Running away from rain at the Valley of Five Lakes

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July 25th 2012
Published: September 17th 2012
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Waking up to a grey sky wasn’t really a surprise, but watching how heavy it was raining while we were having breakfast was quite disappointing to say the least… It didn’t look too promising but the forecast for the next days was even worse, and we didn’t tick Morskie Oko (the most famous of the Polish lakes in Tatras called The Eye of The Sea) off our list yet (this time), so we decided to give it a try anyway. Full of hopes and armed with raincoats we drove to Łysa Polana. Not really trusting my jacket I bought a rain-poncho just in case also... Better to have too many layers on you than too few, right?

Even though Łysa Polana is a bit away from Zakopane (on the border with Slovakia), it’s quite easy to get there as you can take one of the buses or mini-buses which run regularly from Zakopane. You can also go there by car (which is what we did) as there is a huge parking just at the entrance to the Tatras National Park, but keep it in mind that it’s not the cheapest (at least 3zl per hour – still comparing to the parking rate in Kraków quite a bargain, as at Wawel we paid 8zl per hour, which is slightly ridiculous as it turns out to be more expensive than anywhere in Dublin! And considering Polish and Irish salaries, it just doesn't make any sense... Parking a car in Poland will empty your pockets in no time that's for sure!).

When we were leaving our guesthouse it was still raining pretty hard. It was also very foggy on the way to Łysa Polana, but once we reached the clearing and parked the car, the fog seemed to have cleared. Also it stopped raining and only a very light drizzle was accompanying us throughout our walk. You can follow the asphalt road all the way from Łysa Polana to Morskie Oko – it’s 9km up, so it should take approximately 2 hours to get there. You also have a choice of taking one of the horse-drawn carriages up to the lake (almost all the way up, as they stop a few hundred metres away from the lake). After 3km of walking from Łysa Polana you come across Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza (Mickiewicz Waterfalls). You can definitely hear the waterfall from the distance, still it’s not too impressive to look upon as the bridge you are walking on is placed right on the middle part of the waterfall so unfortunately most of the waterfall is hidden underneath you. Nice place for a small break though…

From here we took the green trail through Dolina Roztoki. Again it was drizzling a bit and the stony trail was quite slippery, still a very pleasant walk through the forest along the shimmering stream. Once you have left the forest behind and are getting closer to Siklawa (the biggest waterfall in Tatras), the trail starts becoming steeper and you’ll find a few big rocks on your way that you’ll have to climb and walk upon, when it’s raining that part becomes even more tricky as it’s very easy to slip and break something, so it’s best to walk very closely to mountain pines just to have something to hang on to or fall into just in case (during winter the peaks are covered with snow and this part of the trail is closed as first of all there is always a risk of avalanche and secondly even with mild weather there were cases where people slipped on the icy paths and unfortunately lost their lives here). Even though this trail has a few tricky parts (which become quite challenging with bad weather), it’s totally worth taking it as while you’re walking up (and watching your step at the same time!), you can admire beautiful views of Dolina Roztoki as you are leaving it behind you.

You hear Siklawa from far away, but you can actually see it only once you get really close to it. It’s meant to look very nice especially during sunny days, when the sprinkling water forms many small rainbows all around it. Since the sky was overcast that day, we didn’t see any rainbows at all… very nice sight nevertheless!

From Siklawa it’s only a short climb up to the Valley of Five Lakes (Dolina Pieciu Stawów). This is definitely my favourite place in Tatras. It’s so beautiful and peaceful in here that I could sit for hours staring at the smooth surface of the Great Lake (Wielki Staw) and the surrounding mountains with a hot cup of tea in my hand… Since there’s no other way but to come here by foot, it’s also less crowded around here than on the other trails. But then I guess on all the trails set higher in the mountains, you will always find less people… Wielki Staw (the Great Lake) lies at 1665m above sea level. It is the deepest lake in Tatras (and the third deepest in Poland) with the deepest point reaching 79,3m.

It seemed that we got to the Valley of Five Lakes just in time! It was drizzling almost the whole way, but now more and more clouds were coming our way and just as we were reaching the shelter by the Great Lake, it started lashing. Perfect timing! It was definitely a nice feeling to sit down in a warm place for a while with a hot cup of tea in hand (or I should probably say – gigantic mug in hand! Just love the size of the tea mugs in this shelter, definitely the biggest ones we have come across on our walking escapades, and you appreciate the size of the mug and the amount of hot tea that’s pouring down your throat even more when you get to the shelter all soaked and cold). It was time to throw something on our stomachs as well, so we had a tasty soup and even tastier slice of cake afterwards. 😉 At the time we were eating, it was raining pretty hard outside and everybody was just staring at the windows and wondering how long it would last and what to do next, but the moment we were finished, the skies seemed to have cleared a bit. Again perfect timing! So there was no time to waste and we set off on the trail to Morskie Oko. It’s definitely a very scenic trail. As soon as you have left the shelter behind, you start going up so the further you go, the more beautiful views of the Valley of Five Lakes are coming into sight right behind you. So catching a breath is not the only reason to stop while climbing up this time, the views are so stunning that you just can’t help but look back every few steps and since the trail is pretty narrow and set on the steep slopes, it’s better to stop while looking back just in case...

As you keep on walking and reach the mountain pass, the Valley of Five Lakes starts disappearing slowly behind you but then another amazing view slowly emerges right in front of your eyes – far ahead you can see Morskie Oko (the famous Eye of the Sea), Czarny Staw (Black Lake) and the highest peak in Polish Tatras and in Poland for that matter, Rysy (2499m – we are sharing this peak with the Slovaks though and it seems that they got additional 4 metres of this mountain as Rysy reaches 2503m on their side! no hard feelings though… 😊).

From now on you start descending slowly all the way until Morskie Oko. This part of the trail turned out to be quite tiring for the knees, as the path became very uneven with very slippery stones. I remember there used to be a small passage on this trail where you had to walk extra carefully on a huge, steep rock holding on to the chains. Well, now you have to walk even more carefully as this part has changed a bit since the last time I saw it. It looks like the land slid there and even though it’s steeper now than it used to be before, there are no chains there to hang on to anymore! Could be that it was quite a recent slide actually…

In conclusion, the trail up to the Valley of Five Lakes is not the easiest one of all and your heartbeat will definitely go up a bit, as either way you’re going (from or to the Valley of the Fixe Lakes) on both sides of the mountain pass, there is quite a climb ahead of you, still the views more than make up for it, so totally worth it to try to walk this trail at least once.

Finally we reached Morskie Oko. And there I was once again… looking upon its surface. It is the largest lake in the Polish Tatras set at 1395m above sea level. The peaks surrounding the lake rise about 1000m above its surface. It was funny to see some familiar faces around as well – on the bench near us there was a couple we met a few days back on the trail to Kasprowy, funny how you bump into the same people on the trails – there are so many different trails to choose from and somehow your paths cross again… Originally we were thinking of going up to Czarny Staw - it's set just at the foot of Rysy and it takes about an hour from Morskie Oko to reach it, but since it started raining again, we decided to skip it this time and stop for a while at the shelter instead. After having a cup of coffee (every bit of extra energy was desperately needed at this point) and a portion of yummy pancakes (honestly the best ones ever!), it was time to go back to our guesthouse and start planning a trip for the next day...

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18th September 2012

love Tatras
Fantastic pics , exciting blogs , waiting for next one

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