Mountaineering in the Tatra Mountains
The first known trip to the Tatra Mountains took place in 1565. It was then that Beata Łaska née Kościelecka probably wandered from Kieżmark to the Zielony Staw Kieżmarski. David Frölich, with two companions, did it in 1615. Mentions of hiking on the Polish side of the Tatras appeared in the 19th century. It is known that between 1802 and 1805, Stanisław Staszic visited the Tatra Mountains, and in the 1830s - Seweryn Goszczyński.
At the beginning of exploration of the Tatra Mountains, the term Tatra mountaineering referred to any form of climbing the Tatra peaks. With the spread of tourism, expansion of the trail network and tourist shelters, it started to be used only to refer to mountain climbing outside the marked routes. However, it does not mean that mountaineers have complete freedom of movement in the Tatra Mountains.
According to an order issued by the Tatra National Park’s, mountaineering and extreme skiing may be practised only on selected climbing routes and in places indicated by the Tatra National Park. Noise, camping (except in extreme situations threatening climbers’ lives) and approaching the walls by any route is forbidden - the rule is to follow the shortest safe route from the nearest tourist trail.
The most famous, and at the same time the most demanding, climbing routes are designated in the granite rocks of the High Tatras in the areas of:
- Morskie Oko Lake, from the Białczańska Pass, through Rysy, Mięguszowieckie Peaks and Cubryna to Wrota Chałubińskiego, together with the side ridge of Mnich;
- the Pięć Stawów Polskich Valley with the Buczynowa Valley, from Świnica to the Zawrat Pass, between the ridge and the red tourist trail, and within the ridge and the walls located below from the Zawrat Pass to the Mała Buczynowa Pass;
- Hala Gąsienicowa, from the Żółta Pass through Granaty, Kozi Wierch, Zawratowa Turnia, Świnica to the Świnicka Pass, together with the side ridge of Kościelce to Karb.
There are also climbing tracks in the limestone rocks of the Western Tatras. They are mapped in three places:
- on the western face of the rock gate at the exit of the Lejowa Valley;
- in the Jaroniec Gully;
- on the Ściana nad Dziurą rock, excluding the section above the tourist path and near the entrance to the Dziura Cave.
If avalanche danger level 2 or higher is in force, and there is adequate snow cover protecting the vegetation, it is also possible to conduct training on the Wapiennik rock, located near the Murowaniec Mountain Hostel on the slope of Sucha Jama.
It is unnecessary to have documents confirming one’s qualifications, membership in any organisation or special permits to climb the mountaineering routes. The only requirement is to mark each exit in the Taternica Exit Book located in the shelter near the climbing walls (at Morskie Oko, in the Valley of the Five Polish Ponds, in Murowaniec on Hala Gąsienicowa) or doing it online using a dedicated application wspinanie.tpn.pl/ created by the Tatra National Park (TPN).
The Tatra National Park also requires mountaineers not to leave behind any waste, refrain from climbing if wild animals are present, and it is pointed out that fragments of climbing routes may be temporarily closed for natural reasons. Mounting and dismounting of fixed belaying points are forbidden without a permit from the Tatra National Park. It is strictly prohibited to forge or damage rocks or vegetation and bird nests in the rocks.
Prudence above all
Although the Tatra Mountains are not the highest in the world, it does not mean that mountaineering is an activity for everyone. Condition, prudence and experience gained on easier terrain are required. Every climbing trip must be approached with humility in the face of one’s own skills and the power of the mountains. One can never say that they know everything and have acquired all necessary skills. There are new routes created all the time. The fundamental thing is to measure the strength of intentions, respecting nature and taking more experienced climbers’ comments into consideration.