Return to the Tatry

Something about mountains is addictive, even speaking as a hiker (and occasional scrambler!): There is no better place I like to walk, and so it was great to return to Poland and the Tatry again, after a two year break (see here for the previous visit). The photography almost takes a back-seat to long days spent walking for many hours, but occasional opportunities present themselves for some creative photo-work also.

With my second visit, it is the same as a close friend describes meeting people: The first time, we are a little reserved, maybe, holding back until we see how we will get along; by the second time, we are more comfortable (always assuming that the first meeting went well!), and relax into enjoying the time together. So it was with the Tatry.

Starting in Krakow, it is an easy bus-ride to Zakopane, after prising myself away from the lovely, soft light there on that first morning in my favourite country.

Short time here with lovely light

Short time here with lovely light

Lovely architecture and colours

Lovely architecture and colours

Krakow framed

Krakow frame

Not wanting to waste any time, there is a short walk after my arrival. The hiking proper begins early the next day. Thanks to having experienced guides, including Zosia, I’m able to go off the main tracks, and attempt routes I may not have had the confidence for on my own. So, the first major route is to the High Tatry from the Slovakian side.

A place of remembrance for climbers who gave their lives for their passion

A place of remembrance for climbers who gave their lives for their passion

Autumn coming in

Autumn coming in

Heading up from Slovakia to Rysy

Heading up from Slovakia to Rysy

An ode to the mountains

An ode to the mountains

Kingdom of Heaven mountain hut

Kingdom of Heaven mountain hut

I’ve trained for this trip, so the long uphill climb and short scramble is not too bad, However, the mountain hut is a welcome site after the ascent. A walk up to the ridge behind for amazing evening light and some more creative photography follows, after large mugs of cake and tea (a staple of the huts, made with a mixture of fresh herbs).

Sunset on the ridge #1

Sunset on the ridge #1

Sunset on the ridge #2

Sunset on the ridge #2

Sunset on the ridge #3

Sunset on the ridge #3

Sunset on the ridge #4

Sunset on the ridge #4

I’m fast asleep by 8:30 pm, after that hike and contemplating the beauty of where I am. I’m also amazed that everything required up here (food, drink, gas, wood-pellets for heating, etc) is brought up on the back of someone, and heavy old-style wooden racks seem to be what is used: There are some of these packed up at the base of the mountain, with a note asking for any volunteers to carry them up to the hut for a free tea! Maybe next trip, if I get a little more fit. Anyhow, the early start makes getting up pre-dawn a little easier, especially after a nice man gets up to make coffee, and lovely morning light is the reward, along with a view from what must be one of the most scenic toilets in the world!

Early morning in the Kingdom

Early morning in the Kingdom

We are soon up the ridge and ascending Rysy, highest peak in the Polish Tatry at a shade under 2500 metres, with superb views, but soon others are arriving for those same views, and it is time to hike back down to the car.

View from Rysy summit. Worth every moment of the hike and scramble up

View from Rysy summit. Worth every moment of the hike and scramble up

Leaving the Kingdom

Leaving the Kingdom

Heading back down

Heading back down

Fortunately, during this week, there is only one rather rainy day, but we manage a short hike to a cave in the morning (camera gear safely tucked in the pack, where it stays!), before a drive over to Slovakia, to visit the same village I went to two years ago on a similarly damp day! I even create similar shots of the traditional houses there: Strolling around for more than a few minutes at a time is not that tempting, but it’s a lovely place to see again.

Slovakia in the rain

Slovakia in the rain

Traditional Slovakian village #1

Traditional Slovakian village #1

Traditional Slovakian village #2

Traditional Slovakian village #2

Traditional Slovakian village #3

Traditional Slovakian village #3

Traditional Slovakian village #4

Traditional Slovakian village #4

Traditional Slovakian village #5

Traditional Slovakian village #5

After that relatively easy day (and the preceding harder ones!), the muscles are fully toned and have ceased to ache, no matter what I do to them! So, I’m glad to be off on a classic loop around Morskie Oko and Five Lakes, which manages to not look like Wales all of the time, once the cloud lifts some!

Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko

One of the Five Lakes

One of the Five Lakes

I’m very pleased this trip to have conquered some vertigo I have: It’s not that bad, but got me a little nervous on the previous trip, whereas this time, I’m attacking scrambles like this one with some enthusiasm, and staying calm as I scramble up the slop, with chains to help on the steep sections.

A steep climb/scramble ahead. Think I'll have lunch one I've managed it!

A steep climb/scramble ahead. Think I’ll have lunch one I’ve managed it!

Worth the climb

Worth the climb

After the climb, and a sit on the ridge with superb views, and a little light snow-shower, a long, steady descent provides some superb light and a chance to play around again with some moody b&w photos that seems ideally suited to the conditions. The Fujifilm X-E2 is amazing in low light, and I’m very happy with both the results and the hike as the dusk deepens, creating increasingly more impressionistic images.

Descent to Morskie Oko #1

Descent to Morskie Oko #1

Descent to Morskie Oko #2

Descent to Morskie Oko #2

Descent to Morskie Oko #3

Descent to Morskie Oko #3

Descent to Morskie Oko #4

Descent to Morskie Oko #4

Descent to Morskie Oko #5

Descent to Morskie Oko #5

Zakopianin. ah my drug of choice!

Zakopianin. ah my drug of choice!

Descent to Morskie Oko #6

Descent to Morskie Oko #6

Descent to Morskie Oko #7

Descent to Morskie Oko #7

All too soon, the days of hiking are at and end, and it’s time to leave Zakopane for Krakow, with one night there before flying home (and the chance to catch up with a friend there), but am treated to a some snow on my final morning, one last treat on top of so many during this perfect week.

From t-shirt weather a week ago to snow. Last morning in Poland. For now.

From t-shirt weather a week ago to snow. Last morning in Poland. For now.

From t-shirt to four layers in the space of one week, and also feeling fitter than I maybe have ever done! Thanks to everyone who looked after me there, and made me feel so welcome in what must be my favourite country. Now, when can I get back there again? …

For the full photo-set, please visit my pbase gallery here:

http://www.pbase.com/pawsforthought/tatry_2015

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About Chris Senior

Photographer, wit, travel-junkie, MSc student and practising eccentric! Prog rock nut and baker of tasty cakes.
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