Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Alpine touring in Western Tatras

A beautiful March day, cold and stable weather, relatively safe avalanche conditions in the mountains and a group of people willing for a trip. Tatra Mountains and snow - my first thought was alpine touring - a form of skiing which is the best way of exploring mountain areas in winter and spring. Special alpine touring bindings and skins (strips of material that attach to the bottoms of skis peeled off before downhill) allow to climb pretty steep hills.

Alpine touring in the Tatra Mountains, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
We left around 7:30 AM and reached the Chochołowska Valley in the Western Tatras from where we went to its upper part - Starorobociańska Valley. Snow crunched under the skis reminding us of freeze. The wind above the tree line strengthened the feeling of cold. Beside us were lots of tourists - good weather and low avalanche risk level announced by TOPR (Tatra Mountain Rescue) encouraged them to action. Many of them were heading in the same direction as us - Starorobociański Peak (2176 m).

Near Starorobociański Peak, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
The wind grew stronger but we didn’t bother much and continued climbing uphill. The route became hard and slippery so we decided to attach skis to our bags and using crampons went towards our destination. From time to time clouds limited visibility but they disappeared after a while and we could enjoy the beautiful view. In the meantime we had the opportunity to observe an interesting optical phenomenon of Brocken spectre. It was amazing!
Brocken spectre, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
An icy wind was blowing at the top so we didn't make a rest but went 200 meters down using crampons. Everything around was covered with a layer of hard ice – it was also a reason to start downhill the Starorobociański Peak below the summit. Low clouds surrounding us made the orientation difficult but thanks to GPS we didn’t lose direction. Changeable species of snow hampered the downhill. Sometimes the snow was very hard but sometimes the ice shell was collapsing underneath the skier and forced him to save himself before tipping. We finally got to the forest, found a path and traces of other skiers and further down the valley we got into the car ...
Clouds below Starorobociański Peak, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
Another beautiful day in the mountains ... tired, happy and full of impressions we came home late in the evening :) 

It took us all day to make this trip but we like to rest a lot ;) In details: we started with black marked trail in Chochołowska Valley and after 3 hours reached Siwa Pass. Then we decided to go to Starorobociański Peak – climbing it took us next 1,5 hour. We spent 1 hour skiing down to our car. During 9 hours of our trip we were 5,5 hours in motion and 3,5 hours resting, eating, talking, admiring and photographing landscapes. I think it's a very good result ;)
View from the top of Starorobociański Peak, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
In the Tatra Mountains you have many possibilities to make some alpine touring trips at similar level of difficulty.

From shelter in Chochołowska Valley you can climb Grześ (1653 m a.s.l.), Rakoń (1879 m a.s.l.) and Wołowiec (2064 m a.s.l.) and after a short rest go down back to the shelter.

From Kościeliska Valley leads one of the most popular alpine touring route through Czerwone Wierchy to Kuźnice.

Above you have short descriptions of 3 alpine touring trips but in whole Tatra Mountains every skier has dozens of possibilities to visit interesting places without crowds known from downhill slopes.

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