Ascent of Rysy on 1993-07-29

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, July 29, 1993
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:8212 ft / 2503 m

Ascent Trip Report

My plan for today was to hike up into the High Tatra Mountains so I could climb the highest mountains in Poland and Slovakia. So I left Wadowice, Poland and the dilapidated Hotel Beskio in the predawn darkness and drove southwest to Nowy Targ, where I spent my last Zloty buying a tankful of cheap gas, some motor oil, and a snack at a gas station. After an inadvertent detour to Zakopane I drove uphill on Route 95 to the Polish-Slovak border, where I breezed right through after presenting my passport--like yesterday, the line of cars to get into Poland was a hundred times worse than the one going the other way.

My road wound up and around the beautifully forested eastern foothills of the Tatra, providing some views of the cloud shrouded summits as I set my personal furthest east in Europe record before dropping down a bit, where I hung a right that took me to Stary Smokovec, the main resort town on the Slovakian side of the Tatras, highest mountains in the long Carpathian Range and in all of Eastern Europe. I spent some time in this very pleasant, modern, and crowded town, where I changed some DM into Slovak Koruns (the same as the Czech ones, with different stamps over the watermark on the bills), bought food for my hike and a good topographic map, and then went to the ranger station/guide service office to investigate rumors that Gerlach, highest mountain in the Tatra and Slovakia, was off limits to all but guided parties.

I found a guide who spoke some English, and he told me that indeed a guide was necessary, that it was a difficult climb, and that the cost for a guide was about US $100. I didn't want to spend this amount, and tried to argue with guy, telling him how experienced I was, but I think the guy spoke English better than he understood it, so I didn't get very far. I decided to try a reconnaissance anyway.

So I drove up to Shtrbske Pleso, paid a fee (60 SLK) to a guy who told me to go and park in a garage since I'd be away for a couple days, and was soon leaving the mobs of people in the resort area near the parking garage and hiking up among the mobs of people going for a hike. The trail was a paved, closed to traffic, road at first that led up through forest to the large Moravku hut near Pepradske Lake, then became a standard mountain path as it climbed up above timberline into a scenic mountain valley. The mountains and scenery were similar to the Rockies, and it was a hot, mostly sunny day, with the high summit pinnacles in and out of clouds. I thought that the trail signs in the High Tatra National Park were the most interesting I had ever seen--they were actual trees, stripped of bark and painted brown, with signs nailed to the various curving limbs.

I climbed up to the Rysy mountain hut by 4 PM, and I went in to see about getting a bunk for the night. I had trouble communicating with the warden until a Polish guy interpreted for me--the hut was already pretty full, but I could sleep on the floor of the common room for 100 SLK (US $3.33). With a bed for the night I continued up the trail for twenty minutes to Rysy, at 2499 meters (8197 feet) the highest point in Poland, talking to the young Polish guy who had helped me back at the hut and his wife while we hiked. The apex of Poland was in clouds and mobbed with about thirty people on a small, rocky point, and I waited a bit for it to clear--"Waiting for the Sun", I said, and the Polish guy said, in his accented English with a perfect mock-serious tone, "Oh yes, Jeem Morrison and the Doooors". For some reason the way he said that really cracked me up.

The clouds did clear shortly, and I could then admire the views of surrounding mountains--Rysy is on the border of Slovakia and Poland, and I could see that the route from the Polish side was much steeper. After taking some pictures I wandered over to Rysy's main peak, a few meters higher but in Slovakia, then returned to the hut.

I spent the late afternoon and evening in the Rysy hut. As the only native English speaker spending the night in this remote corner of the Carpathians, I thought I'd have to spend the evening alone and linguistically isolated, but the situation was actually the exact opposite. As I hung out and ate the gross meal they served I talked to a number of people, including a shy young Polish kid (we communicated in fractured Russian-Polish-Slovakian) who seemed to be using the mountains as a route for illegal immigration, since he had no passport when the hut warden asked him. There was also a Polish youth worker who spoke English and a German kid who spoke that language so well that I thought he was British, but he just said it was his best subject in school.

I spent the longest time talking to a German professor and his Malaysian wife (sic), who were being guided by a Slovakian mountain guide. The guide spoke no English, but via translations and my rudimentary Slavic I discovered he had climbed in the Hindu Kush of Asia and all through the Alps. I tried to pump him for information about Gerlach, my goal for tomorrow, but I couldn't figure out if he was telling me it was easy or if I should forget about it since I didn't have the required guide. I told him of my high points hobby, and he warned me that Monte Rosa in Switzerland was tough and the guides there very expensive.

After more talking and hanging out, with trips outside to the outhouse and to stargaze in the clear mountain night air, it was time to go to sleep. Most of the other guests went upstairs to a loft, and I and several others set up our sleeping bags on tables, benches, and the floor of the common room. I used a couple of benches put together in a corner, providing me with a hard bed, but I managed some sleep.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:43 ft / 13 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3307 ft / 1007 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.1 mi / 4.9 km
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:43 ft / 13 m
    Distance:0.1 mi / 0.2 km
    Start Trailhead:8169 ft / 2489 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3307 ft / 1007 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    End Trailhead:Popradske pleso  4905 ft / 1495 m
Ascent Part of Trip: 1993 - Gerlach (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Rysy-North Peak1993-07-29 a3868 ft / 1179 m
2Rysy1993-07-29 b43 ft / 13 m
4(Attempt) Gerlachovský štít1993-07-303166 ft / 965 m
5(Attempt) Gerlachovský štít1993-07-311985 ft / 605 m
Total Trip Gain: 9062 ft / 2762 m    Total Trip Loss: 10178 ft / 3102 m

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