September 3, 2008
(12.22km; 8 hrs 28 min; 947m ascent; 999m descent)
Last night there had been loud voices and crashing of furniture until 1:30 am, so we had rather a sleepless night. But we got up at 8 am to get ready for our hike up Rysy. For breakfast we ordered ham and eggs, but our waiter didn’t speak English so we pointed at that item on the menu. But apparently we didn’t point carefully enough, as what we actually got was one order of ham and eggs and two orders of onion and eggs. Rosemary got the ham and eggs, but it was quite greasy and didn’t really agree with her stomach.
It was nearly 10 am when we started out. The first part of the trail headed up through the forest, but before long we came to the junction for Rysy, which took us up a series of long switchbacks through rocky slopes. The grade of the trail was very reasonable, but it was very crowded. We were amazed at the number of people going up Rysy today. We passed by two tarns called Žabie plesá (Frog Lakes) and then climbed steeply up the hill. In one section we had to use chains to ascend, which caused a considerable bottleneck in the traffic.
Soon after that we came to Chata pod Rysmi (Hut below Rysy), a small mountain hut which was celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Here we decided to eat our lunch before continuing on, as it was now getting close to 1 pm. It was very crowded inside, but we squeezed in and ordered tea and hot chocolate. We could have ordered a hot meal here, but we ate the salami sandwiches we had brought with us.
After lunch we started the assault on Rysy. Outside the hut it was rather cold, and people were putting on sweaters and jackets. From here the final climb to the summit of Rysy was only about an hour. The trail to the top was a steady stream of people but before we knew it we were there. The top was really crowded, but we found a spot to sit and eat our apples. Rysy is the highest point in Poland, so we made sure to lean over past the border marker on the summit.
The views down into Poland were spectacular, and we could see Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw pod Rysami (Black Lake below Rysy) and the Białka (White) River and all the way to Zakopane. Strangely, it wasn’t as cold as it had been down at the hut, although it was rather cloudy. We stayed at the top for quite a while taking many photos, then headed back down along with the rest of the horde.
At Chata pod Rysmi we stopped for more hot drinks, and we also bought a stuffed marmot dressed as a hiker, with a woolly hat labelled “Vysoké Tatry”. He subsequently became the mascot for our trip. Going back down seemed to take a long time, but we had forgotten how long it took to climb up. But before long we were back at the paved road.
Rather than going back to the hut, we headed out on a walk around the lake with a side trip to the Symbolic Cemetery. The cemetery had numerous plaques and really beautiful crosses which had been erected for individuals killed in the mountains. Many of them were mountain climbers, but there were also soldiers from the war. It was well maintained, probably because people continue to die in the mountains. There was also a small chapel on the site with a brochure in English describing the cemetery.
We finished the circumnavigation of the lake and then headed back to our room. We all had showers and then went down for dinner. Rosemary and Matthew had schnitzel with fried potatoes and Paul had what turned out to be noodles with sheep cheese and a garnish of bacon. For dessert we shared the palacinky (crepes) with whipped cream, jam, and a delicious chocolate sauce.
Instead of staying in the restaurant, we went upstairs to the TV room so that Matthew could charge his camera battery. On the television was the quarter finals of the US Open tennis, so we sort of watched that while catching up on our journal-writing. Before going to bed we decided that tomorrow we would do a short hike to Hincovo pleso, the largest lake in the Slovakian Tatras. Then Matthew would drop us off in Štrbské pleso before he headed off to Hungary.