‘It’s just a steep staircase’, I repeated to myself, under my breath, as I found myself 30 feet in the air, up a flimsy steel ladder, my vice-like hands grasped tight around it’s slippery metal rungs, slick with the morning’s earlier, sporadic, brief bursts of fine April rain, the mud and fallen leaves from my shoes, and the mist of the waterfall that plummeted into a frothing limestone pool to my left.
Mike and I were climbing the series of wooden and metal ladders, chains, and suspended platforms, that make up the Sucha Bela hike, in Slovak Paradise, a national park in eastern Slovakia.
What had begun as a shady, slightly uphill, and thoroughly pleasant springtime hike, silver sunbeams pouring lazily through the gaps between pines, casting intricate patterns on the mossy forest floor around us, had transformed into something a little more challenging – an assault course of sorts, in which you climb a series of steep vertical metal ladders up into a ravine, following a series of waterfalls of increasing size, the further along the hike you traverse.
Slovak Paradise is one of the nine national parks of Slovakia, protecting the Slovak Paradise mountain range, and it’s accompanying gorges, canyons, waterfalls, and caves. The park offers approximately 300km of hiking trails, varying in difficulty, a number of which are similarly equipped with ladders, chains, and bridges.
The hike was truly unforgettable, a unique and beautiful, though sometimes somewhat daunting, experience. Spruce, beech, fir and pine loomed above our heads, a jade green twisting canopy shifting in the breeze, as neon yellow and black fire salamanders slithered in carved away caverns and secret smooth-walled pools that were only accessible thanks to the ladders that we were climbing.
Bellflowers and wild lilies carpeted the forest floor, in regal shades of peacock blue and purple. Turquoise, monarch, and daisy yellow butterflies bounced, hovered, and tumbled, in the air around us. We lunched on zacusca and avocado sandwiches, and shared the four hour round-hike with nobody.
Here’s the full flickr album of our day climbing waterfalls.