Rysy NW Top - 2499m
Rysy - 2503m

Sunday 12th September 2010

Weather/Conditions: Darkness and clear skies, leading to sunrise and cumulus building on the peaks. Inversions ever-present. Some wind at the top, no rain and some thicker mist at the very end at the cloud continued to bubble up.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 14.1km / 1100m / 8h 20m
Accompanying: Iain Alcock, Dougie Blyth, Colin Delorey, Craig Pounder, Ian Rooney, James Steele

Rysy was the high point of the trip in just about every way. It was the trip's only summit above 2500m and the first day where the Tatras really came into their own. We'd spent several days in the Western Tatras beating up against bad weather on hills that felt like Scotland (not always a bad thing). They were good days too, but Rysy was just something else.

Morning, pre-Rysy

There was a flurry of excitement in the morning, and others already up. I looked out the window to see what the fuss was about and wow, the mountains looked big... I put some clothes on and went outside to find mountains encircling the loch and hut. High snowy mountains were turned gold in sunrise. I grabbed the camera and went for a walk around the lake, meeting Dougie and James on the far side. These were big mountains, amazing to think there was a route up among them that we would be on today.

Ascent to Zabia dolina (hanging valley)

After the buzz in the morning, we settled down to breakfast (self service...boo) then headed out towards Rysy. I couldn't wait to get up high, trying to push the pace and looking around in awe at these enormous surroundings. The mountain beautifully named Satan was especially brutal; fangs and gullies in abundance. For all the immensity, the path we were on was easy and markers kept us on track. We'd seen a few others already - it could get busy.

Throughout the morning a helicopter had been shuttling back and forward overhead and I guessed that it was travelling back and forth between the Rysy hut. It made perhaps over ten journeys but for a small hut, why so many? It also reminded me that among the savage surroundings was some kind of civilisation, if only a single hut at 2200m.

And after slogging and gawping at the scenery, we began to rise up into Zabia dolina (a hanging valley) and Rysy came into view, though I wasn't sure which hill it was at first. We were also entering snowy domains, and up ahead there seemed no easy way up to the Rysy hut. The helicopter dropping off supplies to the hill told me the location of the hut and the easiest route seemed to traverse sloping rock terraces. For any potential difficulty, thee was at least the in-situ chains. We could only go and find out for ourselves.

Ascent to Rysy hut

As usual, it turned out to be easy and in this instance, just a lot of fun. The first ascent up on Rysy itself was a snow slope (but with steps kicked in and a rope for help), then iron bars and rope strung across the rock terraces. It's like convenience mountaineering. While this makes this mountain a much easier proposition, it's interesting to see the cultural differences in attitudes to the mountains. By that I mean that this would never happen in Scotland.

Back home, we couldn't put some navigational markers on the summit plateau of Nevis without some idiot chopping them down. This is no place for that rant, but we would never find via ferrata-style chains up the north face of Nevis but I've yet to make up my mind whether that is a bad thing.

The same issue applies to the Rysy hut (2200m). Unlike anything that would be allowed on Scottish peaks, the Rysy hut at our arrival was being massively extended, and while we sat in a makeshift outdoor shop, builders around the corner were putting together a big new structure, and that explained the morning's helicopter trips.

The coffee shop was brilliant, a chance to relax, drink hot chocolate (they didn't pick up on the part that specified no cream, yuck) and some of the others picked up a souvenir Rysy t-shirt.

Ascent to Summit

Beyond the Rysy hut, seven of us headed up the broken path in the direction of the col, which topped out at 2340m. Easy stony slopes led up towards the south ridge of the mountain, which was fairly easy work. I attempted to follow the ridge direct but got stuck a problem, backtracked, then followed the path up to the summit. Craig and I arrived together at 1pm.

We'd eventually spend a while on the summit sucking in this environment. I was trying to comprehend it myself - 2.5kms in the sky, in such an beautiful mountain range! I spend my life dreaming of this stuff. I also made a point of phoning home, and we took the customary summit pictures. A lot of cloud had built up but I managed a 360 degree panorama. It's worth a look, the views were immense, Cuillin on steroids, I thought.

Photots: Rysy Summit


Then after plenty of time on top it was that time to go down. We'd spent long enough on top though I was quite happy. The Rysy hut was exceptionally busy with a party of 25-30 outside. They formed a single-file queue on the walk up to the summit, and right or not, we had a good snigger. It's not my preference to be stuck in a group like that, but each to their own...

Beneath the hut descent was unproblematic and we headed down into the hanging valley and onwards to the valleys below. On the way through the valley, I heard an almighty rumble to see an avalanche pouring down the cliffs sides, some distance away. Even with camera out at full-speed, I managed to catch only the end. It was very impressive and served as a reminder that these mountains are alive and in motion and must be given respect, a feeling I distinctly felt after triggering an avalanche in the Campsie Fells in January 2010.

Further down I spotted a boulder (pictured several times below) and had to get pictures and a climb. Then followed the short trip down to the Popradske pleso hut.

Walk back to Strbske Pleso

We spent less than an hour at the hut at Popradske Pleso before heading down the valley to the town of Strbske Pleso, a Slovakian replica of a 1960's Aviemore. An empty concrete jungle with empty hotels, it only looked worse since most of the time we were there, mist would shifting through the streets. It wouldn't look out of place in a horror movie, and though it's not all bad, it's maybe not the prettiest of places.

But that didn't stop me having a superb night, and when one beer leads onto another, it had me going for the all out. I suffered accordingly the next morning, like never before (and never since I hope).

But it was mostly fun. Rysy was the excuse since to 'celebrate' since it was the big objective of our holiday to the Tatras. And not only that, but it was also the day the Tatras had finally come into their own, showing themselves off for their full grandeur. It gave a taste of the bigger mountains and leaves me wanting to see more.


Rysy, 360°

Rysy, Detail East
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 8.30am Popradske Pleso Chalet
(2.15) 10.45am Rysy Hut
(2.55) 11.25am Rysy Hut (left)
(3.25) 11.55am Rysy
(4.20) 12.50pm Rysy (left)
(4.45) 1.15pm Rysy Hut
(5.30) 2.00pm Rysy Hut (left)
(7.30) 4.00pm Popradske Pleso Chalet

To Strbske Pleso
(7.30) 4.45pm Popradske Pleso Chalet
(8.20) c. 5.35pm Strbske Pleso

Written: 2010-10-20