The High Tatras: Walking from Slovakia into Poland


When you think of mountains in Britain, you think of Scotland, the Lake District, Snowdonia, and maybe the Brecon Beacons. In North America they have the Rockies, and in South America they have the Andes. Asia has the Urals and the Himalayas. In mainland Europe you might think of the Alps, Norway, and the Pyrenees. But have you heard of the Carpathians?

The border between Slovakia and Poland largely runs along the main ridge of the High Tatras – Ben Towers

The Carpathians start west of the Alps and go east before curving south and then back west in Romania, and indeed the Făgăraş Mountains where Rob Wragge-Morley took some UBESters in 2014 are the highest mountains in the Southern Carpathians. However, the High Tatras are the highest in the whole of the Carpathians, and from the natural border between Slovakia and Poland. And I found them by looking at a satellite image and thinking that they looked rather interesting. Several months of borrowing Rob’s maps and books later, I had settled on them for my summer trip.

The Team – ask Sarah why I have a lobster on my shoulder (Tom Dobra)

The start of the trip had a few problems, such as having the wrong type of gas canisters and Alice’s bag to fix. There is nothing wrong with using old hiking gear, as long as it is still fit for purpose. When two straps snap or otherwise become detached from the bag on the first day, I would argue it fails that test. Having said that, the rudimentary repairs (tying the strap back together, and using a key ring to resecure the hipstrap) did then hold for the rest of the trip, and being new is no guarantee of survival, as I discovered when my boots fell apart on the first day of the Slovenia summer trip last year. Long story short, gaffa tape can be used to replace the stitching on your boots even if it catastrophically breaks.

The High Tatras are truly stunning mountains. We walked through wooded valleys, over grassy passes and past pristine lakes, staring up at the rocky peaks. The mountain huts we stayed in varied in location from wooded valleys to large bowls with beautiful lakes and even a short walk from the summit of a 2500m mountain.

The mountains varied in scenery enormously on this trip. Here is an example of the grassy mountains from the first day – Ben Towers

One of the amazing things of this trip was how cheap the huts were. In one we each paid €13 for one night which included a buffet breakfast. At another we were able to get a large bowl of soup and plate of goulash and dumplings for €8. Beer was rarely more than €3. Now if that sounds cheap, think about the fact that a lot of this food and beer has to be walked in on someone’s back

Talking about walking, in total Tom and Hazza walked about 127 km with over 10,000 m of ascent in 10 days. The rest of us walked less than this in varying degrees by not doing all the day walks or missing a couple of extra summits they went to on the penultimate day. As the crow flies, Zdiar and Zakopane are only 24 km apart. By road they are 36 km apart, or less than an hours drive. But these trips aren’t about getting somewhere quickly – if they were there wouldn’t be much to write about. They are about taking time to appreciate the mountains around you, and having the chance to relax. Many people find it odd that people like us go on holiday to come back more exhausted and tired than we started. But for me a walking trip is one of the best ways to clear my head and enjoy myself.

On the longest day we set of at 6 am, and were rewarded with this wonderful sunrise – John Naish

Now that’s enough about why I like this sort of thing, let’s get back to the trip. I’ve talked about wonderful huts, and amazing views, so here are some of them. I’m sorry if you came here wanting a day-to-day account of the trip – I’m more than happy to tell you, but with my writing skills that type of blog post wouldn’t work. I’d really encourage people to go to this wonderful range of mountains, and hopefully some of these photos explain why. Thanks to everyone who came on the trip for making it so fantastic!

Day 1 – The zig-zags in the centre are the path for the following morning – Cassia Copeland

At times the mountains were rocky and barren, as shown in the background here – Ben Towers

We encountered many truly stunning views on this trip – Cassia Copeland

On both sides of the border the mountains drop to plains, and the views towards them were incredible, despite the haze – John Naish

There were a few sections of chains to navigate. Tom is on a particularly hard section here – Cassia Copeland

Ben and Clara found some bilberries to enjoy – Tom Dobra

John Naish

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