If you want to combine hiking, climbing, mountain biking and alpinism all in a few days’ time, then the High Tatras is a great place to check out. Within an hour’s drive there are so many things to do for any outdoor addict, that there’s almost a risk of overdose.
When I was deciding to check out the High Tatras I made use of the climb europe website, and they fooled me a little bit. They write that there are 1500+ sport routes in the mountains. Turns out that there might be that many routes but they’re in places that are a 3 hour hike away and not documented at all. The only way to make it to those is by knowing the right locals or hiring a guide.
However I do still recommend checking this area out. There are some beautiful sport climbing crags within an hour of the High Tatras. Besides, I love hiking and I was able to do a lot of hiking and climbing. If you really want to do easy accessible sport climbing in the High Tatras then I recommend going to the Polish side, to the town of Zakopane. The beauty of this area is overwhelming and I wished I could have stayed much longer than the week and a half that I spent here in late September.
Traveling to the High Tatras
The closest airport is Košice International Airport, from there you can rent a car or take public transport all the way up to the High Tatras. Once you’re close to the mountains you don’t really need a car to explore the area. A train runs along the foot of the Tatras and busses take you up from the connecting roads. I’ve understood that they are trying to stop cars from driving around in the towns at the foot of the mountains, so they have started charging for parking in many places. Most expensive that I’ve seen was €10 per day, but I don’t know what they charge for the busses and trains.
If you want to go sport climbing then a car is highly recommended. The roads are quite nice and not full at all in late September. Keep in mind when driving on the highways in Slovakia you need a digital vignette, see the link below.
Where to stay
The best place to stay depends on what you prefer to do mostly. If you want to spend most of your time hiking and climbing in the High Tatras then I recommend staying close to Vysoké Tatry and its neighbouring villages. I stayed at Rijo Camping and it was a great location for me. If you want to spend more time sport climbing outside of the High Tatras, then I recommend staying in or close to Poprad. I’m expecting that everything is a bit cheaper there and you have all the shops closeby. Since the area around Vysoké Tatry is very busy and touristic because of the ski lifts.
There are three different guides available for climbing in this region. One, Skalky východného Slovenska, is for sport climbing and covers the whole Eastern part of Slovakia. It’s one of the best guides that I own. It’s written in both Slovak and English.
The other two guides; Výber Tatranských Stien Horolezecký Sprievodca Vysoké Tatry západná časť and Výber Tatranských Stien Horolezecký Sprievodca Vysoké Tatry východná časť, are multi pitch guides for the High Tatras. They’re only written in Slovak. I believe they contain a hiking map for finding your way to and from the multi pitches. From what I understood most multi pitches are trad, but there are some bolted routes.
All guides are sold in the Sport Rysy shop in Poprad.
So far I’ve mostly talked about sport climbing in this region, since that’s what I’m capable of. However, if you enjoy climbing trad multi pitches then you won’t be very interested in the smaller sport climbing crags. The high peaks are covered in beautiful routes. I believe that often people use one of the huts as their basecamp for the climbing they are doing on the peaks since the hikes can be quite long.
During my time in the High Tatras I went to three different crags. Dreveník is a beautiful area that is easy to reach. Stratenská Píla gave us some fun easy climbing right from the quiet road. Tomášovský výhl’ad looks very impressive but is a bit more difficult to find. In the topo they forgot some crucial information about how to reach the crag. So here it goes. Follow the trail all the way to the viewpoint. To find the start of the descent towards crags keep the view on your right side, this might mean that you’re walking back the way you came depending on where you parked and what route you took. In a few hundred meters a very obvious trail turns off from the yellow trail. That’s the right one. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of hiking back so we turned off way too early and ended up in a very steep forest and ended up going through this very strange story.
The three crags all have very different styles of climbing and the grading of the routes could be called quite stiff here and there.
There is one via ferrata in the area as far as I’m aware. I haven’t checked it out because they charge a fee to go on it. The website is linked below.
In most places a 60 meter rope is long enough. In all the places I’ve been at there is a double pigtail in the anchor. Always use your own gear when top roping or when you’re not the last climber to reduce the wear on the pig tail. Some of the routes have very little bolts and trad gear is recommended in the guide. The cracks are up to 5 cm in size and offer good space for gear. A helmet is highly advisable due to a lot of loose rock in some of the routes.
This isn’t the easiest place to find a climbing partner, but I’ve been very lucky with finding some people to get out on the rock with. The facebook group Parťák na lezenie is quite active and I was happy to find some people in there. The campground I was in was full with active people, but I’m not sure if it’s easy to meet climbers there. I din’t see any climber in my time there, but it was quite late in the season. The last option is the climbing gym in Poprad.
What else to do
First and foremost this area is a hiking paradise and that’s proven by the high amount of tourists that you’ll find in this area. Being alone on a trail is really not an option. Even in mid-September during a rainy day I met people on the trail. However that doesn’t take away the beauty of this area, especially with the first fall colors coming through.
I’ve seen a lot of people going around on mountain bikes. I’ve also seen people come down the mountain on drift trikes. From what I saw is that people go up with the ski lift and come down on a special trail for that.
If you’re into winter sports; this area is a ski destination. I expect it to be very active in winter time. Besides, I also saw that they have a climbing guide for the High Tatras in winter time in the Sport Rysy shop. The Skalky sport climbing guide also contains some dry tooling routes.