At the beginning of May I posted a story about Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke setting out on his latest project the Poland Trek expedition. The plan was to start with a climb up Mount Rysy, the tallest peak in the country, and then traverse the Tatras Mountains to the source of the Vistuala River, the longest in Poland. From there, Loncke would paddle the remaining 1200km (745 miles) to the Baltic Sea, taking roughly 4 to 5 weeks to complete the entire journey. Lou-Phi, along with a small support crew, have managed to cover a significant portion of their route, but the most challenging areas may yet lie ahead.
The expedition started with a challenging climb and traverse of the Tatras back on May 7. Loncke and his team found more than two meters (6.5 ft) of snow waiting for them on Moutn Rysy and blizzard conditions surprised them on the trek. That resulted in a much slower ascent than expected, although they did reach the 2499 meter (8198 ft) summit at around 5PM. They continued hiking for another five hours before camping for the night, collapsing with exhaustion inside their tents.
The following day the weather improved, but conditions remained challenging at altitude. Heeding some advice from the local mountain rescue squads, Lou-Phi and his companion, Tomasz Grzywaczewski, took a longer but safer route into the wilderness around the Tatras. A few days later they completed their traverse and parted ways, as Tomasz was suffering serious blistering on his feet. He would have to walk for several more days before he would find the source of the Vistuala, but about nine days into the expedition, Loncke broke out his packraft and started paddling down the waterway.
That was about ten days ago now, and the Belgian explorer has been making good progress ever since. He is enjoying the wild and untamed river immensely, as he encounters wildlife and beautiful scenery at every turn. And when he pulls into one of the small towns along the way, he has been greeted very warmly by the locals.
At this point, Lou-Phi has about 500km (310 miles) to go until he reaches the Baltic, but he those could be the most challenging miles yet. Low water levels are going to require that he portage around some areas and the lack of water could make paddling very challenging elsewhere. You can follow his progress and almost daily updates on the expedition’s website PolandTrek.com.
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