The route depicted here is the eastern section, roughly one third, of the Orla Perć (Eagle Path), which has had its SP page for a few years now. Still, I believe a separate page for this section is needed as the Eagle Path page, despite being rather extensive, only devotes two sentences to it.
The Orla Perć is often called a via ferrata, which is misleading since – despite the metal chains, brackets and ladders as well as being comparable to the Austrian/German via ferrata grade 2 (B) – it is NOT a via-ferrata like those in the Alps. There is no cable to which you could clip yourself, which means that you are unprotected unless you clip yourself to the chains. This is possible and recommended by the national park authority but it is awkward and hardly anybody bothers to do so.
Compared to the western section of the Orla Perć (west from Kozi Wierch), its eastern section is equally demanding. It is a bit less frequented (as it is a long way from the cable car station) and the park's authorities seem to care a bit less about its maintenance too. Also, the rock is a little less solid here, and the trail tends to get damaged every few years. Finally, this is the longest section of the Orla Perć devoid of a waymarked exit.
Route Statistics & Approach/Descent
|Route||Net Elevation Gain||Approx. Total Elevation Gain||Approx. Time of Whole Hike||Approx. Length of Hike|
|The above plus Zadni Granat (Zakopane-HG-Krzyżne-Skrajny Granat-Zadni Granat-HG-Zakopane)||1850 m|
The "core route" begins at Przełęcz Krzyżne (Krzyżne Pass, 2112m), sitting on a lateral ridge which branches off the main ridge of the Tatras at the summit of Świnica. Krzyżne is over four hours' walk along waymarked trails from the outskirts of Zakopane. From the hut on Hala Gąsienicowa (Gąsienica's Pasture) it takes – via a place called Dubrawiska and the valley of Pańszczyca – nearly three hours to walk up to Krzyżne. An ascent from the other, southern side is a little longer. From the trailhead at Polana Palenica (car park, "Morskie Oko" minibus terminus) you walk three quarters of an hour up the tarmac road to Mickiewicz Falls, where you turn right into the valley of Roztoka. A walk up the valley to/near the spot where the mountain hut stands by one of the Five Polish Tarns (Pięć Stawów Polskich) is expected to take two and a quarter hours. From the hut it takes another two and a quarter hours to get to Krzyżne.
From Skrajny Granat, a descent to Zakopane – first via yellow marks – should last about three and a half hours. But if – on reaching Skrajny Granat – you do not feel like leaving the crest and parting with the Eagle Path yet, you can carry on following the red marks and the ridge of Granaty for twenty five minutes (to Zadni Granat at 2,240m) or more (as far as Kozi Wierch, at which the one-way section of the Eagle Path ends). Some of the possible variations of the route (all of them waymarked) are listed in the table above. All variations can be seen on the map just below.
Route DescriptionKrzyżne Pass and its environs commands an excellent panorama of the High Tatras, from their east to their west end. There is plenty of room there to sit down and take in the views, while having the deserved rest and snack after a tedious – one and a half to two hours’ – walk up from the bottom of the valley. Several hundred metres under your feet sit the beautiful tarns of the Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich (Valley of Five Polish Tarns). By the nearest lake you can spot the mountain hut.
Our route begins as a nearly horizontal traverse of Kopa nad Krzyżnem and a spire called Ptak. A comfortable walking path leads you across the south, grassy side of the ridge for several minutes. Soon ahead of you rises a not very tall but fairly good-looking peak. This is Mała Buczynowa Turnia, whose highest summit reaches 2,172m.
You walk up a little to soon stand on a fairly narrow ridge, at the east end of the elongated crest of Mała Buczynowa Turnia. For a few minutes you can enjoy an easy crest hike.
Unfortunately the Eagle Path, contrary to your expectations, hardly ever follows the crest of the ridge. So, to your disappointment, instead of ascending the dominant Wielka Buczynowa Turnia (2,184m), it drops down over a hundred metres, first very gently, then – assisted by chains – steeply into the chute separating the south sides of Mała Buczynowa and Wielka Buczynowa turnias.
(The chute provides a relatively easy, unmarked exit from Orla Perć, but it must not be used unless in case of an emergency.) After leaving the chute, the trail begins to regain elevation, traversing the south face of Wielka Buczynowa Turnia a long way away from its summit.
The next stretch of the ridge, called Buczynowe Czuby, will be first traversed on its south side, without difficulty. Half way down this stretch, the trail crosses the ridge and begins, losing elevation, to diagonally traverse its north face. This, like the traverse of Orle Turniczki (see the … photo below), ranks among the most exposed sections of the trail. After returning onto the crest, the trail climbs Orla Baszta to pass within several vertical metres of its summit (easily accessible).
Orla Baszta (Eagle Turret), besides being a fine, bold peak, affords a magnificent view of the west side of Wielka Buczynowa Turnia.
PIC Wielka Buczynowa Turnia seen from Orla Baszta.
Now it is time for the aforementioned, exposed traverse of the north face of Orle Turniczki.
PIC The north face: Typical piece of traverse
On the traverse, which includes climbing down a steel ladder, you will be losing elevation.
PIC The ladder
The traverse will lead you to the chute dropping from a col named Granacka Przełęcz. You are to climb up this chute, which can get a little tricky, depending on how slippery it is at the time. In addition, part of the scree filling the chute – along with a few metres of the chain-assisted path – has been eroded away recently, and this process is likely to continue. Hopefully, the national park authority will have this section of the trail reconstructed.
PIC Damaged trail
From Granacka Przełęcz at 2,145m, it takes about twenty five minutes (chains, exposure too) to cover the last eighty vertical metres of our route. Finally, you set foot on the summit of Skrajny Granat, which makes for another excellent vantage point.
PIC Middle part of Eagle Path (Granaty) seen from Skrajny Granat
When To Climb & Essential GearPlease have a look at my Świnica to Kozi Wierch page to see photos of the Orla Perć taken on several different dates.
This route is a hiking trail which makes sense when there is virtually no snow or ice on the ground and the rock is dry. That is why only "summer, fall" has been selected for the "season" row within the page profile at the top. The main problem with the summer is the crowds which come along with the school holidays. Weather permitting, September is better since it sees fewer people - just university students are still there. A weekday in October seems to be the best choice, however, it must be the right October and the right part of it (all of my photos on this page were taken on 8 October 2013: sunny day, dry rock most of the time, no verglas, hardly any snow, hardly any people). In recent years, the Tatras have experienced very changeable weather conditions in September and autumn. Wintry spells alternate with summerish ones. If you decide to go in summer, an early start, say about 3 a.m., will let you avoid the crowds as well as a possible thunderstorm. An example of what often happens in summer is given here.
Hiking boots or approach shoes are a must. Gloves can be helpful (the chains can be cold or slippery). Consider a via ferrata set and a helmet. Bear in mind that about two-thirds of all recorded accidents on Orla Perć are triggered by slips on snow, ice (which may not be seen until you step on it) or just wet ground.
In winter conditions, if there is plenty of snow and the chains, not to mention the paint marks, are buried under it (which is normal in winter and early spring, but can happen in autumn and occasionally in summer too), you would need the full range of mountaineering gear, lots of experience, a partner and avalanche awareness. If there is less snow, an ice-axe and crampons, and the skills of using them may suffice.
Red TapeWandering off the waymarked trail and bivouacking are not permitted.
- Current weather conditions and live webcam views
- Conditions on the trails in Polish
- Mountain rescue team's phone number: (+48) 601100300
|It is essential that you check the weather forecast too.|
another 6-day forecast for Zakopane
- Murowaniec (the hut on Hala Gąsienicowa)
- Pięć Stawów (the hut in the Dolina Pięciu Stawów)
- There are plenty of guesthouses and other types of accommodation in Zakopane and nearby villages. When booking online, I usually use this site.
Wszystkie miejscowości - All villages and towns
Szalasy i domki - Chalets
Ośrodki wypoczynkowe – Lower standard hotels/guesthouses/holiday camps
Wille – B&B/guesthouses
Wynajem pokoi – Guesthouses
Hotele – Hotels (varied standard)
Motele – Motels
Maps, Books, ReferencesA 1:25,000 map of the Polish Tatras, such as this, is good enough while a 1:50,000 is NOT. Usually several versions are available at bookshops, souvenir shops and street stands in Zakopane.
I can recommend a special, 1:5,000 map of the Eagle Path (available online) which I used as a reference, especially while working on the second chapter. The same goes for the following guidebooks (unfortunately not available in English)
bbBaníkov Banówka (PL) Bánya-hegy (HU)
One of the two most attractive summits in the Western Tatras, in their western part which Slovak people call the Roháče, Baníkov is the highest summit in the main ridge of the Western Tatras. (Its name probably derives from Hungarian/Slovak for "a mine/miner" - a couple of centuries ago the slopes of Baníkov, like all of the mountains in the area, were prospected for iron ore.) Its main attraction is several hundred metres of the narrow crest, part of the main ridge of the Western Tatras, running east of the main summit. No, we're not talking of the Alps. But it is fairly airy and in wet or wintry weather conditions the climbing can be pretty dangerous (surely the average SP'er does not have to be told this). Such a piece of jagged granite ridge is a rarity in this quarter of the Tatras (even as far as the High Tatras are concerned, such a thing is a rarity in terms of what is legally available, that is to say on the net of the marked trails within the National Park). Here is how Józef Nyka, renowned writer of the Tatra hiker's guidebooks, sees it: "...an interesting crest climb over good rock, with numerous craggy steps, notches and smooth slabs, generally high exposure." (translation by yatsek) The uppermost section of the mighty side ridge of Ráztoka/Rozsocha (green stripes leading to Žiarska chata, i.e. hut) between Baníkov and Jalovecký Príslop 2,142m which runs from Banikov to the south (photo above)is also quite narrow and its east face is precipitous.
The western face of Baníkov, down which the ridge trail continues towards the westernmost reaches of the Tatras, is the gentle side of the mountain. A descent to Baníkovské sedlo (Baníkov Saddle) at 2,040m takes just over 20 minutes. But mountains, like people, can have more than one face. Many unprepared climbers have been injured or killed on Baníkov, mostly in wintertime, of whom many if not the most were Czech. The Slovaks have a joke: Two non-Czech climbers are walking below a cornice of snow at Baníkov, and one of them says: "Hey, don't utter a word in Czech. It could trigger an avalanche."
Several versions of the paper map are available in bookshops in any of the nearby towns.
To see the area and the trails on an online map, type (or copy and paste) Ostry Rohac in the search box.
While in summer the loop over the main ridge Cheia-Zaganu-Gropsoarele-Ciucas Hut-Ciucas Peak-Bratocea-Cheia can be covered (without a heavy pack) within one long day, in winter it requires two full days. Only experienced mountaineers can walk along the main ridge. This route can be divided like this:
- Cheia-Zaganu Ridge-Ciucas Hutor Tigaile Mari Pass
- Ciucas Hut-Ciucas Peak-Bratocea ridge-national road 1A route (Pasul Bratocea to Cheia)
The most difficult part of the route is the Zaganu Ridge but all route is difficult because of the snow, navigation problems (attention on foggy days) and long distances. In some winters the wind blows at 130km/h.
Equipment required: ice axe, crampons, ski poles, solid tent, winter gear, winter boots (plastic type for example).
Skis could be very useful on the non-rocky parts of the ridge.
The most used bivouac places are:
- Zaganu sheepherd's hut
- just below the summit of Gropsoarele
- Saua Chirusca (Chirusca Pass)
- Ciucas Hut
- Bratocea sheepherd's hut
You can also descend to the Muntele Rosu Hut at the end of the first day and ascend the ridge back in the morning of the second day. But it will take extra 2h (descent) plus 3h (ascent).
Avalanches occur just below the Zaganu Ridge (from the sheepfold to the ridge) and in all of the zone below the summit of Ciucas and along the Bratocea ridge.
Wielki Szyszak/Vysoké KoloThe 1509m summit stands on the main ridge of the Giant Mountains (Karkonosze/Krkonoše/Riesengebirge), which forms part of the southwest boundary of the historic province of Silesia. Before 1938 through the summit ran the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. Since 1945 this border has separated the Czech Republic from Poland.
In Poland the summit is known as Wielki Szyszak (Great Helmet), but this name is actually the result of a mistake made by the Polish cartographers just after World War II. The Czech name of the mountain, Vysoké Kolo, and the German name, Hohe Rad, both translate as High Wheel. The original Great Helmet, that is to say Velky Šišak/Große Sturmhaube, sits just east of Vysoké Kolo/Hohe Rad, at 1424m. Its Polish name is Śmielec.
Wielki Szyszak/Vysoké Kolo/Hohe Rad is the fourth highest and the highest granite summit in the Giant Mountains (and in all of the Sudetes). It is the highpoint of the Western Giant Mountains, which extend west from the pass named Karkonoska Przełęcz/Slezské sedlo. The prominence of the summit is 331m. Its top as well as its eastern and northern slopes are covered with a fine blockfield. The mountain looks best when viewed from the northeast. Seen from the west the summit appears to be just a low, elongated knob, rising a mere few metres above the broad, slightly undulating surface of the main ridge of the mountains.
On the very top of Wielki Szyszak/Vysoké Kolo/Hohe Rad stands a structure, which may appear to be a cairn. In fact, this is the vestige of a monument to William I, emperor of Germany. The monument was erected in 1888 and demolished after World War II. What it looked like can be seen here.
Just west of the summit sits the most beautiful of the few cirques gouged in the Giant Mountains by the glaciers of the Ice Age – Wielki Kocioł Śnieżny, literally Great Snowy Cauldron. On its edge are a couple of vantage points secured with metal railing and a rather ugly building, which used to serve as a tourist hut but now it is closed to the public and houses a radio/TV transmitter. This place, i.e. the upper edge of Wielki Kocioł Śnieżny, is often referred to as Śnieżne Kotły (Snowy Cauldrons), even though Śnieżne Kotły is actually the name for two corries: Wielki Kocioł Śnieżny and Mały Kocioł Śnieżny (Little Snowy Cauldron), adjoining the former on the west. Please see this album.
The Karkonosze range rises on the south outskirts of the city of Jelenia Góra. My favourite trailhead for Wielki Szyszak and Śnieżne Kotły is at the bus stop/car park called "Dom Hauptmanna" (Hauptmann's House), in front of the house in which Gerhart Hauptman, a renowned German writer and Nobel Prize winner spent the last few years of his life. You can get there on a number 15 bus. (A ride from the main railway station takes less than forty minutes.) From Hauptmann's House it takes about three hours to get to the top of Wielki Szyszak/Śnieżne Kotły. The total elevation gain will be nearly 1000m. If you leave the blue trail at the first trail junction and follow the black trail, you will soon hike along a pleasurable path along Wrzosówka brook leading to Czarny Kocioł Jagniątkowski.
Another convenient starting point will be either near the centre of the resort of Szklarska Poręba or at Szklarka Falls (an enclave of the national park), between Szklarska Poręba and Piechowice. However, ascending Wielki Szyszak from the west is nowhere near as much fun as an easterly ascent.
If you are staying in the hut northwest of Łabski Szczyt (Schronisko pod Łabskim Szczytem), the hike will take just about one hour.
If you are staying in the hut southeast of Łabski Szczyt (Martinova bouda), the hike will take just about one hour.
You can make use of this route planner. Just copy and paste "Śnieżne Kotły" instead of Wielki Szyszak/Vysoké Kolo.
And here is the glossary for the route planner:
z – from
do – to
dodaj punkt pośredni – add a point en route
odwróć trasę – reverse the route
RoutesIf you do not go in winter, it is a really good idea to combine an ascent of Wielki Szyszak with a visit (via the green trail called “Ścieżka nad Reglami”, i.e. Path Above The Forest Zone) to all three corries nearby. Czarny Kocioł Jagniątkowski can be visited all year round, but the trail running through Śnieżne Kotły is closed until 31 May.
At present no waymarked trail leads to the very top of Wielki Szyszak, which means that you are not allowed to get there since the Giant Mountains are a national park. The top of the mountain is protected due to its being a nesting place of some rare species of little birds. The waymarked trail, which is closed for winter, traverses the northern, Polish side of the mountain well below its summit. In winter, you are supposed to follow the traverse of the southern, Czech side of the mountain, which is marked with wooden poles.
It is not clear if it is still illegal to summit under winter conditions. The most reasonable way of doing this is to ascend from the east, from the pass between Wielki Szyszak/Vysoké Kolo and Śmielec/Velky Šišak, first along the winter, Czech route, then more or less along the border – most likely along someone else's track. If there is not much snow the zigzagging old trail, laid towards the end of the 19th century, may show in places.
Red TapeThe area is part of a national park (or rather two parks: Karkonoski Park Narodowy in Poland and Krkonošský národní park in the Czech Republic). You are not allowed to camp/bivouac or stray from the waymarked trails. In Poland, there is an entrance fee (an equivalent of approx. 1.2 euros for a day pass in 2014).
In winter and early spring the following trails are closed:
- the red trail traversing the north side of Wielki Szyszak/Vysoké Kolo (the winter trail, waymarked with wooden poles, traverses the south, Czech side of the mountain)
- the yellow trail traversing the north side of Łabski Szczyt (to get to the hut under Łabski Szczyt from the top of Śnieżne Kotły, walk west along the main ridge and - past Łabski Szczyt - at the trail junction take the right turning marked with wooden poles)
- the green trail running through Mały Kocioł Śnieżny and Wielki Kocioł Śnieżny (closed in winter and 10 April-31 May)
There are plenty of guesthouses and hotels on either side of the Giant Mountains.
The nearest mountain huts are located within an hour's walk from the summit:
When To Go/Mountain Conditions
Under winter conditions crampons are often a must although they may only be needed in a few places on the approach routes.
Mountain conditions (in Polish)
Mountain rescue phone numbers:
Poland +48 601100300
Czech Republic +420 1210
AcknowledgementsA special thanks to Romuald Kosina for his photographic contributions.
- The info in the "Winter chapter" above was supplied by the first owner of the Ciucaş page, namely cernomor
- Most of the winter photos featured on this page were taken by Andreea Corodeanu
On the Czech side of the mountain, about five minutes’ walk off the summit is the source of the River Morava, which has been encased in a stone wall and is accompanied by an interpretive panel. Another five minutes’ walk down the trail will lead you to where a mountain hut (the Liechtenstein) sat until the early 1970's. Beside its foundation stands a lone statue of an elephant placed here in 1932 by a society of young artists who were also mountain lovers. For Czech hikers, the elephant – little known in Poland – has become a token of the mountain. On the subject of the buildings which disappeared in the early 1970's, on the very top of Śnieżnik used to stand an observation tower, whose ruins now make for what at first sight seems to be a rocky outcrop.