Published: May 21st 2012May 20th 2012
Starting point of hike to Rysy.
After the 1989 Velvet Revolution and subsequent 1993 partition of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it seems apparent that the Czech Republic took the nicer cities in Bohemia and Moravia while Slovakia got the gem of the Tatra Mountains. Hard to say who got the better deal. Spent a few days climbing in Slovakia's High Tatra Mountains National Park and checking out a castle. Today I arrived in Vienna.
$1 ≈ 0.79€ Mt. Rysy
I had previously contacted a guide through the Tatra Mountains Guide Service about day climbs of Rysy and Gerlachovský štít, the highest peaks in Poland and Slovakia respectively. Ervin called me at the pension after my arrival last Thursday and we established a pickup time of 7:30 am Friday morning which was nice as it allowed me to get breakfast served from 7 am. We drove to the trailhead at Popradské Pleso and hit the trail at 8:38 am. The trail disappeared under snow once we reached the high Rysy hut (2200 meters) around 11 am but I never needed to use the ice axe. Even crampons seemed unnecessary as the snow was pretty soft and seriously balling up. We topped out at
Lookin' Dope Early in the Hike to Rysy
Ervin and I baking in the early morning sun. Bull's Back in the distance.
exactly 12 pm, hung out on the summit to fine views until the wind kicked up, and were back at the car a few minutes after 3 pm. We had the whole mountain to ourselves above the Rysy hut. Gerlachovský štít
Things did not start out so smoothly for our second summit. Ervin set the departure time from the pension at 5:45 am. I was ready at the prescribed time but the guide was 35 minutes late. We left from the super nice Sliezsky dom after a coffee to warm up since we were starting the hike at 7:40 am before the sun hit the trailhead. After a couple of hours we arrived at the base of the couloir where we roped up, put on crampons, grabbed our ice axes, and I ditched my pack since all I needed was some snacks, a water bottle, and camera, the latter 2 clipped to my harness. It was easy going on the first snow patch then I experienced my first ascent on via ferrata
. After 30 meters on rock and metal ladders we were back on soft, steep snow for at least another hour although it seemed to go on forever
Slovakian mountain goat. Looks like a unicorn from that angle. Saw a few during the 2 days of climbing.
under the relentless sun. We reached the summit at 12 pm almost exactly the same time as reaching Rysy but taking one hour longer overall. More stellar views and only 8 other climbers on this very popular peak. Descending took a but of time as Ervin had me on belay going down the via ferrata and I had to clip in several times while he followed me down. No problems. Unroped at the base of the couloir, followed our steps in reverse, and were back at the car just after 3 pm yet again. Accommodation and Food
Reserved 4 nights at Penzion Partizan on hostels.com for 11.95€/night including tax in my own room with shared bathroom which were both immaculately clean. There was hardly anyone else staying there so I had the huge place practically to myself. Breakfast and dinner were available for 3€ each and half liter bottle of beer was 0.80€. Free WiFi is available. Not too shabby. The only other place I ate was Pizzeria Montanara right above the supermarket in Starý Smokovec, a 12 minute walk from the pension. A good sized individual pizza with all kinds of toppings cost ~5€ or so but for
Chata Pod Rysmi
Cottage under Rysy, high hut at ~ 2200 meters.
a treat I suggest the fettucine alfredo with chicken and walnuts for 4.90€. Plenty of climbing type food available at the supermarket. Transport
Please see the Kraków trip report
for my public transportation route to the Slovakian High Tatras from Kraków via Zakopane. Getting around the main towns ans lower trailheads in the Tatras is very easy via the electric train or the public buses. Check IDOS
for complete Czech and Slovakia transport information. Leaving the Tatras, I caught the 6:10 am bus from right outside the pension to Poprad for 1€ and arriving at 6:33 am. The bus was actually 5 minutes early but the drivers will layover at the main stops to keep to the schedule so better to be early for the roadside stops as there could be a long wait for the next bus on weekends or out of season. Bought a train ticket leaving Poprad at 7:25 am for Vienna (changing in Bratislava) for 26€ (15€ for the 4½ hour ride to Bratislava and 11€ for the 1:10 hour ride to Vienna, go figure) without a seat reservation but the train was SRO as we got closer to Bratislava. There is a faster IC
Poprad Ridge as seen from the cottage, wind starting to blow.
train to Poprad leaving at 6:42 am for 20€ and shaving an hour off the trip. There are also slightly cheaper direct buses (not everyday) from Poprad to Vienna leaving at 12 pm and taking 7½ hours. Arrived in Bratislava on time at 12:03 pm, long enough for an espresso, and took off on the pricier yet only marginally schwankier Austrian train at 12:46 pm arriving right on time in Wien Sudbanhof at 1:57 pm. Tram 18 (2€ single trip) conveniently connects Sudbanhof to Westbanhof which is a few blocks from where I am staying. Spišský hrad
Spiš Castle is definitely worth a visit but be prepared for a stout hike to the castle from Spišské Podhradie, the actual town high above which the castle is situated and where the bus stops. 5€ castle entry fee. Bus connections from the High Tatras via Poprad weren't great but it was Sunday and not peak season. Left Poprad at 10:05 am, arrived Spišské Podhradie at 11:15 am, cost was 3.80€ and returning at 4 pm, arriving Poprad ~4:50 pm was 3€. Got between Poprad and the Tatras on the Tatra electric train for 1.50€ each way although there are buses too.
Snow was a bit soft...
The town of Levoča is between Poprad and the castle but the transport connections weren't so great so I gave it a miss. Passed by on the bus and the city walls looked pretty cool.
There are more photos below