September 5, 2008
(17.95km; 8 hrs 39 min; 1313m ascent; 1193m descent)
After a good night’s sleep, we got up at 7:10 am to start our day. Breakfast was included with our room, so we went down to see what was available. Once again it was a buffet, so both of us had muesli and fruit. This was the only place we had been on our trip which had had pain au chocolat, but it wasn’t a very good variety.
Today’s route took us up the Kamenistá dolina (Stony Valley) to Pyšné sedlo (Proud Pass). After walking down from the hotel to the trail, we followed the blue trail for a few minutes, then turned up the valley. It followed the creek up through the forest, which consisted of large trees to start with. We could hear chain saws in the distance. After an hour or so, the forest cover started to open up and before long we were in the subalpine zone. Wild raspberries beside the trail were ripe and plentiful, with a perfumed flavour. There was a sign telling us that we were in bear country, and another telling us that we were in chamois country.
Nearer the pass we climbed steeply again, all the while with the wind blowing very strongly. At times the wind was strong enough to blow us off the trail! At the pass we found a somewhat sheltered place to eat lunch. Then we started along the ridge towards Blyšť, trying not to be blown off the cliff into Poland. The climb up Blyšť was very difficult, both because it was very steep and also because we couldn’t tell how high we had to climb. The trail marker at the pass had said it would take half an hour to do the climb, but with the wind and the steepness it took us over an hour.
Finally at the high point we found the red trail marker. Then we had to plunge down the equally steep path on the other side. It consisted of loose rocks, so the going was quite slow. From there we cruised along the ridge to Gaborovo sedlo, known as Raczkowa Przełęcz in Poland, still in the strong wind.
Now we turned right into Poland. We started along the Ornak ridge, which we had been able to see for some time. The broad trail along the top of the ridge had looked like a super-highway and we thought it would be a great ridge walk. But once again it turned out to be much more difficult than we had thought. We climbed over three small peaks, one of which was very rocky and rather difficult to negotiate. We still had the wind, and then at the end of the ridge we started a precipitous plunge down the hill, dropping over 1000 metres from the pass. The trail here was built out of large blocks of rock, which were essentially like stone steps. In some ways that was better than a steep dirt path, but stepping down hundreds of stone steps was very hard on the legs.
Finally we came back down into the forest and then to the trail junction at Iwaniacka Przełęcz. By now it was 4:40 pm; our reservation at Schronisko na Hali Ornak (Ornak Meadow Hut) was only good until 5 pm, according to the e-mail we had received. The directional sign said it would take 55 minutes to get there, so we knew we would not be there by 5 pm. We were hoping the deadline would not be too strict, but Paul hurried ahead as quickly as possible. On this part of the trail many of the rocks were shiny black ones which were slippery if you didn’t watch out. At the bottom of the hill there was a wooden rail fence and sure enough, just around the corner there was the hut. What a wonderful sight to see!
Paul had arrived at 5:20 and secured our room, and when Rosemary arrived 15 minutes later we finished checking in and went up to our seven-bed room, Room 4. Boy, did it feel good to get our boots off!
We looked around a bit and organized our gear. The hut is two floors high, with all the sleeping areas upstairs and the dining area and bar downstairs. We both ordered goulash for dinner, which was very good. Although not Hungarian. After dinner we sat and chatted to two British men at the next table, who were actually planning to hike to Podbanské tomorrow. Bedtime was early tonight, as both of us were tired. Hopefully our roommates wouldn’t be up too late.