High Tatras, Mlynická dolina

High Tatras, part 4 (Bystrá lávka, Priečne sedlo)

Introduction

After I’d explored parts of the High Tatras mountain range in the last year I made two further extensive tours this summer, and I tried to pick slightly more difficult ones this time.

Otherwise (and because I am a lazy person) I wouldn’t see any real raison d’être for writing just another article about the High Tatras when there is not some sort of a challenge and an opportunity for leaving my comfort zone to begin with.

Though I love being in Slovakia, it is not necessarily about a certain geographical spot, it is about doing something uncomfortable and discovering unknown territory which allows you to grow.

High Tatras

On the lookout for new challenges

There are several blog posts about the High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry in Slovak) available on this website, and the basic information about the mountain range you can find in this blog-article.

This time however, my goal was not to ascend particular peaks (that would be rather a plan for later, if my time budget allowed it) but to hike through some of the elongated valleys in the High Tatras and especially to negotiate two particular mountain saddles: Bystrá lávka and Priečne sedlo.

Bystrá lávka, August 3

The starting point of this quite demanding tour to the Bystrá lávka mountain saddle (the translation reads more exactly “Bystrá crossing” and must not be confused with the actual but not traversable Bystré sedlo) is situated in Štrbské Pleso, i. e. in the western parts of the High Tatras.

The huge Vodopád Skok cascade
The huge Vodopád Skok cascade (1800 meters)

The ascent leads you on the first half of the tour through the Mlynická dolina (dolina means valley in Slovak), and the imposing mountain scenery and the rough nature unfolding in front of you is absolutely breathtaking. Perhaps the best experience of this kind in the whole High Tatras mountain range.

So you can find with the Vodopád Skok (voda: water, pád: fall) even the hugest cascade in Slovakia here.

The Štrbský štít mountain (2381 meters)
The Štrbský štít mountain (2381 meters)

Along your way you have to climb across many of these bizarre granite rock formations, and (in layman’s terms) those formations are for the most part constituent of the giant stone moraines in that valley.

And then you have of course the gorgeous mountain lakes, like the Capie pleso on 2075 meters. It is advisable to take a short rest here before starting the exhausting ascent to the mountain saddle.

Climbing up the mountain saddle (2300 meters) is merely for a short steep distance difficult however, and only of the last few meters you have to make use of the attached chains.

Near Bystrá lávka, view onto the Furkotská dolina valley
Near Bystrá lávka, view onto the Furkotská dolina and the Vyšné Wahlenbergovo pleso (2157 meters, according to my travel guide usually frozen solid)

After negotiating the saddle, the descent leads you through the Furkotská dolina, not less impressive than the Mlynická dolina and endowed with two beautiful mountain lakes Vyšné and Nižné Wahlenbergovo pleso.

The Furkotská dolina, Nižné Wahlenbergovo pleso
The Furkotská dolina, Nižné Wahlenbergovo pleso

The yellow marked path ends in a red marked trail eventually, the Tatramagistrale. On this trail I hiked back to the train station in Štrbské Pleso.

In sum, the tour took around seven hours.

Priečne sedlo, August 4

The hike to the Priečne sedlo (“Transverse saddle”) mountain saddle demanded some preparation and research beforehand and was therefore not an ad-hoc tour as opposed to the great majority of my other tours.

I already hiked parts of the circular tour in June, namely the part between Starý Smokovec and the Téryho chata refuge (green marked trail).

So I had somewhat an idea about my personal expenditure of time for this distance (which constitutes about one third of the tour), as well as my level of fatigue before starting the actual climb.

Téryho chata
Téryho chata (2015 meters), view towards Priečne sedlo

Furthermore, I paid close attention to the weather forecast on this very day and consulted additionally the tourist information in Starý Smokovec if it is technically and weather-wise possible to climb up to the mountain saddle. And I also had my crampons in reserve, just for the case.

Malá studená dolina ("Small cold valley")
Malá studená dolina (“Small cold valley”), near the Téryho chata refuge

When you have the scarp slope in front of you eventually after crossing the Malá studená dolina (I needed about one hour from the Téryho chata to the foot of Priečne sedlo), you are glad you had done this preliminary work.

However, climbing up the slope itself wasn’t overly time consuming and was also slightly easier as I had assumed beforehand (in hindsight, everything appears easier I guess). But even when the rocks are not slippery at all you gratefully make use of the chains and metal steps.

The difference between the time stamps of my first and my last photo at the via ferrata was hence just about twenty minutes to my surprise.

Priečne sedlo
Priečne sedlo (2352 meters), view onto Veĺká studená dolina

Time consuming (yet technically easy) was my hike back to Starý Smokovec through the Veĺká studená dolina (“Big cold valley”) though, including short breaks at the refuges Zbojnícka chata (“Robber’s cottage”) and Rainerova chata.

Veĺká studená dolina ("Big cold valley")
Veĺká studená dolina (“Big cold valley”), descending Priečne sedlo

The whole tour summed up eventually to ten hours, and I think I earned my beer at the hotel bar in Poprad on this day.

Conclusion

As always, I am searching for slightly more challenging future projects.

Such a project might be a guided tour to Lomnický štít or Gerlachovský štít, if I visit the High Tatras again.

Or maybe something else. Time and (hopefully not) a new lockdown will tell.

Featured image: Mlynická dolina