Ciemniak - 2096m
Krzesanica - 2122m
Małołaczniak - 2096m
Kondracka Kopa - 2005m

Thursday 9th September 2010

Weather/Conditions: Mist in the morning/lunchtime, humid lower down and windy up top, clearing to blue skies and cumulus later in the day.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 15km / 1300m / 8h 20m
Accompanying: Iain Alcock, Dougie Blyth, Colin Delorey, Craig Pounder, Iain Rooney, James Steele

After a good breakfast of several cups of tea, muesli (not my first choice) and bread, we headed out of Ornak, which had been a great hut to stay in. Our room, packed with bunk beds as it was, was sweltering all night and I'm sure I was awake more than once though that had less to do with the heat and more to do with beer.


We headed through the forests following a broad track. Cloud lay low on the peaks and it seemed the rain could switch on at any moment. Down in the trees it was claggy and humid and these were not favourable walking conditions. Like the previous day, it felt like we were walking in rubbish Scottish weather, but on the positive side I looked forward to another day in the mountains.

In time, the trees thinned out and the path climbed onto the mountain slopes and into the mist. The path began started traversing the hillside as was indicated on the map, when among talk of this being bear-country, we heard a deep rumble from around a corner. When we arrived, people were making their way across a gully filled with old avalanche debris. It looked like nothing had happened. Maybe just minor rock fall.

Upwards we went, seemingly for a long time. We started walking on snowfields, but they were damp and tread down by previous boots. After eternities of wondering when the ridge would arrive, we stepped onto it and were met with a couple of other groups, a signpost and pretty windy conditions.

With little snow on the ridge, we headed up a pavement of a path to the summit. It was easy though cold, windy and dare I say a bit uninspiring. When everyone arrived on top of Ciemniak, it was time to go eastward along the ridge.

Krzesanica + getting lost

It wasn't too hard going at first but the trail required breaking. The ridge descended then climbed back upwards towards the main summit of the day, Krzesanica. The ridge got a bit sharp and although we'd heard it was a bit rougher than to be walkable, the hands on bits got me into my element. Steep snow slopes appearing through the mist turned out not to be a problem when I could link the rocky sections together or punch deep holes with my feet. We weren't carrying axes, so snow slopes had to be taken with more caution.

I took immense pleasure in taking the lead on the way to the summit because I found I was enjoying the soft scrape of danger rather than being frightened - a change in me I wish I could see more often, most notably on the Aonach Eagach back in May. Before long we arrived at the summit, though I did not realise this was the highest point of the day - an easy mistake to make because our maps weren't very good. In addition to that, the mist was down as ever and we discovered that when trying to come off the summit, we were met with a sort of silent whiteout.

We should have been following the country border, which is marked every so often. But in a whiteout with reduced sense of direction, we headed down the trodden path which seemed to head a bit far to the right. I thought our ridge might be more to the left, but when visibility's so bad I thought I'd go with the flow and follow the footprints. So we kept going down and had gained quite a distance when Iain R. said his GPS told us we were going the wrong way. Even when it seemed to kind of agree again, we were all getting a hunch that things were wrong. The same Polish guy as on the ascent who came here "every year" to climb the mountains said we were on the right track. So down we went, our next mountain coming into sight as we descended.

Then the clouds cleared more. The views were spectacular but all the way up to our left, where there should have been empty space, was our ridge - the one we should have been on instead of being way down here! The so-called 'next peak' was just a continuation of our current wrong route.

The ridge ridge looked miles away. And once we realised we were way off course, we resigned ourselves to slogging back up the snowy slopes. It was a drag, but I had to laugh - there was nothing I could do now because otherwise we'd have been heading down into Slovakia. Then shortly off the summit the blanket mist cleared more and blue skies appeared. As it does in the mountains, all was revealed suddenly. Our previous mistakes were now so obvious. On track but getting a bit tired, we headed onto the last tops of the day.

Last Tops then down to the valleys

I initially thought Małołaczniak was the day's high point, and celebrated accordingly when we arrived there. Of course, that title actually went to the previous summit. But now half in mist, half in cloud, we continued over Kondracka Kopa and to the head of the path leading down to the Polish valleys. Our initial plan had been to go all the way to Kasprowy Wierch, but that was long abandoned. With a signpost showing the way off the ridge, we headed down into warmer air, enjoying the sun instead of cloud. I was pretty glad to be getting down.

The sun was out on Giewont (with another cross on the summit), and now all was well. There was nowhere I'd rather be and we stopped by the Kondratowa Hut for a drink. We tried staying the night but it was full, though the Kalatowki Hotel was not far down the valley.

After a quick stop and a chance to let the feet breathe, we walked to the hotel where they had plenty beds available, and spent a relaxing night showering, eating pizza (or two in my case, see fifth image below) and drinking. I even got on the piano which was great fun, though it was of the electronic variation so one key would play full volume no matter the intended dynamic. It was very off-putting but I bashed out a few tunes I'd learned over the years, then sat around with the guys before heading off to bed for the night.

The next day we took the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch's summit then descended on foot. It was just as well we didn't do the climb up, since 1) the weather was rubbish and 2) everyone wanted a rest day.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.00am Ornak
(1.00) 1.15pm Ciemniak
(1.40) 1.40pm (interpolated) Krzesanica (first time)
(2.50) 3.00pm Krzesanica (second time)
(3.35) 3.25pm Małołaczniak
(5.15) 3.55pm Kondracka Kopa
(6.20) 5.10pm Kondratowa Hut
(9.25) 6.20pm Kalatowki Hotel

Written: 2010-11-01