Table of contents
Western High Tatras
As opposed to earlier tours this year (in August), 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 Tatranské Elektrické Železnice (TEŽ) in the west, was my actual starting point for exploring the valleys and peaks around.
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).
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) 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 entire 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 otherwise 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.
Impressions from and close to the peak on 2494 meters.
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 decided instead to walk on the blue marked path back to Štrbské Pleso.
1 some sources claim the name Kriváň stems from the Celtic word for rock; what can very well be for there are further mountains in Slovakia with a similar name (in the Malá Fatra you’ll find the Malý Kriváň mountain)
Predné Solisko, October 2
Climbing up this mountain (height stated either 2093 or 2117 meters, depending on the travel guide you use) was not difficult and the whole tour took about four hours in sum.
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). The visibility was very poor on this day due to the dense fog unfortunately.
Predné Solisko means “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
I started once more at the Štrbské pleso mountain lake on my 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 visitors2, so there do exist cairns and markings leading to the peak (a red marking 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 inviting and comfortable (but better avoid using that outdoor toilet).
You will very likely encounter porters during your ascent carrying supplies to the refuge, since there is no other way to feed the refuge (barring helicopters).
Impressions from and close to the peaks on 2500 meters.
On my descent I noticed with curiosity 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
On my last day I made a four-odd hours tour from Starý Smokovec (1010 meters) to the Skalnaté pleso mountain lake (height about 1750 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 hut in the High Tatras (built in 1863).
You will meet many hikers and sometimes wild animals there in all likelihood (some more details about the Rainerova chata in part 2).
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 by cable car or alternatively with a certified mountain guide.
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 than in the summer months. Rocks and boulder are 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.
Featured image: The mountain lake Štrbské pleso