High-Tatras Winter Climbing
Ice Climbing, Ski Touring, Snowshoeing; the Grand Winter Mountaineering Experience in Almost Exotic Mountains
On this climbing vacation, you get to experience the essence of winter mountaineering in a very unique setting. From avalanche safety to ice-climbing and snowshoeing or ski-touring, you will have adrenaline pumping 4 full days…
This is the world’s smallest high-mountain range, my friend. Make no mistake, though; the Tatras in Slovakia posess all the characteristics of the big ranges. The rock is granite, the huts abundant, food exotic and costs a fraction of what you may be used to in the Alps. Think this backcountry of Europe is inaccessible? Think again. From boarding your plane in London, Luton, you are on a trail of this magnificent range in just over three hours! Let me know if you can beat that.
On this climbing vacation, you get to experience the essence of winter mountaineering in a very unique setting. From avalanche safety to ice-climbing and snowshoeing or ski-touring, you will have adrenaline pumping 4 full days… After some fun climbing in the sun, immerse yourself in gastronomy at the comfy mountain hotel. This is no refuge, my friend; we are being catered for.
I dare you to pass on the Alps this time and take on Eastern Europe. If however, the itinerary here is too light for you and you’d rather do more difficult stuff (alone or with your buddies), then hire one of us to guide you here.
Is this trip for you?
Below is an idea of what you may expect on this course. What we do on the spot depends on the weather, snow conditions and participants’ skills, goals.
Day 1. Avalanche Safety on the Frozen Lake Poprad
After a quick airport pickup, we head straight to the shores of Lake Poprad at 1500 meters. Here, you get settled in the Majlathova chata, perhaps go for a late lunch and then join your guide just outside the hut. You walk on the frozen lake, your classroom for the afternoon. Here you learn the use of the avalanche transciever and the basics of snow assessment and route finding in winter.
At the end of the session, we dig a hole and bury you under the snow and let you stay there for a few minutes (unless we accidently forget about you :)). The aim of this ritual is to help you get a sense of what it’s like to be under an avalanche. In the unlikely event of getting swept away, you will panic less knowing that you can easily breathe for several minutes and self rescue from under a meter of fresh snow.
Day 2: Summiting Rysy (2,499 m)
After a nice breakfast, you are to tackle what is probably one of the most popular peaks in the Tatras. Rysy, towering on the Slovakian-Polish border is actually the highest peak of Poland. It’s a relatively easy climb with steep parts. On some sections, you can opt for a ‘shortcut’ – where you can test yourself on 40-50 degree snow; but it’s easy to get around the harder stuff if you prefer to take it easy today. Otherwise, there is a summit ridge which is not very exposed, but still has huge drops to both the Polish and the Slovakian sides.
Just 300 meters below the summit, there is a tiny refuge bearing the same name as the peak – Rysy. A few years back, this hut was swept away by an ugly avalanche. Inside the hut, you can see photos of the aftermath of the avalanche. Pretty freaky, but you’re sipping on some hot tea or vin chaud.
The way down is wonderful if you opt to go on skis. Otherwise, sliding on your butt (if the snow is hard enough) makes things faster downhill. There are some big beautiful boulders as you approach the edge of the foreset. You’ll see them to your right on the way down. Have you tried winter bouldering? It’s loads of fun. You just have to clean the cracks from the snow. Falling is not a problem in 2 metres of powder. See if you have the time and energy on your way back and have a good time on granite!
Day 3: Ice Climbing
You’re hiking a winding trail through a beautiful, green pine forest above your mountain hotel. After about half an hour, you’re leaving the woods behind, you’re out in the open. High above you to the right, you will notice some smaller waterfalls frozen, waiting to be scratched up by metal.
First, it’s safety and some initial instruction enough to get you started. Then, your guide climbs the ice and sets up two top-ropes – one easier, the other tougher with vertical sections. You climb until you’re so tired, you can hardly move. At this point, you might look for some more, larger sections of ice.
You’ll probably be having so much fun that you’ll use up the last rays of light, which means the half-hour hike back to the hut is in the dark with headlamps.
Later in the season (April-May) or at warm winters conditions may not be suitable for ice climbing. If the ice melts, we’ll still figure out something fun for you in a steep couloir.
Day 4: Couloir Climbing: Taking on Satan’s Couloir
By now, you’re well fit to go for this quite long couloir – 700 meters in length, up to 40 degrees steep with possibility of a smaller snow-wall or icefall to climb. Head out very early, as there is a potential for rock fall, if the sun heats things up.
The team is roped up and on one harder section, you are belayed on the descent.
The peak above the top of the couloir is Satan’s Peak, 2,421 m. If you’re fast enough and the team is skilled, you might go the extra 100 meters on grade II rock to the summit – but this requires some previous experience. Again. Today’s a long day, there’s a chance that you need your headlamp on the way back to the lake in the woods.
Day 5: Flying home
That was it! This quick, long-weekend burst gave you a glimpse of the Tatras. You will fly home very impressed. After breakfast, we hop in the car and drive about 1 hr to Poprad to the airport.
Equipment and Info
The middle of winter you need to prepare yourself for snow and cold: down to 15-20 degrees below freezing on mornings at the hut at 1500 m. If you need advice on clothing and equipment, let us know. Your guide will be more than happy to help.
Later in the season (April-May) conditions may not be suitable for ice climbing. If the ice melts, we’ll still figure out something fun for you in a steep couloir.
Price includes equimpent hire, so you need not worry about technical gear. Of course, you may bring your own gear if you prefer, but regrettably, we can’t discount the price of the trip should you bring your own stuff. What you do need to bring is good climbing boots broken in, so they won’t hurt your feet. Here is a list that may be helpful to get yourself organized before the trip:
- trekking socks
- rucksack – 45-60 liters
- waterproof pants – make sure you treat them with water-repellent prior to your trip
- waterproof jacket – make sure you treat it with water-repellent prior to your trip
- two pairs of gloves
- warm hat
- sunscreen (min. factor 30) and lip balm
- 2 fleece sweaters/vest
- climbing boots
Accommodation and Food
2-6-beded clean, comfy, simple rooms, a real mountain hut. At the restaurant, you can buy warm food and drinks. A meal goes for around 4-8 euros, beer is around 1.5-2 euros. We usually sleep in the Majlathova or the Chata pri Zelenom plese. Both huts are ideal to be our “base camp”, as there are great possibilities around.