Štrbské pleso, south bank

High Tatras, part 3 (Kriváň, Rysy, Štrbské pleso)

Table of contents

Introduction

Kriváň, October 1
Predné Solisko, October 2
Rysy, October 3
Skalnaté pleso, October 4

Conclusion

Introduction

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 the links to part 1 and part 2 (summer tours):

1. Slavkovský štít, Zelené pleso (including general information about the High Tatras mountain range)
2. Východná Vysoká, Obrovský vodopád

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).

High Tatras

As opposed to my tours in August though, the 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).

The town of 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 more or less as a starting point for exploring the western valleys and summits.

Kriváň , October 1

Outline

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 in the Tatras wouldn’t have been complete if I had had omitted this peak.

Štrbské pleso, photo taken from the south bank
Štrbské pleso, photo taken from the south bank

The ascent

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 1346 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 connects the principal refuges).

At Jamské pleso, a small mountain lake (1447 meters) I turned northwards on a now blue marked trail, where I started ascending the steep and treeless mountain slopes, with the impressive Važecká dolina valley on my right hand side.

On the peak (the ascent is exhausting but not really technical) you are 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 peak on 2494 meters:

Kriváň (2494 meters), the Slovak double cross and a breathtaking view to Poland
Kriváň (2494 meters), the Slovak double cross and a breathtaking view to Poland

For climbing down there had been the option to take the green marked path to Tri Studničky (“Three Wells”), passing by the Grúnik peak on 1576 meters.

I walked on the blue marked path back to Štrbské Pleso instead.

Near Štrbské Pleso, heading back to the hotel as my tour drew to a close
Near Štrbské Pleso, heading back to the hotel as my tour drew to a close

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 the tour took only about four hours in sum.

Start and finishing point was again the train station in Štrbské Pleso.

Furkotská dolina, in the proximity of Chata pod Soliskom ("Cottage below Solisko")
Furkotská dolina, in the proximity of Chata pod Soliskom (“Cottage below Solisko”)

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, here not a long distance trail). Unfortunately the visibility was poor because of the dense fog during this time of the day.

Predné Solisko stands for “Leading Solisko”, probably 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 mountain guide.

Rysy, October 3

The ascent

I started once more at the Štrbské pleso mountain lake on this third day, with the goal 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 mountain guide2, so there do exist cairns and a marked trail to the peak (which is red marked from the Nad Žabím potokom junction on).

Hiking trail to Rysy, mountain lake (Veľké Žabie pleso Mengusovské, 1920 meters)
Hiking trail to Rysy, mountain lake (Veľké Žabie pleso Mengusovské, 1920 meters)

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.

Hiking trail to Rysy, mountain lakes (Žabie plesá) and Mengusovská dolina
Hiking trail to Rysy, mountain lakes (Žabie plesá) and Mengusovská dolina

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 likely encounter porters carrying supplies to the refuge, since there is no other way to feed the refuge (barring helicopters).

Chata pod Rysmi ("Cottage below Rysy"), 2250 meters
Chata pod Rysmi (“Cottage below Rysy”), 2250 meters
Near the Váha mountain saddle (2340 meters)
Near the Váha mountain saddle (2340 meters)

Reaching the peak

Impressions from and near the peaks on 2500 meters:

Rysy (2503 meters), view onto the Polish part of the High Tatras (Tatry Wysokie)
Rysy (2503 meters), view onto the Polish part of the High Tatras (Tatry Wysokie)

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 (1010 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 you can have a rest at the Rainerova chata (1300 meters), the oldest refuge in the High Tatras (built in 1863).

You will meet many hikers and sometimes wild animals there in all likelihood (I already described this hut in part 2).

Skalnaté pleso (1751 meters), mountain pines and shrubs
Skalnaté pleso (1751 meters), mountain pines and shrubs

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 tourists via cable car or alternatively a mountain guide.

Conclusion

The end of September and the beginning of October is arguably the best time for mountaineering in the High Tatras, or other mountain ranges in Europe for that matter.

Sudden thunderstorms are less likely compared to the summer months. Boulder is not lying that loosely because of melting snow or ice in cracks and crevices. You don’t have to deal with oppressive heat.

Accommodations are usually cheaper in autumn than in summer or winter (high season for skiing) as well.

Disadvantages are fewer hours of sunlight and probably first occurrences of fresh snow.

The hiking season comes slowly but steadily to an end now however. But I look forward to further challenging outdoor experiences in 2020.

Featured image: The mountain lake Štrbské pleso

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