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Slovak porters – The last in Europe

Author(s): DW Documentary
Video Release Date: February 13, 2024
Video Source: YouTube

Delivery service in the world’s smallest high mountain range is still done the traditional way. In the Alps and other European mountains, porters have long been replaced by helicopters and cable cars. But not in the High Tatras of Slovakia. When loaded, the wooden carrying frames used by the so-called ‘Tatra Sherpas’ weigh up to 100 kilos or more. The porters climb up to 2,000 meters with their loads, supplying essentials to remote mountain huts in the Slovakian national park. Števo Bačkor is one of around 60 porters in the region today. Two to three times a week, the 47-year-old loads his self-built frame with firewood or food. With the goods stacked on his back, he climbs up the mountains to deliver them, come snow, ice, heat, rain or storm. The mountain huts of the High Tatras depend on the porters’ deliveries, as there are hardly any roads or cable cars. The high mountain region in the Carpathians is a strictly protected nature reserve and, together with the Polish national park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This film accompanies Števo Bačkor on his dizzying ascents. He falls into a meditative stride to cope with the exertion. Strength and courage are not enough – passion is also a requirement for the tough job. It takes him just under three hours to climb 1,000 meters, ultimately reaching the Zbojnícka hut at an elevation of almost 2,000 meters. ‘Reaching the top is always a special moment. You may be exhausted, but you feel complete.’ Some of the ‘Tatra Sherpas’ have already lost their lives on delivery missions through the high mountains. In memory of colleagues who have died, the ‘Sherpa Rally’ takes place as a memorial run every year.

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