Now this is more like it - mountains at last!

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Flag of Slovakia  ,
Sunday, January 15, 2006

After dithering around trying to make a decision for a day or two, I finally realised it would be stupid to have come all this way and not get up into the High Tatras mountains, supposedly having some of the best hiking in Europe, even if it isn't the best time of year for it. So, after a 363km train journey, I arrived in Tatranska Lomnica, a small resort in the High Tatras and a convenient base for exploring some mountains.

Beautifully located at the foot of one of the highest peaks in the range, Lomnicky Stit, and overlooking a permanently mist-shrouded valley, just arriving here was worth a visit to Slovakia in itself, and that's even before getting up into the mountains! Unfortuantely, I only gave myself two nights here on the assumption I would be able to get out and do some walking in the first afternoon - not really possible as it was dark by the time I had reached my guesthouse. That just meant that I had to make the most of the full day I had!

With almost every time I've been hiking before, I've always wondered why some people feel the need to buy all the fancy gore-tex clothing and hiking poles when I have been quite capable of doing the exact same trail in everyday clothing. Now, I understand.
Hiking in the mountains during ski season, whilst still possible, isn't quite the same as in the height of summer. If anything, the scenery is even more awe inspiring for the snow and the near isolation of the trails, but it is also slightly more difficult. For instance, if you're wearing jeans when walking through foot deep snow in sub-zero temperatures, they freeze. My jeans were literally frozen solid within an hour, and didn't thaw until I got back indoors in the evening. Also, my fur-lined boots, whilst being fine for traipsing through muddy paths, have absolutely no grip on snow so cold and compacted it is more like ice. They did keep my toes warm though!

The hiking didn't start too well. It had been recommended that I take the cable car halfway up the mountain, and start a walk from there. Being bloody minded, I decided I could walk halfway up the mountain before beginning my hike, and there was a walking trail from the cable car station to where I wanted to go. Fantastic! Half an hour later, and I reach the another cable car station, unhelpfully named 'Start'. Signs suggested another 2 hours before I was where I wanted to be. Undeterred, I dutifully followed the paths through increasing levels of snow, until the halfway point, where the previously trodden path obvously hadn't been walked for a while - I had to admit defeat after attempting to walk a couple of hundred metres through 2 ft of snow. 2 hours after leaving, I returned to 'Start' and caught the cable car.

Finally at the trail head, I took a few moments to admire the spectacular views before setting off on the more interesting part of the walk. For almost the first hour, this supposedly well worn and well signed path was anything but. It took about 15 mins to actually find the bloody thing, and even then it only consisted of a petrifying, slightly sloped hint of footprints no more than 8 inches wide, along the side of a mountain descending at about 40 degrees, with nothing to break a fall for at least 500 metres. Occasionally sliding off the path wasn't exactly fun. My pictures really don't do the fear justice.
Fortunately, the path eventually levelled off and I could begin to appreciate the magnificent views, instead of staring at my feet for fear of falling again. I have to say, it was well worth the effort and early problems. Even the timing worked out well - I got back into Tatranska just as the sun was setting, so caught a beautiful sunset across the valley.

Long day.
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