This time, those tours were supposed to be more difficult.
At least slightly. Otherwise I wouldn’t find any good reason for visiting the High Tatras again without having a challenge of sorts to begin with.
Though I love being in Slovakia, it is not necessarily about one particular location on the map. It is about doing something uncomfortable and discovering unknown territory, what gives you the opportunity to grow.
On the lookout for new challenges
There are several articles about the High Tatras1 available on this website, and the basic information about the popular mountain range you can find here.
I didn’t plan to steer for one of the for me yet unknown summits during the first days (like the Jahňací štít, the easternmost peak in the High Tatras for instance). That would rather be a task for later on, if time budget and weather allowed for it.
The goal was to hike through some of the elongated valleys in the High Tatras and to negotiate two mountain saddles in particular: Bystrá lávka and Priečne sedlo (orange on the map below).
I picked the Bystrá lávka mountain saddle as my first destination to reach on a for the most part dry August 3, a Monday.
1 as usual, I’ll use the English translation throughout the article; the actual names are as follows. Slovak: Vysoké Tatry, Polish: Tatry Wysokie, German: Hohe Tatra
Bystrá lávka, August 3
The most convenient starting point of the 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 (1350 meters AMSL, i. e. Above Mean Sea Level; every height stated below is AMSL) in the western parts of the High Tatras.
The ascent leads you on the first half of the tour through the Mlynická dolina (dolina is the Slovak word for valley), 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.
Along your way you have to walk across many of these bizarre granite rock formations that are for the most part constituent of the giant stone moraines in the dolina.
And then you have of course the gorgeous mountain lakes (plesá), like the Capie pleso on 2075 meters. It is a good idea 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 on the last few meters you have to make use of the attached chains and the other metal supports.
After negotiating the saddle, the descent leads you through the Furkotská dolina, not less impressive than the Mlynická dolina and endowed with the two beautiful mountain lakes Vyšné and Nižné Wahlenbergovo pleso (named after the Swedish botanist Göran Wahlenberg).
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 me around seven hours and I really enjoyed every second of it.
Priečne sedlo, August 4
The ascent 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 (1000 meters), the Zamkovského chata (1475 meters) and the Téryho chata (2015 meters) refuges (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.
Furthermore, I paid close attention to the weather forecast on this very day and consulted in addition 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.
When you have the scarp slope in front of you 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 precipice itself wasn’t overly time consuming and was slightly easier than I had anticipated (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.
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”, 1960 meters) and Rainerova chata (1301 meters).
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.
As always, I am keen to find 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 (meanwhile, you can check the photo galleries on this website for further impressions about the High Tatras 🙂 ).
Or maybe something else. Time and (hopefully not) a new lockdown will tell.
Featured image: Mlynická dolina