Climb to Gerlach Shield (2654 m.a.s.l.) – mountain hiking club Vetusta

Our highest mountain peak is one of the most visited in the whole Europe. It is the highest peak of both- Slovak and Polish high-mountains Tatras but also of the entire 1200 kilometer-long Carpathian mountain range. This fact is known only from the 19th century when the height was measured by Ľudovít Greiner (year 1838). It is situated in the middle of the Tatras in the saddlebow of West Gerlach, south of the main ridge between the valleys: Velická and Batizovská. Typical is its sawback edge increasing in the north-south direction. You can easily recognize Gerlach from the distance by the big mountain pot on the side.

Till 70ties there was a green tourist track leading to Gerlach peak and anyone was free to hike there. Currently you can climb there only with the trained mountain guide who is able to lead in this terrain (as well as to Lomnický shield, Ľadový štít, Vysoká, ….)

In summer 2011 the members of the Spanish mountain hiking club Vetusta Grupo Montañero from Oviedo visited the High Tatras. The club is one of the 22 hiking clubs in Oviedo (the size of the city is comparable with Košice- 224 000 inhabitants) and is the biggest one with 400 members. Oviedo is the capital city of the principality Asturia which spreads on the coast of Cantabria. I asked the president of the club what did the name Vetusta stand for. It is the name for the city Oviedo from the novel Emperor written by Leopoldo Alas Clarin. The highest peak of the mountain range Picos de Europa and Cantabria Mountains is Torre de Cerredo ( 2648 m.a.s.l.) and the most symbolic and the best known for its steep walls is Picu Urriellu or Naranjo de Bulnes. This peak is also a part of the club emblem. The whole region of Asturia is hilly, very like in Slovakia. The weather is colder and more humid in comparison with the rest of the country and it´s known for its typical fogs.

Forty members of the club visited Tatras. They were lodged in the Hotel Slovan in Tatranská Lomnica. The age range was from 24 up to 81 years and I have to admit that all of them were great tourists. An 81-year old man was literally pushing me in front of him and I have to slow him down so he would stay with the rest of the group. The whole expedition was divided into two groups- each group had 20 members and one guide. I was a guide for one group together with my interpreter Liliana and the other group had a guide Vlado Mucha from Slovak paradise. Each group had at least two transmitters and they hiked through the valleys, mountain-saddles and on the mountain peaks smoothly and safely for several days. Even though the weather was not very favorable and it snowed on the 1st and 2nd of July in Tatras, Spanish tourists were not surprised and you could see them smiling all 10 days of their stay and even more surprisingly despite the fact it rained and snowed with little breaks whole 9 days. I think that the members of the club- Bernard, Carlos, Luis, Chesus,… deserve thanks and appreciation for their attitude. The average age was around 60, but they were physically healthier than 40-year old Slovaks. That´s why I think the life passion for hiking has its advantages in many aspects of life. The first day we hiked through Svišťovka to Green mountain-lake and White water. The other days we did Big and Small Cold Valley, Kriváň, Mlynická and Furkotská valleys.

The very top of the whole trip was the climb to Gerlach Shield. We were waiting for better weather, trying to get the most accurate weather forecast from the european satellite, but the sunny weather was not coming. Finally we set the date on 4th of July. The forecast looked very promisingly, we reserved tourist guides for this date and waited for our day D.

 A group of 14 Spanish tourists decided to go. Five guides waited at Sliezsky house 5:00am and an hour later all the groups were on a way to our aim of a day- Gerlach Shield. We went through Velický channel and Kvetnicová tower. Bernardo was tracing the whole trip through the GPS system into a computer. There are several places with the climbing hooks and foot rests on the way up. All the tourists had a helmet and a harness. Suitable clothing such as waterproof jacket, gloves and winter cap are also required. 10:00 Bernard´s group reached the top of the mountain. Everything went according to the plan except the sunny weather. We had a lot of fog as well so we didn´t get any view from this highest peak of the Carpathian Mountains. Next time maybe. After a short break it was time to go back because this part is sometimes even more difficult than the way up. The group went the way to Batizovský channel (12:50) and 13:30 we were at Batizovské mountain-lake. We had two and half more kilometers to the finish- Sliezsky dom. From there the tourists drove to Tatranská Polianka by microbus (you cannot get here except by private car of bus). The price for a guide is 240€ with 3people and 10€ for the return ticket for the transport.