It had been over 5 years since my last trip to the mountains of Europe. My brother and I had spent a successful month in the Alps, climbing the classic routes up 4000m peaks, getting sunburnt and fit and living like bums.
Back then I couldn't really see past ticking summits and routes. That is what a trip to the mountains was for me, and only that. I'm not sure I took much notice of my surroundings unless it was relevant for our next ascent, and I certainly didn't appreciate the sensation of simply being somewhere amazing.
But I am (a little) older and wiser now, I can see outside the bubble and have fully realised there is so much more to mountains than getting to the top of them. It feels great to have returned feeling satisfied and happy from a week in the mountains when I didn't even try to stand on a single summit or climb any routes.
On arrival in Poland, Nicole and I realised our vague plans for climbing some of the 2000m peaks in the Tatras would probably have to be shelved. Our first glimpse of an un-known summit poking through the cloud revealed heavy snow covering the slopes, and we weren't intent or equipped for winter up high.
With a forecast for cool temperatures all week we knew the snow wasn't going to shift quickly, so were quite happy to turn our attention to the stunning high valleys and passes that cut into the heart of the Tatras.
Slovakia was entirely new to me, and I was fascinated by the mix of Alpine-esque and cold war architecture, the common sight of dereliction amongst expensive ski-chalets, birds that I didn't know the names of, public transport that runs like clockwork…
As someone that has spent so much time on the Isle of Skye, the similarities between the Tatras and the Cuillin were a constant source of intrigue. There are obvious differences of course…the Tatras being higher and in the middle of a landmass, rather than amongst the coastal paradise of the Hebrides. But I lost count of the number of times I saw views of mountains that looked almost spitting images of the summits in the Cuillin that I know and love.
Bidean Druim na Ramh, Am Basteir, Sgurr nan Gillean, even Stob Ban in the Mamores…they all have a near counter-part in the Tatras. To say that we found the scenery impressive would be an understatement - in its own way even more impressive than the Alps?
Enjoy the photos!
Lingering mist in the Dolina Roztoki valley, Poland
Fresh snowfall on Woloszyn
Lomnicky Stit, Slovakia
Incredible views above the Studena Dolina valley
Nicole in the snow at almost 2000m near Dlhe Pleso lake
"Tatra-Tea"....tea at 32% alcohol by volume, good stuff...
Faces in the forest...
The magnificent Vysoka 2547m, translated as "High".
Pristine forest in the Mlynicka Dolina valley
On the summit of Predne Solisko, looking for bears...
Hlinska Veza 2340m
Tasty stuff in a market in Krakow
In the fog on the summit of Predne Solisko
Being reminded of the Highlands at 2300m in the Furkotska Dolina valley
Colours in Krakow
Glad of the extra layers at 1900m.