On 29th of July, we woke up 0530 in order to go hiking to Polish Tatras mountains. We were going early because the afternoons are always rainy and it is going to be a long hike which takes a whole day. Also, it’s impossible to get a parking place and you have to park beside the road a few km away if you don’t go early enough. The starting place to visit Morskie Oko lake is located about 20 kilometers from Zakopane. There are also buses running between Zakopane and Palenica Białczańska where the hike starts. The parking is paid and costs 25 zloty, and entrance fee to the national park is 5 zloty per face. This time we decided to pay for the parking as well because we were reluctant to leave the car with all our valuables to the roadside for the whole day.
We started the hike at 0700 o’clock.
The local guy Evo gave some hiking tips to Kaija via Couchsurfing app and his advise was not to follow regular tourist route to Morskie Oko, but instead take a different trail, by taking a right turn and visit Strażnicówka TPN and the lakes there. This route enabled us to see more and also see the Morskie Oko.
At first, the landscape to the Strażnicówka TPN was really spectacular. We walked along a riverside until we decided to take a turn and go up to the lakes via a more difficult road which was basically only climbing stairs. This was physically quite challenging, but we made a lot of breaks and we tried not to be embarrassed about our bad physical shape when people were passing us. The beginning was challenging for Jaanus, because he was already hungry after 1 km. But the further we got, Kaija was the one more challenged by the stone stairway to the clouds. Nevertheless, we were both quite happy to reach the Strażnicówka TPN and to have an early lunch with an amazing view. We made 20-minute break to have some food before we continued.
From Strażnicówka TPN there were two different trails to Morskie Oko, one was shorter and the other was longer. Since we arrived at Strażnicówka TPN quite early, around 1000 o’clock, and the longer trail was running beside several other lakes we decided to take the longer path.
The longer trail turned out to be quite extreme in the end. At first, it was easy and very beautiful. The water in the lakes was very clear and there were several small streams feeding the lakes – the water from the streams was clean and suitable for drinking.
On the afternoons the weather in the mountains always turns to worse and it starts raining. First small drops of rain welcomed us when we started to get higher and higher from the level where the lakes were. We knew that Morskie Oko has to be somewhere behind those mountains, so we were wondering how the trail will be in the end because the mountains looked very high and steep. Kaija was so sure that there needs to be a valley which would lead around the mountains…
But guess what, there was not! Soon we got the answer. By noontime, we were quite high already (high in the mountains to be clear :D) and the rain was getting more frequent and heavier. It was raining for about 10 minutes, and then it was nice again the next 10 minutes and so on. The cliffs were so steep at some point, that Kaija was only walking when she could grab from the grass or rocks with her hands at the same time.
Finally, we reached to a point where you only could go further if you pull yourself up the mountain from metal chains. Kaija almost started crying and insisted that we must go back instead of going forward. There was abt 150-200 meters steep cliff with a very narrow trail with metal chains were to hold on to. One wrong step would have meant hundreds of meters falling, and it was raining. Jaanus managed to convince Kaija to continue. There was a couple with their 10-12 years old girl behind us, so Kaija though if the kiddo can do it, she can as well. We waited for the rain to stop and started to conquer the mountaintop. Jaanus went first and gave tips to Kaija where and how to step. Jaanus had taken indoor bouldering lessons so he knew some of the moves. At some point, these were very useful, because it got super extreme!
About 15 minutes later we were almost on the top. It might not look that frightening on the videos and pictures, however, for both of us, this was quite a challenge and we are proud we made it.
We knew that there were stories that people have actually fallen to death when climbing this mountain, but afterward, if we made some research, we only found some incidence before the chains were installed to climb this cliff.
The mountaintop we conquered was called Szpiglasowa P. And is 2110 meters high.
About 15 minutes walking we could have also reached Szpiglasowy Wierch which is 2172 meters high, but unfortunately, the weather kept turning into worse. There were thunder and lightning around us. So we decided to start declining to the other side of the mountain as soon as possible.
About 20 minutes declining and the weather started to get better again, however it still was raining after every 10 minutes.
From this point forward there was only declining til the end of our hike. It was quite relieving after long climbing and we felt perhaps too confident and easy going. This is because Jaanus was trying to make some videos while walking and fell several times.
One time he was quite lucky because he basically stepped off the cliff for a good video, but luckily we were so low altitude already that there were trees which stopped him falling further. This resulted in a crack on screen of his phone and a scratch on his leg. Lessons learned – not a good idea to make a video while walking, especially when on the mountains Also, Kaija slipped a number of times, but we were not able to catch it on videos, but definitely, it would have been fun to watch. We think our legs were just so tired from the climbing, that these things just happen…
By the time we got there, it was about 3 o’clock and it was crowded with tourists. Thereby it is definitely wise to visit this place early in the morning which makes it a more authentic experience. The lake itself is pretty and there is a chance to walk around the lake with no need for climbing shoes or equipment. We as Estonians were quite surprised that no one was swimming in the lake, but later we learned that it is prohibited because it is a national park and there are fish in the lake which is under protection. Also, local people use this water for drinking.
We had some food at Morskie Oko before we took our last 9 km leg back to parking lots.
We were glad we made our hike the way we did and not vice versa because from parking lots to Morskie Oko is asphalt road and it was much more convenient to walk this route in the end when our legs were tired. Instead, if we would have made the hike the other way around, we would have had to decline via mountain road which perhaps would have been more dangerous considering that our legs were quite tired in the end. Furthermore, we think that the views were also better when walking the route the way we did. In total, we spent 9 hours and 45 minutes on the trail and we walked almost 30 kilometers. We started at 0700 and finished 1645.