It was September.
A sunny and idyllic day in Copenhagen. Until everything changed. From a gentle rain to a thunderstorm with hail-stones to snow. We experienced all faces of the weather.
We might have enjoyed it more, had we been safely and comfortably inside (perhaps with a glass of wine in hand).
But we weren't.
We were running a halfmarathon.
One of the most difficult races we have ever ran. But also one of the most beautiful.
Because of these hard conditions.
They left a deep footprint in our souls.
It is said the night is the darkest just before sunrise.
At this moment, the stars glitter very intensely.
And perhaps even more so if you look from Veľký Choč mountain.
One of the most beautiful mountain ranges
Veľký Choč is a handsome peak, wrote Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, one of the most popular Slovak poets from the beginning of the 20th century. He was born there. Right under it, in its shadow.
The steep and high rocks proudly protect all inhabitants of the Orava and Liptov regions, both wild and amazing parts of Slovakia, and many ways reminiscent of Scandinavia.
This mountain stands between these two regions.
It looks like a pyramid from one side. And like a rooftop from the other.
The 1,611 m high Veľký Choč is the highest mountain of the Chočské vrchy mountains. They lay the west of the only Slovak alpine type mountain, the High Tatras, and connect them with the Malá and Veľká Fatra Mountains.
They bulk out the Liptovská dolina valley, and gaze down to the Liptovská Mara reservoir. There are sheep cropping the grass in, playful shepherd dogs in the summer.
One of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Slovakia.
The mountain range with no ridge tour, but with karst rock formations and deep valleys.
An epic hike
A hike to Veľký Choč is not long. It is only 5 km.
And it is only for strong legs!
But how epic it is! And this elevation!
The route, a climb of 1,000 m, is almost as difficult as up Gerlach, the highest peak of Slovakia, from Sliezsky dom.
The shortest hike starts in Valaská Dubová village, in front of the pub, where the Slovak national hero Juraj Jánošík was caught. This blue marked hiking path will lead you through the forest to the Stredná Poľana saddle. From there you will continue hiking up, passing the dwarf pines, crossing the rocks, until you reach the summit.
The most demanding hike starts in the Lúčky spa. In the middle of this village, is the most beautiful Slovak waterfall. It is a 12-metre high cascade waterfall, Niagara in miniature, which falls into small pools from the edge of a travertine terrace. You will take the red marked hiking path through the wild forest and even wilder rocks, until you find yourselves on the top.
The longest hike, with also travel through history, begins in Likavka village. You will pass Likava Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in the Liptov region, built in 1315 to protect the Váh River crossing and the main trade route to Krakow.
The hike from Jasenová village is 14 km long. In this village, embraced by wild nature, you can find a special house. Martin Kukučín, a popular Slovak writer was born here. And this marked hiking path has his name.
Difficult hike rewarded with view
The mountains are most interesting in winter. Because of their cold beauty.
And a danger, which forces us to push the envelope and leave the comfort zone.
These challenging conditions make us stronger.
They create heroes and winners, which then create a better and nicer world.
While hiking to Veľký Choč we were frozen to the bone.
In the fingertips.
And still, this winter hike left a deep footprint in our souls. As the halfmarathon in Copenhagen did.
Because the footprints in the snow are always deeper.
When we slowly hike up and hardly put one leg in front of the other.
When we slip and try to keep balance.
When we flounder.
You can fall down seven times, but you can stand up eight times, the Japanese say.
The most difficult hikes lead to the mountains with the most beautiful views.
And one of the most beautiful views in Slovakia is from Veľký Choč.
And remember, beauty speaks directly to the heart, not the mind.
VaGa Agency is an incoming company concentrating on active, adventure, cycling, and sport tours in Slovakia, in the unique, authentic and safe country, far away from mass tourism; offers undiscovered and amazing places, tailored-made solutions and very professional individual guiding. For more information please visit: vaga.agency and www.vaga-camp.com.