Why do people travel? Why are people willing to go through discomfort in order to explore the unknown? Why are some people willing to risk their lives just to get to the top of a mountain?
Ladies and gentlemen… There will always only ever be one main answer… Passion. Just like an Entrepreneur would be willing to go through months without earning money in order to get to the next level. The challenge, the journey, the mental toughness, the victory, the celebrations, the self development. After all, what are we put on this world for if not to have purpose?
For those who seek a challenge on similar lines to this, there is definitely a mountain out there for you, and as long as you have an interest in hiking, trekking or scrambling, Rysy should be very high up on that list.
Rysy is the highest point in Poland, an although not really the highest peak in the world, it is stunningly gorgeous for most of the way up and down it’s path.
Rysy is the highest point in Poland, on the border with Slovakia.
Where is Rysy?
Rysy is located in Poland, on the border with Slovakia. It is in the Tatra National Park. Both Poland and Slovakia have entrances to the Tatra National Park and it is possible to get to the summit from both countries.
IMPORTANT: For non-European citizens, both Poland and Slovakia fall within the Schengen zone, so there are no real borders or passport control (Between Schengen countries) and you will therefore need a Schengen Visa for this.
How do you get to the start of the trail?
In order to reach Rysy, you have to get to the small mountain town of Zakopane. Zakopane is well know for being the winter capital of Poland and is very popular in the winter for skiing when of course all the slopes are nice and iced.
Zakopane is close to the Polish City of Krakow, which has an international airport served by many carriers all over the world.
Poland has a fairly old system of trains, although there are very well spaced out and very functional. You can get to Zakopane by train from Krakow or you can rent a car from Krakow airport, which is the option I will recommend.
View of the Tatra National Park from the Polish mountain town of Zakopane.
Driving in Poland from my personal experience is quite easy. Even in the peak of summer, traffic was not a huge issue. Parking bays are widely available, although you will pay cheap prices for them. Most of the roads are also very well paved and most drivers follow the rules. The drive from Krakow Airport to Zakopane is roughly two hours.
The Tatra National Park is quite immense, and has many trails over a large area. For Rysy, you will need to get to the Palenica car park (Which you can insert into Google Maps).
View of the Palenica car park which is at the start of the trail to Rysy.
How long does it take to hike up Rysy?
If you have to hike at a moderate pace it will take you around four hours to reach the summit and around three hours and thirty minutes to descend back to the bottom to the Palenica car park.
IMPORTANT: These times are very variable because of many factors. The first and most important is that this shouldn’t be a time trial for you to race to the top and bottom. This is a majestic trail and I would strongly recommend taking the whole day for this. In the peak of summer the days are very long and this will give you an advantage to complete everything in sunlight.
The trail passes two very famous alpine lakes on the way, and to not stop at them would be a crime against humanity 😉
The very famous Morskie Oko lake which is on the trail towards the summit of Rysy.
The Morskie Oko is a very famous “Chill” spot for a lot of people who come to Zakopane. It is an easy walk from the Palenica car park and is where most people in the area head to and of course spend the day. There is a restaurant on the lake as well.
Further up on the trail is another stunning alpine lake, the Czarny Staw. This is at the base of the mountain, and it is after this point where the climbing really starts.
The Czarny Staw lake is located just above the Morskie Oko lake and both are on the trail to the summit of Rysy.
Another important factor is that, although majority of people are prepared for the trek, there will always be people who are not, and unfortunately there will always be people who hold up the trail, especially in the peak summer months.
Is climbing Rysy difficult?
Rysy is a mountain, and not just your average hiking trail. It requires you to have moderate to good fitness and definitely some hiking and scrambling experience.
The trail doesn’t require any equipment as long as there’s no snow. There are chains attached to rocks on certain parts of the mountain. The chains are quite solid and well maintained. This is not the place to start scrambling with chains for the first time.
There are many people who have lost their lives on this trail, although if you are careful it’s actually not that bad.
Although Rysy is the highest point in the Polish Tatra Mountains, it is not the most difficult, which is the Orla Perk (Eagles Path). I will cover that trail in a different article.
There are chains attached to rock as the trail get steeper towards the top.
Is climbing Rysy worth it?
Ladies and gentlemen… A picture says a thousand words..
The view up the trail to the summit of Rysy.
There’s no question about that! It is worth every second, every thought and every effort!
Rysy has three summits, towards the right of this picture is the lowest of the three summits.
View from one of the three summits of Rysy.
And this is the view from the highest summit and the highest point in Poland.
The way down is the identical way that you climbed up.
This is where your experience is required. The trail is single laned for all people ascending and descending. This is what can extend your trekking times. There were points where I went off the path to avoid long queues, and this can be dangerous. It’s always advisable to stick to the marked paths.
The way down is exactly the same route that you take up.
When is the best time to summit Rysy?
Definitely in either July or August. This area of Poland receives lots of snow the whole year. In certain seasons the mountain is snow capped as late as June. Any snow on the trail would increase the difficulty a lot, especially towards the summit.
Another factor is the very long days in these months, which will give you sunlight from five in the morning to eight at night. This makes the whole experience much better as you can space it all out and take your time.
Winter ascents require lots of mountaineering experience as well as climbing equipment like an Ice axe and crampons.
What else is there to do in the area?
Lots…. Lots and lots 😉
I will cover a separate article on a road trip through Poland.
Krakow, Poland is a very charming European city.
Ancient Castles, Alpine lakes and gorgeous landscapes. Oooh yes please!
Rysy is one of the best mountains in the world to summit in under a day. It has all the thrilling and challenging encounters of a real high peak, yet it is so conveniently located and so well marked.
The best thing about Rysy is how gorgeous the trail actually is. Climbing a mountain is not just about your time on the trail or how high the mountain actually is, and this is great proof of that.
Although it requires some form of fitness and trekking experience, no matter who you are or where you come from, go to Rysy…
And watch that smile on your face 😉