High but not dry
An account from under a boulder.
After the night in the forest, we changed our plans, and decided to take the long alternative to Świnica (Shveeneetsa - sharp/pig peak), up Dolina Pańszczyca (Doleena Pan(y)shchi(h)tsa), between Żółta Turnia (J(e)oowta Toornia) and Koszysta (Koshi(h)sta). As we realised, it would have been a bad choice to use the Świnica route, as negotiating Świnica with our packs would have taken far too long and caused far too much pain, probably needing us to use the rope for hoisting them, while competing with tourists for the use of the chains. Add to that the fact that the cloudbase was well down on the mountains, and it had already rained in the morning, and it was a sensible choice to avoid Świnica. We wouldn't have seen anything from up there anyway.
- After crossing the rib at the end of Żółta Turnia, and laughing at the tourist damer who was carrying her belongings in a giant hand-held carpet bag (!), we entered Dolina Pańszczyca. The name sounds a lot like "Valley of the pile-of-shitsa" and that is quite appropriate. Normally it would be surrounded by jagged peaks, but the floor is an immense boulder field, extending 2 km to the end of the valley. Great terrain if you know what you are doing (which I do) and you are allowed to walk on it, but even the kosówka (kosoofka) is struggling by the end.
- Orla Baszta (Orla Bashta - Bastion of the Eagles - 2177 metres). As far as I can tell, the little lumps beside it are Orle Turniczki (Orle Toorny'eechkee).
- Czerwony Staw (Chervoni(h) Staf - Red Lake), reflecting Koszysta. The salmon-coloured tint on the rocks seems to be a desposit produced by the red lichens that inhabit the rocks higher up the valley.
- Rocks on Koszysta.
- Rock pinnacles on Wielka Kopka (Vee'elka Kopka - 1856 metres).
- For a moment, the cloud lifts, and shows the head of the valley. The largest cliff is about 300 metres - see the train of walkers for scale (there are also two further up the path, but they are quite hard to see at this distance). Guess where the path goes. The ridge shows the edge of Waksmundzki Wierch (Vaksmoondzkee Vee'erh - 2189 metres), the pass of Przełęcz Krzyżne (Pshew'ew(n)ch Kshi(h)j(e)ne - 2112 metres), Kopa nad Krzyżnem (Kopa nad Kshi(h)j(e)nem), Ptak (The Bird [looks like the offensive kind] - 2150 metres), Mała Buczynowa Turnia (Mawa Buchi(h)nova Toornia - 2172 metres), Wielka Buczynowa Turnia (Vee'elka Buchi(h)nova Toornia - 2184 metres), the pass of Przełęcz Nowickiego, then the jagged sawteeth of Buczynowe Czuby (Buchi(h)nov'e Choobi(h)), the pass of Pościel Jasińskiego (Poshchel Yasheen(y)skee'eg'o - Bedsheets of Jasiński) and finally the clouds covering the very edge of Orla Baszta.
- View labelled image.
- A few moments after allowing the last picture, the cloud dropped, and the visibility dropped with it. We walked on towards the path leading steeply up the couloir to Przełęcz Krzyżne.
- At the end of the scree in the couloir is the bare rock, and the path continues up that. At least the Tatry national parks do not treat their visitors as completely incapable the way some other national parks do - there are places where visitors have to get their hands dirty. Even carpet-bag-girl had to climb this. One handed. With her stupid carpet bag in her other hand.
- Looking down Pańszczyca from Przełęcz Krzyżne, towards Wierch pod Fajki (Vee'erh pod Faykee - 2124 metres) and Żółta Turnia (2087 metres).
- Looking from Przełęcz Krzyżne along Orla Perć (Orla Perch - Eagle's Path), towards Ptak. The Eagle's Path is the only properly named route in Tatry, and consists of plenty of climbing along the ridge, all the way to Świnica (though due to the difficulty of one part, it can only be done in the opposite direction).
- Wielki Wołoszyn (Vee'elki Vowoshi(h)n - 2155 metres), the tallest of the Wołoszyn peaks, and once part of the Eagle's Path (that end has been discontinued as it leads through bear country).
- After gaining the height on the slow ascent, we lost it all again on the other side, with this steep, winding path down Żleb pod Krzyżnem (J(e)lep pod Kshi(h)j(e)nem). We were nearly at basecamp, and would soon be able to offload our heavy packs, which we had been carrying for the last 4 days.
- Finally the clouds lift. In front of us are Opalony Wierch (Opaloni(h) Vee'erh - 2115 metres) and Miedziane (Mee'edja'ne - Copper - 2233 metres). The bottom of the valley is Dolina Roztoki (Doleena Roztokee), and the upper bench is the start of the hanging valley Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich (Doleena Pee'ew(n)choo Stavoof Polskeeh - Valley of the Five Polish Lakes - normally referred to as "Five Lakes"). The Przedni Staw Polski (Pshedny'ee Staf Polskee - Front Polish Lake) and Wielki Staw Polski (Vee'elkee Staf Polskee - Great Polish Lake) lakes are visible here, with the nearest shelter being at the top of the steep path by the first lake. Wielki Staw Polski is the deepest lake in Tatry, at 79.3 metres.
- Base camp, with all the mod cons: master bedroom (sleeps 2.5, bring sleeping bags), spare bedroom (sleeps 0.5), kitchen (bring cooker), lighting (bring candles), cupboard (drystone wall), toilet (kosówka)...
- ...Running water (stream), shower (waterfall), bath (plunge pool)...
- ...A room with a view (White Tatry and the edge of High Tatry).
- Świstowa Czuba (Whistler Crag - 1763 metres) and cliff, named after the marmots that live there (whistlers being the polish name for them). The cliff is around 250 metres high.
- Needles on the Opalone (Opalo'ne) ridge.
- A great view of White Tatry and High Tatry, taken from under the boulder. White Tatry on the left: Hawrań (Havran(y) - 2152 metres, tallest in White Tatry), Płaczliwa Skała (Pwachleeva Skawa - Cry Baby - 2142 metres), Szeroka Przełęcz (Sheroka Pshew'ew(n)ch - Wide Pass - 1826 metres - the old border between Poland and Hungary, and only trail through the main White Tatry), Szalony Wierch (Shaloni(h) Vee'erh - Crazy Peak - 2061 metres) and Bujaczy Wierch (Booyachi(h) Vee'erh - 1947 metres) almost hidden in the cloud.
Then the far plane of High Tatry:
Jagnięcy Szczyt (Yagnyew(n)tsi(h) Shchi(h)t - 2230 metres, the last peak in High Tatry) just peering over the ridge, the main peak Lodowy Szczyt (Lodovi(h) Shchi(h)t - 2627 metres), Lodowa Kopa (Lodova Kopa - 2611 metres [misquoted as 2602]) with Mały Lodowy Szczyt (Mawi(h) Lodovi(h) Shchi(h)t - 2462 metres) hidden in the cloud, then the ridge of Jaworowy Szczyt (Yavorovi(h) Shchi(h)t - 2418 metres), Mały Jaworowy Szczyt (Mawi(h) Yavorovi(h) Shchi(h)t - 2380 metres), Graniasta Turnia (Granee'asta Toornia - Bulky Rectangular Needle - 2226 metres) and Świstowy Szczyt (Shveestovi(h) Shchi(h)t - 2383 metres).
Then the nearer plane of High Tatry:
Świstowa Gora (Shveestova Gora - 2070 metres) to the right of Jagnięcy Szczyt, Szeroka Jaworzynska (Sheroka Yavoj(e)i(h)nska - 2210 metres), Zielona Czuba (Zee'elona Chooba - Green Crag - 2130 metres), Zielony Wierch Jaworowy (J(e)eloni(h) Vee'erh Yavorovi(h) - 2174 metres) and Żabi Wierch Jaworowy (J(e)abee Vee'erh Yavorovi(h) - Jaworowy's Frog Peak - 2203 metres).
- View labelled image.
- Lodowy Szczyt.
- Sawtooth crags on the slopes of Buczynowa Turnia.
- Unfortunately, the roof of the accomodation leaks a bit. Early that night, we were woken by the rain. Not just a small shower, but heavy, thundering rain. It showed the limitations of our shelter. Very few places can cope with this sort of downpour, and under the circumstances, it was doing very well, but the water was landing on all of our bags, and our feet. It began to pond up in the floor, and our carry mats began to float, while our sleeping bags started to soak up the water. We reshuffled, and ended up uncomfortably propped up with the stones trying to work the knots out of our backs.
- The morning gave us a very brief spell of clear view, and we could see Five Lakes Valley.
- Wielka Siklawa (Vee'elka Siklava - Great Waterfall). At 70 metres tall, this is the highest waterfall in Tatry, and highest in Poland, draining Wielki Staw Polski.
- The ridge of Kotelnica (Koteln(y)eetsa - about 2000 metres) at the end of the valley.
- But then Sauron extended his arm, and the clouds closed in again, and remained closed in. Rain, fog so thick we could see it in front of our faces, more rain, more fog with 5 metres visibility, some crags appear, then disappear again, more rain. We looked at the underside of that boulder, with very little change, waiting for the clouds to lift enough for us to see something or go somewhere. Try looking at this photo for 2 solid days, and you will perhaps get a feeling of what it was like.
- Yep, still the same. After the next night passed much like the first, we had to admit defeat. The weather was not going to let up. Even if there was one clear day, it would not be enough to dry the mountains, so climbing a proper peak would still be too risky. Rain of this duration is totally wrong for August. Blame the orcs in Mordor for burning too much oil.
- We decided to spend a night at the nearby shelter; a true highlander shelter, where all are welcome, even if the only available space is on the floor. As we crossed the valley from the boulder to the shelter, the whole place was in spate. Every turn in the path revealed yet another flood waterfall or spring, with the streams flooding along the path, and down the valley side. Ahead of us, the mountain ridge loomed out of the fog, with the clouds rising on the cliffs like the Ash Mountains of Mordor. Our path then sank below the water as we reached the Dead Marshes.
I found it. I did. The way through the marshes. Orcs don't use it. Orcs don't know it. They go round for miles and miles.
- I like to feel I am tough, and I know I would enjoy a normal stay under the boulders, but after the rain, seeing this shelter was a relief. Somewhere to have a wash, a dry bed, and a meal of bean soup, and apple pie.
- When we arrived, we booked a room, or half a room, without any trouble. Not many people were mad enough to be in the mountains in this weather.
- Ok, I tell a lie, there were still enough mad tourists. I point out the polythene bag coat, the soaking jeans that will soon be removing skin from very delicate places, and the plimsolls with no grip. Perhaps you may also be able to tell that she is using a mobile phone to have an SMS conversation while she walks along the path (that's why similarly equipped boyfriend has managed to get ahead - and no, he is not peeing in the lake).
- Duck on Przedni Staw Polski.
- The winch used to lift the kitchen and shop supplies from the valley below.
- Love the style of the shelter, especially the wonky roof with perfect tiles.
- In the morning, the weather had improved. Mountains were visible on one side of the valley, but we had already cancelled the trip, and thrown away the food we did not need. Our carrymats had expired in the quagmire under the boulder. We had to remain in the shelter from now on, and did not have enough supplies or money for more than 2 days. Over Przedni Staw Polski is the main ridge of Opalony Wierch and Miedziane, followed by Szpiglasowy Wierch (Shpeeglasovi(h) Vee'erh - 2172 metres), then the double bump of Wyżni Liptowski Kostur (Vi(h)j(e)nyee Leeptofskee Kostoor - 2083 metres) and Niżni Liptowski Kostur (Nyeej(e)nyee Leeptofskee Kostoor - 2055 metres), and the ridge of Kotelnica.