The autumn of 1929 — the story of two hikes

I was going through the documents of my great-grandfather, Lajos Frenyó when I found a couple of folded papers in one of the notebooks. I had already known that he really liked hiking but I did not have any material proof of this hobby apart from the photo used as the cover image of this post. That is, up until that moment, because these papers contained a very detailed account documenting two trips in the Tatra mountains. This post contains these two reports with my comments.

Hungarian version / magyar változat

Some points to note:

  • Since the original account is now more than 90 years old, the language was not exactly the same as today’s standard Hungarian; however, these differences are extremely hard to carry over to a translated version.
  • Sources linked in the text are in Hungarian or Slovak.
  • The maps were drawn as the best reconstruction I could create; they still might not be 100% accurate.
Hiking diary by Lajos Frenyó

Ďumbier, 2045 m.

Gyula Benkovits and I [1] left Rimavská Sobota to go to Brezno on September 27, 1929 at 3 h15m p. m. Arrival at 7 h30m in the evening. Train fare with discount: Kč 10·80, otherwise Kč 16·-. We met with an acquaintance of mine in town, who escorted us to our lodging at the state civil school. When asked, the school servant expressed willlingness to provide us with seats on a lorry that would leave town at 4 ha. m. the next morning. We had supper then occupied our accommodation and woke up at 3h30m a. m. The school servant was awake as well. At 4 a. m. he escorted us to a house where a truck with a trailer showed up in no time. We got on it and were in Jarabá at 5 h. We paid Kč 5·- p.p. to the chauffeur and Kč 5·- p.p. for the accommodation to the school servant as well as a tip of Kč 2·- (we paid the school servant back in Brezno as he did not join us).

Bystrá, halfway between Brezno and Jarabá, 1931. FORTEPAN/Ákos Schermann. Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

We began our hike on September 28, Saturday, on Saint Wenceslas’ Day. We hiked up the Kumštová dolina and walked past a salaš [a salaš is a farm-like summer residence of shepherds where they live next to their flock. Sources: 1, 2 — A. H.], which was empty, but some lumberjacks were waking up in their hut next to it. There is a small brook running into the main creek past the salaš; that is where we had our breakfast (6h–6h20m a.m.) After this we turned left and followed the left side (orographic) of the brook on a narrow path. [Orography is the branch of physical geography dealing with the formation and features of mountains. Therefore, from the hikers’ perspective, they were on the right bank of the brook. — A. H.] The path was quite steep until we reached the peak that joins Malý Gapel at the sample place as the stronger ridge of Velká Trojica. Up to the Malý Gapel ridge, from where we had beautiful views towards the High Tatras and Western Tatras. Nature was bathing in beautfiul golden colors. While Benkovits put on his jacket on the ridge, I continued in just a shirt.

We went down to Kralička from M. Gapel on the hoarfrost-covered northern slope and then carried on to the cottage. [2] Arrival at 8h40m a. m. The plumber, Mr Štefan Švaček from Spišská Sobota was there waiting for the fresh snow to thaw from the piping ditch as they still had to lay a few meters of pipes. The guardian of the cottage, Mr Robert Petrla welcomed us warmly. They were still working on the annex that would serve as a stable and wood storage shed. There were no other hikers there until 5 people from Podbrezová showed up; they returned home the same day.

Štefánik Cottage at the ridge under the Ďumbier. 1931. FORTEPAN/Ákos Schermann. Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

At 10h a. m. Benkovits and I climbed to the peak of Ďumbier. We arrived at 11h. The High Tatras were already covered in clouds. We rested, brewed some coffee then crossed some fresh snow and rocks until we turned left towards South in the valley under the Ďumbier. We sent some snowballs and stones rolling down the slope and later we sledded down as well sitting. We did not mind the fact that our buttocks got wet. We arrived to the lower end of the dwarf pine region where we sunbathed and dried ourselves for a wile, picked some borovnica [blueberries — A. H.] and brusnica [cranberries — A. H.]. Finally we returned to the cottage, where the kitchen was cozy and warm.

View from the peak of Ďumbier with Krúpova hoľa on the right and Chopok straight ahead. 1931. FORTEPAN/Ákos Schermann. Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 — “Its impressive cliffs are good-looking and the beauty of the full panorama from here is unparallelled. There is no mountain range in Slovakia that cannot be seen from here. Our attention is especially attracted by the jagged peaks of the Western and High Tatras but we can discover mountain range after mountain range, which then melt into the foggy plane of the horizon in the distance. […] The Carpathians are framed by the Eperjes-Tokaj hills popping up here and there on the East with the mountains of Gömör and Abaúj in front of them. Then there is the Vepor and Fabova-Hola (1441m) — the closest ones. […] The valleys and mountains of the Low Tatras rolling on below us, accompanying us to the lower end of the forests, to the human-inhabited areas, where the rivers, forever in a hurry, bring the greetings of the Carpathians to the Great Hungarian Plains.” — writes Dénes Fábián in Hikers’ Magazine (Turisták Lapja XLVIII/8–9, 1936 8–9).

3 men and 3 women came down from Ďumbier right before nightfall. They came from Demänová. Around 7 h30m p. m. the dogs started barking fervently, leading 2 hikers down from Ďumbier. It was a soldier and a civilian. We noticed barking once again, and a lantern on Veľký Gápeľ. And then 3 hikers with 2 lanters from the Bystra valley. Four of us decided to go and guide the ones on V. Gápeľ. They really needed it, it was Mr Zelenka and a woman. Tired, sweaty and scared, we lead them to the kitchen of the cottage. They presented us the story that a bear “barked” at them in the Mlyna valley near the springs. The woman started to run uphill with Zelenka behind her. They ended up heading towards the left, into the pine forest. We did believe them as a young bear had been spotted in the area a few days prior, which was shot at Štiavnická dolina. Of course the “barking” could have only come from a roebuck. We ended our eventful night with Benkovits with lots of laughing.

On Saturday, September 29 we woke up at 5h30m a. m. We set off again towards the peak of Ďumbier at 6h a. m, the five of us, because the mechanic also joined. I have never enjoyed better views from Ďumbier. There was a beautiful layer of air at around 1900 m a.s.l., the Sun was above the horizon. The High Tatras showed their astounding beauty, just like the Western Tatras. There were some clouds only in the direction of Orava. We were happy on our way down, sliding for short segments here and there on the frozen snow. We had breakfast in the cottage and paid the bill. It was Kč 17·10 in total (3 cups of tea, 2 shots of rum, 1 bread and 1 mustard, accommodation for 1 night.)

The peak of Veľký Gápeľ as seen from Ďumbier. 1931. FORTEPAN/Ákos Schermann. Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

We headed out towards the ridge of Veľký Gápeľ at 9h a. m. There were the four hikers from R Sobotá there and the two handymen who later left us to pick borovnica. We kept switching between the left and right side of the ridge, sometimes we walked right on the top where we did not need to cross because of the dwarf pine. We had an unforgettable view towards the triple peak of Ďumbier, Krupová hoľa, and Chopok from here and from the peak of Veľký Gápeľ. We could also see Malý Gápeľ, Babia hoľa, Skalka Tatranská, and Kotlička. Everything was swimming in golden colors; grey rocks and white strips of snow dotted the view.

Where the ridge of Veľký Gápeľ splits in two, we took the western route to the right, which was lower but longer. We walked through various types of pine forests until we found an actual path. We crossed through an area where winds toppled the trees then we reached a meadow through a cutting. At the end of this steep meadow a track road starts, where we took a short break. After that we moved on, taking a shortcut thorugh a convenient path. We left the ridge of Gápeľ near a saddle, arriving to a small valley which lead to the county road between Mýto pod Ďumbierom and Jarabá. We did not stop in Mýto as we only had 1½ hours until the departure of our train and we estimated that it would take us 1¼ to cover the distance. We took the usual route through the mountain, arriving to the station at 3h 15m p. m., leaving at 3h30m p. m., and arriving to Rimavská Sobota at 7h45m p. m. (Cost of train tickets: same as on the way there.)

This was approximately my 18th hike to Ďumbier.

Interactive map of the hike to Ďumbier. Not all details were easy to fully reconstruct, so it is not certain that this is the exact route. It is unsure where the hikers left Kumštová-dolinát or how they exactly reached Mýto and then Brezno from there, especially if they only had 90 minutes to cover approximately 10 kilometers. Therefore I chose a train station which is much closer and easier to reach.

Vepor, 1341 m.

We could not visit the stalactite cave of Dlhá Ves[3] on October 6, 1929 as visits are not allowed without a permit from the head office of KČST [Klub československých turistov, Czecho-Slovak Hikers’ Association. — A. H.]. This might be temporary, but it is also possible that this temporary period will last longer than necessary. But we could not go to Vepor as we planned instead either: we could not stay in the hunters’ lodge at Teplično on the night before the hike as they had guests from the Ministry in Prague. Therefore, we left Rimavská Sobota onboard the first train at 5h 54m a. m., arriving to Tisovec at 8h a. m. Train fare: Kč 8·80, or Kč 6·- with discount.

Somewhere on the Pohronská Polhora–Bánovo segment of the Brezno–Tisovec train line.
Somewhere on the Pohronská Polhora–Bánovo segment of the Brezno–Tisovec train line. FORTEPAN/Magyar Földrajzi Múzeum. Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

We got off the train at the main station and followed the Furmanec creek walking on the main road until we reached the Bánovo train stop [4]. We have covered 8 kilometers so far, which took us one and a half hours. We turned left on the first road into the forest, which ran on the edge of a field at first and then in the center of one. At 9h40m a. m., we sat down in this sunny field to have breakfast. The 12 of us (7 women and 5 men) got going again at 10h 15m a. m. The women were Mrs István Kovács, Piroska Hrecska, Gizi Gabnay, Dr. Edit Lange, Zuzka Pavlová, Mili Rosenberg, and Zsófia Frenyo [Daughter of Lajos, older sister of my grandfather. — A. H.]. The men: Andor Báthory, Antal Gabnay, Gyula Benkovits, Zoli Gabnay, and I.

We were hiking uphill on the left (orographic right) [Lajos writes “left” here, but that is not consistent with the rest of the account. — A.H.] bank of the creek. We did not take into account paths forking out to the left but we did not cross the creek to the right, either. At one point we did cross the creek by mistake and started following a really bad track road on the right (orogr. left) bank. We did not want to go back to the other road that was 20–30 steps away from us, but in the end we did. We finally reached the wide, grassy saddle on the main ridge of the Vepor mountain, where we took another break. This happened at 11h 15m a. m. We continued our journey 10 minutes later, crossing the Báňova, Rozsypok, and Varta mountains, that is, going up and down 2–3 times. After this we descended a bit on (or around) the main ridge to the east of Vepor.

There is a proper track road at the last saddle. We took a detour of 100 steps to the left here, arriving at the large meadow under the peak of Vepor, where a 2-bedroom hunters’ hut is also located with a sign on it saying “Under Vepor” [5]. There are pastures on the lower parts of this meadow; Uliczky is renting a primitive house and a barn. We arrived here at 12h30m p. m. We got water from the spring and continued our journey after a short break at 12h50m p. m. We returned to the last saddle, where we turned left. From here on, we were always going upwards with the exception of a few flat segments. Finally we arrived to the final and tallest cliffs of Vepor. There is yellow hiking trail marking on this path starting at the saddle between Rozsypok and Báňova (which saddle is quite flat, by the way). This trail marking was placed on August 29, 1929, most likely by the hiking association of Brezno.

We left the cliffs of Vepor behind on our left and climbed steeply to the sharp ridge, first to the lower, then the upper viewpoint, which offer a good panorama of the High Tatras, the ridge of Kráľova hoľa and the nearby mountains. We could clearly see: Lomnický štít, Ľadový štít, Fecsketorok [6], Slavkovský štít, Bradavica, Gerlachovský štít, Končistá, Zlobivá, Rumanov štít, Gánok, the quadruple peak of Vysoká, Rysy, Žabí kôň, Žabia veža, Volia veža, Hincsói torony, Mengusovský štít, Kriváň. Among the smaller mountains: Fabova hoľa, Kakas, Stolica, Tŕstie, Siniec, Ostrá, Hradová, etc. Ďumbier can only be seen here and there through the trees, it would be best to “behead” a few old pines there [7]. We arrived at the peak at 1h30m p. m. We rested, ate, made some tea and boiled some sausages, and enjoyed the view. Unfortunately, we had only a little time to spend on the peak, therefore we set off soon and started our return journey on the same path at 2h15m p. m.

Lajos and Zsófia Frenyo on a hike in the Tatras. Family archives.

We did not make the detour to the meadow under Vepor this time but kept walking on the ridge to the Varta, from where we had beautiful views of Ďumbier, Fabova hoľa, and Kráľova. We kept moving until our second rest stop, where we visited the spring and rested for 25 minutes. Finally we started our descent to the valley and arrived at the train station of Bánovo at exactly 5h p. m.

We had 35 minutes until the train arrived, which we really regretted as we would have much rather spent this time on the top of Vepor. However, we could not know the exact time our descent would take, therefore we preferred to leave early rather than late to prevent any haste, and we did not haste indeed.

Most people said that it is not possible that the short time between 8h a. m. and 5h35m p. m., that people coming from Rimavská Sobota have, is enough to get to the top of Vepor and back, especially with inexperienced hikers. But this was exactly what we did, since a large majority of the 7 women and 5 men were quite weak hikers. We did it, nobody was discouraged, everybody was happy and cheerful, with the only regret that we did not have more time to spend on the Vepor peak. The train left Bánovo at 5h35m p. m., and with a transfer at Tisovec we arrived to RSobota at 7h40m p. m. Ticket fare: Kč 11·- or Kč 7·60 (in two parts: 1·60 + 6·-).

This was approximately my 8th hike to Vepor.

Interactive map of the hike to Vepor. This hike was easier to follow, there is a waymarked trail to this day to the peak and the springs are also shown on the map.

I used the technique described in this video to colorize the photos.

[1] During these times, Lajos taught at the Unified Protestant Gymnasium of Rimavská Sobota; Gyula was a journalist based on my brief research ( 1, 2, 3, 4). Their passion for hiking — and presumably their friendship — was a long lasting one: ten years later, in 1939, when the Rima Valley Chapter of the Hungarian Carpathians Association was formed, Lajos was elected to be managing vice chairman and Gyula got the secretary position. ( Turisták Lapja LI/3, March 1929)

[2] Štefánik Cottage was opened in September 1928 after a four-year-long construction replacing a collapsed stone hut. Robert Petrla, mentioned below, was not just managing the cottage but he was also the leader of the construction works. (1, 2)

[3] This is the same cave system as the Baradla, which has its entrance in Aggtelek and Jósvafő on the Hungarian side of the border.

[4] The railway line between Tisovec and Brezno was built in the 1910s. There are multiple viaducts and tunnels on the line; two segments have rack rails to help overcome the steep slopes. The line suffered substantial damages in WWII, it was rebuilt but then closed down in the ’60s. Starting 2014, there is service on the segment near Tisovec a few times a year. Read more on the website of the line.

[5] This house exists to this day. “After crossing the ridge we arrive to the cottage built by the Rimamurány–Salgótarján Iron Works Joint Stock Company. This little hut is surrounded by ancient pine trees, located right next to a spring with ice-cold water under the cliffs of Vepor. We sit outside for a long time next to the crackling fire in front of the cottage in the quiet summer night. Afterwards, we sleep on fragrant straw in a room heated by the fire in the fireplace.” — wrote Dr. Endre Institórisz about this cottage in 1918 (Turistaság és Alpinizmus IX/1–2, 1918 july-august).

[6] I could not decode all of the mountain names; these are left in their original Hungarian form, shown in italics.

[7] „It is rather unfortunate that the pine trees popping up here and there among the rocks are blocking the full panorama more and more every year and that because of this we have to move around on the peak to see the full view.” wrote Institórisz ten years prior.

Originally published at on October 28, 2019.

Transportation Economist by training, currently working as a Data Scientist at Map and geo data enthusiast. Avid hiker. Personal website: