• Alina Cebula

These views come at a price

The weather conditions for the past few weeks have been both amazing, horrible and scary! It has been nothing but snowing daily with temperatures dropping to -12 degrees. I have had a week-long trip to the mountains planned but because of the heavy snowfall, it was too dangerous to be anywhere in the mountain area. The risk of snow avalanches was very high, and trees were breaking and falling on paths under the weight of the snow. Additionally, it was dark cloudy and flat the whole time. Feeling very uninspired and disappointed I had spent the week at home drinking too many teas and hot chocolates with occasional trip to the local forests.

​Towards the end of the week though, the conditions have suddenly improved, the danger level dropped, and the forecast showed a whole 3 hours of sunlight! Without thinking much about it I have packed my bag and forced my partner to come along for one of the most difficult hikes we had done. This was the best day I had this year so far and will be very difficult to beat. The walk was so rewarding, and I could not take my eyes of the snowy mountains and trees. 

We have started the walk in Kuznice, walking through a very dense forest with amazingly tall trees which let no light to pass through them. This part was very steep and slippery, my crampons kept getting loose and the weight of our bags didn’t help. Having breaks every 20 minutes and snacking on sandwiches was a must if we were ever going to get to the top. 

It was an amazing sight when we finally reached the higher parts of the forest with sun peaking through the branches. Every couple of minutes a block of snow would drop down from one of the trees onto our path, creating a cloud of wet, cold, shiny snow particles as light as ash, dropping on my cheeks and melting straight away. It was very cold and initially I was scared that more snow will slide and block our path, but later it was quite a pleasant feeling. It felt like standing near a waterfall for 1 second on a very hot day. It was -12 degrees, but because the walk was quite demanding, and we were both layered up in thermal clothing by the time we have reached the top I was too warm. 

Once we got out of the forest, very beautiful views of hills and forests unveiled, from then on the walk got a bit easier but was a lot scarier because the chance of a snow avalanche was much higher in this part. When walking, the snow would only reach up to our ankles, but every now and then another person would walk the opposite direction, two people wouldn’t fit on this path which meant stepping into the snow on the side. Every time we have done that we would have dropped down and get stuck in above knee level snow, but still not touching the solid ground! The forecast has shown 130cm of snow in our destination. 

On our final bit of the hike after we have gone through the forest and through the steep open field, we walked around the corner and all of the sudden a beautiful landscape of mountains covered in snow appeared. I was beyond happy at this stage, I could not stop taking photos. Thousands of pine trees covered in so much snow they bend down, the pleasant sunlight casting long shadows on untouched snow, and beautifully white, pure, clean mountain range. I could not look down at the path to see where I was going, the views were too mesmerising. I had slipped and fell a few times. 

​The goal of this hike was to get to Hala Gasienicowa, which was another 20-minute walk from this point. It was already getting quite late at this point and I didn’t think we could make it back before it gets dark. There was something though that made me really want to get to the end of the hike so we have decided to go as fast as we can.

After a small downhill walk, we arrived at a field with a few small wooden huts and the most beautiful background of mountains. It was worth it. A few other people were still walking the trails. Without walking far, I took a few images, and headed back down. By that time all of our sandwiches and water was frozen. My phone also didn’t last till the end in these freezing conditions, so the thought of getting lost or stuck on the way back down was quite scary. 

When returning through the same path, we had almost ran down with no breaks, slipping on almost every step, but we have experienced the most magical beautiful sunset I have seen. The clouds were like a painting, fluffy, orange, pink and purple clouds drifting above the frosty, cold, blue landscape. It was magical. I cannot wait to return again.  

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