Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Raising the Slovakian flag


Flag of Slovakia.svgOn the Slovakian flag there is a double cross on top of the middle one of three blue mountains. Where can this cross be found? The middle mountain is Krivan (2494m/P400) and on the summit there is such a cross and consequently Krivan is known as Slovakia's national mountain

Krivan's summit cross
 As the campsite was not much dearer than the parking charge in Strbske Pleso, I caught the cog train from Tatranska Strba.

This time I left Strbske Pleso on the red marked track that goes north-west skirting the pleso/lake itself and then through the forested area - or what is left of the forest after the February 2004 Tatranska Bora (katabatic wind) and the subsequent bark beetle infection. Large areas of the forest were devastated in a period of two hours as the wind smashed its way through.
Krivan from the west -with evidence of the Tatranska Bora still showing
 Near the Jamske pleso a blue marked track heads north and this is where the uphill climb starts, initially through forest, then dwarf pine and then on open ground that becomes increasingly steeper and bouldery.
Krivan from the south
 By the time the track reaches Krivan's southern ridge there are a number of sections of scrambling. I was surprised to find that none of these sections had chains as found elsewhere in the Tatry in similar situations - there were a handful of people who were clearly struggling to get up or down in places. It was also the first mountain in the Tatry where there was evidence that people use a variety of different routes to the one that is marked out - presumably in a vain attempt to find an easier way.
Being Slovakia's national mountain I expected it to be more crowded than it was. That could be partly because it is is of less interest to the Poles and partly because I had set out quite late.
The view from the summit was great. The only problem was that I realised that my water bottle was empty and I was thirsty.

Britain's national symbol meets the Slovakian one - laterally.
Looking east from Krivan summit
I used the ascent route as my route of descent. At least this meant I knew how far I had to go before I would reach a water source - which was almost down by the Jamske pleso. After drinking the stream dry, I realised I had 50 minutes to the next cog train which only runs once an hour.  The sign said 75 minutes to Strbske Pleso. Despite pushing a pace that was short of actually running I missed the train by three minutes - for once, the timing on the sign was not as generous as others.
Most of the bars/restaurants in the resort close at 7.00 pm, so it was a bit of a struggle to find one that was still open and have a beer, which is extremely cheap in Slovakia. Quite literally, beer is cheaper than water in the shops and bars.
When I got on the 8.00 pm train I realised I had left my wallet in the bar - it was a mad dash there and back and I only just managed to get  back on it in time. The train was full - full of tired, sunburned, sweaty but happy walkers of all ages - a few I recognised as having met earlier in the day and on previous days.

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