NameThe name Babia Góra (Polish) or Babia hora (Slovak), which can be translated as Old Women's/Witches' Mountain, or just Babia for short, can be used to refer to the following entities:
- the massif that extends from the saddle named Jałowiecka Przełęcz Południowa in the west to Krowiarki pass in the east and has two prominent peaks – Babia Góra/hora at 1725 m and Mała/Malá (Little) Babia Góra/hora (in Poland also known as Cyl) at 1517 m, separated by Brona/Brána saddle at 1408 m
- the part of the massif east of Brona/Brána saddle, i.e. without Little Babia
- the highest summit of the massif
Babia Góra - beautiful and capricious, often referred to as the 'Queen of the Beskids' - was already mentioned in late-medieval chronicles. According to some old legends Babia Góra is a sitting old woman ('baba') turned into stone, or a huge heap of rubbish raised by women visiting a nearby sanctuary. Babia's summit was famous among local people for centuries as a place where witches had their black sabbaths.
The huge, around ten kilometers long, formed mostly of exceptionally hard sandstone massif of Babia Góra straddles the Poland-Slovakia border some forty kilometers northwest of the Tatras. It totally dominates its surroundings and makes the Beskid Żywiecki range (in Slovakia known as Oravské Beskydy: Please see here) the second highest mountain range in Poland and the highest range in all of the Western Beskids (the Flysch belt of the Northwestern Carpathians). Babia Góra has 1071 m of prominence, thus being the second most prominent summit in Poland and third in Slovakia.
Babia Góra massif is asymmetric in shape - its south side is gentle whereas its north side is very steep, occasionally cliffy. The main ridge of the massif extends from Jałowiecka Przełęcz Południowa (a pass at 997 m) in the west to Krowiarki pass (1012 m) in the east, forming an arc convex towards the south. Near the center and the southernmost point of the ridge is its main summit, Diablak at 1725 m. East of it sit the following - far from prominent - summits: Gówniak at 1617 m, Kępa at 1530 m and Sokolica (whose characteristic, cliffy north face is a scarp of a landslide) at 1367 m. To the west of Diablak is a flattish ridge of Kościółki at 1620 m, then Złotnica and Brona/Brána saddle at 1408 m, beyond which rises the peak of Little Babia (1517 m).
Along the western crest of Babia Góra massif runs the Poland-Slovakia border, which takes a sharp turn at Diablak summit to descend the south side of the mountain.
Babia Góra may have been glaciated in the Ice Age, but since its end (and surely before its beginning as well) has been shaped by landslides which destroyed most, if not all, traces of glaciers. Scarps at landslide heads, bulging bulk of displaced rock material and tiny lakes inside hollows within landslide toes dot the northern side of the massif.
Summit Area and ViewsThe summit area rises a couple of hundred meters above the tree line, which runs at approximately 1400 m. Higher up stretches the realm of dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo), which was devastated a few centuries ago in order to extend mountain pastures and graze herds of oxen, but is now fighting back. On and around the very summit are talus, some bare rock and alpine meadows. There are also a couple of man-made structures, relatively small in size, such as two rather unsightly monuments (to Archduke Joseph and to Pope John Paul II). However, the biggest structure erected by humans on the summit of Babia Góra is a two meter high wall of stone, which protects hikers from the notorious winds. At the north side of this wall is an inscription carved in situ in 1924, which has sentimental value for many Poles.
Views from the summit are overwhelming. In fact, for some they are the main reason for an ascent of Babia Góra. Quite a few people keep summiting before sunrise, but the best views, especially of the Tatras, can be admired an hour before sunset. The southerly, most interesting panorama encompasses the following mountain ranges: High Tatras, Western Tatras, Chočské vrchy, Veľká Fatra and Malá Fatra. Looking west-southwest Pilsko and Romanka come into sight and just west of Babia rises Little Babia. To the north and east stretch many lower ranges and ridges of the Western Beskids, of which the highest is Polica at 1369 m about nine kilometers to the northeast.
Some of the photographs featured below were taken a bit off the summit, but the scene they show does not differ much from what is seen from the very top.
Getting There, Routes & MapsMany people start an ascent of Babia Gora in the village of Zawoja, the longest village in Poland extending for 18 km along the valley of Skawica creek. Zawoja is easily accessible from Kraków (Cracow) by car or bus, or rather minibus. The minibuses/buses depart from the station located just outside Cracow Central Railway Station. The ticket costs up to 18 zlotys (about 4 euros), the journey takes two hours. Usually, you have to get off at Zawoja-Widły, but if you are lucky your minibus will take you 3.5 km further south, to the entrance to the national park at Zawoja-Markowa.
However, those travelling by car most often choose Krowiarki pass on Road 957 as a start point.
The most interesting stretch of all routes is undoubtedly Perć Akademików, which climbs the steep, north side of Babia. It is the rockiest waymarked path in all of the Flysch Carpathians, which boasts a few chain-assisted sections, including an eight meters high 'bad step' fitted with steel rungs.
The table below lists the shortest, most popular routes to the summit of Babia Góra.
|Ascent from the||Start point||Approx. total elevation gain||Approx. length of hike||Time for walk up||Marks|
|East||Krowiarki pass||715 m||4.5 km||1 hr 50 min||red (via east ridge)|
|South-West||Oravská Polhora||1080 m||10.7 km||3 hr 30 min||red-yellow (via Slaná voda)|
Red Tape & CampingBabia Góra National Park, part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Camping, bivouacking, off-trail hiking and dogs are not permitted. You have to pay an entry fee, which in 2017 was 5 zlotys (a little more than 1 euro).
On Perć Akademików (see chapter 4) only upslope traffic is allowed. (The rule seems to make sense in summer, when traffic can be heavy.) The trail is closed in winter due to avalanche risk.
The Slovak part of the massif is a nature reserve, in which the regulations are as strict as in the Polish territory. No entry fee is collected.
The first Polish hut was built at 1180 m northwest of the summit, at a clearing called Markowe Szczawiny, just a year after the Beskidenverein hut. It lasted over a hundred years and in 2009 was replaced by a modern building. Markowe Szczawiny hut is very popular with individual hikers and school groups, even in the off season. If the hut is fully booked, you can get a place on the floor, which in 2017 cost about €6.
The Polish village of Zawoja at the north foot of Babia Góra offers a wide range of accommodation, which in contrast is rather limited in the Slovak village of Oravská Polhora, which has a few guesthouses and Slaná Voda hut at 750 m.
Over six kilometers northwest of the summit of Babia, just north of the crest of Mędralova/Modrálová (1169 m), outside the national park, sits a shelter which used to be a shepherd hut. Lastly, on the Slaná Voda – Babia Hora trail there are several newly-built shelters, but bear in mind that bivouacking is not allowed there (see chapters 4 and 5).
When To Climb, Rescue & WeatherYou can climb Babia Gora all year round. In July t-storms and fog are common. The best time, when you can count on relatively long spells of good weather and excellent views, seems to be August to October, but in August (and July) huge crowds are the norm.
Mountain rescue team's phone number:
Poland (GOPR) (+48) 601 100 300 or 985
Slovakia (HZS) (+421) 18 300
Warning: In Slovakia - unlike in Poland - those who do not carry commercial insurance, such as the 'Out and Active' (see here), have to pay for any rescue services rendered by Mountain Rescue Service (HZS).
East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve
East Carpathians Biosphere Reserve is the largest biosphere reserve in Europe. In November 1992, under the Man and Biosphere Program, UNESCO designated a Polish-Slovak bilateral Biosphere Reserve. In October 1998 the Ukrainian part joined to form the first trilateral Biosphere Reserve “the East Carpathians” - a unique treasure of global importance, combining immense wildlife value with rich cultural heritage.The reserve contains some of the least disturbed ecosystems e.g. part of the largest European natural beech forest complex, Eastern Carpathian mountain meadows called “poloniny”,and protects endemic and threatened mountain plant species and communities. It constitutes one of the most important refuges for large animals of primeval habitats of Europe. Unique fauna is composed of all native big predators like the brown bear, wolf, lynx and golden eagle, as well as all big native herbivorous mammals like the European bison, red deer and reintroduced Hutzul horse.
East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve covers 200,000 hectares (in Poland 53%, in Slovakia 19% and in Ukraine 27% of the total area) and encompasses six protected areas within the borders of three countries:
|Protection status||Establishedin||Total Area (ha)||Photo||Features|
- Fragments of old Carpathian virgin forests are still preserved over vast areas of the Reserve and the natural beech stands are the biggest in Europe. No wonder in 2007 the clusters of primeval beech forests were inscribed to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
- East Carpathians Biosphere Reserve is the only territory, where mountain meadows called poloniny are being protected.
- Also it is one of the wildlife hotspots, where big forest animals roam free.
- Low population density over a relativelly large territory makes East Carpathians Biosphere Reserve unique within Europe.
OverviewHrubý Jeseník (High Jesenik), which is called Hohes Gesenke by Germans, is the highest massif in the Eastern Sudetes/Jeseníky. It lies in the territory of the Czech Republic, namely in the north of Moravia, between the Rychlebské Mountains to the northwest, Góry Opawskie/Zlatohorská vrchovina (Opava Mountains/Zlaté Hory Highlands) to the northeast, Nízký Jeseník (Low Jesenik) to the southeast and the Hanušovice Highlands to the west. The roughly Y-shaped area (530 sq. km) of the massif is made up of three mountain groups:
- Pradědská hornatina (Praděd Group) in the south
- Keprnická hornatina (Keprnik Group) in the northwest
- Medvědská hornatina (Medvědí vrch Group) in the northeast
Hrubý Jeseník is composed mostly of ancient gneisses and schists. The sides of the massif can be very steep whereas its ridges are broad and rather flat. The highest summits rise a little above timberline. In a few places there are traces of small Pleistocene glaciers, the most distinct of them being the corries on the eastern side of Vysoká hole (Velká kotlina/Velký kotel) and Červená hora (Sněžná kotlina).
The table below features Hrubý Jeseník summits that have both an elevation of over 1200 m and a prominence of at least 100 m.
|Summit||Mountain group||Photo||Elevation in meters||Prominence in meters|
The main ridge of the High Jeseník forms the backbone of the Praděd and Keprník groups. Its south end is the saddle of Skřítek at 874 m, from which it runs north-northeast to Vysoká hole, the second highest summit of these mountains. Before Vysoká hole, at the summit of Velký Máj, the huge lateral ridge of Mravenečník branches off the main ridge to extend to the northwest. Its very top, Dlouhé stráně, contains the reservoir of a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant (please see chapter 6). To the north of the summit of of Vysoká hole, its secondary summit, Petrovy kameny (1446 m), is topped with an interesting group of rocks. Just over two kilometers north of the summit of of Vysoká hole is the highpoint of Hrubý Jeseník, Praděd, with a modern, 162 m tall communications and observation tower. From Praděd the main ridge runs north-northwest to Malý Děd, where it takes a turn west-northwest towards the pass dividing the Praděd group from the Keprník group. The pass, Červenohorské sedlo, has an elevation of 1013 m and takes its name from nearby Červená hora (Red Mountain), the second highest mountain of the Keprník group.
Medvědská hornatina (whose Polish name is Masyw Orlika, after the second highest summit in the group, Orlík at 1204 m) connects to the Praděd Group via the pass of Vidly (Videlské sedlo) at 930 m and is divided from the Keprník Group by the valley of the Bělá River. It is more or less equal in area to the Keprník Group, but it is over 200 m lower and does not rise above the tree line, which results in it being less attractive to the hiker. In fact, its most visited corner sits far away from its highest summits (devoid of waymarked trails) and is completely flat, since it is a peat bog by Rejvíz pass at the northeast end of this mountain group. Rejvíz pass separates the Medvědí vrch Group from Zlaté Hory Highlands, which used to be called the foothills of the High Jesenik.
Red Tape and Camping
Hrubý Jeseník, along with adjacent swaths of Hanušovická vrchovina and Zlatohorská vrchovina, is protected as a CHKO, i.e. Chráněná krajinná oblast (Protected Landscape Area), which contains four national nature reserves (národní přírodní rezervace), nineteen nature reserves (přírodní rezervace) and seven nature monuments (přírodní památka).
- Praděd at 820-1491 m, 2031.40 ha; one of the biggest nature reserves in the Czech Republic established through the enlargement and unification of the following six national nature reserves: Petrovy kameny, Velká kotlina, Malá kotlina, Praděd summit, Divoký důl, and Bílá Opava
- Rašeliniště Skřítek at 800-890 m, 166.65 ha - peatbog
- Rejvíz at 734-794 m, 329.14 ha; the largest Moravian peat bog, which hosts a pretty big lake
- Šerák-Keprník at 860-1423 m, 1174.44 ha; the oldest reserve in Moravia, declared in 1903
Hrubý Jeseník lies in the north of Moravia, very near the border between Czechia and Poland. In fact, its northern reaches are part of Silesia and used to belong to the Bishops of Wrocław (the capital of Lower Silesia, southwestern Poland). However, these days the area is hardly accessible by public transport from Poland.
Czech Railways can take you to the fringe of the mountains (please click on the map in the above chapter), buses also traverse them via road no. 44, which runs across the main ridge through Červenohorské sedlo (1313 m), and road no. 450, which links the outskirts of the town of Jeseník (boasting the Priessnitz Health Resort) to the exquisite spa village of Karlova Studánka. (As far as spas are concerned, there are two more on the fringe of Hrubý Jeseník: Lipová-lázně and Velké Losiny.)
AccommodationNB There are plenty of guesthouses and hotels as well as a few campsites around the High Jesenik.
- Chata Jiřího na Šeráku at 1323 m, less than 200 m from the summit of Šerák
- On Červenohorské sedlo (1313 m) there are several expensive guesthouses/cheap hotels
- Chata Švýcárna at 1315 m, between Červenohorské sedlo and Praděd
- Chata Barborka at 1320 m, on the south side of Praděd
- Hotel Ovčárna at 1300 m, half a kilometer northeast of the summit of Petrovy kameny
Man-made Structures on Summits
Views from the summit of Jizera are excellent. There are hardly any buildings in sight – mostly mountain ranges and woodland. In the southeast, beyond conical Bukovec, rise the Giant Mountains (Krkonoše/Karkonosze). In the east, the characteristic cone of Ještěd capped with a communications spire catches the eye. The northeastern horizon is formed by the undulating Wysoki Grzbiet (High Ridge) with Smrk and Stóg Izerski to the north, and Zielona Kopa (the massif whose highpoint is Wysoka Kopa) and Wysoki Kamień in the east.
|Summit||Photo||Elevation in meters||Prominence in meters|
|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|
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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.
Several versions of the paper map are available in bookshops in any of the nearby towns.
- 1:100,000 Online, Sheets 134 (Hoverla-Pip Ivan) & 133 (Petros area, west of Hoverla), Cyrillic script - from a Berkeley collection
- Made in 1933 by WIG, 1:100,000 - to be seen online
- Interactive Map
- paper 1:50,000 - names in Ukrainian (non-Cyrillic as well) and Hungarian, available from Szarvas
To see the area and the trails on an online map, type (or copy and paste) Ostry Rohac in the search box.