Safety Advice For Hiking In The High Tatras

Below is some information from Lonely Planet’s Czech and Slovak Republics, 5th Edition about hiking safely in the Tatras.  The High Tatras are not scary and are not particularly high, but it can be dangerous to head into them unprepared.  To the tips below, I would add –

  • get mountain rescue insurance before going on your trip (a very quick and inexpensive process),
  • have your telephone with you (Slovakia is a small country with extensive mobile phone coverage, meaning that I have had a signal with my mobile phone carrier – Orange – even on the highest of Slovak peeks),
  • keep the mountain rescue service number programmed in your phone (18300 is the current number from a Slovak phone, but be sure to verify that before starting your trip),
  • keep a basic first aid kit with you (I’m trained in wilderness First Aid with the Red Cross and I know that having a first aid kit with me is a common sense way to make it easier to handle an emergency that may arise – this is a small, inexpensive first aid kit, good for travelling off the beaten path and hiking, similar to the one I use)
  • have a trail map with you and always know where you are on that trail map, in case you need to evacuate, call for help, or change the originally intended route.  Such maps circulate freely and are easy to borrow, inexpensive to buy.

Below are the author’s of Lonely Planet’s 5th Edition with more.

Better to be Safe

Around 15 to 20 people die every year in the High Tatras, due mainly to extremely capricious weather conditions – it can change from warm, brilliant sunshine to snow, rain, hail or wind within a few minutes.  Beware of sudden thunderstorms on ridges and peaks where there’s no protection.  Stay off the ridge tops if they’re in cloud. Check the weather forecast at the Mountain Rescue Service before setting out for overnight trips. Take their advice seriously.  The emergency assistance of the Mountain Rescue Service is not free; you will pay to be rescued.

It’s a good idea to carry your own water and some food, even if you have a chata booking with meals; you’ll burn up a lot of energy and will need snacks along the way.  Wear hiking boots and layered clothing; the highest elevations are cool year-round.  Carry a whistle for emergencies; six blasts is an internationally recognized distress call.

The rules: stay on the trails, don’t pick the flowers, take your rubbish with you and don’t cut wood or build open fires.

Below is some advise from Lonely Planet’s Czech and Slovak Republics, 4th Edition a book that I really, strongly do not recommend (as stated in this review here on 52 Weeks in Slovakia).  Nonetheless, the advice below is good advice.

You’ll need a guide to do ascents of the very highest peaks, with the exception of Lomnický štit, which is accessible by cable car.

There’s snow by November (on some of the highest passes as early as September) and avalanches are a danger from November to June when the higher trails will be closed – ask someone to translate the notices at the head of the trails for you.

Note that some of the higher trails involve steep scrambling and climbing in exposed situations with the aid of chains and metal rungs – not recommended unless you have a head for heights.

To get the 5th Edition of Lonely Planet Czech and Slovak Republics, click here.  To get the 4th Edition, click here .  If you have any good stories or photos to share from your trips to the Tatras, I welcome you to share them with me at 52WeeksInSlovakia@gmail.com.  I always like fun stories and photos from the Tatras.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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