ONE VISION, ONE DREAM: Dodo Kopold’s quest for the High Tatras Traverse
The High Tatras Mountains are situated in the middle of Europe, on the border of Poland and Slovakia. Climbing in High Tatras has a long history—from 1921, when the first route was climbed by mountaineers, till now when the climbing has become very popular. But many extremly hard routes were climbed in the gold age 20 years ago by famous climbers like Pochyly, Glejdura, Belica, Šmíd, Stanislawski and Plšek. In these mountains many good climbers grew up and climbed a lot before they went to the Alps and Himalayas. Frequent bad weather and blizzard conditions make climbing here remarkably similar to the Scottish Highlands. Frozen grass on steep walls, 500-meter north faces, extreme mix routes where it is hard to protect yourself. For a local climber, the frozen grass is like ice but always with many surprises.
This winter season I spent more time than ever in the Tatras. From week to week we were wandering in the beautiful velleys and if we found the good line, we climbed it. Difficult or easy one, this was not the main point. The season just started and we wanted to warm up before our main goal: The High Tatras Traverse.
The plan was great, yes, but we were ready to try it. With my climbing partner Andrej we prepared everything neccessary for succes: logistics, know-how, the right gear and we spent hours to managed the whole project. We were ready for that day. But for it to be ready for us we needed a few days of good weather and good conditions for descents because we didn’t want the snow slopes to have high avalanche risk. plus the approach from one route to another in deep snow is sometimes not possible to do.
I first tried the Tatra Traverse ten years ago. I remember that this pioneering in my young age was very crazy. Without any support, sleeping bag, with food just for two days, one double rope, five pitons, ice screws and few nuts and cams, and in very bad weather. After our second of nine climbs we were totally wet and tired. We descended down to the valley where we needed to make a fire to dry our clothes. That night was cold but in the next morning we continued anyway. We climbed the steep ice face, descended to another valley in very deep snow and we reached the hut where we wanted to rest a little. But the hut was closed. After three days of climbing we were in the middle of our project. More great walls were in front of us. We needed three more days to finish it—this was not possible for us because of out tired state. We decided to return back to the civilization. This attempt was one of my best.
January and February 2009. We´re ready to go. But the weather is all the time snowy and everywhere Scotish mist. In these conditions we no chance of succeeding on the traverse. Hopefully next season will be more friendly. We were, however, able to do some great climbs during oru trainign missions and warm-ups. These ascents included:
Zlobivá (The Evil) – Solo climb in steep rock graded in difficult V and in ice. This face has a long approach and during the descent I was hit by avalanche.
Vysoká (The Big One) – A long approach makes this face a serious climb. We climbed the face during two days in extremely bad conditions and weather.
Ľadové veže (Ice Towers) – During three days I climbed solo five long routes in grade between IV+ and VII. A few of them are first ascents and one of the climbs I repeated was The Chimney of Dizziness. Twenty-eight year ago it used be filled iwth ice, but now there is none and I climbed it’s difficult slabs, I graded VII.
With many thanks