The most demanding day
Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
248Trip End Aug 15, 2008
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For the real business of our visit, we stayed a couple of nights in a surprisingly comfortable mountain hut, Chata M
The one full day we had in the park has to be the most demanding one day hike I have ever done, and I wasn't even carrying much! Setting off at a very reasonable 8.30, we started by climbing to the peak of Dumbier. To say the views were outstanding doesn't do them justice. Located pretty much in the centre of the country, and it being a lovely clear day, we could see as far as the boundaries with Hungary, Ukraine and Poland, and would probably have been able to see the Czech and Austrian borders had it not been for the Velky Fatra and Mala Fatra ranges in the way. It was a shame to hit the highlight of the day so early on; it was all downhill from there, both literally and metaphorically
The next few hours were spent first walking along a scenic ridge trail and through some head-high scrub, then way way way downhill through the forested areas. It seemed quite strange just how much the regions through which we were walking seemed to vary throughout the day. It was somewhere around here that I started having some problems, as we had neglected to bring anywhere near enough water for the day. We did fill up the bottle from the occasional moutain stream, but I was still suffering quite badly during the three hour (and bloody steep) ascent that followed, beautiful as it was.
Usually, I can rely on my walking times being somewhere around 3/4 the guesstimated times offered on maps and park signs. In Slovakia, it seems, they're slightly more realistic about things. Having planned a good 13 hour hike according to the map times, I figured it would take us about 8 or 9 hours - a reasonable days walk. 8 hours into the walk, I had a look at the map and totalled up what we had done and how long they reckoned it should have taken. It should have taken us about 8 hours. I considered this to be a problem, given we still had an estimated 5 hours of walking left and we only had 3.5 hours before sunset.
Setting off at quite a pace, we soon had to slow down for the fact that the trail was so stupidly steep, even going dowhill we couldn't take it too fast. Upon reaching the bottom of this path, we had a 3 hour walk uphill to the hut to do in 1.5 hours. We so nearly made it! Up until the last 3km, we kept a rediculously good pace going considering we had been walking for 10 hours before we even got to this point. It was the last 3km, which took a much steeper path, that did for me. Ending a long hike on a climb is not a good idea. Simon seemed completely unfazed by it, but it seemed like each step was a struggle for me and it was all I could do to just keep moving. I searched for some reserve of energy and found nothing. I could quite easily have just lay down and slept, and not being able to see the hut because of the darkness made it so hard to convince myself we were getting any closer. It was such a blessed relief when, 12 hours after we left, it seemed to appear out of nowhere and invite us in to the warmth.
Collapsing onto a bench on arrival, it took a good 15 minutes to work up the energy just to move into the restaurant in the next room to get something to eat. The langos (sort of like a pizza with a fried dough base) was most welcome, and the spaghetti would have gone down even faster had it not been for the remarkably annoying Austrian girl who decided to talk at us about how she had just done a strenuous 7 hour hike to get there
Unexpectedly, we both managed to wake up the next day without too much pain in the legs, so instead of taking the shorter route back, we decided to take the ridge walk to the chairlift at Chopok. I had been told this was a stunning walk, and one of the most popular short day hikes to do, so was quite looking forward to it. It was living up to my expectations as far as Demanovska saddle, which (for once) quite justufied the name. Unfortunately, beyond there the clouds came down and we could see very little for the rest of the walk. Slightly disappointing, especially as when we got to Chopok, expecting it to be the end of our hiking in the Tatras, the chairlift wasn't working. After some debate about what to do, we resigned ourselves to the 1.5 hour scramble down a steep path to the bus stop, which didn't do my knee any good and Simon took a bit of a fall somewhere en route. What did surprise me was the number of families with quite young children climbing up. Not something you would see back home! Irritatingly, when we were quite near the bottom, the chairlift started working. It seems they only turn it on at 12, just to annoy those who started the day at a decent hour.
So ended a beautiful couple of days of hiking. It certainly has to be one of the most easily accessible ranges I've come across, yet with some truly spectacular scenery thrown in for good measure. I was happy.