I knew that travelling to the Tatras National Park in November for hiking meant one of two things – either there would be quiet trails or terrible weather and I’d have to find a plan B. I also knew I needed to be prepared for hiking in the snow and so was armed with crampons, axe and loads of experience.
As it was, I was blessed with really good weather for most of the week I was staying in Zakopane, so managed to get out every day to hike or run in the mountains.
It had rained solid the day I arrived in Zakopane and knowing the day after would be cold I anticipated some snow on the mountains. I wasn’t disappointed!
Kasprowy Wierch west ridge – 16.6km 1400m ascent
Having caught the bus to Kuznice and arrived before 7am I took the long walk up the blue trail to Schronisko Hala Kondratowa hut. I should add that if like me you like early starts, this means you arrive before the National Park is officially open – meaning free entry (not the 7 zloty is expensive).
Its not a steep walk to the hut, so I got there much quicker than the suggested travel time of the signs. Most guides books tell you to take the yellow or green path to the summit of Kasprowy Wierch which are the more direct route, but by that account are also the busiest. If you want a quieter alternative the blue route to Hala Kondratowa Hut is much better.
Once at the hut I then diverted off onto the green path and headed up the snowy path to the ridgeline. As I headed uphill the snow got deeper and in anticipation of an icy ridgeline I donned crampons and another warm jacket before I hit the top of the ridge.
From the path junction at Suchy Wierch Kondracki I headed along the ridge Eastwards towards Kasprowy Wierch summit. The ridge is also the Polish/ Slovakian border and all the way along there are white posts with red marks and S or P highlighting which side of the border you are on.
As I traversed the ridge I constantly dipped in and out of the two countries. This fact I found much more interesting later in the week when I could actually stop to look at a post, but on this route the wind was blowing a gale meaning I frequently had spindrift in my eyes. While high and exposed this ridge doesn’t have any technical or difficult sections, so providing you have good weather and are fit it shouldn’t pose a problem.
As the ski lift was shut for the week for maintenance, I was glad to at least find the door to the top of the lift open so I could stand out of the wind to eat.
From here I ascended up and over the top of Kasprowy Wierch and descended on the yellow path to Schronisko Murowaniec to refuel with a hot drink and apple cake.
Despite the serious wintry weather and the ski lift being closed I was very surprised to meet very under prepared people on Kasprowy Wierch summit. The worst examples were the group in jogging bottoms and adidas who were struggling to descend the yellow path which was buried under icy compressed snow.
The walk from the Murowaniec hut is straight forward and while there are two options, blue or yellow, they both lead you back to Kuznice. I took the blue route this time, heading along a ridge to drop down into the woodland.