Kasprowy Wierch

We managed to get a mini bus from Zakopane to Kuznice today which was super good and shaved off 3km of walking! Woohoo!

This was a bit of a funny hike. Originally, we thought we’d go to a lake called Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy from Kuznice, but put in some more ascent to get to Kasprowy Wierch instead.

We took the blue path and then the yellow path (left hand side).

The first section of the ascent is in the forest. More rocky paths and more sore feet – yay! Before too long we were out of the trees for a our first views over Zakopane. (About 1300m – I was like woaaah we’re so high! It’s weird to regularly have been up at that level now).

Climbed up some more and back down to 1500m where there was a nice stone mountain house with restaurant and more importantly toilets. Did make Dan go in first because I couldn’t work out which door it was.

At this point we could either carry on as planned to the lake, or head up the mountain. I was skeptical, but the mountain won out.

Not to worry though! Saw a small lake with the remaining snow in the background instead.

Stopped for snacks with 55 minutes left according to the sign. In reality it was a fair bit longer.

From here onwards, the path got rockier and steeper and I wasn’t having much fun.

Looking behind at the path we’d walked was pretty crazy.

An English speaker offered to take our photo which was nice! I took one for a family earlier in the day, asking the question via hand signalling.

The top was pretty crowded because you can also access it by cable car. It still gave us some stunning views. It’s also right on the Slovakian border, though I don’t think I crossed into Slovakia this time. It was also nearly 1900m – a new high for me!

Having never been in a cable car down a mountain before, well, it was too nice to resist. Saved my ankles alot of pain on the steep bit of the descent, and means I can do more hikes in the remaining days.

Back in Kuznice, we finally tried Polish dumplings, which were really good but probably a bit much on a sunny day post-hike. Even still, we walked back to Zakopane, which is a nice gentle downhill.

I’m glad we did this walk, but now I’m really tired and have already had a little nap. I’m having the best time, it’s really awesome to have a large-ish hiking town so close to the mountains – and not having to hire a car was a huge win.

Intro to Poland

It’s my third new country of 2019! Pretty cool.

The day of travelling was long, left home at 3:15am and got to Zakopane at 7pm. This time, we’re relying on public transport which is kinda nice. Still learning to figure it out.

When we landed, we took the train from the airport to Krakow, where we had pizza because we were dragging around suitcases. We are coming back to Krakow for a day on the way back so will explore then. Took another train from Krakow to Zakopane – which was 3 and a half hours. There are buses too but we chose the train – it only cost £12 each or something stupid!

The little Hogwarts Express like cabins were cute! We got allocated seats next to some other British girls inter-railing. What’s the probability of that?

Really loving our hotel in Zakopane. It’s away from the main street so quite quiet.

For our first evening we walked into town in the drizzle. Zakopane is so much bigger than where we are used to travelling! I will take pictures when it is not drizzling. There are little stalls selling sweet treats, restaurants, bars, shops (so many sports shops!). Even in the rain it was bustling with people. For dinner we picked a cosy bar, where I had salmon with local mushroom sauce. Was definitely a bit rich but enjoyed it all the same.

Day 2 included a nice long lie in before trying some meats and cheese for breakfast. We weren’t sure what to do as the weather forecast included lots of rain. Settled on a nice roundabout hike to Kuznice.

It was a much more beautiful hike than I anticipated. You pay a small fee to access the Tatra national park. The paths are super well maintained, including the wooden bridges. There are plenty of information boards around with the park rules (one of the only things I’ve seen so far with an English translation). They really care about the wildlife – even well behaved dogs on leads aren’t allowed, and you have to stick to the paths.

The hike up was stunning, with water features, forests and mountains. It was really steep in places – but not too difficult. It didn’t rain for the first half of our hike – and was actually quite warm too, which I’m grateful for.

We reached about 1300m today, which isn’t bad going. And then the rain came (and one thunder clap – scary!) Learning from the drenching Sweden gave us, I put my waterproof trousers and coat on straight away. Was probably a good decision. Despite the rain, I still enjoyed the downwards section of the hike. The path straightened up (though it was cobbled so my feet are the tiniest bit sore now). It wasn’t long before we reached Kuznice, which seems like the start of most hikes in the area.

Having not had lunch, we had waffles! Tasty with chocolate Nutella sauce.

There were little cafés and a restaurant. Plus outdoor gear shops! And the cable car – which I think we’ll definitely take one day as it almost reaches 2000m.

If there is one thing I’ve noticed about Poland so far it is that pretty much everyone wears good trainers. All sorts of brands, all sorts of colours. Way more choice than anything I’ve seen in the UK. Might have to do a little shoe shopping whilst I’m out here.

We decided to walk the 50 minutes back to our hotel since we couldn’t figure out which bus to get. There are loads of little mini buses that take you to places! In future we are going to get the bus to Kuznice from Zakopane to skip the first part of the walk.

Not sure what we are going to do during the rest of the week, but I’m sure it will include lakes and mountains! Plenty of options – we are spoiled for choice.

Now for a nap before braving the busyness of the town again for dinner.

Fjallraven Classic 2018 -Day 1 and the return

Day 1:

So it’s Sunday, we’re in Start Group 8 which sets off at 1pm. I wake up in my nice bed in Kiruna, sort my pack out, and go to breakfast. I feel a little bit like a did before sitting exams. Nervous. Particularly the ones I hadn’t prepped for too well…

One last toilet break, check out, and we make our way to where the buses leave from.

I’m feeling pretty nervous at the check in – there are so many people here that will be on the walk with us.

The bus leaves in half an hour. The good thing is I can look at all the different Fjallraven trousers colours and make up my mind which ones I want when I finish this hike!

And the coach arrived in Nikkaluokta, and there are dogs! We need one so I can sleep next to it.

We have 90 minutes until start time.

Weighed my bag, at 17kg. What. The. ****.

We have done the first few kilometres of the hike! Doesn’t feel too bad at the moment. I’ve got my waterproof on over my midlayer and though it’s a bit sweaty my bag fits a bit better with it on.

So the first 11km or so were great. Then everything kinda started to hurt and it rained alot and it was pretty scary to think we were walking 19km into nowhere with 91 left to go.

But I’m here at the checkpoint now, and what more can I do except breathe, and put the tent up after a big rest, and sleep?

Dan looked up the weather, and every day for the rest of the trail was rain, snow, intense gale force winds and below freezing temperatures. Someone even said that this was the fourth time he’d done the trail and someone recommended he turn back for the first time. (Later found out this was the worst weather in all 14 Fjallraven classics – a lot of people got helicoptered out).

So our other option is turn around and go back. And given day 1 consisted of a nose bleed, hyperventilation and being soaked through to my pants, this is what we have chosen to do.

I’m gutted, honestly. With warmer weather and less rain I’d have probably made it. The thought of camping in below zero temperatures later on makes me feel ill. I think it’s sensible to turn back and for us to enjoy what is left of our holiday. Maybe we will get to explore the Lofoten Islands which we didn’t have time for before. Or nip across to Finland for another country! All I know is feeling like this isn’t worth it.

Some people will say they have unfinished business with the Fjallraven Classic, but that’s me done. It really is a challenge, with unpredictable weather and relentlessly rocky paths. Much respect to everyone in Start Group 8 who finishes this year.

Having walked back 2km in the dark pitched a tent just before a downpour, and having my freshly warmed legs warm up my sleeping bag, I feel much better.

Day 2: walking back

Well proud of mine and Dan’s tent putting up last night – it got really gusty even though our position is pretty sheltered!

I walked 21km yesterday after only starting at 1pm with almost a third of my body weight on my back. That’s my furthest distance in a day ever, even with a small pack. And I actually feel okay this morning! (Probably thanks to Dan lending me his sleeping mat which has a better rating than mine so my feet and legs didn’t get cold).

Took my first big bag tumble, fortunately didn’t hurt myself.

I mean, it happens to the best of us!

This terrain is awful and though my backpack feels lighter I’m making more footing errors. Can’t wait to get back to Nikkaluokta whether that’s to camp or to get the bus back to Kiruna.

The scenery is lovely though (now we can actually see it without clouds).

My poor boots aren’t up for all this rock! My feet hurt. Alot. We’ve got 7.2km left of today. It’s honestly a beast. Decided to stop rushing for the bus and just camp at Nikkaluokta.

Looking through my photos when we sit down for a break makes me happy! We’ve been lucky enough to see this place, experience it, and in my case, nose bleed all over it.

Back at the strange wobbly bridge with 3.5km to go. It has been better on less rocky paths and it is nice that it is wide enough for us to walk side by side and have chats.

Made it back! Had a good sing along to Let it Go and Country Roads and we made it! My feet hurt but that is two big walks with my backpack and I’m so happy to be done!!!

Nikkaluokta seems to be pretty much in a different weather system. The sun is out, putting up the tent was actually fun and there is a shower and sauna.

And that’s it for my Fjallraven classic. I’m disappointed not to finish, but sometimes you just have to be sensible. Given I sit in a winter cardigan in the office air conditioning, I think we made the right decision.

Now to enjoy a camp and work out what we can do with our remaining days in Scandinavia!

From Narvik to Kiruna

Day 3 – end

So thankfully I wasn’t wrong with my bus timings from the polar park to Narvik, and we got on the coach!

Again, the views from the bus were stunning. We even got to see the new suspension bridge being built!

Arrived in Narvik about 8:30pm and found the way to our hotel. Having thought over the whole not camping thing, I’m going enjoy the next few days. Starting with a shower with excellent water pressure!

I mean why make an already ambitious challenge more difficult, right?

Day 4

Had a hotel breakfast! Omelette and weird sausage thing…and little pancakes!

Today we’re exploring Narvik in the downpours – including the war museum because Dan’s a history nerd and I really should know more.

The war museum was really cool! There was world war 2 history and a strange philosophical future warfare exhibition that was really interesting. It’s a really thought provoking place and it was interesting to read about world war 2 from a different perspective.

Then I had my first actual hamburger that wasn’t a beefburger, which was pretty good.

It’s weird to spend time in a city. Saw some hikers sorting out their sodden tent and I’m pretty happy that’s not me right now.

Making the most of an off day by reading (finished Children of Blood and Bone and it ended on a huge cliffhanger – urghhh!). Also checked Instagram for people starting the Classic today. Looks like they’re having fun and I’m getting excited. Still, the prospect of snow is terrifying. Wish I had Dan’s capacity to produce heat.

Oh – and I napped a fair bit. Still shattered from the previous days and have the worst eye bags I’ve ever had in my life.

Went out for dinner in the evening, not too much to choose from in Narvik but had some good pasta. And took more silly photos.

Now to sleep before heading off to Kiruna tomorrow! First time on a train in another country! (Minus the Eurostar but I’m not counting that!)

Day 5:

All packed up. Had breakfast. Now it’s off to Narvik train station to make our way to Kiruna, Sweden.

The train journey is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on. So many gorgeous views of mountains, rivers, fjords and waterfalls.

Arrived in Kiruna! Registered for the classic, picked our trekking pass that we have to get stamped at each checkpoint.

Ate reindeer for the first time. This is all getting very real!

Checked in at our room for the night, which is really awesome!

Walked in the rain to The Bishop’s Arms for dinner – British style pub in Kiruna that is very busy! I’m having fish and chips because why not. Fuel for the hike.

Then it’s off to bed for the last time, and we’ll see how I get on from there!

Rebecca