How to survive a school trip

Just imagine having the Christmas holidays again. You are enjoying the time with your family by the fireplace, skiing in the mountains or just lying in your bed all day. But suddenly your phone rings. It’s an email notification from the headmaster of your school. What does the email say, you ask yourself? Well, it says that you should bring the hiking gear when you return to school in January.

But… your mind stops for a minute as you think. Something isn’t right. It’s winter. You don’t hike in winter. This must be some kind of a joke. The email also tells you that you are going to High Tatras. How cold can it be there, like – 15° or – 30°? Aren’t there polar bears living in that area? Who in their right mind would think that this is a good idea?!

Well, our school did. And it was actually great. If you don’t believe me, just look into my diary.

kolaz final




I think I should wake up. Yes, we are going to High Tatras today, but my bed looks more comfortable. It’s nice and warm, unlike the frosty windy snowy freezy Tatras. I have everything packed for the trip already, so I guess I should go. We have two classes before leaving for Tatras, but it shouldn’t be a problem.


I asked my roommate how he feels about the trip. In a sleepy voice he answered: “10 outta 10”. I wasn’t convinced by his answer  but he said that the travel by train should be nice while he has two books to read.


I am walking to school and it’s raining! I hope I won’t be  too wet when I get there. At least in Tatras we shouldn’t see any rain.


The classes have ended, people are taking their backpacks and preparing themselves to embark on the journey. The hall is full and it’s hard to move but it won’t last long.



The crowded hall was replaced by a crowded train station, but now we are safe and sound in the train, looking at snowy landscapes outside.


Our coupe is the best! Deep discussions,  jokes,  people stopping by and changing all the time. Proper community spirit 🙂


It’s snowing! So much snow! This is much better than the rain in Bratislava. We are still in the train, but not for long. It’s already dark, however, hiking at night in the snow shall be amazing! People are mentally preparing for the harsh conditions, hopefully no-one dies! When we get off the train, we will be taking a bus to Biely Potok.


The bus has stopped,  there is no more warmth for the next three hours. People are exchanging farewells in the style of “It was nice knowing you”. After a while we embark on the hike uphill.



We already have some road behind as we stop to rest a bit. We’re looking for a water spring but we can’t find it, so we’re just waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Only two hours to go! People are doing fine, the African girls are still smiling, and Lea’s answer to ‘how is the hike’ was “I’m loving it…not!”. However, she seems she’s doing fine.



The road is finally getting flatter, the trees are getting scarcer and we can see the silhouettes of mountains rising on both sides. Thanks to the moonlight and snow you can even see the road without a headlamp.


We see the light at the end of the tunnel! We see the cottage! Our hike is nearing the end, our backpacks feel ten times heavier, but we are almost at the finish line.


We made it! First batch of people has reached the cottage and is getting warmer inside. As our stomachs are still rumbling, we are waiting for the dinner.



The mountain rangers that were sitting in the corner of the dining hall started playing Slovak traditional music! Slovaks, and internationals as well, are pleasantly surprised and are enjoying the music, clapping at the end of each song.


People are taking showers, setting up in their beds and slowly going to sleep. We are sleeping in one big room, with many beds on the sides, but I like it. Hopefully, no one snores.



My alarm goes off as I slowly wake up into the cold winter morning. The fireplace in the cottage has ceased to give up warmth during the night, so I’m trying to stay in my sleeping bag for as long as possible. The hike starts in an hour and a half.


After having wonderful breakfast, we are posing for a photo in front of the cottage, the wind is quite strong and it’s snowing. I wonder if we’ll see the sky at least once during the weekend.



Our convoy has made it through knee deep snow to Veľké Biele Pleso. There is an option to return to the cottage for the people that are not really keen on hiking further, or there is an option to continue to chata Plesnivec, which should take around six hours. Even though my toes are freezing, I feel brave enough to decide to join the longer hike.




We are making way through snow that is even deeper. I have snow in my shoes (I think everyone has) but when you move, it’s fine. The track is hidden under the snow, so we have to make our own way. Thanks to one navigator in the front and one in the back, we aren’t getting lost.




We made it to the Plesnivecká cottage! The sun is starting to penetrate the clouds, the view is amazing, and we are enjoying nice hot soup and tea in the cottage. Finally, we can get at least a bit dry.




As we were on our way back, taking a different route this time, we spotted few deer feeding on some hay in the distance. I like being in the nature! If the wind is weak and you listen closely, you can even hear birds singing in the distance.


Now it’s just few hours left, walking uphill, but we are determined to finish the hike. It’s already dark, few stars are visible in the sky and also silhouettes of the mountains.


We did it! After almost nine hours of hiking, we are back at our cottage. I think everybody’s legs hurt but at least we are enjoying nice tomato soup and schnitzel.






All the students and staffulty are cramped in the room where we sleep. We are having a debrief on our weekend, remembering all the difficulties we have overcome and all the times we helped each other. It’s good to see all the people together.


As the last night of the trip approaches, people are slowly getting ready to sleep. Some of them are more reluctant to go and still enjoying conversations together.




Waking up today was a bit nicer, the hike down hill was definitely more pleasant even though my leg hurts from yesterday. After taking bus to Poprad, we had a nice lunch in the mall and then we went to the train station.


Jakub Kokoška

Student at LEAF Academy

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