See What it’s like to Climb a Knife-edge Ridge

In the High Tatras of Slovakia, two climbers battle extreme winter conditions – with Vine videos!
Michal Sabovčík and Adam Kadlečík climbing to the top of the Vidlový Ridge.
Michal Sabovčík and Adam Kadlečík on the top © Jakob Schweighofer/2014 adidas AG
By Rick Rycroft

Among the famous alpinists of the world, the name Wieslaw Stanislaw is known probably only to a few. His home? Slovakia. His mountains? The High Tatras, a small range sitting on the border of Slovakia and Poland. It is, by many standards, a small range – known as the 'smallest high mountain range in Europe.' While altitude freaks may turn up their nose in disdain – not a single peak rises above 3,000m, and the entire range extends for only 50km – they offer serious climbing. To get a true feeling of what it's like to be there, check out these six Vine videos, and watch the full clip at the end of the story.

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Amazing Landscapes of the Tatras Mountains

In the early part of the 19th century, between 1929 and 1933, Stanislaw notched off over 100 first ascents, many of them in winter. It was his routes that Adam Kadlečík and Michal "Mišo" Sabovčík wanted to re-create – but in a different style. One after the other, in winter, non-stop. Ten different routes on different major peaks of the Tatras.

Michal Sabovčík enjoying the view on the peak of the Lomnický štít.
Michal Sabovčík enjoying the view © Timeline Production/2014 adidas AG

Their mission lasted 15 days through extreme cold and bad weather – proving to be be one of the most difficult challenges of the young climber's lives. The non-stop push meant there was no packing light – the pair set off with 25kg packs on their backs, including camping supplies, food, and climbing gear.

Getting Ready for the Expedition

They began their journey at the chata pri zelenom plese hut, followed by an ascent up maly kezmarsky peak. Using ice tools and crampons, they were often climbing on all fours, with very little protection.

Easy Climbing? Not at all

While the routes only rated to grade IV on an alpine scale, it was difficult mixed climbing in the truest sense. Granite slabs with few cracks for placing gear, loose, dangerous rock, and icefall – all with significant exposure – means that is no small mountaineering accomplishment.

Hard Places, Tight Spaces

In the Tatras, the biggest battle isn't the altitude, but the cold. The mountain range sits at the southern edge of the plains of Poland, and cold air coming from the north has a particularly biting chill.

The High Tatras Route

Take a look at the high Tatras © Sumic

Just one day after the 15-day traverse was finished, wind speeds in the High Tatras reached 240kph. “The cold was creeping slowly deeper inside of us. In the morning, we couldn't feel our feet and we didn't know if they would ever defrost again. Hours later the blood would return to our limbs.”

Bad Weather in the Mountains

In the end, there's no question that Mišo and Adam honoured Stanislaw's achievements in the High Tatras mountains – and also no questions they've made quite the achievement of their own.

The Feeling of Finishing

The entire trip is documented in a three-minute video, which you can watch below – and trust us, it won't make you feel as cold as slowly climbing your way past an overhanging cornice on a remote Eastern European mountain. Enjoy!

[Click the 'Play' icon below to watch the video]

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