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With a break of about one month, I returned to Slovakia for hiking in the High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry) and for visiting my friends in the capital Bratislava.
Here you can find the articles about my hiking tours during the summer:
Like in August I had my hotel in Poprad-Tatry, located at the south-eastern foothills of the imposing mountain range.
And conveniently, it was just a few hundred meters to the train station in Poprad and the meter-gauge railway Tatranské Elektrické Železnice (TEŽ).
My focus was this time on the western parts of the High Tatras (not to be confused with the “Western Tatras” or Západné Tatry what is a different mountain range), as opposed to my tours in August.
The town Štrbské Pleso, the final station of the meter-gauge railway in the west (it takes around one hour from Poprad to Štrbské Pleso), suggests itself as the starting point to explore the western valleys and summits.
Kriváň , October 1
The Kriváň mountain (2494 meters AMSL, i. e. Above Mean Sea Level; every height stated below is AMSL), so named because of its distinctive shape1, is the most famous in Slovakia and a national symbol even though it is not the highest summit in the Carpathians (Gerlachovský štít is the highest with a peak elevation of 2654 meters).
This mountain has such big popularity that it is even depicted on the Slovak Euro cent coins.
So any hiking adventure wouldn’t have been complete if I had had omitted this peak.
The weather was excellent on this first day of October.
Start (and finishing point) was the gorgeous Štrbské pleso mountain lake (a glacial lake), lying to the north-west of the aforementioned small town bearing the same name (but with capital letter P: Štrbské Pleso).
From there (on 1350 meters altitude) I followed the red marks westwards on the first section of the trail. Red is usually the color for long distance trails, and here the marks label the Tatramagistrale that leads across the whole Tatra foothill (and which connects the principal refuges).
At Jamské pleso, a small mountain lake (1447 meters) I turned northwards on the blue marked trailhead, where I started ascending the now steep and treeless mountain slopes, with the impressive Važecká dolina valley on my right hand side.
On the peak (the ascent is exhausting but technically not overly difficult) one is rewarded with an expansive view to Poland in the north and onto the Low Tatras (Nízke Tatry) in the south.
Reaching the peak
Impressions from and near the peaks on 2494 meters:
For climbing down there had been the option to take the green marked path to Tri Studničky (“Three Wells”).
I walked the blue marked path back to Štrbské Pleso instead (green and blue marked trails usually connect the red marked long distance trails with further noteworthy spots).
1 according to the sources at my disposal
Predné Solisko, October 2
Climbing up this mountain (height either 2093 or 2117 meters, depending on the travel guide you use) was not very difficult and on the whole the tour took only about four hours.
Start and destination was again the train station in Štrbské Pleso.
On my ascent I had a rest at the comfortable Chata pod Soliskom refuge on 1840 meters. From there it is only one hour to the peak (red marked path). Unfortunately I had not much sight because of the dense fog during this time of the day.
Predné Solisko stands roughly translated for “Leading Solisko”, most likely because it is the first peak of the Soliskový hrebeň crest.
The last or more precisely northernmost point of the crest is Veľké Solisko, which can only be ascended with a certified mountain guide.
Rysy, October 3
I started once more at the Štrbské pleso mountain lake on this third day, with the plan to conquer the popular Rysy.
This mountain possesses three peaks (the highest of those three is 2503 meters, Rysy is actually a plural form), straddling the border between Poland and Slovakia.
Rysy is the highest mountain in the High Tatras that is accessible for individual visitors without a certified mountain guide2, so there does exist a marked trail to the peak (which is red marked from the Nad Žabím potokom junction on).
A few sections of the trail are via ferrata, but even with a thin layer of snow there exist no real obstacles from a technical point of view.
My tour took almost the entire day, but the reward was again an expansive view from the summit and new-made friends in the Chata pod Rysmi (“Cottage below Rysy”)3 on 2250 meters.
This refuge is the highest-located in Slovakia and quite small, but very inviting and comfortable (but better avoid using that outdoor toilet).
During your tour you will probably encounter porters carrying supplies to the refuge, since there is no other way to resupply the refuge (barring helicopters).
Reaching the peak
Impressions from and near the peaks on 2500 meters:
On my descent I noticed that some of the snow on the trail had already melted away in the past couple of hours, due to the strong sun radiation during the afternoon.
2 likewise, Rysy is the highest mountain in Poland; climbing up from the Polish side is more difficult however and there is a severe avalanche threat during the winter months
3 just for the case you are interested in Slovak grammar – pod entails instrumental case, and here we need the plural form: Rysy – Rysmi
Skalnaté pleso, October 4
The last day I made a short tour of about four hours from Starý Smokovec (1000 meters) to the Skalnaté pleso mountain lake (1751 meters), and afterwards to Tatranská Lomnica (850 meters) on a quite steep green marked trail.
On the way one can have a rest at the Rainerova chata (1300 meters), the oldest refuge in the High Tatras (built in 1863).
Skalnaté pleso (“Rocky mountain lake”) is situated below the southern precipice of Lomnický štít. The third-highest mountain in the Carpathian Mountains (2634 meters) is accessible for normal visitors via cable car or alternatively a certified mountain guide.
The end of September and the beginning of October is arguably the best time for mountaineering.
Sudden thunderstorms are less likely compared to the summer months. One doesn’t have to deal with oppressive heat. Accommodations are usually cheaper in autumn than in summer or winter (high season for skiing).
Disadvantages are fewer hours of sunlight and occasional snowfall.
The hiking season comes slowly but steadily to an end now. I hope you enjoyed this small article about Slovakia and the High Tatras mountain range, and I look forward to further challenging outdoor experiences in 2020.
Featured image: The mountain lake Štrbské pleso