Ascent to Gerlachovský štít-South Ridge on 1993-07-30

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, July 30, 1993
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Gerlachovský štít - South Ridge
    Elevation:7743 ft / 2360 m
    Remaining Elevation:964 ft / 293 m (23% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Today I wanted to climb Gerlach, highest mountain in Slovakia, so I woke up early, easy when sleeping on a wooden bench in a noisy, crowded mountain hut. Before waking I noticed I had accidentally crushed my eyeglasses while rolling over in the night, and I had to look on the floor for a tiny screw that had come loose before I could fix them. I quickly ate breakfast amid the chaos of the hut, said brief goodbyes to the people I had talked to last night, and left the Rysy hut at 7 AM.

I cruised downhill to Pepradske Lake and the Moravky hut, then, from 8:35 to 9:35 AM, cranked up a trail that switchbacked 1417 vertical meters up to Ostrova, a low shoulder that offered a nice view. I took a long rest here and admired the wide-ranging views of the Slovakian countryside below on this so-far cloudless day.

The trail then contoured eastwards for a long time above timberline as it began to get pretty overcast out. After a while I arrived at Batizovske Lake, a tarn in the wide cirque bordered by the jagged ridge of Gerlach to the right. Since there was no trail up the forbidden peak, and I didn't want to get caught trying for it without a guide, I had to try to guess what the best way up was, and hope it was a well-hidden route.

I decided to try the southern Dromdarov Ridge, so I hiked along the trail eastwards from the lake a short ways, then surreptitiously struck off to the north through low bushes and then up a huge, punishing slope of blocky talus that steeply took me higher and higher. Above the talus the ridge wasn't too bad, and I was making good progress, but now low clouds and fierce wind blew across Gerlach's summit. By the time I was in the clouds the ridge had become very steep, jagged, and technical, and all my efforts to find easier going by dropping down to some steep grassy terraces and then regain the crest failed, due to steep rock, slippery grass from the cloudy mist, and loose scree I didn't want to slip on.

After some hairy moves I had climbed a few rocky pinnacles, but I finally decided to turn back--the weather was bad, this ridge was class 5 climbing, I was all alone, and I wasn't supposed to be up here anyway. Also, I was only at an elevation of 2360 meters, a long, long way from the 2655 meter summit. So I carefully traversed back to where the ridge was easier, descended under the clouds, and made my way down the terribly miserable large talus field, where I think I hurt out my knee, which hurt for the next few days.

Back on the trail I hiked the short and easy way down to the Sliezsky Dom hut, a big and modern place at the end of a closed-to-the-public paved road. The woman at the desk spoke English, and I was able to secure a bunk in a four-bunk hostel-like room for 276 SLK (US $9.20). I used the room's hot shower, and for a dinner I supplemented the food in my pack with cokes and snacks I bought in the hut's deserted restaurant. In the evening I had one of the most interesting conversations of my life with a Slovakian guy I was sharing my bunkroom with--he spoke no English, and since Slovakian and Russian are very similar languages, I was able express and understand very basic concepts in my fractured Russian. We supplemented this with drawing pictures in the margins of a newspaper, and were soon "talking" about hobbies (he was a mountain biker), where we were from, and other things.

As I went to sleep I realized that today was the first day since I had picked up my car in Paris that I hadn't driven it at all--I hadn't even seen it, actually.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3166 ft / 964 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2592 ft / 789 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7 mi / 11.3 km
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Weather:Cool, Windy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3166 ft / 964 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2838 ft / 865 m; Extra: 328 ft / 99m
    Loss on way in:328 ft / 99 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Start Trailhead:Popradske pleso  4905 ft / 1495 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2264 ft / 690 m
    Distance:2.4 mi / 3.9 km
    End Trailhead:Sliezsky Dom  5479 ft / 1669 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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