Wanda Rutkiewicz, Voytek Kurtyka and Jerzy Kukuczka are the first three Polish greats that come to mind when I think of the golden years of Himalayan climbing. There are many more. They were hard, strong, determined, and talented and they all started out climbing in the Tatras.
I knew nothing about the massif until I saw it for myself on this ski trip. The heroic Poles and their exploits were not in my mind as we began skiing the rounded and wooded western Tatras. Their playground, the jagged, hard, technical summits of the high Tatras was to be revealed later in the week – beautiful mountains that I am ashamed to say I had never heard of. It was immediately obvious that anyone who climbs hard and fast on these mountains in winter will be well prepared for the Himalaya.
We were very lucky. The skiing was superb as we were fortunate to start with a significant dump of fresh, cold powder. Temperatures remained low and the sun shone for the rest of the week allowing us to tick all the ski touring ‘must have’ boxes. Polish mountain huts are enormous and sturdily built of stone – they’re busy too, with folks on foot, snowshoes and skis. Fueled by evening pork chops and breakfasts of frankfurter sausages, fried eggs and white bread we set out each morning to have fun in the mountains.