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Mid-grade climbing routes in Gasienicowa Valley


Orla Perc ridge
This via ferrata scramble can be done in a day, although it can feel long and tiring. No specialist equipment is needed if you stay on the marked route along the ridge. Starting from the summit of Kasprowy Wierch, follow the red trail markings along the ridge, using iron chains and ladders if necessary. Guidebook time from Kasprowy over to Krzyzne is about 9 hours, although it can be done by a fast party in less than that.

Swinica mountain
1. North Pillar - (10 pitches UIAA IV) A striking 500m buttress leading right to the summit of Swinica. A classic winter outing, and a worthy route in the summer.

Koscielec mountain
1. Gran - (3 pitches UIAA III) A continuation of the ridge from the pass between Zadni Koscielec and Koscielec. Can be done moving together, with ample gear placements. A nice way to reach the top of Koscielec after a longer route.
2. Gnojka - (3 pitches UIAA III) A pleasant outing, although popular on the courses, so it is often busy.
3. 114 - (10 pitches UIAA IV/V) A classic line up a ridge on the east side of Koscielec. The name comes from its number in the W.H. Paryski guidebook.
4. Stanislawski - (6 pitches UIAA V) A deep cut gully with an interesting grade V start. A classic on the west face of Koscielec.
5. Sprezyna - (3 pitches UIAA VI) One of a handful of routes named after their first ascentionist, nicknamed 'the spring'. Another classic on the west face of Koscielec.
6. Dziedzielewicz - (4 pitches UIAA VI) West face.

Zadni Koscielec mountain
1. Zalupa H - (3 pitches UIAA II) A beautiful open book corner, with plenty of holds and protection. This makes a scary route in winter due to verglas and the thin snow covering that accumulate up it.
2. 100 - (10 pitches UIAA IV+) A classic outing up the eastern buttress, well-protected with easy pitches interspersed with trickier ones. The name also comes from W.H. Paryski guidebooks.

Zamarla Turnia mountain (south face, accessed via Kozia Przelecz)
1. Lewy Wrzesniacy - (4 pitches UIAA V)
2. Aligator - (4 pitches UIAA VII-) One tricky move around the overhang at the top of the first pitch, but it can be aided on in-situ gear if necessary.
3. Prawy Wrzesniacy - (4 pitches UIAA VI) An outright classic on this stunning granite slab.
4. Klasyczna - (6 pitches UIAA V) The first grade V route put up in the Tatras. A fantastic outing involving good route finding skills. It is very easy to go off route and end up on the neighbouring Sayonara, the hardest route on the face!
5. Sayonara - (6 pitches UIAA VII A2) A fierce route taking all the major roofs up the line to the left of Klasyczna. It can be aided on in-situ pitons if necessary. This route gives awesome exposure.
6. Motyka - (3 pitches UIAA V) A superbly aesthetic line up the right hand edge of the face, involving an exposed traverse at the top of the first pitch; a local classic, although tricky in bad weather.

Granaty mountain
1. Srodkowe Zebro - (9 pitches UIAA IV) Straightforward but enjoyable buttress on the left side of the Granaty peaks. A good first route in the area, and an excellent mixed route in winter.
2. Prawe Zebro - (10 pitches UIAA IV+) A more aesthetic line, with more difficult pitches. The headwall at the top gives fantastic exposure at an easy grade (II/III). In-situ chain anchors provide an easy abseil descent from the top.
3. Filar Staszla - (10 pitches UIAA V) The most classic buttress route in the area. The crux pitch is a series of physical moves up an overhanging corner, with in-situ pitons. Three pitches in the middle could be linked, moving together to save time. A great route with varied climbing.
4. Zleb Dregera - The major grade V gully next to Staszla. The crux famously involves a bridging move, facing outwards.

Wierch Pod Fajki mountain
1. Zebro Czecha - (4 pitches UIAA V) A classic winter buttress route that offers worthwhile climbing in the summer. The grade V crux chimney is a classic.
2. Gran Fajek - (UIAA II ridge) Legend says that in the old days, whomever traversed Gran Fajek could have his pick of the women in Zakopane! This is a very atmospheric traverse in a big mountain setting.

Kozi Wierch mountain
1. Filar Leporowskiego - (8 pitches UIAA V) Slightly loose near the bottom, but a lovely route to the top of the highest mountain that lies fully within Polish borders.
2. Filar Poludniowy - (10 pitches UIAA V) Aesthetic buttress route on the south side, with its crux on the third pitch.



Tony Grant is my best friend and climbing partner. I believe that Tony in his 27 separate visits to the Tatras over a period of 5 years has become the best Tatras expert of entire Anglo-Saxon world.

For the last 3 years he has been living and working in Bangladesh, Baku and Tokyo. Together with his wife Marta they are appreciating the beauty and diversity of Himalayan nature and Asian cultures. Tony is continually building on his international climbing experience at the same time developing his professional teaching career.




These are just a selection of the many routes in the Gasienicowa Valley area. The west face of Koscielec, in particular, has dozens of routes at all grades, and is a favourite face amongst local climbers.

There are certainly bigger and more difficult routes elsewhere, most notably around Morskie Oko Valley, but for mid-grade climbing I think the Gasienicowa Valley is second to none. Taking into consideration the other factors, such as price and accessibility, it is a serious wonder that the place is not overrun with foreign climbers. So, do yourself a favour. Next time your annual leave comes around and you're planning your next climbing trip, hop on a budget airline to Poland and leave the crowds behind.

Summary:

  • Tatras offer a weather reliable, far from being overcrowded, budget climbing alternative
  • There are many attractive valleys for hikers and ski touring enthusiasts
  • Most of the High Tatras with their Alpine character are on the Slovak side
  • Ease of travelling, the cultural interest and the cost of flight encourage to fly to Poland