An interview with Piotr Holinko, a member of Canyoning Team TSK Zakopane, co-organizer of the survival expeditions
Listening to your stories about the adventures in the canyons, watching the films you have shot, as if simply transferred from “National Geographic”, it comes to mind that its frightful and beautiful at the same time. Waterfalls, mountains, canyons, and you – once climbing, than descending along the rock on a rope from several meters and entering with impetus straight into the rushing river. To put it simply – our next man with passion. Where does the love for balancing on the edge of security comes from?
It started in high school. Together with a friend, with whom we now form a survival team, we were fascinated by the Camel Trophy rallies. We drove a roadster, and the more we dug in the mud and the harder it was to pull out, the fun was better and more exciting. Thirteen years ago, we became interested in canyoning. This discipline in Poland was just developing. We have established cooperation with TOPR in Zakopane, we cooperate with the Tatra Canyon Association. For many reasons, however, canyoning is still a niche discipline. Among others because the closest serious canyons are in Austria, Slovenia or Italy. Generally – organizing a trip is not an easy matter. However, all the agony associated with the leave of absence, means and transportation are compensated by the first hours after arrival. It’s so hard to describe what feelings accompany us when we are inside these wonderful rock formations. In this moment the man feels small and fragile and great and proud. Each next 10 meters is different, unique, beautiful and often even frightening. No picture or film can show and embrace everything that surrounds us.
Did you have such situations when you felt: one more step and I’m done?
Such situations will have to happen sooner or later. The most important thing, although we were convinced, several times, that a tragedy is hanging by a thread, it was finally avoided – so far.
Leale – a canyon in Italy, which I will never forget. Nothing was going well that day. An unexpected change of weather interrupted the approach. When we finally managed to enter, we encountered a series of very technically difficult water thresholds, it could not go without flooding ourselves and minor injuries. Sharp water current managed to depressurized containers for electronics and we have lost maps, telephones, GPS, and even a camera. Losing maps and location made it impossible to determine the position of the emergency exit, which gave the opportunity to leave earlier, before the most difficult part, the several stage waterfall, the catchment (crux), where its bottleneck outlet gave the water a huge speed. We could not go forward, we could not turn back and then there was a downpour. We had little time to climb even above the water level, which will soon fill the canyon – after 20 meters of slippery walls from algae …
I have never been so damaged. After 9 hours of really hard fight, I managed to get out by climbing up the vertical wall, the element was already raging under us. But despite the fact that we experienced a real crisis there, I plan to go back and conquer it to the end.
What a participant of a canyon expedition may expect from it?
Above all unforgettable impressions. You can say that all impressions.
These are places that are unbelievably beautiful, immense, because everything is gigantic. All the time you feel the strength of the element. Frozen water, rocks, jumps, descents, caves, waterfalls, beautiful crystal ponds. After leaving it one feels that he has done something great. However, it must be remembered that it is a difficult environment, full of dangers, even those that cannot be avoided, despite your best preparation. It is true that tragedies happen. Most often these are drownings in gusty, circulating currents called hole flows and backwaters, or reverse currents. However, most often these are injuries that allow you to continue your route or vertical transportation.
What did the canyoning teach you?
First of humility and how important communication is. It taught me to look for a solution in a problematic situation as soon as possible. In situations of tension or conflict, I always put the interlocutor above me. Why do I need this? I am very happy after completing such expeditions. I sit in the base, drink an evening drink, look through the photos and cannot believe that I was there.
Thank you for the interview and I wish you many further trips.
One of Piotr’s films, showing the beauty of the canyoning, can be seen here: