High Tatras, Mlynická dolina

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

Introduction

After I’d visited the High Tatras mountain range two times during the past year (August and October), I made further extensive tours this summer.

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 and in the mountains, it is not necessarily about one specific location on the map. It is about doing something uncomfortable and discovering unknown territory, what gives you an opportunity to grow.

High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry)

On the lookout for new challenges

I’ve published several articles about the High Tatras1 on this website, and 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 on my first days in north-eastern Slovakia (such as the Jahňací štít, the easternmost peak in the High Tatras). That would rather be a task for later on, if time budget and weather allowed it.

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

I picked the Bystrá lávka mountain saddle as my first destination to reach on a mostly dry August 3.

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 of the tour to 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 Skok cascade (1800 meters)
The huge Vodopád Skok cascade (1800 meters)

The ascent leads you 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. 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, not accessible for normal visitors)
The Štrbský štít mountain (2381 meters, not accessible for normal visitors)

Along your way you have to walk across many bizarre granite rock formations that are for the most part constituents of the giant stone moraines in the dolina.

And then you have of course the splendid mountain lakes (plesá2), like the Capie pleso on 2075 meters. It is a good idea to have a short rest here before starting the exhausting ascent to the mountain saddle.

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

After negotiating Bystrá lávka, the descent leads you 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 marched 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 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 (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 distance (which constitutes about one third of the tour), 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

Furthermore, I paid close attention to the weather forecast on this very day and consulted in addition the tourist information in Starý Smokovec whether 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 (you never know in the Tatras, even in August there can be snow on the trail).

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

When you have the scarp slope 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 preliminary work.

However, climbing up the precipice itself wasn’t overly time consuming and slightly easier than I had assumed (in hindsight, everything appears easier I suppose; internet-sources claim a difficulty of  B/C for the climb). But even when the rocks are not slippery at all you make use of the chains and metal steps gratefully.

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 (“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”) though, including short breaks 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 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 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 a new lockdown (hopefully not) will tell.

Recommended

Priečne sedlo – it’s not so hard

Featured image: Mlynická dolina

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