Tatras: Dolina Chocholowska round

I met the ridgeline and immediately got pushed back by the wind. As I braced myself I looked across to the mountains and questioned my route for the day.

Dolina Chocholowska round 26.5km

With only one day left in Zakopane to go hiking I caught the bus to Dolina Chocholowska. I’d wanted to visit this valley so I could tick off all of the major valleys in the Polish Tatras and complete another round of mountains.

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Tatras: Kosceiliska horseshoe

With low winds and amazing sunshine forecast I decided a traverse of the Tatras was in order. I’d originally planned to do this route in reverse but having not worked out the bus times to get to Kiry I opted to walk from Kuznice which is simpler and worry about how to get back on the bus later.

I’ve called this route the Koscieliska horsehorse but its a bit of a misnomer as while it is a horseshoe shape, the route traverses the 2000m mountains along the main ridge from the centre of the national park to descend into the Koscieliska valley. Nevertheless its a great route, with outstanding views.

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Gubalowka Ridge from Zakopane to Chocholow

I wanted to visit the poplar thermal baths at Chocholow and decided to run the red route across the Gubalowka ridge to get there. Whilst it was dry it was very windy so not ideal for being in the mountains so this made a great alternative.

North of Zakopane and out of the Tatras, this hill is mostly farmland and gentle rolling hills. If you’re not in the area for long it wouldn’t be on your list to do, but if you have time it’s a nice alternative to the mountains.

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Morskie Oko and over the Krzyzne pass

Everyone who heads to the Polish Tatras visits Morskie Oko as it’s a popular beauty spot. Whilst I usually look to get off the beaten track I had decided a bus ride around there would provide a great opportunity to walk back to Zakopane over the mountains.

To Morskie Oko

The walk into the Morskie Oko hut from the bus stop is a very boring 8km walk along a tarmac road. There are horse carriages but I’d opted to walk and save money, and as I was staying at the hut that night I didn’t have anything else to do that day.

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Book Review // Peak Bagging: Wainwrights

I wasn’t specifically setting out to doing the wainwrights but having bagged quite a few over the years it now seems like finishing them is a reasonable challenge, especially since I now fell run.

I wish I’d had Peak Bagging: Wainwrights when I first started out! The trouble with not intending to bag wainwrights is the chances are there’s walks done which haven’t been efficient for gaining the most summits, however amazing the routes might have been.

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A short run up to Sarnia Skala

With low cloud in the sky and constant drizzle threatening to turn to rain I wanted to get out for a walk but not a big mountain day.

While only a quarter of the Tatras National Park sits in Poland there’s still a wealth of shorter walks for wet days.

Sarnia Skala 10km 660m ascent

Sarnia Skala is a small rocky outcrop sitting on the edge of the national park and easily accessed from Zakopane by the black route which runs along the edge of the park from the snowland ski slopes.

The black route is popular with runners, being relatively flat. It is however, as I discovered as I set off in my running kit, quite slippy in places when it is wet.

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Tatras: The quieter route up Kasprowy Wierch

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.

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Iceland: Hiking the Laugavegur trail

We only had a week in Iceland and were keen to hike to explore the landscape. The Laugavegur trail is one of the most popular in Iceland due to its close proximity to Reykjavik, its easy access by bus and good huts along the way.

Most guidebooks will recommend around 4 days for the route despite it only being 54km. We had limited time and hoped to do the continuation route of the Fimmvörðuháls and end up in Skógar to the coast so planned to do the Laugavegur trail in 3 days.

There’s a lot of blogs out there on the trail due to its popularity but the one website you really want to check out is the one operated by the Icelandic huts – here you can find out about the trail, river crossings, and hut bookings.

As this is a very popular trail don’t expect to be able to get into the huts to stay, we had to carry a tent for the hike as we couldn’t get booked into the huts despite calling months in advance. And this was at a time of covid travel restrictions.

The start of the trail
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Book Review // Big Rides: GB & Ireland

We really got into mountain biking in 2020 and the Vertebrate guides were fantastic for coming up with routes to do and knowing if I’d find them achievable (given I’m not really into tech routes!)

I loved the Big Trails guides, so I was very excited with the arrival of the Big Rides: Great Britain and Ireland book.

Providing an epic selection of 25 long distance routes catering for both road, gravel and mountain biking there’s the classic routes of Sarn Helen and Lakeland 200 but also some surprises too.

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Tackling the Kirklees Way

The Kirklees Way circles the borough providing a 73 mile/ 118km challenge which takes in some of the areas rugged trails and industrial scenery, along with plenty of farmland, moorland and woodlands.

I undertook this route over three days, but 4-6 days is more realistic.

I should add that like many named routes in the area, the Kirklees Way might be a marked trail on the map, but a lot of the route isn’t well signposted and can be quite overgrown (especially at the height of summer). Some of the stiles and gates are also in poor condition. Map reading is definitely required!

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