A Trip Troughout Velký Sokol Valley
Slovak Paradise is, thanks to its side-view, regular mountain range. So, you have to take into consideration weather inscrutability, especially precipitation, which could change, during couple of hours, from relatively passable water ways, ladders or wooden foot-bridges into quite adventurous survival, where it would be impossible to pass with „dry foot“. On the other hand, some consolidation would be that often overcrowded ravines become desert from masses of rejoiced tourists, when unfavourable weather comes there. Frankly speaking, these crowds of people cause delay, make noise enthusiastically, and enter, without any warning, into your photo-target, when you wish to make a picture. Of course, camping in rain does not belong to our popular hobby, but it it the best advice to start your trip in a moment, when the other visitors of Slovak Paradise peep out crossly from their wet tents, expecting the reply for questions of their children: „So, when we exactly get for the excursion?“
We start our excurcion immediately! Our target, Velký Sokol, is situated in distance of six kilometres opposite to river stream, partially also through Biela Voda torrent-bed. Following green marked tourist trail, leading towards, at first to impressive Piecky Valley, at Hrabušicka Pila community. Here, we can have a refreshment, but, on the other hand, we are obliged to pay a fee (EUR 1,50) for an entry to adjoined valleys. Nevertheless, we have to continue ahead our walk to the mouth of Velký Sokol (the next two kilometres), where we arrive to Sokol, left-side tributary (its waters gave the name as well as the character of the whole canyon). From the beginning, this ravine is wide and rather flat, we pass, following slow gradient, along hardened torrent-bed and Tajcha, great water reservoir.
After 30 minutes´ of comfortable walk in forest, we reach a place, where the ravine is becoming more narrow, and the stream is getting stronger. Till this moment, most of fords was passable with nearly „dry foot“. This fact is valid mostly during „dry weather“. Anyway, we have waded through, as we did not wished to solve a dilemma: (to go through with one foot (shoe) dry or with both feet (shoes) wet. So, we have chosen second variant and it was very good. Further, on cross-roads, we continue to the left, along rather steep section, where the climbing is supported with several artififial security devices. So, a romanticism begins!
After several kilometres of walk, across stabil or unstabil stones and balancing on slippery wooden beams, we reach finally Kamenná vrata (Stone Gate), narrow canyon, where most of difficult sections of this ravine, with many waterfalls and rapids, are to be found. Moreover, all such barriers are blocked by means of many fallen trunks, giving such places some dramatical character. Aged mouldering fragments of trees are bridged over with foot-boards, and some of them could serve as foot-bridges (however, they are frequently under the water level, during inundations), so they slide dangerously and make the path a character of real adventure. Anyway, as a most important matter, steady rain, below dense pall of trees, you cannot feel that it rains outside, and all this atmosphere of unrepeatable survival is made.
Moreover, you are here absolutely lonely, and this is really an uncommon appearance in Slovak Paradise! Surrounding steep precipices, overgrown with soft moss-grown, they are sharply cut with 300 long steep hill into Glac-Plateau. Nevertheless, Sokol-torrent is weakening, and our forces are weaking as well. We mount, and the foot-bridges and beams lead us subsequently towards several waterfalls. Small, Great and Cascade Waterfalls belong to most effective ones. Their surpassing will be overcome by means of metal ladders, firmly fixed into rocky massif. We master even lasst barriers and reach Roth Valley, which forms a conclusion of Velký Sokol Valley.
Small river (from the beginning of our trip) reminds rather big mountain spring. We are forced to overcome the last section, mounting, following yellow marked tourist trail, steep forest slope, which leads us Glac Path (899 m), i.e. sloping corridor for most of local valleys, leading back to Podlesok camping. From cross-roads, we turn to the left, for approx. 30 minutes, along red marked tourist trail, direction mountain meadow towards Glac -former gamekeeper´s lodge (990 m). However, we are forced to mount again, but this forest path will remind, after previous canyon, comfortable spa colonnade. Provided you entered before cold Sokol river bed, so, now is the right moment for shoes´ or socks´ changing. At favourable visibility you can enjoy from mountain meadows and from forest paths marvellous views towards Low Tatra Mountains, including dominant Králova Hola Peak. From Glace Peak, the road is sloping down, towards rather unpleasant dropping in curves not far from Podlesok. This way is quite difficult for our knees and ankles, so so called trekking sticks will be very appreciated.
After one kilometer lasting descend along steep slope, we reach a couple of metres from the entrance of a camp, but you cannot miss new reconstructed restaurant, where the quality of local meals will be very appreciated, as well as the healing force of local liquers will be valuated, first of all with Tatra Tea. Its 52% degree will be sufficient to warm finish of such difficult day.
Tour difficulty stage: middle difficult stage and quite difficult stage - according to weather
conditions and stage of water level.
Tour length: four and half or five and half hours.
Total tour length: six or seven hours.
Total surpass: mounting 450 metres, descend 450 metres
Basic route: Podlesok - Hrabušice Pila - Velký Sokol - Glac-Podlesok.
Next chapter will describe Prielom Hornadu, Kláštorska Ravine, you will follow a climb to Kláštorisko.
Text/Photo: Jan Chaloupka
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