Gerlach is the highest peak in what has been call the Smallest High
Range in the World and believe me it is true. The High Tatra (Vysoké Tatry) is
the last major outcropping of the Carpathian Mountains and Gerlach is the
highest peak in that rather long range as well for you peak baggers out there
it is the highest peak in Slovakia.
Looking like a great pyramid when viewed from the valley far below Gerlach is
an impressive mountain. It looks much taller than it is, as the vertical rise
from the valley floor is well over 2000m and it sits further away from neaby
mountains giveing a rather massif appeance to this peak.
Gerlach from the north.
The High Tatra is truly an alpine rock climbers paradise since there are no
nasty glaciers about and the snow is mostly gone by June, though it may linger
in some of the shaded valleys until late August. There are literally hundreds
of alpine rock and face climbs here and most of them have never been done by
westerners even 10 years after the fall of the wall. Most importaly the rock
quality is on a par with Yosemite and the routes are well established and
Gerlachovský tít from Smokovce
Technically only a grade II to III climb when not snow covered it benefits
greatly from a very well maintained mountain trail (Bergpfad) that leads to the
summit along a standard route.
Most climbers using the more-technical route start from the Sliezskly Dom (Hut)
and up and along the green trail until it reaches a lake about ½ way up the
col. The path to the summit is on the opposite side of this lake and is marked
with cairns. It basically follows a rather rough skree pile up to the main
summit ridge and then easy ridge climbing to the top.
Once can then cross over the summit and meet up with another path comming up
from the opposite valley. This route is more for the novice and guide as it is
protected in places by chains and at one time ladders.
One thing that is nice about doing this climb is how quickly it seems to go. No
sooner are you into the skree pile then you are out of it and on the ridge and
then suddenly you are on top. It is no more that a 5km round trip.
Be warned, this is an alpine environment expect snow any time of the year and I
found that the weather here closes in much faster that any other area that I
have climbed in. It can be nice one moment but then minutes later you can be in
the middle of a thunderstorm blowing up from the valley.
Another thing that will throw you a bit are the deceiving lines I clearly
remember looking up a ridge and thinking there would be a nice walk along the
top on it. When I got to it, it was a knife-edge with a 400m drop off the other
side. Needless to say I went back to the marked trail. Because of the short
distances involved it is very easy to climb yourself into trouble very quickly
sometimes with no retreat possible.
Treat this peak and all of the others in the Tatras with respect and you will
have a great time. Just think of them as very short 4kers. Treat them like
2000m hills and you will come to grief guaranteed.
When to climb
Late June and early August as there are heavy storms in late summer.
Earlier than this there is poor snow on top.
The actual best season is early to mid October just before the snow arrives.
Absolutely no camping is permitted in the park.
There are campsites lower down the mountain in designated areas.
In the Belovodska Valley, near Polana Pod Vysokou, there is a camp site
reserved just for members of UIAA clubs.