A walk into the wild
Tatra National Park
The first records of the High Tatras date back to the 16th century, when researchers attempted to explore the mountains and local nature. In 1615 there was a documented ascent to reach the summit of Kežmarský štít (2556m), one of the 15 highest peaks of this mountain system. The mountain range is part of the Tatra National Park, so be mindful of the rules for visitors. Swimming in mountain lakes, feeding the animals, putting up tents and collecting any plants is not allowed at all. Making noise and disposing of litter is only allowed in designated places. When you’re walking the trails, keep in mind it‘s forbidden to go beyond them. It’s for your own safety, and you can also be fined by the mountain rescue service or other staff of the National Park. They’re around quite a bit, we ran into them on one of the days of our trip. You can always turn to them for help or any information you might need.
Route options and accomodation
The main transport hub of the High Tatras is the town of Poprad, located just 15 km from the mountains. Make sure you plan your mountain hikes in advance and work out the most suitable routes. A train out of Poprad train station will take you to the village in the mountains where the hiking trail begins. In total there are about 15 stations along the Tatras where you can start walking or climbing. At each stop you will find information boards, stores, cafes and gift shops. Trains operate from 6 AM to 11 PM, and the ticket price depends on the distance between the stations. It’s also possible to take the bus, but that can’t hold a candle to a trip on a fast train through the mountains. Many travellers prefer to make Poprad their base and travel to the Tatras every day, but there are also opportunities to stay right in the mountains.
The story of people who could
Because of the lack of cable road infrastructure there is a rare and peculiar profession surviving in the High Tatras region. Deliveries to mountain houses are made only by foot all year round – food, beer, construction materials, anything. The record weight of one load is 207 kg, while the average is 120 kg. The carriers hoist the load on their backs, and set off. They work in any conditions – rain, snow, wind. The job has to be done, and it always is. One of the carriers is 76 years old. He has been carrying loads for 45 years now, and is still working.
2452 meters of pleasure
For us the first on the climb list was Slavkovský štít (2452 m). According to the direction signs at Stary Smokovec train station, the trip should take 5-6 hours. At 7:30 AM, when we set out from there, a lot of other climbers were already out and about – we were certainly not the first to climb Slavkovský štít on the day. The road first winds through the forest, but soon the trees dwindle, and the road becomes rocky. The closer we got to the peak, the stronger the wind was – blowing from random directions, feeling like it was everywhere. It took us 4 hours to get to the top of Slavkovský štít, and the view was a brilliant reward.
The magic of the lake
Our next stop was Popradske Pleso. Located at 1494 m, on the shore of a mountain lake, it is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Slovakia. Popradské Pleso Horský Hotel is located on the crossroads of many routes, so is difficult to miss. Besides being a great place to recuperate after a long trek, it’s also a great starting point for a hike into Rysy or Kôprovský štít mountains. A curious fact – every mountain house has its own stamp. Travellers like to collect them and put them on their maps or sometimes other objects.
Climbing the Rysy Peak
If your objective is finding your inner peace while enjoying a spectacular view from a mountaintop, you should start climbing Rysy peak very early in the morning – while everyone is still asleep. If you want to get a head start, be on your way an hour before the sunrise. The main rule to follow – be prepared for cold weather, especially if you are starting your climb early in the morning, so make sure you have warm clothing with you. According to the signs, getting to the top of Rysy from Popradske Pleso takes 3,5 hours. The route goes through the forest at the beginning, with the majority of the path in the shadows, so you will never get too warm while climbing. It does becomes very steep just before the top, however you will get rewarded by an unforgettable view from Rysy Peak – an experience you can’t refuse.
Written specially for airBaltic blog by Vladislav Klimov.