High Tatras, Mlynická dolina

High Tatras: Bystrá lávka, Priečne sedlo


After I’d visited the Slovakian part of the High Tatras1 mountain range two times in 2019 (August and October) I made further extensive tours this summer.

High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry)

The plan was this time to hike through some of the elongated valleys in the High Tatras and to negotiate two specific mountain saddles: Bystrá lávka and Priečne sedlo (colored orange on the map below).

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, Hungarian: Magas-Tátra

Bystrá lávka, August 3

The most convenient starting point whence to steer for the Bystrá lávka mountain saddle (the translation reads more exactly “Bystrá crossing” and must not be confused with the actual Bystré sedlo) is situated in Štrbské Pleso (1346 meters AMSL, i. e. Above Mean Sea Level; every height stated below is AMSL) in the western parts of the High Tatras.

The huge Vodopád (voda: water, pád: fall) Skok cascade (1800 meters), the biggest in Slovakia
The huge Vodopád (voda: water, pád: fall) Skok cascade (1800 meters), the biggest in Slovakia

The ascent leads on the first half of the tour through 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. Maybe the best experience of this kind in the whole High Tatras mountain range.

The Štrbský štít mountain (2381 meters, not accessible for normal visitors)
The Štrbský štít mountain (2381 meters, not accessible for normal visitors)

Along your way you have to march across many rather bizarre granite rock and boulder formations which are constituents of the giant stone moraines in the dolina.

And then there are of course the splendid mountain lakes (plesá2), with the Capie pleso as a fairly large one on 2075 meters. On its eastern bank you enter the last stage of the ascent.

Climbing up to the saddle (2300 meters) is merely for a short steep section difficult however, and only on the very last few meters you have to make use of the anchored chains and metal supports.

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

The descent leads through Furkotská dolina, not less impressive than Mlynická dolina and endowed with two gorgeous mountain lakes: Vyšné (“Upper”) and Nižné (“Lower”) Wahlenbergovo pleso (named after the Swedish botanist Göran Wahlenberg).

Furkotská dolina, Nižné Wahlenbergovo pleso (2053 meters); view southwards towards the Low Tatras
Furkotská dolina, Nižné Wahlenbergovo pleso (2053 meters); view southwards towards the Low Tatras

The yellow marked path ends on 1450 meters in a red marked trail, the Tatramagistrale. On this trail I walked back to the train station in Štrbské Pleso.

In sum, the tour took me around seven hours and I really enjoyed every minute of it.

2 note: jedno pleso (one lake), štyri plesá (four lakes), päť plies (five likes); this is a peculiarity in Slovak where you have to use the genitive plural form in case the amount of items exceeds four

Priečne sedlo, August 4

The ascent to Priečne sedlo (“Transverse saddle”) demanded some preparation and research beforehand and was 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 (1010 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 particular distance, as well as my level of fatigue before starting the actual climb.

Téryho chata (2015 meters), view towards Ľadový štít
Téryho chata (2015 meters), view towards Ľadový štít

As a matter of course, I paid close attention to the weather forecast on this very day and asked the people in the tourist information in Starý Smokovec whether it is technically and weather-wise possible to climb up to the mountain saddle.

And I had my crampons in reserve too, just for the case (you never know in high altitude mountains, even in August there can be snow along the trails).

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

As soon as you have the scarp slope with its chains and metal steps in front of you after crossing 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 little preliminary work.

However, climbing up the precipice itself wasn’t overly time consuming and slightly easier than I had anticipated (in hindsight, everything seems easier; internet-sources claim a difficulty of  B/C for the climb).

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

Priečne sedlo
Priečne sedlo (2352 meters), view onto Veĺká studená dolina (“Big cold valley”); left a slightly tattered Tibetan prayer flag

Time consuming (yet not technical) was my hike back to Starý Smokovec through Veĺká studená dolina (“Big cold valley”), what included short stops at the refuges Zbojnícka chata (“Robber’s cottage”, 1960 meters) and Rainerova chata (1301 meters).

Descending towards Veĺká studená dolina ("Big cold valley") after I had negotiated Priečne sedlo
Descending towards Veĺká studená dolina (“Big cold valley”) after I had negotiated Priečne sedlo

The whole tour summed up to ten hours eventually, and I think that I earned my beer at the hotel bar later this evening.

Featured image: Mlynická dolina