|Sněžka Śnieżka Schneekoppe (DE)|
|Karpaty - Munţii Carpaţi - Kárpátok - Карпати - Karpaten|
The Carpathian Mountains constitute one of Europe's main mountain systems, whose characteristic arc spans some 1,500 km across, separating the Carpathian Basin from the vast lowlands of Eastern Europe. At both ends, it is cut off from the neighboring mountains – the Alps in the west, and the Stara Planina/Balkan Mountains in the south – by the Danube River (although in geologic terms the Carpathians extend a bit beyond the Danube - further discussion in the SW chapter). The Carpathians run across the political borders between half a dozen countries: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania.
Bearing in mind the sheer size of the Carpathian mountains, we are not going to provide much information about their particular ranges. Our objective is to give an overview - detailed information is expected of the child pages. The relevant SP pages (varying widely in quality) have been attached, the most important ranges that do not have an SP page yet have been highlighted in bold print in the tables. With this page, we would like to encourage fellow SP'ers to continue working on the old as well as submitting new SP pages about any of the countless interesting places to be found in our beloved Carpathian Mountains.
Geology and Physiography
The Carpathians presented here have been split into five groups: the Northwestern, Northeastern, Eastern (Northeastern and Eastern Carpathians are often classified as one region named the East Carpathians), Southern and Southwestern Carpathians. This breakdown is generally based on the works of Hungarian geologists and geographers, and differs markedly from the physiographic divisions of the Carpathians usually drawn, for example, in Poland.
The Carpathians are typically composed of three lithologic belts: the outer flysch belt (of relatively hard sandstone and soft shale), which is usually broad but low; the central crystalline (i.e. metamorphic/granitoid) belt, which contains nearly all of the highest ranges; and the inner volcanic belt (rather low, except the Călimani Mountains, which rise above 2,100 m). This pattern is best displayed in the Northwestern Carpathians, and also in the Eastern Carpathians. The crystalline chain is very poorly exposed in the relatively low Northeastern Carpathians (only a couple of crystalline mountains of the Marmarosh Mountains break through the sedimentary cover). Also, the make-up of the Southern Carpathians, which are almost exclusively composed of crystalline blocks, is different.
Within the Carpathians, the eastern sibling of the Alps, there are many blocks whose rocks were (trans-)formed by orogenic cycles older than the Alpine orogeny. Some of those blocks, e.g. the Rodnei Mountains constitute well-preserved pre-Mesozoic orogens, i.e. mountains last folded during the Hercynian (Variscan) or older cycles. Generally, what is now metamorphic rocks used to be pre-Mesozoic sediments (e.g. flysch or limestone) which were altered - mostly through contact with magma – in the late Paleozoic. The metamorphic rocks (usually gneiss and schists) along with the granitoid rocks (magma that has set) form the so-called crystalline cores of numerous ranges on the inner side of the flysch belt. These crystalline blocks are – to varying extent – covered by Mesozoic limestone, especially on the flanks, since prolonged erosion has usually removed the limestone from the central part of the range.
However, regardless of how old the rocks are, the geomorphology of the Carpathians was virtually determined by the Alpine (Tertiary) mountain-building cycle, which:
1) folded vast areas of limestone and flysch deposited in the post-Paleozoic seas that covered most of what is now the Carpathians
2) uplifted a number of old, crystalline blocks along fault lines (cracks in the Earth's crust)
3) towards the end of the Tertiary, was completed with eruptions of lava inside the Carpathian arc
In contrast to the Alps, limestone nappes (i.e. huge folds) are neither well developed nor well preserved. In the Carpathians, it is flysch which plays their part. Limestone (or more precisely calcareous rocks - limestone and dolomite - white triangles on our maps) occurs mainly on the sides of the crystalline massifs. Limestone 'splinters' can also be found immersed in the flysch. But like elsewhere the outcrops of calcareous rocks, especially mid-Mesozoic (Jurassic), often boast precipitous bluffs and crags, narrow gorges and caves.
At present, there aren't any glaciers left in the Carpathians, although the highest ranges did undergo intensive glacial activity in the Ice Age. As a result, their relief is bold and they are dotted with cirques and blue tarns, which makes for spectacular scenery. (A virtual NW to E to S to SW Carpathian traverse above the tree line is possible on SP by clicking here.)
In the following chapters, we will aim to list all particular ranges of each unit of the Carpathian Big Five in a separate table, split into columns according to the dominant rock type. Below each table, you will find a list of the most attractive limestone areas.
Babel of Toponyms
The Carpathians have always been inhabited by a handful of peoples. In recent centuries, among those nations are the Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Hungarians and Germans ('Saxons'). Hence, most of the Carpathian ranges and sub-ranges have names in several languages. Since including all the names in each of the languages would make the tables too crowded, we have decided to normally stick to the name in the language of the country whose territory a particular area is part of nowadays (most of the Carpathians lies in Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania today), with some exceptions, e.g. when an English name is commonly used or when the translation brings out the meaning, and occasionally when local ethnic proportions justify it.
However, we believe that it would be appropriate to list all the different names on the area and mountain pages. A dictionary of toponyms has been initiated for this purpose. Also, a little Carpathian Picture Dictionary, which lists about 150 words in eight languages, is available on SP.
Wildlife and Wilderness
The Carpathians cannot compete with the Alps in elevation, but they are one of the few remaining areas in Europe that are so rich in wildlife. Carpathian wilderness, like almost elsewhere in Europe, is hardly land intact by humans – in fact, it is mostly found in the areas that has been rewilded over the last century or several decades. For example, the brown bear population in the Tatras - the highest Carpathian mountain range, in which the custom of hiking and mountaineering dates back to the 16th century and which is packed with visitors in summertime - has grown over twenty times since the end of World War II. Please take a look here.
In the remote corners of the Southern or NortheasternCarpathians, you can easily find solitude and walk all day without meeting anybody, but this is also possible in the more touristy Northwestern Carpathians provided that you keep away from honeypots. Fortunately, a number of the most attractive places within the Carpathians have not become honeypots yet. Let us hope they will remain wild forever.
The Carpathians are home to various endangered and endemic species of plants and animals, including Europe's second largest (after Russia) brown bear population, especially strong in the Carpathian Bend. According to officials, there are five to six thousand brown bears in Romania although many ecologists claim that half of the bears have been shot down over the past two decades. If you are seeking an adventure package which encompasses crossing the bear country, the Carpathians by all means have it on offer. Check out the following link, full of information on the Carpathian bear, including detailed safety advice. Information on a range of animal species that inhabit the Carpathians can be studied on this SP page.
NW CarpathiansThe Northwestern Carpathians are the widest and most complex part of the Carpathian mountain chain, stretching from the Danube River at Devín, east of Vienna, to the valley of the Topľa River in the east of Slovakia. All three Carpathian lithologic belts – flysch, crystalline, and volcanic – are extensively developed here. It is also here that the the High Tatras (Gerlachovský štít, 2655 m) rise – the highest and most alpine in character mountain range in all of the Carpathians, which straddles the border between Slovakia and Poland.
Apart from the Tatras (which can be subdivided into the Western, High and Belianske Tatras), known in both Poland and Slovakia as Tatry, only the Low Tatras (Nízke Tatry) – a discrete mountain range that runs parallel to the Tatras between the valleys of the Váh and Hron rivers – exceed 2000 m in elevation. Despite there being plenty of crystalline ranges and massifs in the Northwestern Carpathians, the third highest mountain range in this part of the Carpathians stands inside the flysch belt, just north of the Tatras, and bears the name of High Beskid (Beskid Wysoki, more often called Beskid Żywiecki in Poland, after the town of Żywiec). Its highest massif tops out at 1725 m. The other three ranges that rise above timberline are the Little Fatra (Malá Fatra), the Great Fatra (Veľká Fatra) and the calcareous Chočské vrchy, all situated west of the Tatras or the Low Tatras. Like most of the other crystalline ranges in the Northwestern Carpathians, both the Fatras have vast areas formed of limestone and dolomite, within which some bold mountains stand. The most interesting of them is spectacular Veľký Rozsutec sitting at the north end of the Little Fatra.
In the southern chunk of the Northwestern Carpathians there are about a dozen hilly areas where volcanic rocks dominate. The highest of them, heavily wooded Pol'ana, reaches 1458 m and represents the remnants of a large stratovolcano. The volcanic belt of Northern Hungary crosses the Danube north of Budapest to extend further west, towards Lake Balaton, as the Transdanubian Hills, which are not regarded as part of the Carpathians except the Visegrád Mountains.
The table below lists the ranges of the Northwestern Carpathians from west to east, sorted by the dominant rock type, in the following format: mountain range - highest peak - elevation (in meters). Information about the limestone areas is to be found below the map and the following table.
|Flysch belt||Crystalline belt||Volcanic belt|
The High Beskid Mountains, which straddle the Poland-Slovakia border, are called Beskid Żywiecki in Poland and Kysucké a Oravské Beskydy in Slovakia.
The Western Tatras (mostly metamorphic rocks and limestone) and the High Tatras (granite) are in fact one range.The SE ranges except Branisko are often grouped together as Slovenské rudohorie or Spišsko-gemerské rudohorie (Slovak / Spiš-Gemer Ore Mountains)
Slanské and Zemplén Mountains actually make up a single range, cut in half by the political border between Slovakia and Hungary - hence the two names. The whole range is also sometimes referred to as the Eperjes-Tokaj Mountains, after the two towns at opposite ends of the range (the Slovak name of Eperjes is Prešov). However, the traditional name of the range was Sátor (Tent) Mountains, after the shape of its mountains.
The most distinct limestone blocks in the north:
- Belianske Tatry (Havran, 2152 m) - the distinct limestone/dolomite ridge adjoining the High Tatras, along with which it's often classified as the Eastern Tatras
- Pieniny (Wysoka, 1052 m) - the most outstanding group of the limestone rocks scattered along the inner rim of the flysch belt (nice crags also stick out of flysch within the Orava-Podhale basin and in the White Carpathians), right opposite the outer edge of the crystalline belt. The Pieniny are cut in half by the winding Dunajec River, which has created a scenic gorge through which one can travel on a locally made raft, on a bike or on foot.
- Chočské vrchy (Veľký Choč, 1611 m) - a link between the Western Tatras and the two Fatras
- Súľovské skaly (Veľký Manín, 891 m) - plenty of rock towers made of limestone conglomerate, at the northern end of the Strážovské vrchy
Limestone plateaus and canyon lands on the peripheries of the Slovenské rudohorie:
- Spišsko-gemerský kras - consisting of two distinct parts: Muránska planina (Kľak, 1409 m) and Slovak Paradise (Slovenský raj) (Ondrejisko, 1270 m). Slovak Paradise is famous for its trails which lead one up narrow canyons and waterfalls with the assistance of metal or wooden ladders, bridges, steps and chains. (Such trails have also been built in other places in the Northwestern Carpathians, but nowhere is their network so vast.)
- Gömör-Torna karst - cut in half by the political border between Slovakia and Hungary: Slovak karst (Matesova skala, 925 m) in the north - please see Zadielská Dolina and Aggtelek karst (Fertős-tető, 604 m) in the south.
- Bükk (Istállós-kő - 959 m) - within the Hungarian volcanic belt.
|Ascent from the||Start point in the town/village of||Approx. total elevation gain in metres||Approx. length of hike (km)||Time for walk up (hrs)||Marks|
|North||Upper station of chairlift (Kopa)||260||2.3||1||black-red|
|Ascent from the||Start point in the town/village of||Approx. total elevation gain in metres||Approx. length of hike (km)||Time for walk up (hrs)||Marks|
|East||Horní Malá Úpa||850||6||2.75||green-yellow-red|
|South||Upper station of cable car||several||0||0.05|
xxxZvolen may be worth visiting for the breathtaking panoramas of the main ridge of the Veľká Fatra, Nízke Tatry and other nearby mountain ranges.
- sketch map of the Kamenitsa Ridge
- 1:55,000 - paper and online map of the Pirin (loads quickly)
- 1:40,000 - paper and online: Select Kamenitsa or Kaмeницa
- paper maps: Copy-paste "карта нa пирин" - Careful! "карта на южен Пирин" does not cover the area ("южен" = south)
useful linksaccuweather widgets
eзeрo– ezero – lake
рeкa - reka – river
дoлинa - dolina - valley
хижa – hizha – hut
зaслoн- zaslon - shelter/bothy
връх - vrah - peak
скала - skala - rock
прeвaл – preval – pass/col
пoртa - porta - gate
поляна - polyana - clearing/glade
When to Go, Weather & Rescue Service
- The best time to go is summer and the first half of autumn. July and August tend to be very hot.
- Weather forecast for the Malyovitsa resort, nearly 2000m
- Weather forecast for Samokov, 950m
- In winter, there can be plenty of snow: Avalanches are not uncommon in these mountains.
- Mountain Rescue Service (ПСС) telephone numbers:
0887 100 237
02 963 2000
Red Tape & Warning
- The area is part of the National Nature Reserve Rozsutec, which is a part of the Malá Fatra National Park. Camping and rock climbing are not permitted. You have to stick to the waymarked trails.
- In Slovakia, if you don't take out relevant insurance, such as the "Out and Active" (see here), you will have to cover the costs of the rescue operation. In an emergency call 18 300
When To Go & WeatherTo avoid the crowds, it is advisable to go on a weekday in late spring, September or October. Some people might be keen on a winter adventure, for which you will need the basic gear and some experience: Here is an interesting video.
Weather, Avalanche Risk, Rescue Service
Mountain rescue team's phone number: (+48) 601100300
|Another forecast for Zakopane|
- the hut on Polana Chochołowska
- the Ornak hut in the Kościeliska valley
- 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
- 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
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.