ŠTRBSKÉ PLESO is a High Tatra hub, with several skiing possibilities in the wintertime and, in warmer months, trails leading to amazing views from atop surrounding mountains. Trails from the town lead to the peaks of Rysy (2,499 metres above sea level), Kriváň (2,494 metres), and Kôprovský štít (2,367 metres). The hikes are exhilarating, but they can be treacherous, as testified by the numerous lives the mountains have claimed over the years.
A number of shorter hikes are possible. North of the lake, a trail begins just above the two ski jumps leading up to Chata pod Soliskom. The hike is a steep climb, but easily navigated in about an hour. The peak of Predné Solisko (2,093 metres) can be reached by walking another hour past the chata. To the west of the lake, the trail to Jamské Pleso, a small mountain lake, can be reached within an hour on a trail winding slightly uphill through the forest.
To the east is Popradské Pleso, which despite having no public road access, can be reached year-round. In the summertime, the hike takes about an hour, but in the winter, struggling through snow that can be thigh-high even though the paved trail is regularly ploughed, the trip can last twice as long.
During the winter months, hiking on several trails is prohibited in order to protect the local animals and plant life. After badgering an employee of the Štrbské Pleso information centre on a cloudless, and unseasonably warm winter day, insisting that Kriváň could be conquered if only given the chance, I was told firmly that it would not be "wise" to attempt the climb. "If you get in trouble and need to be rescued, you have to pay the bill," she added in exasperation.
Of course, she was right. Weather conditions in the Tatras can, and often do, change from minute to minute, regardless of the season: Standing 20 metres from the lake with a clear view of the peaks looming above, the scene can be transformed in 60 seconds by a rolling fog bank obscuring even the nearby lake.
- Chris Togneri
10. Feb 2003 at 0:00