One of the presentes I have found under Christmas tree were crampons. Therefore I had to figure out, where I should test them. I have not been in High Tatras for a while, but in winter most of the hiking path are closed for regular hikers. For that reason I went to Rysy (2 499 m / 8 199 ft.), highest summit in Poland and descended to Strbske Pleso. At least that was original idea. Whole hike should be done in about 9,5 hours. My guess is that we will be able to do it in 10 hours in winter conditions. I am sure that last part from Popradske pleso too Strbske pleso we will walk in dark, using our headlamps.
We should be group of five people for this hike, but at the end it is just three of us. In order not to wake up to early, me and Milos we spend the night in Tina’s place. I would like to say big thank you to Tina for that. This saves me about one hour of sleep. Anyway we have to wake up at 3:45 am and hit the road at 4:15 am. More than our later I am parking my car next to bus station in Poprad. Our bus is leaving at 5:40 and will take us to Lysa Polana. It is village on Slovak/Polish border, where our hike starts. Bus ride takes hour and 20 minutes. At 7:00 am we are ready to start hiking. Firstly we are walking about 20 minutes to the parking place, from where it is 2:20 to Morskie oko lake. This is at least what hiking sign says. I hate hiking on the road, but there is nothing to do. Luckily we were able to get to Morskie oko in just two hours in total.
Milos already have been here, and he thinks this is the most beautiful place in High Tatras. Unfortunately I can not confirm that. Clouds are just above our heads and I can see nothing. Rysy, our todays goal, are not visible. At least I am able to see the view on wooden board next to the hut. It is time to have short breakfast. 30 minutes later we are again walking towards Rysy summit. Sign says, we should be on the top at 1:45 pm (in 4:15). I am optimist. Based on hour speed I believe we will be there around 1pm. We have to walk around Morskie. Few people are brave enough to go thru the lake. At the other side of the like real hike starts. Finally we are ascending a bit. It is shor ascent but we are reaching lake “Czarny Staw pod Rysami” (1 583 m / 5 193 ft.).
Clouds are still above us, and we can not see summits around us. I have no clue, where I am going or which way we will go. I know for sure, that toughest part of the hike is coming. We have to ascent more than 900 m / 2950 ft. Two Polish guys are crossing lake and we are following them. Of course we are not close together, to avoid ice to break. After few meters they are coming back. It doesnt look safe so we are going back to hiking path around the lake. Before the steep ascent we are having a break and putting on crampons. Finally we can see something. Clouds are going away. After a while they are coming back and we are stuck in clouds again. It is time to ascent. So far we walk almost horizontally, with short ascent between two lakes. I am trying to find Rysy, but we can not see it from this point. Anyway it is not far but not close either. We have to walk about 1 500 m / 4 900 ft in distance, but in altitude we need to go almost 1 000 m / 3 280 ft. I am sure you can imagine how steep part is in front of us.
Begining of the ascent is not too steep, so I am walking with hiking sticks. We need to go around some big rock wall to reach couloir. After few steps in couloir I am packing hiking sticks to my backpack and taking out ice axe. Couloir is well frozen, some places are covered by ice. Our speed decreased significantly. Milos is far in front of me. Tina is behind me. We both are going about the same speed. Based on the time, we should be on the Rysy summit already. However I do not see end of the couloir. We start ascending last part shortly before 12 am and at 2 pm we are not even close to the Rysy! Ascent is bit harder because of some tourist are descending and frozen parts of snow are falling on us. OK we will be late, but we have still plenty of time. In the worst case scenario, we can spend night at hut below Rysy on Slovak side of the summit. It is about 20 minutes under summit. From time to time I stop and check if Tina is still behind me. In parts which are covered only by ice I always make sure that my crampons and ixe axe is really well stuck in the ice. Finally I am the end of couloir and see some chains which are going to summit. I have to wait for Tina, cause I dont see her. In the mantime Milos is comming back. To the summit is is just 2 minutes. Milos is going down to Tina and I am going to summit. Finally I see sun and I am getting bit warmer.
It is time to take a lot of picture, enjoy the view and relax. Comparing to my optimistic plan we are late “a bit”. Almost 1,5 hour. It is 2:20 pm. I dont care. Rysy offers stunning views. If it will be less windy it will be perfect. Sun is warming me up and I can enjoy amazing views to all directions. I have been here few years ago in summer. I remember looking at lakes at polish side. Today I can not see them because of the clouds. Important are also all summits in High Tatras. Just next summit is Vysoka. I can clearly see cross and few people on the top. While I am enjoying view from Rysy Tina and Milos are coming to summit. There is only 6 people including us. It is incomparable with crowds during summer. Lets take summit picture and start descending. It is 2:45 pm and we are descending to Strbske Pleso.
During descent I feel the pain in left leg in moment when I need to lift it. I will be slower on the way down. In few minutes we are next to hut below Rysy summit. I am asking my friends if we want to spend night here. I can imagine watch sunrise from the Rysy summit. However Milos already has some plans for tommorow, so we have to descent. Cause of the pain in left leg I am slow. Milos and Tina are much faster and they waiting for me after few minutes. Below Zabie Plesa, we are taking off crampons. There is almost no snow or ice on the hiking path. If any, you can find your way around it. Few minutes later we are back in clouds. Because of the fog and late afternoon we have to put on headlamps. Without crampons I do not feel the pain in left leg so I can walk normally. Milos and Tina are still much faster then me. Anyway they have to wait for me, cuse I have a car keys :) Shortly after five we are at Popradske pleso. From here I wanted to go to Strbske pleso to get tram to Poprad. As far as we remeber tram is leaving shortly before six. To catch the tram we are descending to Popradske pleso tram. It is closer and tram will be leaving later from this station. Again we have to walk on regular road. At leas I have time to call my friend to check, when tram is leaving. He is driging, but he will call me once he gets home. After 30 minutes he calls me back. Tram is leaving in 30 minutes, exactly at 6:16 pm. We can slow donw, we have plenty of time. In few minutes we are in tram startion and will be waiting more than 20 minutes.
Ascent to Rysy from Poland is really nice hike. 10 kilometers / 6,2 miles at the beginning from Lysa Polana to Morskie oko is boring hike. However there is no other option, but the rest of the hike is really worth it. I can imagine I will come back here during summer. I am sure the path will be full of hikers. Not only because Rysy is highest Polish summit, but mainly because of the beauty of the path. We did the hike in 11 hours. From the moment I have wake up, till the moment I went to bed it takes 20 hours. It was long and tough day, but totally worth it. I know few hikers who did the same hike day after us and they did it in 8 hours. Steep ascent to Rysy will check your physical condition for sure.