Late autumn hikes in the Low Tatras

Late autumn hikes in the Low Tatras

Merely a week after having hiked in the High Tatras I went to the mountains again. To the Low Tatras for a change. When I left home on Friday I wasn’t sure how the day would turn out. Going to the mountains from my hometown takes hours and it means taking 3 or 4 buses or trains and with the delays there may not be enough time to catch the connecting bus or train. Welcome to Slovakia! So I had a few options on my mind depending on how I would manage with the transport.

One option was to hike from the village of Donovaly and another one from the Čertovica pass. Will I catch the bus from Banská Bystrica to Brezno. And another one to Liptovský Mikuláš passing Čertovica?

Well, I did catch the bus to Brezno so I went for the hike from Čertovica as opposed to the one from Donovaly. But I would only have 6 minutes to change buses. The arriving bus was, however, late and not knowing the platform number of the departing bus I ended up running around the bus station in confusion and missing the connecting bus. Well done! I was stuck in Brezno as there was no other bus going where I wanted.

What to do now? It took me a while to figure things out. I took a train to another village and decided to try hitchhiking. I’d give it an hour. I was lucky. It only took a few minutes until I was offered a ride. I couldn’t believe it. I assumed it would be hard given it was November and the corona ruled the world.

And so I was given a ride to the Čertovica pass and eventually I only lost about 40 minutes. I started hiking at 12 pm. The sun was shining. The weather was good. ‘I can make it,’ I thought. I was going to hike around 17 km. 8 km to the hut of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, another 2 to the pass and after that 7 km to the village on the other side of the mountains.

The beautiful winter scenery along the trail
The trail along the ridge of the Low Tatras
The trail along the ridge of the Low Tatras
The ridges of the Low Tatras
The trail ahead
The trail behind
What a stunning view of the Low Tatras

The first section was quite tough as it was steep. Once I had reached the ridge it got better. The terrain was easier to hike on. But I had another enemy to fight. The wind. The further I hiked the stronger it grew. It was one of the strongest winds I have experienced. It was so strong it managed to push me off the path. And it was biting my face because it was freezing. There were moments when I though it would blow me down the valley. I was extremely happy when I reached the hut and found out it was open. I needed a break. From the wind and from hiking, too.

I can finally see the hut
The hut of M. R. Štefánik, my safe haven

I spent around 20 minutes in the hut resting and eating soup. I would have stayed longer but I knew there was still a long hike ahead. As I was getting further and further from the hut the weather was getting worse. One one hand, I was protected from the strong wind because I wasn’t hiking on top of the ridge, on the other hand, it was very cold. Freezing and cloudy.

I couldn’t see much once I had reached the saddle. There was snow and everything was frozen. And since I was on top the relentless wind was back. So I only went over to the other side and started the descent. There was quite a lot of snow on the other side, especially on the path. It was dry as it was freezing so I managed to stay dry. After zigzagging first I hiked then straight down along a rather steep section. The scenery was beautiful even though it was cloudy and almost dark.

It took me less time to hike down than I had expected and so I reached a bus stop before it got dark. I had half an hour to spare before the bus arrived and so I tried hitchhiking again. Why not?! It came as a big surprise when a car stopped and the driver offered to give me a lift. What a great day!

Looking back, the hut is almost out of sight. And the good weather, too.
The weather is starting to change
The sky is getting darker
A few minutes later, it looks like another day
The descent
The northern slopes of the mountains looked different

The weather was supposed to be great on the following day. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to the mountains. And it really was great. Actually, it was fantastic. Apart from the wind.

I wanted to hike along the ridge of the Low Tatras. From the Poľana peak to Chopok, the second highest peak in the range, passing the Dereše peaks.

I took a bus up the valley to Jasná which was the starting point of the hike. I passed by the Vrbické pleso (a mountain lake) and started the ascent to the saddle below the Poľana peak. It was a strenuous hike as there was snow and some stretches of the path were icy. In addition, it was really steep in some sections and it was quite cold, too.

Once I reached the last stretch where it was sunny, hiking was so much more pleasant. The weather was great up there. Until I reached the top of the ridge where I was met by my enemy from the previous day. The wind! Although it wasn’t as strong as before it still was unpleasant. Hiking from the saddle to the Poľana peak was the hardest as I was walking against the ice cold wind.

Vrbické pleso (a mountain lake)
Vrbické pleso
The ascent up the frozen land
The winter art
The last stretch of the trail
The first glance once I reached the ridge

When I made it to the top I only stayed for a couple of minutes. I had to keep moving because it was very cold. I hiked back to the saddle and then on in the direction of Chopok. Hiking was easier as the path alternated between going on top of the ridge and below the ridge. It was so much more pleasant to hike below being hidden from the wind. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. Yet it was freezing. I enjoyed the scenery and the views all along.

The view from the Poľana peak
The view from the Poľana peak with the Western Tatras in the distance
The Poľana peak on the left
The beautiful winter art
The Chopok peak in the distance

When I reached the saddle below Chopok I spent some time resting inside the upper station of the cable car. The wind had almost disappeared in the meantime and so I climbed up to the peak. Absolutely freaking awesome. The views from Chopok were breathtaking and since it wasn’t windy any more I could spend a long time taking in the beauty. I loved being up there. The weather was just too good not to be up there on that day.

A happy hiker at the top of Chopok
The view from Chopok
The view from Chopok

I started the descent to the other side some time after half past 1. I wanted to have enough time to catch a bus to Brezno. It was rather a steep hike. I descended 800 m on altitude along a 3.5 km long path.

When I came down I was offered a ride without my asking for it! Amazing! They didn’t go all the way to Brezno so I tried hitching a second ride and I was lucky! Slovaks help you out whether it’s summer or winter and regardless of whether there is a pandemic or not. I won’t be lying when I say that Slovakia is one of the easiest countries to hitchhike. Thank you for all the rides. It allowed me to have a great time hiking in the mountains.

The descent

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