1979 - Zbojnícka chata - Robber's cottage

At the end of June 1979, I came again to Robber's Cottage to work as a mountaineering porter. At that time, the atmosphere in the entire area of the High Tatra Mountains was very subdued. The reason for this was the crash t the edge of the Mlynicka valley of a rescue helicopter that was on its way to help a German tourist. Five members of the mountain rescue service died. The accident was the subject of every discussion. It was a really mournful time for all of us.

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Zbojnícka chata 1978-1983

The season in Great Studená valley was slowly starting. Other regular porters were joining the team, including Stano, Bruno, Marcel, Marián and Laco. All year long I had been looking forward to seeing them, as well as to all of the fun and adventures that form an inseparable part of the porters' lives at Robber's Cottage. Skiing at Buzák, chases in the valley with loads on our backs, common mountain hikes, evening runs to Prielom, kayaking at the Dlhé Mountain lake and the endless and philosophic night-time discussions by the light of kerosene lamps.

The first week of carrying is always difficult for everyone. The shoulders, legs and back suffer painfully. The body has to get used to such extraordinary exertion. Carrying the first load is not difficult, but the second or third day is really critical. I remember that I promised to write a letter to my girlfriend immediately after I reached the cottage. By the light of a kerosene lamp, I was only able to write a maximum of two sentences per night. I was so exhausted that I couldn't stay awake. When I read the letter after a week, the text was so odd that I had to tear up the letter. And that is how our relationship came to an end.

Mornings at the cottage were my favourite. Often, we were scared by a nosy chamois named Andrej who liked to look into the chalet from the outside steps. Every day, at exactly seven in the morning, female chamois came to show their young to the Sesterské Mountain lake. Marmot whistles announced the first visitors to the valley. I mostly enjoyed the morning ritual of bathing in the Starolesnianske Mountain lake, even though at the beginning of July half of it was still iced over. The cottager, Edo Záhor, took care that we were all well fed. Adventures were written into everyone's soul as if carved in stone by a chisel.

To be able to work as a mountain porter, you need to fall in love with exertion, solitude and self-sacrifice. No pride, money or title will help you to carry the load uphill. None of that works in the mountains. Only when you begin to feel like a dwarf compared to their monumentality, may you discover the most valuable human features in yourself: submission and modesty. Only these are necessary to experience ordinary happiness. A few sweaty T-shirts, hiking shoes and some mountaineering material - that was the only property I had, but I was surely the happiest man in the world.

But the porter's life also taught me something else that was the best school of life for me: Whatever one takes upon his shoulders must be brought to a finish. In those eight seasons that I spent carrying heavy loads to Robber's Cottage, it never once happened that I ever abandoned a load half-way up.


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