Traveling trouble

This will be a bit different post for 1st April, recollection of some unlucky things that happened to me during my hikes.

2009: Don’t underestimate the weather

17.8.2009, one of the most memorable. One of the most important rule of hiking is: respect the nature and especially weather. Especially in places where safe spots are rare – such as Slovakian Tatra mountains. Yes, by popular belief, third week of August is the most stable with minimal amount of rain. Not a hint of clouds on 15th when we arrived. Hike I had to end 80% to the peak because of my drink supply running low from the immense heat on 16th. 17th seemed to be no different.

It was to be climb of Rysy peak located on border between Slovakia and Poland and the highest point of marked trail system in the mountains (all the higher peaks require outright climbing with appropriate equipment and a permit). At my level of skill those days, I knew that realistically I won’t make it all the way, but I made it to the chalet below the peak itself. After a short break, seeing gathering clouds, I decided to start my descent before something comes.

Too late.

Five minutes later, sudden storm arrived. I was just in a shirt and thus was drenched to the bone in ten minutes. Worse, it was not just rain but hail and the impacts were really painful on my sun-burnt hands. The storm took maybe fifteen minutes, but it was enough to fill my boots with water.

An hour later, I reached the place where my parents were waiting for me, changed to a dry shirt (the only thing I had spare) and we went for the last five kilometers to the pick up point. It took maybe fifteen minutes for the storm to return and that time it lasted for almost two hours. Since then, I carry quite full backpack no matter how stable the weather might be. Ready for anything that can realistically happen.

2010: Train has the right of way

My first “pushing the limits” hike. 27km up and down in merciless summer heat. When I reached the train station, I had two choices: wait two hours for a train going directly where I need, or take a scenic route and depart in twenty minutes, arriving to my destination just a few minutes ahead of the direct option. Being nice day and willing to see different places than those I used for arrival, I chose to shorten my wait, even at though the detour made my ticket almost double price. Also, the scenic route meant no direct train and I had 10 minutes for the transfer.

I chatted with a group of young hikers that took a seat next to me and it went well until we stopped somewhere and remained there for almost forty minutes. Then, we were told that a cyclist was hit by a train a few kilometers ahead of us and the railroad is closed. We had to wait for a backup transport and with some luck, they held a train in my direction for ten minutes (compared to the scheduled departure) so people going that direction could get home with not so much time lost. Still, what was supposed to get me there twenty minutes earlier turned into 70 minutes of delay.

2015: Vertigo

In August 2015, I was attempting to hike Rysy peak again, this time from the Poland side. The trail is almost 10km of slow ascension through the valley followed by quite steep climb, the final part is ~1600 meters long with ~900 meters of vertical ascension. From elevation 2000m ASL onwards (peak at 2503) it’s really close to actual climbing, several passages secured by chains or with steps chiseled into the granite rocks. Still, several people die there each year. To tell something about the difficulty, of the 42 people in our group, only five of us dared this.

How far can you see the path?

Now, I was never one to have fear of heights, at least not when hiking. At some later point, I saw a woman in probably early twenties, clutching the chain in panic, shaking and crying. The finale is quite harsh, maybe thirty meters of pretty much vertical climb with 800 meters of depth behind your back, followed by 10 meters of walk across thin ledge. That was really scary. The view from above was worth it in the end.

Peak elevation: 2503. Upper lake (closer): 1580. Lower lake: 1395. Parking (off sight): 890.

Worst was to come. It took me maybe fifty meters of the descent (down the Slovakian side) and I misstepped, pulling some tendon, muscle or something in my knee. Long story short, after another hundred of meters I gave up and finished the descent on painkillers, glad that the next day had nothing planned. The pain receded on its own overnight, but I was scared of its return for the remaining five days.

By the way, during the extremely hot day and hard climb, my beverage consumption just during the hike neared 8 liters. With the rest (clothes for any situation, as mentioned before), my backpack was really heavy and I had to be extra careful to keep my weight center forward. And as seen on the picture, it was long way down…

2016: Beware of the dog… and cow

That was hike whose most “interesting” part was that to reach the place, not even that interesting, took me almost five hours in bus and train. I chose a trail that was not used much, which was far too obvious at some point. I had to push my way through young spruces, earning a few scratches. Not big deal on its own, but when the salt from sweating gets there, combined with tick repellent, it’s not really pleasant feeling.

I got to the main peak, went down, and prepared for the second part. The trail took me through a valley road, next to which were some houses, probably used as summer houses given the remote locations. Separated from the road by a stream, no fences were needed. A dog rushed to follow me, barking loudly. It was small one, so I stopped to make sure I don’t step on it, but the stop was too sudden and the dog, still barking, hit my leg, giving me another scratch that started to itch quite fast.

Then, I had to cross a field that was used as a pasture. Even though the five cows were some distance away, the idea that I would be run down by them, very well alone, was not a pleasant one and pushed me to the fastest speed I could muster at that point. Nothing happened, but still, combined with the dog just a few minutes before, I was scared.

2006: Mind your diet

My digestive system was in trouble since I was born. I went through complicated surgery when I was five and since then it was slowly getting better, but I still need to be careful. Apart from lactose intolerance, there are some things that could cause trouble, or some combinations. Problem is, some are revealed only by chance. And sometimes, in really bad time and place.

Let’s start that despite being still summer (2.9.2006), the night was cold in the hills and in the north-oriented valley, even around 9:00 it was -2°C. It went up gradually, so I thought it would be nice day. We reached the main peak shortly before noon and after a while there, started the descent.

That is where the problems begun, by quite scary sounds coming from within me. Worst thing? First it was through rocky landscape, then the trail led through shrub pines with no way to step aside. The pressure on my sphincter was increasing each minute, yet I had to keep my backside shut tightly for over five kilometers before I got a change to step off the path.

By that time my legs were shaking so much that I could not really relieve myself and eventually walked as fast as I could down to the valley, hoping for a public restroom at the parking or something like that. In total, around 11 kilometers from the peak. I made it just in time. Since then, I really watch what I eat a day before hike.


And with this quite uncomfortable story, I finish today’s post.

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