Zakopane, Poland

Finding our way through the Tatra Mountains

By Sergio Camalich

You know that feeling you get when you’re certain you’re about to do something stupid? That beeping sound in your head—your instinct telling you to get the hell out of there, you dumbass.

Well, that was me at almost 2,000 meters above sea-level, as we were deciding whether we should continue walking forwards over the Tatra Mountains ridge line and risk not finding the pass that would take us back down to safety or walk all the way back to where we came from—almost 3 hours behind us and with less than 2 hours of sunlight.

Once again, this was turning into an ignore-your-instinct situation.

Tatra Mountains in Zakopane, Poland.The Tatra Mountains love to hear you cry…

I’m not ashamed to admit that the first time I heard of Zakopane was through Tinder—Hey! Since I started this trip, it has worked better than Lonely Planet and Couchsurfing combined.

But I digress…

The first thing they did at the cozy Good Bye Lenin hostel was inform us about all the cool and “easy” hikes we could do around the Tatra National Park, which included a 7-hour circuit up to the Kasprowy Wierch, then following the ridge line for a couple of hours before starting the climb down.

Kasprowy Wierch

To start our hike, we first had to get to Kuznice as early as we could, since the Sun sets around 3:30pm at this time of year.

Once there, it was a moderate walk up, for the most part of the hike, following the perfectly-marked trail, until we started to get to the mid-section of the mountain and started encountering icy patches and slippery rocks on almost every step.

Going up the Kasprowy Wierch

Everywhere I looked was either green or white and in spite of the load we were carrying in our backs, we still gave ourselves some time to stop and take pictures for as long as we wanted.

After almost 3 hours of pain, sweat and troubles adjusting to the decreasing temperature while my body heated up more and more, we made it to the top of Kasprowy, where dozens of tourists awaited for us after riding the lift that took them from bottom to top in less than 30 minutes.

Very anti-climatic, to be honest.

Here comes the ridge!

We started walking westward towards Goryczkowa Czuba—the next peak in our hike—and as soon as we reached the ridge, clouds started covering us all over, blocking the view from both sides of the mountain.

Panoramic view from the top of the Tatra Mountains
Panoramic view from the top of the Tatra Mountains

At this moment, we were right in the middle of the border between Poland and Slovakia.

We kept finding markers along the way, so we knew we were on the right path. But every marker was getting harder and harder to find. We even reached a point where we actually had to dig up the markers.

And although our map said only 1:40 hours before getting to the pass, the time came with no sign of any other trail.

Completely frozen markerCompletely frozen marker

After walking silently for a while, we stopped and calculated our options.

Walking back was out of the question, since it would take us longer and the sun was starting to set, so our only option was to keep pressing and find our way to the small little trail we could see going down the mountain.

Still a long shot, but definitely doable and a way better option than getting stranded at night, almost 2,000 meters high.

Semi-lost on top of the Tatra MountainsTrying to find a way out of here

I’m not gonna lie, I was chickening out at this point. It was my first real experience with snow and ice and these assholes(not true, Michael and Alex) were keeping me on top of this huge mountain at -1000000 Celsius.

Why do you hate me so much?

Luckily, we were right with our guess and the trail started going down until we reached the sign we were looking for.

Of course, it was not going to be an easy way out.

The whole trail was frozen, cracking under our feet, with nothing but a 1,000 free fall to our side.

Wanna go? Let’s go!

And so we started sliding down for the most part of the descent. Thankfully, I have my travel insurance, in case anything happens. Wait…

Going down the Tatra MountainsWhat travel insurance?

We were going down so fast that it took us around 30 minutes, instead of the whole hour it was supposed to.

Once we were back on safe ground, our shoes frozen from the cold, we still had to walk back to civilisation before we missed the last bus back to Zakopane.

In a last effort to kill us, the Tatra Mountains played their last joke: the whole trail was completely frozen, forcing us to walk the whole way down like baby deers learning how to walk.

Frozen shoesI’m not exaggerating about the frozen shoes

Things I learned that day? Never trust a Polish when they tell you that a hike is “pretty easy”, always wear crampons when walking on ice, don’t pee on top of a mountain while facing the wind and never ever ever bite a frozen tomato.

Tatra MountainsI’ll be back!

More pictures from the top of the Tatra Mountains

On the way up to Kasprowy WierchGoing up the Tatra Mountains From the top of Kasprowy WierchOnce again, on top of the clouds Engulfed by cloudsEngulfed by clouds On top of the ridge ling of the Tatra MountainsOn top of the ridge line Digging up a markerDigging up a marker Chamois on top of the Tatra MountainsA group of Chamois we found a long the way

  • Sergio Camalich

    quite an experience dude!!! awesome!!!

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