High Tatra Mountain range (Slovakia)

Days 55 & 56 High Tatra Mountains (Slovakia) 

Day 1 

We woke up early and well rested in Hotel Satov in Poprad. We planned to do an overnight hike in the nearby High Tatra Mountains, so quickly ate breakfast and sorted our hiking gear from our cycling gear.

Hotel reception were great and agreed to store our bikes and panniers for a couple of days and we headed off with backpacks the short distance to Poprad train station (elevation 667m). As we arrived, we saw that the train to the nearby town of Stary Smokovic (elevation 1010m), where most of the hikes start from…left in only one minute’s time. We rushed to the platform and jumped onboard. Only then did we realise that we had no tickets and couldn’t buy them on the train…Fortunately no one asked to see our tickets during the 20 minute ride…However we also discovered that Vanessa had ‘done a Jon’ (taken the hotel key for the hotel’s luggage store room). We hoped they had a spare, as we wouldn’t be back until the following day.

In Stary Smokovic we popped into tourist info to pick up a map and decided on a route which involved approx. 5 hours hiking before an overnight stay in a mountain chalet, with the option of loop the following day which would take a little under 7 hours to return to our starting point. We noted that Slovakian hikes are marked in terms of likely duration rather than distance and assumed, as with most countries, that they were probably over generous and based on slower hikers.

The first 45 minutes walk was a moderate climb on a well used path alongside the tracks of a tram/cable car (it’s possible to access the lower trails using this method but we preferred walking). The sun was out and we had to stop mid-way to remove a layer or two.

At the top of this section, which is also accessible by vehicle, we opted for a 20 minute detour to nearby waterfalls, which were well worth the extra effort (we even did the detour on the return leg).

It’s probably worth mentioning that Vanessa couldn’t remove the cleat from one of her shoes (due to a screw refusing to budge), so did the hike with a bike cleat in her right shoe…This became an issue later on.

After a few photos of the waterfalls, we continued upwards on the very well maintained stone trail towards Rainerova Chata, which is a mountain lodge at 1300m. This second part took exactly 45 minutes, as advertised, which surprised us a little as we had not stopped for any length of time. We also noticed a large number of hikers at these lower heights even though summer season was officially over and it was a weekday…probably due to the accessibility of the paths. We stopped at this lodge to eat lunch and noticed that the wind had picked up and the clouds had blown in.

We put our jackets on and set off towards Zhamkovskeho Chata (1475 m altitude) which was another hour away. The alpine forest scenery was stunning throughout. Interspersed with the occasional river or waterfall.

We stopped at Zhamkovskeho Chata for a brief visit to the loo, then set off for the remaining 2hours up to Teryho Chata (2012 metres) which was our planned overnight stop…provided they had room, as we hadn’t pre-booked. At this point the hikers had thinned out a little, due probably to the tougher terrain.

The final 500m ascent was pretty much vertical, as the path wound its way back and forth across the face of the mountain…Some Slovakian Sherpas were certainly earning their keep!

Now that’s impressive!
Jon moving mountains

We arrived at our lodge after a little less than 5 hours hiking (enough for us as we hadn’t hiked for over 2 months) and were relieved to find that they had space for us (the tent wasn’t needed). 

We spent the rest of the evening eating and keeping warm but speaking to other hikers we learnt that the weather forecast for the following day was poor. We went to bed early and set the alarm for 6am in the hope that we might beat the predicted rain.

Day 2

Unfortunately we awoke to heavy rain and strong winds. The prospect of our loop around the mountain seemed very poor. With Vanessa having a cleat in her right shoe and the route described as difficult, we thought there was little point in continuing with our initial plan as the low cloud would obscure our views anyway. Instead we decided to sit and wait for a slight break in the rain, then head back down the same route as yesterday.

Whilst we waited we spotted a few wild mountain goats near the lodge, apparently not bothered by the weather. After around half an hour the rain eased off and we set off back down the mountain. The going was slow at first as the rocks were slippery and Vanessa was being extra cautious due to her footwear.

Not surprisingly, unlike yesterday, we saw very few hikers today…but this made for perfect mist shrouded valley photography. The rain was on and off during the nearly five hour descent, however we managed to keep generally dry, other than damp socks and shoes (no thanks to the many streams we now had to negotiate). 

We stopped at Zhamkovskeho Chata when the rain was heavy and shared an extremely good lentil soup. Then set off when the rain let off. Not surprisingly, the waterfalls were even more impressive today than yesterday. 

Shortly before 1am we arrived back at Stary Smokovic, having resisted the temptation of taking the tram for the last few km. We caught the next train back to Poprad and walked the short distance to the hotel, where we apologised for ‘borrowing’ the luggage room key. They had a spare so didn’t mind so much and even upgraded us as all their standard rooms were full (bonus).

We hung our wet gear up to dry, Jon shopped for 2/3 days of groceries for cycling and we vegged out in front of the TV. 

Our summary of the High Tatras are that they are well worth a visit. The first day showed us more than enough in the way of spectacular mountain scenery to make up for the cloudy return journey. The routes are well signed and maintained and there appears to be hikes for people of all abilities.