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The Tatras are the highest Polish mountains of alpine character. They charm tourists with outstanding views and panoramas but they also tend to be dangerous. Many tourists caution is dormant due to the fact that the rest of Polish mountain ranges are much lower and due to this fact also safer. In Tatras though, statistically, several fatal accidents occur every year. The deadly accidents happen to ordinary tourists, mountaineers, skiers, cavers; those who found themselves in the mountains by chance and those who had many years of experience gained in the highest mountains. They die from falling into the abyss, from being hit by a stone, in an avalanche, during storms from lightning, they also die from wind and cold as they overestimated their abilities and difficulty of walking trails. They lose their lives due to diseases which, tolerable in the lowlands, at the height of the Tatra peaks, in the sunny heat and effort of approach, turn out to be deadly. This is why it is good to stay prudent and maintain at least the basic mountain trekking lows. You will find them in the below article.

 

Weather

The weather in the mountains is changeable and capricious. The weather changes in the mountains much quicker than in the lowlands. Moreover, all weather conditions are much more intense: the wind blows stronger, the temperature drops lower, the sun's radiation is stronger, it rains more often etc. Weather conditions can change from hour to hour. This is why tourists have to check weathercasts before entering trails especially these longer ones and in the higher parts of Tatras. You can find it on the website www.tpn.pl or in local Zakopane newspapers. It is also displayed at the Tatra National Park information point at the Kuźnicki roundabout and on the notice boards of some Tatra national Park forester's lodges.

Do not go to the mountains in strong winds. In Tatras there is a fen type of wind “Halny”. It is strong and can be very dangerous. When wandering along the paths shrouded in fog, try to remember the characteristic details. When you lose the path, try to return to the last place with a known location by traces left in the snow, or by recognizing previously passed places. Protect yourself from the cold. Good clothes and shoes should provide protection against soaking, wind, heat and excessive sweating. Even if you start your trekking in beautiful weather it is good to have some emergency clothes for the rain and cold. Do not go to the mountains without sunglasses. In winter they should be special, dark, "glacial" glasses with side shields. A hat is required. Apply a cream with a high UV factor to your face, hands and neck. It is much easier to get burned or even damage your eyes in the mountains.

Avalanche is one of the greatest winter threats. Statistics since 1909 have recorded over 250 cases of people buried by snowfall. Over 90 people could not be saved. In winter, the Tatra Volunteer Rescue Service (TOPR) announces the level of avalanche danger for the Tatra Mountains. It can be assumed that a relatively safe stay in the mountains (but not in all places!) Is possible with the 1st and 2nd degree of danger. The final decision about taking the trip and choosing the route should be made after consulting the TOPR lifeguard on duty, who will help you choose the safest option of the route.

The storm in the mountains is the most dangerous phenomenon in the Tatra summer. In 2019 a storm that passed through the Western Tatras in the early afternoon on Thursday, August 22, 2019 caused the death of 5 people by a discharge of lightening. Most of the victims were at that time near the summit of Wielki Giewont. Apart from the killed tourists 157 were injured. When you notice signs of an impending storm, descend the ridge or summit into the valley as quickly as possible using the nearest trail. When the storm takes us by surprise, it is forbidden to hide in wet gullies or under rock eaves, or lean against the rock. You should sit on the backpack and curl up into a ball with your legs curled up. You should also protect yourself from rain to avoid cooling down. The group of tourists should disperse - don't sit next to each other.

 

Health

If you don’t practice any sports on daily basis do not choose the most challenging trails just after starting your holidays. Moreover, don't take on difficult and exhausting routes as soon as you arrive. A minimum of 1-2 days of acclimatization is required. The route you choose must match your health, fitness and skills. It is good to talk with someone that had already taken your chosen rout on site and can warn you about the difficulties. Get out into the mountains early to give yourself plenty of time to come back even if unexpected happens. Plan your route so that it is finished before dark. Never take a trip alone. Leave information about the planned route and time of return.    

 

Gear

Before departure, check the condition of your equipment and clothing. Make sure you have a map (the ones in your mobile may not be accessible after a few hours if you batteries run low), guide, flashlight, sunglasses, basic first aid kit and your own medications in your backpack. Regardless of the season - spare socks, hat, gloves. It is always crucial to have a phone with you with the appropriate emergency numbers: the international emergency number 112 and mountain emergency services in Poland TOPR / GOPR 985 or 601 100 300.

 

The Tatras can be safe and enjoyable, provided that you are aware of the dangers and strictly follow the rules of behaviour in the mountains. The vast majority of accidents could have been avoided, a minimum of knowledge, caution and common sense is truly enough. Always remember to plan a route suitable for your abilities, weather conditions and the season. If you are on a trip in a larger group, adjust the route to the weakest participant. Stay safe and immerse yourself in the Tatras beauty of pristine mountain landscapes.

 

Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska

Based on: https://tpn.pl/zwiedzaj/bezpieczenstwo

Date: 7.06.2021 

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