, the climbers teamed up with local alpinists Rozle Bregar and Miha Avgustin, spent the night at the Ceska Koca mountain hut and then set off towards Jazerska Kocna (2540m) at 5:30am. They summited at 9:00 before continuing on to Grintovec, but snow and cold conditions hampered progress and, already behind schedule, the team were forced to change planss. They pressed on to Minarsko Sedlo at 2334m before refueling at the Kamniske Bistrica bivouac. From here they continued on to Struca (2457m) and Skuta (2532m), before climbing a small unnamed peak close to Jazerska Dolina they decided to call Jure’s Peak. They descended in the dark and reached Kamniske Bistrica at 21:00. Although the team summited only 4 of the originally planned 6 mountains, the day was nevertheless a great success and Sigurdur Bjarni Sveinsson confided to planetmountain.com that “There was amazing moral in the team and the truth is it tfelt like some upper power was with us, Jure’s spirit seamed to be all around the place.”

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Sigurdur, so how did this day in memory of Jure go?
All the logistics went really smoothly and I believe we played our chances as well as we could. Nature presented us with conditions different than those we had originally planned for, but Ales had made sure we were sufficiently prepared. In the end the 15.5 hour climb was successful with 4 peaks in demanding winter condition, past a total 2900m elevation gain, 19km in length and 3100m elevation loss. Despite not climbing all 6 peaks as originally planned, the entire team was very satisfied with the day. You know, oOnce you are up in the mountains you need to adjust to what you get and make the most out of your day keeping safe every step of the way. The mountains are going to be there tomorrow, and we’re certainly going to climb the remaining two peaks when we return to Slovenia. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Decisions were made very smoothly and we were super impressed with our fellow climbers from Slovenia and very inspired by the extremes of Slovenian Alps.

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Talking about these mountains, for the benefit of those who don’t know them, what can you say about these peaks
I have to say that I was really, really impressed with the Slovenian Alps. I totally understand why Slovenians have some of the best climbers in the world. I don’t know why they are not recognized more internationally, because they offer some of the best, interesting conditions I have been in. Probably their lack of fame is due to their stature, seeing that they’re not the highest peaks of the Alps, but from what we saw the quality is outstanding.

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Your trip was organised for a greater cause, for what you entitled Jure’s Challenge. How has that evolved?
It has been going well. We received good support from everyone we met and there has been a lot of interest in the project. We are still a little under our goal, but we believe we will reach it with a couple of other side projects we’ve planned for the same cause. I’m so happy for all the support we have got, and I really feel touched be people’s generosity. People from all over the world have made donations to Naty and Elas account, even people who have no big ties, and I’d like to take this occasion to thank them all. The climb and entire experience was very important for our healing, for somehow saying goodbye to our good friend Jure and to honor his memory in the mountains he cared so much about. When we said goodbye to Naty, I felt I could see relief in her eyes, a small burden had been lifted from her shoulders, hopefully now she will be able to focus on her own healing. Knowing that the money going to Naty and Ela will be well spent and is much-needed gives me the motivation to encourage people to support the cause, because every penny will make life easier for these amazing people.

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What is the next step?
For now we will just see how much the final steps of the fund raising will go and then let Jure’s family heal in peace. We have very strong ties to Slovenia and our work now is to support and strengthen the relationship of all the wonderful people we met through Jure.

What has this experience given you Sigurdur?
I cannot describe in words how much it has given me, it’s a mixed of saying goodbye, healing, satisfaction and missing. I have met so many wonderful people along this way. I have experienced mountains like never before for much higher cause then just walking for fun, with the people I really care a lot for. I have been given the chance to honour one of my best friend’s memory in his home country. I couldn’t have asked for more.

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