This post will cover the four-day stay in Slovakia from the end of the month, with a lot of photos.
Going into mountains reaching 1600-2100m ASL in late September is tricky. Weather can go full summer or full winter on you. In my case, it did both. I was prepared for the cold part but less so for the warm part – my summer gear was already deep in the closet and I took thicker socks.
Day one (26.9.)
The first day started gloomily – and for a good part, stayed gloomy. Typical autumn. Fog sticking to the mountaintops, churned around by the cold wind. My plan, as of that day, was leaning towards two longer hikes the first two days and two shorter ones in the last two days.
The bus dropped us of quite late – around 10:20. Reaching the main trail that sticks to the mountaintops and traverses the whole mountain range was easy and went quite well. The steep ascent took slightly over an hour and, since then, we stuck to the main trail for quite a while. There’s not much to say about it. Fog in all directions, sometimes disturbed by ominously-looking stones or a fellow hiker. We skipped a branch that went to a side peak because we knew there would be nothing to see from there. The payoff was unexpected as we saw a lone chamois almost magically emerging from the fog.
Weather was better in the valley once we descended the tops and headed towards the hotel where we’d stay.
The second day started brightly. The low-hanging sun filled even the North-facing valley with brightness I did not expect. It also filled it with warmth I definitely did not expect in late September. In less than an hour, I stripped down to a short-sleeved shirt and cursed my winter socks as we ascended a clearing (curse all the weak spruces and harsh winds. I remember that place a forest when I was there in 2006).
After a break in the first pass, we turned to the side ridge and ascended towards the main one, going up, then a bit down, then again. It was sun-filled morning we saw would not last. The difference was that, this day, the clouds hung at some 1800m ASL – some 300m higher than the previous day.
As we walked, we admired the mushrooms of several colors and shapes growing around the trail (it’s forbidden to pick them in the heart of national park) – as well as my memories wandering to the unpleasant descent in 2006 where, due to a dietary mistake, it turned into a race against my own sphincter.
Once we ventured into the clouds, it turned from a summer-like warm day into almost a cold one. Fortunately, the hoodie I bought in February proved to be wind-proof, a fact that was very welcome. We made our way to Ďumbier, the highest peak at 2043m ASL. Drowned in the clouds, of course. The break there was short and we moved to the second peak (at 2024m ASL) and then descended back to the hotel, taking a shortcut on the ski slope instead of using the trail (which would be a 3km detour).
The third day teased me. It seemed it’d return to gloomy but changed by the time the bus took us to where we were to start the hike. I, then, changed my plan and went for the long way.
It was well worth it. We saw across the wide valley to the Vysoké Tatry mountain range, eventually seeing its ‘eye candy’, the Kriváň peak (2495m ASL). Yet, we were pleased by our surroundings as well – the limestone portion of the hills. We even walked through a rock window and wondered whether bears would hide in some of those openings. Fortunately, we saw none even though we saw their… eh, puddles.
It then went up and down a few times. The ascension to the day’s main peak, Krakova hol’a, was a bit harsh on the slippery forest trail. Especially when the direction signs told us complete nonsense a few times (good that we had maps, GPS, and common sense).
Reaching the peak (at 1752m ASL) was rewarding by itself as it was covered by hoarfrost despite being somewhere between 5° and 10°C. North slopes have their charm, I guess.
Anyway, the descent teased us more with jagged limestone formations though we had to pick up our pace. We reached the endpoint mere 10 minutes before the scheduled pick-up time, otherwise, we’d have to add up another hour of walk to the hotel.
Even though the weather seemed to be pristine, I was not convinced this time. The previous days left me feeling the piling fatigue and I decided to take it easy for the last day.
Thus, it was a short way up into a pass, then to a side peak, then a harsh drop to the village where our four-day trip ended. All with some nice sights included.
The road home took a bit longer as we became stuck in traffic for an hour at the crucial point. I spent most of it reading on my kindle until the lack of light forced me to switch it for mp3s.
Map of the hikes:
I am a bit experimenting with what WordPress can do for posts with multiple photos. If there are any problems with the presentation (slideshow not working, for example), please let me know in the comments.
That’s what I wanted to say about this four-day trip. For October, I’ll probably follow this format and make a single post about all the hikes in the month’s first half.
See you next time!