The cradle of Croatian mountaineering
No Croatian mountain has become so firmly part of traditional legends and stories such as Klek. A steep mountain close to the town of Ogulin attracts from afar and with its impressive form and size puts into shade all that is surrounding it. From whichever side you approach it, Klek will reveal a different face, but its steep 200-meter-high peak and Klečica, a minor rock pointing sharply towards the skies north from the main peak, will be attractive from all angles. Looking from the east and the south it looks like a dormant giant whose legs are the rocks of Klečica and whose head is the main summit. According to a traditional tale, the summit of Klek is a gathering site of witches who are a sort of a symbol of Klek and the town of Ogulin. Due to its exceptional landscape and biological value, this area of around 850 ha was protected in 1971 as a significant landscape and a part of it is under protection as a geomorphological and botanical reserve.
Klek is a ridge of 4 kilometres of length stretching northwest-southeast along the eastern parts of Velika Kapela. Its slopes gradually descend towards the field of Ogulin and the valley of Dobra. From its foot to the ridge, it is all covered with woods, while at the foot of the mountain vast grassland full of colourful flowers spreads.
The mountaintops of Klek are impressive, steep and rocky. The most significant ones are Klečice or Mali Klek (1058 m) and Veliki Klek, which is 1182 m high. The main summit of Klek is a stony hillock of ten meters in diameter atop of vertical rocks. Since there are no woods at its tops, these provide beautiful views of Bjelolasica, Risnjak, Ogulin and lake Sabljak, and on clear days it is also possible to admire the Julian and Kamnik Alps in Slovenia. Klek’s mountaintop was the first school of Croatian alpinists who mastered many first ascents there. This is why Klek is often called the cradle of Croatian Alpinism.
Klek earned its place in history even before these first mountaineering endeavours. It is well-known that the king of Saxony, Frederick Augustus II, a passionate botanist, accompanied by Colonel Josip Jelačić, later known as Croatian ban Jelačić, climbed Klek in 1838. Several decades later, thrilled by his ascent to Klek in 1874, a university professor from Graz, Dr. Johanes Frischauf made the first effort to establish the Croatian Mountaineering Association.
Ogulinski Klek, with its mystique appearance, has long inspired legends. A Slovenian historian and scientist, Johann Weichard Valvasor, recorded in the 17th century a traditional belief according to which on stormy nights, on the very top of Klek, at midnight, witches and elves from all over the world gather, and their dancing and screams reach the town of Ogulin.
The shortest and most commonly used mountain trail to Klek begins in Bjelsko, a village of Musulin Potok at the western foot of the mountain. An hour is required to get to the mountain lodge under Klek’s top rock, and a further half an hour to get to the summit. Besides from Bjelsko, mountain trails from Ogulin and Hreljin also lead to Klek. The ascent to Klek is neither difficult nor exhausting but each visit to this powerful dormant giant at the skirts of Velika Kapela, the cradle of Croatian Alpinism and the empire of witches above Ogulin, is long remembered.