Few pandemic plot twists during my last trip to Poland had me waking up at my best friend's place. It was September 11th Friday and I had no plans for the weekend whatsoever. I stared out the window at the clear blue sky when thought occurred – something I had in mind for a while then. I quickly checked railway connections and the weather forecast for the next few days and around noon I was on a train planning a solo Tatra weekend. Totally excited, I wanted to finally experience Queen of Polish high mountain trails – Orla Perć. I’ve been on it a couple times with my wife but we never managed to walk through the whole thing in one attempt. Anyway, making time in a train usefull I managed to book a place in Zakopane, quite close to the trail so I could start my adventure on Saturday morning without unnecessary rush. Mountain huts overwhelmed by weekend tourists seemed impossible to contact so after a few tries I decided to go without reservation, hoping I could find a spot in the common room.
After a few turbulences I reached Zakopane around 10 PM and after a quick shopping I went to sleep.
Although the phone alarm was set to 3:30 I was so excited I couldn't really sleep since 1. The plan was fairly simple – to avoid traffic in a few neuralgic spots I wanted to reach Zawrat pass, where the ridge trail begins – famous Orla Perć, as early as possible.
My small 15l trail backpack was waiting packed next to the door like a trusty travel companion. March was quite fast, refreshing and pleasant. Starry, clear sky casted a faint glow on a stone path. The higher I reached the less clothes I was wearing and more confident I grew about my pace. Shortly before 7 I was hit with an astonishing view of Western Tatras. Sun was heating up eastern Tatra slopes for around an hour now - it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Wasting no time I started walking the ridge east, along Dolina Pięciu Stawów. Orla Perć is a trail secured with metal chains – they play the role of banisters during harder parts of the path. Fascinated with the amazing mobility of my body during that walk, on the way to Zawrat I decided not to touch those metal constructions from the early XXth century during this whole adventure. To rely only on my skills, equilibrium, strength and inner peace. Orla Perć lived up to expectations. The view, rock texture, experience and focus it requires creates an unforgettable mixture of emotions that lasts for a long time.
After reaching Krzyżne pass for the first time that day I started to walk down. I was packed light and wore running shoes so just out of curiosity I started to trot. It took a moment to adjust my tempo to mountain conditions and slope after which I felt like a mountain goat jumping around from rock to rock. I came to realize I discovered something awesome, running down became fast and easy. Every leap was a pleasure, a kind of synergy between mountain terrain and my whole body. Skimming the ground and putting weight on each of legs for just a second felt like gliding in natural rhythm. I ran down to Dolina Pięciu Stawów and carried with fun from newfound synergy I ran further to Morskie Oko where I managed to find a place to sleep.
Morskie Oko Mountain Hut is a perfect spot to start an early climb on Rysy, Poland’s highest peak. And that was the plan for the next day. However, the fact that I never trained mountain running made itself felt after a whole day of marching, 2500m of elevation, 5h of climbing Orla Perć and 8km of running down. My legs were screaming in despair. Night in the mountain hut was no treat either. New tourists kept on appearing in the room periodically up till midnight and pain in my thighs kept me awake anyway. Around 2:30 after waking up from light sleep for another time I decided to depart. My body and my mind tried everything to keep me under the blanket, however the call of the starry night sky and mountain trail was even stronger. I started a slow and painful walk towards Rysy.
It took mere 15 minutes of walking around Morskie Oko for stress coming from lack of sleep and sore legs to leave my body. I was ready to move again and I felt that everything was fine and all my worries disappeared. High above the treeline, stars and the Moon light up my way. I could witness a magical palette of colors in the dawn once again. I reached the top around 20 minutes after Sunrise. The view was absolutely stunning, Slovak Tatras with Gerlach in the lead timidly peaking through disappearing with every minute cloud layer.
After finding a small rock cleft which was a shelter from the wind but wasn’t limiting the view I could really enjoy the moment accompanied by gusts of wind sounding in my ears. After a run down and quick breakfast I decided to head Kuźnice. Following advice of a mountain runner I met the day before on Orla Perć, I jogged through every slope or flattened area. Few peaks and passes later, when I was around Murowaniec mountain hut, somebody started tailing me. After we ran like this for a while, I asked if he wanted to overtake me but he said the pace was fine with him so we can keep going like this. I haven’t even seen his face but we shared satisfaction coming from our mobility and beautiful surroundings for a few more kilometres. When the narrow mountain trail changed into a forest path, we started talking about mountains’ pure magnetism and how marvelous it is to come back to Tatras after years of absence. That day I covered 3300m of elevation gain. I ended the day in one of Zakopane’s spas where I could release all the discomfort in a sauna and by meditation.
Another amazing solo adventure. This year I really learned how to enjoy this kind of travels. In my honest opinion there is something magical in spending time with yourself. Sinking in your thoughts, accepting your company and pushing your limits. I treat it as a way of cleansing accumulated everyday affairs as well as an escape. Planning your own travels without necessity to achieve compromise and having to wonder about others. A pure and selfish joy.