Polish Tatra's - Zakopane

Date walked: 20/07/2018

I thought I would share a few days of our Tatra fun on holiday last week.

We stayed in an AirBnB in Zakopane, which was just outside main Zakopane so cheaper and quieter – but only really worked as we had a hire car. Brilliant, basic place with a *stunning* view.
ImagePoland 2018 by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

Food was cheap if you cooked yourself, eating out was just a smidge cheaper than UK. Fewer English speakers through the week, so more challenging than being in much of Western Europe at times. Catholic country so don’t expect food shops open on Sunday afternoon when you arrive (ahem).

We had a car as there were five of us, but you can train down from Krakow and all around Zakopane are a set of minibus / taxi things, that you can just flag down and pay to take a journey. Makes on-way walks really do-able. Lots of cheap parking places when we needed (15zlt a day).

Zakpane and area is a ski resort, so lots of tourist tat, restaurants and ways of spending your zloty. The whole area in Poland felt over visited and straining. The day out along the bottom of the hills in Slovakia was a quieter experience, and so we would go there in future.
ImagePoland 2018 by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImagePoland 2018 by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

What is described as 'Gubalowka mountain' is in fact a street along a hill top of tourist tat and yummy food. I can't say we have seen crocheted thongs before though...we still did the tourist thing and I and middle_oab ate our weight in Polish meat from the many BBQ stalls...
ImageGubalowka by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
Image- knitted thongs! by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageGubalowka by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

Maps can be bought before you go – but are cheaper and easily available in Zakopane on arrival.

A warning – the Kasprowy Wierch cable care is really, really busy. The online reviews suggest 2-3hrs wait at times – we arrived at 9am one day. Big. Mistake. We bailed out the queue at 12:30pm with at least another 3-4hrs of waiting (confirmed by a family we queued with, who arrived at 9am and got a 3.50pm cable car…). Transpires that they sell pre-books without limit – so you can have multiple cars go up with no-one from the ‘turn up and go’ queue getting on board. If you are above steps then you have at least an hours wait, steps add another hour, each lamp post down the street another hour. First car is at 7am, and even then there is a mass of walkers heading for the queue, so every minute past 7am is another 5 mins waiting time. Be early. I repeat, be early.

A Slovak colleague had warned us before going about changeable weather – and I can see why. That said, it seems that cloud base was usually higher than Scottish hills, with a good warning of weather coming in by using eyes and ears. She was also very concerned about the difficulty of the scrambling – this made me more conservative than I should have been. I can see the thundery/storm nature of the hills causes problems, but consistently the weather was better than forecast and nothing more than we would experience in Scotland.

Overall: steep, rocky hills that had chains and ladders in places that we in UK would just scramble. Also the routes some of the chains took was not the naturally grippy/easier route, and so on a few occasions we just went off-piste…Over graded mainly, with a couple of exceptions. Don’t just stick to tourist route – there are more paths that that. Very busy near easy routes or the cable cars, less so on the Slovak side. Good paths (bigger/wider on Polish side), easy navigation with painted marks. Weather forecast was routinely worse than reality. Hot, really hot at times. Low wind. Reminded me of Skye on the main High Tatra range, the limestone elsewhere not so much.

We were overlooking Giewant mountain – the Polish ‘sleeping knight’ does indeed look like human asleep on their back. Clearly this was bigger walk No.1. We went direct up the red trail from Strasyska street to avoid some of the crowds – a good move as it transpired. A wonderful, steep limestone route up took us out of the trees, across minor scrambles and onto the final col. At the col we were greeted by a fair few people, who had come up the orange trail from Strzelców Podhalańskich or over from the cable car at Kasprowy Wierch.
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

Lots of beautiful flowers and views on the way, on what was a hot and humid day.
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

The last scramble up had chains (we did not use), but having seen the many others who were less sure, I can see why they are there.
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

Once at the summit we had a break, only to see *streams* of more people arriving and so decided to depart. A queue down the chains from the summit delayed us at least 40mins. Then the heavens opened for the (forecast) thunderstorm, thank fully we were bailing back to the tree edge when it hit – the hundreds still scrambling up or sitting having a beer lunch in t-shirts with no waterproofs were less lucky…
ImageGiewant mountain walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

Świnica via Kasprowy Wierch – we took the cable car up, saving legs, and headed out for Swinica with a couple of online guides in my head warning of steep ground and difficulties, especially if we continued along the ridge. Furthermore the forecast was predicting another thunderstorm at 2-3pm, so we were keen to get up and down asap… Easy trails full of families and sandal-wearing masses quickly gave way to rockier and quieter trails as we passed the tops on the way.
Świnica soon loomed large, and so upwards steeply we went. Some easy scrambling led us to misty summit (boo!) with occasional glimpses of a view below. We explored down towards Kościelec and Kozi Wierch. Both according to the map and guide were an hour journey for the 800m or less horizontal distance. They were indeed steep, and with the cloud and wind picking up we decided to retreat. Classically as we hit the col, the cloud cleared and we commiserated with a German family who had done the same. In hindsight we should have pressed on, for a nice loop around Kościelec and the Polish ponds…Summit pic - I am in Slovakia, Noah on left is in Poland...
A pretty short, easy walk then, which was not as difficult as we were told. Very enjoyable though.
ImageTatra mountains walk by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSwinica by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSwinica by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSwinica by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSwinica scrambles by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSwinica summit by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSwinica and Kozi Wierch by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
Furthest peak is Rysy - highest in Tatra.
ImageRysy in distance by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

We also had three more days wandering lower peaks and valleys – Sarnia Skala was a lovely spot, if busy. We also visited local caves and Wielka Staw lake to avoid the crowds at Morski Oko – but failed, as that was also over crowded. We also had a day out to Slovakia - the difference in architecture is so obvious.
ImagePoland 2018 by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImagePoland 2018 by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageSlovakia by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

My summary – brilliant, rocky and steep hills that reminded me of the Cullin, but very busy. I would happily go again…probably to the Slovak side. Nice beer.

ImagePoland 2018 by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

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