When the mountains take your breath away

When the mountains take your breath away

It’s early September. I’m keen to go hiking. Where? To the High Tatras as I haven’t gone on a hike there this year. So on a Friday morning I wave my mom goodbye as I leave home.

It takes a long time to get there when you go by public transport like me. I arrive in Štrbské Pleso at 1 pm. The weather is gorgeous and with all afternoon to spare I decide to go hiking.

Hike #1:

Štrbské pleso (1.350 m) – Vodopád Skok (1.760 m) – Bystrá lávka (2.314 m) – Škutnastá poľana (1.770 m) – Pod Furkotkou (1.450 m) – Štrbské pleso (1.350 m)

Distance: 15 km

Total ascent/descent: 1.034 m

The plan is to hike up one valley (Mlynická dolina), go over the Bystrá lávka pass and hike down another valley (Furkotská dolina). Sounds good. After about 45 minutes into the hike I reach the Skok waterfall. I’ve been there before but I didn’t get any further because the weather was really bad. The waterfall is very beautiful on sunny days.

Mlynická dolina
Skok waterfall
Skok waterfall

I go on hiking and admire the mountain lake (Pleso nad Skokom) just above the waterfall. At that point it starts to get cloudy but I don’t mind. There was no storm in the forecast and I’m pumped to get over the pass. I see more stunning lakes along the way up. It also gets colder and so I have to change clothes and put on a jacket and a beanie.

Pleso nad Skokom
Pleso nad Skokom
Capie pleso
Okrúhle pleso and Capie pleso

Once I reach the pass I decide to wait. Maybe the sun will pop out. Half an hour passes and it doesn’t look promising. So I start descending. There are stunning mountain lakes in the other valley, too. I’m a tad sad because they look dark when it’s cloudy. I’m thinking I’ll have to go on this hike again.

Vyšné Wahlenbergovo pleso
A ray of sunlight further down the valley
A well-deserved dinner – potato dumplings filled with sheep cheese

Hike #2

Route: Hrebienok (1.275 m) – Zbojnícka chata (1.960 m) – Prielom (2.290 m) – Zamrznutý kotol (2.110 m) – Poľský hrebeň (2.200 m) – Východná Vysoká (2.429 m) – Poľský hrebeň (2.200 m) – Sliezsky dom (1.670 m) – Tatranská Polianka (995 m)

Distance: 19 km

Total ascent: 1.409 m

Total descent: 1.689 m

It’s Saturday, my second day in the mountains. I take a funicular to Hrebienok which is a good starting point for multiple hikes. I have an idea where to go hiking but I don’t know how far I’ll go and where I’ll end up.

One of the options is to hike to Zbojnícka chata, or the Brigands’ hut if you will. I’ve only been there once and there is a chance fewer people will head there. And I’m right. More people are hiking to the popular Terry’s hut. The standard hiking time to the Brigands’ hut is 2 hours and 50 minutes. I’m a fast hiker and I make it in an hour and forty minutes. Well done! More time to enjoy the scenery and go hiking further. I eat a bowl of delicious vegetarian lentil soup (traditionally it’s made with meat though) and drink a cup of super good Turkish coffee before I carry on.

Veľká Studená dolina [The Great Cold Valley]
Veľká Studená dolina [The Great Cold Valley]

Vareškové pleso
Dlhé pleso
Dlhé pleso
Brigands’ hut is a stone’s throw away
Sesterské pleso
Zbojnícka chata [Brigands’ hut]

I hike up to the Prielom pass only to climb down afterwards headed for the crossroads at Poľský hrebeň. It’s a demanding hike and maybe I should only continue going down and finish. But the temptation gets the better of me and I decide to climb the Východná Vysoká peak. It will be a late climb but the weather is good and I’ll have plenty of time to hike down.

Can you see the pass I’m headed for?
Looking back at the hiking trail
The view of the Great Cold valley from the Prielom pass

Taking my first look at Zamrznuté pleso [Frozen lake]

At the Prielom pass
Zamrznuté pleso [Frozen lake]
Zamrznuté pleso

Once I reach the top, I am blissfully happy. The peak offers one of the most beautiful views I have ever enjoyed in the High Tatras. I’m happy I decided to go up. The experience defies description. I spend over half an hour there before I start the descent. It’s going to be a long one. I need to go back down to Poľský hrebeň first, continue to Sliezsky dom (a mountain hotel and a restaurant) after that only to hike further down to the valley.

Even without climbing to Východná Vysoká it’s a tough hike. But having decided to go up the mountain I’ve made it to one of the most demanding hikes I’ve ever done. And one of the most amazing at the same time. I highly recommend it!

The Východná Výsoká peak
What a spectacular view
To me the view of the Great Cold valley from the Východná Vysoká peak is the single most breathtaking view in the High Tatras

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