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Climbing Gerlachovský Štít in Slovakia

The highest peak of the Carpathian Mountain Range witnessed turbulent times—it was named after Emperor Franz Joseph I and after Joseph Stalin

Climbing Gerlachovský Štít
Climbing Gerlachovský Štít
Climbing Gerlachovský Štít
Climbing Gerlachovský Štít

Gerlachovský štít, also known as Gerlachovka, is renowned as the highest peak of the Carpathians. Although its prominence of 2655 m is not that impressive comparing to other world's mounts, it's still outstanding by appearance. The mountain looks like a gigantic pyramid, visually much higher than in reality, owing to its distant location from surrounding mountains, and also because of the fact that the large bulk of 2000 m rises from the valley set 655 m above the sea.

High Tatras' (the tallest range in the Carpathian Mountains) highest mountain changed lots of names and used to belong to a range of different countries. In the 18th century, it was known under the German name "Kösselberg". Then it got its first Slovakian name "Kotol". But when Austro-Hungarian authorities realized it was the highest peak of the Carpathian Mountain Range, they've renamed it after Franz Joseph I. Czechoslovakia's version was Štít Legionárov. Only in 1932, the summit received its present name of Gerlachovský štít, and still not for good—in 1949 it was renamed once again into Stalin's Peak until it finally got back to Gerlachovský štít, or Gerlachovka as it's commonly known. The modern name is derived from the small village that once used to sit at the foot of the mountain.

Now the mountain area is known as a Biosphere Reserve with limited public access. Hikers can't roam wherever they want but only via certain available trails. They have to get permission to ascend the peak and hire a certified guide. In fact, these preventive measures have been introduced for the sake of unique local wildlife protection. The area is the habitat of such species as an ibex, bears, wild cat, steenbok, chamois and others.

As to the hiking itself, the peak is quite pleasant to summit with no glaciers or other serious hazards to overcome. At the same time, the treacherously changeable weather could be a problem. Late summers are particularly notorious for sudden thunderstorms. Avalanches could be a great danger while winter hiking. Besides, it's easy to lose one's way even with a guide at times of poor visibility. All in all, the most favourable season for hiking is mid-summer, when all snow has thawed, and also mid-autumn after the thunderstorms go away. Though hiking in winter may be a great excitement, some trails are closed during November and well into June.

Practical info

What is the ideal timing for hiking up Gerlachovský štít?

The prime periods for hiking Gerlachovský štít, the tallest Carpathian peak, are July-mid August, and mid-September-October. Trekkers should avoid late summers due to sudden thunderstorms and winter hiking because some tracks shut from November to June, with the danger of avalanches. Show more

What are the historical names of Gerlachovský štít?

Gerlachovský štít, the highest Carpathian mountain, has been known by many historical appellations. Initially called 'Kösselberg' in German, it was then named 'Kotol' in Slovakian, later renamed after Franz Joseph I, then Štít Legionárov in Czechoslovakia. In 1932, it received its current name Gerlachovský štít. Subsequently, it was tagged Stalin's Peak in 1949, reverting to Gerlachovský štít, or more typically Gerlachovka. Show more

What necessitates employing a certified Gerlachovský štít guide?

Certified guides must accompany Gerlachovský štít summit seekers, who should seek permission before climbing. Authorities impose these measures due to the area's unique native wildlife, with limited public access in its Biosphere Reserve. The wildlife includes chamois, ibex, bears, steenboks, and wild cats. The guides' expertise helps trekkers avoid straying off-trail or getting lost, protecting flora and fauna safety. Show more

What animals are native to the region surrounding Gerlachovský štít?

Gerlachovský štít sits in a Biosphere Reserve, with numerous animal species typically visible to trekkers. Some common animals include steenboks, ibex, bears, chamois, and wild cats. Visitors must use marked trails and engage certified guides to conserve the wildlife and their habitats. Show more

What factors should hikers take into account when deciding to trek Gerlachovský štít?

Hiking Gerlachovský štít. though not glacial, can be challenging and unsafe if not prepared. The weather is a major risk, particularly sudden thunderstorms prevalent in late summers. In winter hiking, avalanches pose a significant danger, and visibility becomes weak. Trekkers should prepare adequately for any potential hazards, be equipped appropriately, and carry necessary gear including food and warm clothes. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin