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Three outstanding valleys in the Polish High Tatras:
The Morskie Oko Valley
This beautiful lake is situated at about 1300m at the limit of Poland's share of the High Tatras. There is a small bunkhouse with room for about 30 people, and the more famous lakeside lodge, with comfortable pinewood rooms and a stunning view of the lake and the great cirque of mountains forming its southern rim. From here there is easy access along the red marked trail to the popular summit of Rysy (2499m), Poland's highest mountain. This area is also the testing ground of Polish mountaineers, featuring the longest and most committing buttresses and walls in the country. Here you can climb on Zabi Kon, Kazalnica, Mieguszowiecki, Cubryna, Mnich and many others. The climbing around here tends to be in the higher grades, and to get the most out of the area you should be comfortably operating at UIAA VI or above. Visit Climbing Europe link for complete information about Moko Valley and climbing topos.

The Valley of Five Polish Lakes
This is an absolutely stunning valley, and a favourite amongst many Polish hikers. The remote lodge is situated on the shores of Wielki Staw (the largest of the five lakes), and is the only lodge in the Polish High Tatras that cannot be reached by jeep track. Consequently all the supplies and food for the hut have to be carried in on foot. Unfortunately, there is little rock-climbing around here, apart from the routes in Pusta Dolinka (Deserted Valley), a small hanging valley that is home to the south faces of Zamarla Turnia, and Kozi Wierch. These can both be accessed within a couple of hours from the other side of the ridge though, and that is where most climbers stay.

Gasienicowa Valley
This is the northernmost area of the High Tatras in Poland, and is home to the Orla Perc ridge, which stretches from Kasprowy Wierch in the west, to Krzyzne in the east just beyond the Granaty (Grenades) massif. There are three places to stay. Firstly there is the Murowaniec lodge, which has rooms for between 2 people and 10 people, as well as a restaurant and bar. Next is the PZA campsite area 15-20 minutes' walk down the jeep track towards Brzeziny. Finally there is Betlejemka, the pretty wooden bunkhouse belonging to the PZA. This is actually the PZA climbing school building, where the Taternik mountaineering courses are held, but they allow people to stay in the bunkhouse accommodation upstairs for a small fee if there is room. This is where most climbers stay, and is a great place to get information and beta on routes.

The Gasienicowa Valley (find it at the top left corner of the High Tatras map) is far and away the best area for the mid-range climber, and so that is the area I shall concentrate on here.

Access to the valley is on foot from Kuznice (a 10 minute bus ride out of Zakopane), up either the blue or the yellow marked paths. It takes anywhere from 55 minutes (fast) to an hour and a half (leisurely). The two trails meet up at a fork about 15 to 20 minutes short of the lodge. In the summer months the paths will be quite crowded, but most of these people are just walking up to Murowaniec hut for a slice of Szarlotka (apple cake), or to look at the Czarny Staw (Black Lake).

The valley itself is split into two main areas; East and West Gasienicowa Valley. They are separated by the Koscielec ridge, running northwards from between Swinica and the Zawrat pass, through Zadni Koscielec and Koœcielec, down to Maly Koscielec before dropping to ground level just before the Hala Gasienicowa area, where the lodge is situated.

In the East valley there is a stunning lake called Czarny Staw, which is reached in about 30 minutes from Murowaniec along the blue trail. This lake is surrounded on three sides by mountains, starting in the East at Z?lta Turnia (Yellow Crag). This half of the valley contains many long buttress routes, most notably on the Granaty mountains. It also provides access to two major passes into the Five Lakes Valley, Kozia Przelecz (Goat Pass) and Zawratowa Przelecz (Zawrat Pass). The West valley is more open, and less rugged. There are several smaller lakes and extensive areas of dwarf pines. This side gives access to Swinicka Przelecz, along the black path, and Kasprowy Wierch at the far western end. This mountain has a popular ski piste in the winter, with a small chairlift servicing this southwestern side of the mountain. The west face of Koscielec features some of the best rock climbing in the area, from UIAA III upwards.