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A legendary climber is turning Slovenia into a destination for adventure
Climbing the Julian Alps

The first time I met Slovenian mountaineer Ales Cesen, we were snowshoeing across an ice cap in Iceland, about 2,000 miles from his native country.

It was only October, but winter had come early that year, and the climate was particularly dour, even by local standards. Unhindered by the mist and hail, Cesen made just one noise: a rhythmic slooping sound as his feet dragged along the glacier. Perhaps it was his hiker’s stoicism. Or maybe he was just peeved about the weather.

I’d been in Reykjavik on business when an old friend and seasoned expedition leader, Siggi Bjarni Sveinsson, invited me to explore the country’s southerly expanse of volcanoes and glaciers. I was lured by the promise of new adventures but unprepared to share them with such a veteran climber. I could barely keep up.

We paused when the wind subsided, and Cesen’s wife, Polona, exhumed a plastic package from her rucksack: a bag of hermetically sealed doughnuts, like the ones you find at the gas station that will survive the apocalypse, and we qualified our shared sweet tooth indulgence as “cultural exchange.” Cesen abstained, and as he blazed ahead to explore

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