Please forgive me for the style, I'm not the best writer. Since there was no trip report from Orla Perć so far, I took the challenge to write up my story.
4th of August, 2007 - Escapade from Budapest
Nice sunny morning in the capital of Hungary. It's time to start, we have arranged to fetch the other half of our team in the outskirts at 8 am. We are ready to go, but the door of the garage doesn't react to the remote controller. Looks like we've got a problem... Maybe it's the RC malfunctioning. Amm, it's Saturday, and all my neighbors are still sleeping in the building. It wouldn't be polite to wake up someone just to let us out from the garage. But we have to be at the hut under Rysy by the evening!
15 minutes later... free! Half an hour after the successful escapade we meet the others, so the team (consisting of my friend Tamás, his friends Máté and Balázs plus yours truly) is finally together. This will be the first Tatra trip of Tamás's friends. Time to hit the road north. We stop for a short lunch on Čertovica pass in the Low Tatras. Despite the sunny weather, it's much colder than at home. Well, we're above 1200 m, so the difference is not surprising. As the car descends, the excitement grows. Partly because of anticipating the first glimpse on the High Tatras, partly because of the clouds that can already be seen towards our destination.
The end of the car journey is at lake Štrbské pleso /Csorba-tó/, where we get a good and safe place to park. The clouds are undoublty present in the mountains, nevertheless we hope for good. "We may get wet" - I say while changing clothes. Once set, we start the journey. Our plan is to repeat the "pilgrimage" that we have done with Tamás in the past two years: walk over from Slovakia to Poland crossing the main ridge via Rysy /Tengerszem-csúcs/ (2503 m), then try ourselves on the via ferrata of Orla Perć, and come back the same way. Six days without asphalt and towns, but with amazing rocks and tarns...
As time is up, we don't even stop at Poprad lake inn. Soon after, it starts raining - slowly, but indisputably. Allright, we've seen worse rains. But this means no pit stops until the hut. Passing the lakes Žabie Plesá /Békás-tavak/ we reach the short chained section of the route. Right here the rain changes to snowfall and the wind makes the cold even colder. While holding on to the ice-cold "iron rope" I grumble what a fool I am (knowing that gloves, raintrousers and other more appropriate clothing than summer shorts are buried in the bottom of my backpack). Going further up, the rocks get more and more slippery, and the wind blows snowfalkes into our faces. The Tatra makes a fierce self-introduction to the new guys, but they do well. I put my freezing hands into the pockets of my shorts and concentrate on the balance. We'll be soon in the hut... Finally the welcome board of Chata pod Rysmi greets us. Two minutes later I am busy wiping off the condensated vapour from my glasses inside the warm hut. We occupy our booked beds on the upper floor, hang out stuff to dry and get down to the ground floor to eat and talk over the experiences of the day. Arrived.
5th of August - Operation "cloud chase"
|For this day we planned ascending Koprovský štít /Koprova-csúcs/. This peak has been a bugaboo for Tamás and me in the past years - for one reason or another we had to skip it. Next morning the sky was so cloudy that we decided to continue the "tradition" and dropped the idea. Instead, a warm-up summiting of Rysy was planned later in the day. During breakfast the clouds began to clear up. There is no scientific evidence, but the children song (about sunshine) that Máté was singing, might have played a role in that. Nonetheless, the ridge of Satan and the Bašty across the valley got more and more visible. Inspired by the positive change in the weather, we were soon on the way to the summit.
Great views opened along the way: a dynamic texture of mountains, tarns and clouds invited the lens of our cameras. About 40 minutes later we were on the top. The whole Polish side of the Tatras was under the cover of a fluffy white carpet. Given that the next day's plan was to go there, we strongly hoped for the conditions to get better...
Then clouds filled the area again, and we headed down for the hut. After lunch the weather got better again. Two guys went down to relax around Žabie Plesá, while I climbed up to sedlo Váha /Hunfalvy-hágó/ pass to make pictures about Gerlachovský štít /Gerlachfalvi-csúcs/ and the rest of the peaks eastwards.
|By evening the clouds retreated from the Slovak side, leaving us no excuse to skip sunset photos. So we didn't, meanwhile discussing which route would we choose on the side-peak of Ťažký štít /Róth-Márton-csúcs/ if we were to climb it.
6th of August - Across the divide
|Leaving the hut at 6:30 am. A fresh start must be made, as there's a long way ahead. We need to be in the Polish Five Lakes' hut by 5 pm, otherwise our reservation will be cancelled...
Taking the challenge, in 20 minutes we sit on the top of Rysy once again, but this time with full 360° view (it took three years and about half a dozen summiting to have this opportunity). Chocolate celebration and panorama shots were obligatory. From here begins the steep descend (a 1100 m drop) to Morskie Oko.
|The first portion is exposed, but it's a good warm-up for Orla Perć. Iron chains secure the way for a while. It is possible to do without them, but if the rocks are wet, they are a big help. While descending, we meet some guys going up. Having arrived to Poland, Cześć replaces Dobrý den when greeting others. One of the the passers-by insists asking us something. We settle using German as a common language, though our knowledge weak. Something about the top and passports. "Ah, don't worry mate, there are no border guards on the top to look at your passports" - we try to tell him. Then I recognise a gun hanging on his waist, and at the same time Máté finds the solution for the behaviour of this man: he himself is the border guard! Funny that we tried our best to convince an officer that there's no passport control - sure we all laugh now, while unpacking our bags in quest for our ID-s. So was our first (and since both Poland and Slovakia joined the Schengen zone in late 2007, probably the last) mountain border control in the side of Rysy. We get registered via a walkie-talkie, and get a free way.
A few hours later, having passed by lakes Czarny Staw and Morskie Oko, we relax by the Morskie Oko hut. However, this is just a physical relaxation. The mass of people around Morskie Oko (oh yes, we do meet asphalt for a few meters) is depressing for the mind, so after some chocolates and other turbo-snacks we set out to climb over the ridge that separates us from the Polish Five Lakes Valley. This final part was a little controversial. While being happy because of going up again and getting away from masses of people (as well as anticipating the first glimpse of the Five Lakes Valley), we also felt very tired.
Even though I lost my morning stamina compared to the others and retarded their pace, we arrive to the hut well on time. What a day! Despite the tiredness, it is a great feeling to replay the day's "film" in the mind. Getting rid of our heavy backapcks in the hut, we all feel energic again, and take a little walk around the area to prepare mentally for the next two days' challenge: the Eagle path. In the evening, two of our roommates keep talking loudly even long after the lights have been switched off and everyone has gone to bed. Finally Máté takes effective action. Soon everyone is asleep.
7th of August - Orla Perć, Day One
|The previous day takes its sleeping toll, so early start is cancelled. But sun shines nicely, so good mood and excitement mix as we walk along the shore of Wielki Staw Polskie (the largest lake of the five) towards Zawrat pass, where Orla Perć starts. It's half past 8, Tamás and I show the ridge of the Eagle path to the "new guys" with wide smiles - yes, we will be up there in two hours...! Getting closer to Zawrat, the anticipation grows. We have told all our stories from last year, it's high time to start this year's adventure: hello red stripe, nice to see you again! The first section is easy, by 10 we stand on Mały Kozi Wierch, the shutters of two cameras are busy taking shots for panorama pics.|
|While doing so, we notice that the background is stacked up with clouds... It's time to go on, the real adventure is just about to begin at pass Zmarzła Przełączka Wyżnia, where the path gets exposed. Concentration increases, velocity does the opposite. Sunshine fades away, sounds of thunder are heard from the distance... The next time we get a view towards the southeast (at Zmarzła Przełęcz) we see that the clouds have stumbled over the Slovakian ridges and are heading towards us.
This ain't no joke, we have to get down from here at the next culoir. It tastes bittersweet to me: last year we had to leave the path at the very same point because of similar reasons. As the storm approaches fast, the bittersweet taste disappears, I just really want to be at Kozia Przełęcz and take the yellow stripe down. Finally we reach the metal ladder that leads down to the awaited passage. It's about 12 o'clock. Raindrops. We're off the ridge, but the upper section of this escape route can be nasty if wet. Let's go fast, but carefully...
|A little later we meet folks coming up. Two girls whom we have seen in the hut yesterday. Smile exchange. We discuss the situation with them, they're only trying to get through the pass towards Murowaniec hut. Okay, that's feasible, good luck and take care... Soon we leave the last chain behind us - the rough part is over, we're safe and sound. Sound of rockslide. Umm, maybe not that safe then, get further away before declaring success. Along the way we pass memorials... R.I.P. On the shore of Wielki Staw we bow the mountain: thanks for keeping us alive. Somehow I feel this is not just a theatratical action, but comes from the heart.
Back in our room we notice that our roommates are gone. No tears. Later that afternoon, the cease of rain invites us to take a walk to the nearby Siklawa, the highest waterfall of the Tatras. Orla Perć is still in clouds, we agree it would have been more than crazy to continue. At the same time, we agree in getting up earlier the next day to have more time for the Eagles' path before the noon storm hits the ridge. Our new roommates are a father with his two girls.
8th of August - Orla Perć, Day Two
||Early start accomplished, at 8 we are already up at Kozia Przełęcz, ready to continue the interrupted journey. This section is unknown to all of us. Weather is just like 24 hours ago. Ascending Kozie Czuby involves some exposed spots. Tamás climbs away from the chains and slips. Rocks fall but nobody is hurt. We convince him not to play chamois and continue on the ferrata.
40 minutes later on the top of Kozie Czuby - it's time for a chocolate, enjoying the gorgeous panorama. From here, an exposed ridge section follows, scary enough. Passing that, the path leads on wider rocks, so I begin to take pictures again while proceeding... Suddenly there's an almost vertical dropdown. This is Kozia Przełęcz Wyżnia, the last pass before summiting Kozi Wierch (the highest point of this Tatra side-ridge). The wall is much higher on the opposite side... but the path of the eagles leads through here. There are some steel steps and series of chains. The latter I get into trouble with: while descending, my hands start to slide. Increasing the friction surface I manage to stop myself but there are a couple of additional meters to do so. Gosh, next time I bring gloves...
Finally down, but the rest of the guys don't come. I just hear their voice talking loud, but can't make out what are they speaking. No way I'm gonna climb back up on these chains just to check out... Soon they show up at the top of the rock and we understand each other's word. A strange guy caught up with them and behaved like a bulldozer while on one of the exposed parts. My mates would like to let him go free but he doesn't want to overtake. I agree to wait and let this guy go. Soon this happens and our group is together down in the pass. Now comes the high wall... I wish I had at least one more arm to hold the chains while I am climbing upwards... Hold on, Kozi Wierch is just a couple of ten meters away... although vertically...
A few minutes later the inclination of the wall tames, and the route takes a right turn into crag. Great feeling. The bulldozer guy just takes the next turn ahead of me. A few seconds and I hear sound of rocks. Then some rocks take turn in the crag and bounce towards me. They're not big but fast. I am just halfway on a chain, in a narrow part... how nice! There's nothing better to do than turn my head down so that the helmet would protect it if one of the rocks will decide to hit me there. I warn the others behind me to step out from the line if they can. Then the rocks come and I feel like I am inside of a flipper game. One hits my arm, the others shoot by. No one else is hit downstream, good news. Fortunately the rocks weren't too fast and too big, so I survive the incident with a minor bruise. Let's continue, hopefully the bulldozer guy had his kick of the day.
Two more turns later, at 9:45 we reach the top of Kozi Wierch and enjoy the well-deserved view and chocolate. Of course, pictures are taken as well. The clouds have begun to gather, just like the day before. It was a good decision to start early morning... A short discussion follows about how to continue. We could descend comfortably in the side of Kozi Wierch towards our hut now, or continue Orla Perć further, but the next three escape trails lead down on the other side of the ridge, so we would have to come back via Zawrat pass then, which is quite a long detour. Going all the way to Krzyżne seems impossible, given our pace and the most probable wether scenario for the next 3 hours. The decision is to continue Orla Perć, descend to the tarn Zmarzły Staw via the black or the green trail, and come back to the Five Lakes' Valley via Zawrat pass. Soon after starting we meet our roommates. Smile excange, discussion about the plans and farewell until the evening follows. The route is like a highway compared to how it was like during the past few hours, so we proceed fast. Soon after crossing Przełączka nad Buczynową, the black trail stems out from the Eagle path, which continues with another wall-climbing section. This is where we decide to leave the red stripe. We had our share of adventure for the day and are also tired.
Not far from Zmarzły Staw an Afro-American man comes upwards. We greet him in English (he must be American) but to our great surprise it turns out that he's Polish and is looking for his cell phone which he had lost somewhere in the area. We wish good luck to the friendly man, and continue descending. By the shore of the lake it's time for some chocolate, but not much, as the clouds have already accumulated.
We leave the lake at noon and start the ascend to Zawrat. Meanwhile two or three large groups have also headed towards the pass, including a whole class of high school pupils. At the upper section (with chains) this causes some traffic congestion, but finally we get through. Up in the pass rain starts. Raincoats up, the rest is a walk-home-in-the-drizzling-rain project. At the feet of Kozi Wierch it's time again for the ceremonial bow. There's only one task left - pack together, as the next day we're scheduled to return to Chata pod Rysmi...
9th of August - Monsoon on Rysy
||The Polish Five Lakes Valley is one of the most addictive part of the world that I know, and it's always hard to say goodbye to it. We left the hut before 8 in the morning, but kept looking back several times until reaching the ridge that separates it from the valley of Rybi potok (Fish Creek). Soon after the sound of a helicopter broke the silence. It was going for a rescue action somehwere in the side of Mengusovsky stít / Mieguszowiecki Szczyt, taking several turns towards the Five Lakes Valley.
By 10 we were at Morsie Oko. The mass of tourists have just started to arrive, so after having some snacks and filling our water bottles, we started the ascend Rysy. 1100 meters and some angry clouds waited for us. The problem was with the latter. Soon after leaving Czarny Staw behind, rain started to fall. That is, to pour. Another tradition seemed to continue: this was my third time climbing Rysy from the Polish side, and the third time doing in rain. The monotonous wet ascend seemed to be endless.
About halfway the idea of returning to Morskie Oko popped up. Such a change would have turned our plans upside down, so we decided to continue as far as possible. Soaked to the skin, we just climbed silently further. Close to the top, the sound of a rockslide raised our adrenaline levels, but at least it wasn't thunder. Meanwhile the rain got tamed as well. To cut the long (and undisputably wet) story short, we arrived to Chata pod Rysmi sooner than it was planned for dry weather (looks like the rain had some positive effects, afterall).
As the day was to end (and rain was over), we decided to finish the trip with a farewell visit to the Rysy peak, in dry clothes, without backpacks. The mountain rewarded us with the interesting phenomenon of glory. Next day we returned to Štrbské pleso and drove home, promising to be back. Neither of us would have thought that only three months will pass until this promise got fulfilled. Anyway, that's another story...