Wednesday 29 August 2012

From the sublime


Early morning on Gerlach
Gerlachovsky Stit or Gerlach (2654m/P2355). Highest point in the High Tatry/Vysoke Tatry. Highest point in Slovakia. Highest mountain in the Carpathians. Highest European mountain north of the Alps. Twelfth most prominent mountain in Europe. My fifth Ultra and bloody difficult to do.

Tatranska Polianka station
Despite having a working railway station and a nearby hotel that is open, the hamlet of Tatranska Polianka has an air of abandonment about it.
It was very early in the morning that we set off from there to the refuge at Sliezky Dom and into the Velicky Dolina (valley). The route picks its way across some roche moutonnee and then the climbing begins up the steep eastern side of Gerlach, to reach a small notch on the ridge.

Roped up on Gerlach

Looking east down into Velicka Dolina
 From there all the action is on the west side with a series of rising and falling traverses on difficult rock and the occasional permanent artificial aid. Finding the route is difficult, but careful inspection of the rocks shows where others have gone before. There is also evidence of old markings from a former time when the route was open to all - until, apparently, the MRT got fed up of  almost daily rescuing lost and stranded 'walkers'.
The top is graced with a cross and there is just enough room to stand on the very summit. Unfortunately the mist restricted the view down - as ever, the mist cleared afterwards.
Gerlachovsky Stit summit

The descent route was alongside a couloir that leads into the Batizovsky Zlab - it is very steep, with a bit more permanent artificial aids than the ascent routes. Route finding is again quite difficult and however tempting we had to keep out of the couloir itself because of the looseness of the rock.
Going down

Gerlach from Batizovsky Zlab

Descent route
Phew made it, now there is just a long walk back

Batizovska Dolina
It was with a sense of relief when finally reaching the relatively less steep bottom of the Batizovska Dolina and it became a standard Tatry scramble over rocks and boulders to join a tourist path at Batizovske Pleso. Then it was just an hour's walk out to the Sliezky Dom refuge for a celebratory beer.
Down by Batizovske Pleso
The bride's carriage
The refuge itself was being used for a wedding party and it was a bit odd to see men in suits and women in frocks in such a setting. The bride had obviously arrived on a snowplough.
Then there was the weary walk back down to T. Polianka and a large ice-cream.

And, thankfully we did not come across any park rangers so I did not have to try and fool them into thinking my Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) membership card meant I was a member of a climbing club.

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