European Summit Challenge
Slovakia - Gerlachovský Štít 2655m


It was Peter who dispersed the myth surrounding the wolf and the two naked maidens. The warden at Chata pod Rysmi, my guide explained as we stood admiring the unfolding panorama; the fractured, twisted ribs of rock strutting up above the clouds, liked the girls. Perhaps that's not putting it strongly enough, he liked the prettiest girls, and made sure, that at the beginning of every season he chose the prettiest of those volunteers to work in his refugee. I can vouch for his good taste. When the warden drew the chata's unique rubber stamp, the wolf was kind of a self portrait. I'm not suggesting any kind of Lycanthropy, but an imaginative sense of humour that perhaps lies a little short of today's political correctness. I judged that we had rested long enough, and motioned so that Peter continued the ascent.
Thus yesterday's great question had been answered, and I can begin again at the day's dawn. Mountain guide Peter arrived at the hostel, a charm less abode for which I paid five pound a night. We drove the short distance to Tatrankse Zruby, from where a supply track wound it's way up to Sliezsky Dom, our starting point. Only National Park vehicles are permitted to ride this narrow road, and so we clambered into the waiting green Land Rover of a National Park warden.
I soon learnt that we would not be alone on Slovakia's highest mountain. Another guide was leading a party of three Czechs, a man and two women, on the same route. Huddled, and facing each other on the Land Rover's benches, I introduced myself and quickly made friends in a mixture of English and what I call Slav. Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, the Polish and Russians all have their own languages with many different words. But they all Slavic at route and it has been my experience that those of one nation can usually understand the meaning of others if they so wish. It is the wishing so that often intervenes.
Arriving at the Sliezsky Dom, we paid the small "taxi" fee and prepared for the day ahead. For me this meant depositing my unnecessary luggage with the refuge staff. I had tight schedule and reducing weight could only help me keep to it. That schedule being determined by a train departing Poprad for Budapest at four thirty five.

Picture of Sliezsky_Dom from above Velicke Pleso
View of the Sliezsky Dom and Velicke Pleso.

We left the refuge as a group of six, hugging the eastern shore of the beautifully clear Velicke Pleso then surmounting the rock wall at the lake's northern end, where a stream tumbled over a moderate fall. Shortly after we crossed the stream where it fanned out into many channels amongst the rocks and turf. Here the two groups began to drift apart as Peter and myself moved ahead at a hectic rate. We gained height on ground that felt distinctly Scottish, Highland Scottish. A feeling given by the lack of a clear path, just the indented line from the passing of feet, the occasional cairn. It was so different from anywhere else I had been in the High Tatra where the trails had been broad and well marked. Distinctly un-Scottish were the chamois, a benefit from rising early and treading where only those with a registered guide were permitted.
The ground soon steepened, and we halted below a gully, snow filled and with a path leading across to the first fixed aids, a metal ladder secure in the rocks. The group re-gathered, but only momentary whilst we put on climbing harnesses and tied up for security. I did not feel that it was needed, but when money enters the equation, a guide will take no risks. Together we crossed the snow and scrambled up the rocks, using the ladders and pegs whenever required. Our progress was healthy and we talked; Peter explaining the route and telling stories. The youngest person he ever guided to the roof of Slovakia was a four year old boy. The lad was probably

Picture of Velicke Pleso
Looking north across Velicke Pleso.

the youngest ever to have made the ascent and I congratulate him heartedly. For those of you reading with a twinge of disappointment, the boy was lifted up and over the more treacherous sections.
Gerlachovsky Štit may best be imagined as a weathered cone of rock linked by it's northern slopes to sharp and jagged ridge. The southern face of this cone has been scooped out. What remains is a horseshoe of broken teeth with high point at the northern most apex. Our route, "Velika Proba", led to a col on the eastern rim, and here I had expected to follow the ridge line, but no. Having taking