When talking about summits in the Sudetes, conversations come to the outlook towers. Fashion initiated by the Germans a century ago, more or less justified depending on their location, they have the undeniable advantage of providing panoramic views when the top is covered with forests, this without altering the aspect of the mountain. And when we talk outlook towers in the Sudetes, the first that comes in mind is often Wielka Sowa. For many reasons.
A quite flat mountain, some voices already point, before starting. On Summitpost ? Read "In Defense of the Wild". Where can we hike hours in subalpine forests, one hour drive from a million inhabitants city ?
Wielka Sowa is a charismatic mountain from many points of views. This large dome surrounded by beautiful forests makes a friendly goal in all seasons for hikers, skiers, cyclers. Popularity increased by the fact it is perhaps the quickest mountain of the main range to reach from Wrocław, if we make abstraction of lone dwarfs like Ślęża.
Wielka Sowa tops over 1000m, the only one in the area. Probably fourth on the prominency rankings of the Sudetes, no higher Polish mountain stands between Śnieżnik and the Karkonosze range. Highest in the Central Sudetes (northern branch only), if we make abstraction of Velká Deštná (1115) in the Orlické mountains.
But most of all, the summit clearing owns a superb stone outlook tower, erected in 1906. Left in poor state during the socialistic years and looking gloomy, it was renovated for its century anniversary in 2006 thanks to European funds, and now wears a clean bright white mantle. The summit meadow is the convergence of four main trails oriented like cardinal directions, and owning each a large wooden gate, which confers to the place a sort of mystic significance, a bit like some sort of "Stonehenge".
25m high and overlooking the trees, the outlook tower provides stunning panoramic views extending to all the Sudetes, from one end to another, which very few other viewpoints can claim. The present outlook tower was preceded by an older wooden one that lasted from 1886 to 1904.
There is also a radio transmitter slightly taller than the current outlook tower, but the place of its construction was judiciously chosen far enough from the top, which doesn't spoil too much the views.
Wielka Sowa (anecdotically Velká Sova in Czech) used to be the "Hohe Eule" in German, "High Owl" just like the range it belongs to, the Eulengebirge (Góry Sowie), which means the Owl Mountains. This etymology might comes from the birds (or rather the Tawny and the Eagle-Owl than the common Owl) that populate the forests, but their presence is not outstanding and other theories take into account older Celtic origins.
"High Owl", since there is a neighbour called Mała Sowa, the "Small Owl". Another neighbor worth mention is Kalenica, more east, also owning a metallic outlook tower (964m). Wileka Sowa and Kalenica are both made of precambian gneiss, a very ancient stone, whose outcrops are more present on Kalenica.
The only mountain hut to be located on the slopes, Schronisko Sowa, is also named after the mountain, but commonly named "Eulenbaude" too, by compliance with the historical background. This is a magnificent hut with a lot of hand-made wooden elements, worth making a stop to savor the atmosphere, possibly sipping a local beer...
Last detail worth mention when it comes about fauna and more surprising than owls: the range hosts a large population of mouflons (bighorns), successfully introduced from Corsica (or Slovakia according to other sources) some decades ago, and very well acclimatized. It is not rare to surprise this unexpected animal, when making irruption on some hidden slope during unusual hours or weekdays.
Wielka Sowa, despite close to the border, is entirely in Poland, located inside a triangle formed by the agglomerations of Dzierżoniow, Nowa Ruda and Głuszyca.
Being a part of the long range of the Owl mountains, the top stands between two passes that go across the range: Przełęcz Walimska on the West and Przełęcz Jugowska on the East. They are the most usual trailheads because requiring the less ascent. However, people who seek more elevation can start somewhere lower (Lasocin or Sokolec for example).
Depending on where we come from, there are basically two ways to arrive: from the northern side (Wrocław) or from the southern side (Głuszyca-Nowa Ruda region, or Czech Republic).
From Wrocław, the most convenient way is to head in the direction of Kłodzko till Łagiewniki, turn right to Dzierżoniow, continue to Pieszyce, and depending on the pass we plan to start, take the direction of Kamionki or Lasocin.
From the southern side, Nowa Ruda better serves Przełęcz Jugowska and Głuszyca rather Przełęcz Walimska. Getting there fast from Czech Republic isn't easy, as we need to cross a remote corner of that country. From Broumov, we need to chosse one of the two borders, to Nowa Ruda or Mieroszów (to Głuszyca).
Note that both car parks on Przełęcz Walimska and Przełęcz Jugowska are guarded, and a modic sum might be asked during week ends.
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Many routes converge to the top.
The most usual are :
* West route, from Przełęcz Walimska (750m), the blue trail is the most direct route. Note also the existence of a thematic trail marked with purple (unusual for PTTK standard), called "Sebrna Droga", the "Silver trail", since there were mining activities long ago here. Longer, it merges with the southern route at the hut.
* South route, from Sokolec. The most direct, but more elevation needed. Locally known for the small ski resort. Follow the green-marked trail, or the read that starts at the "Orzeł" hut, meeting at the other mountain hut "Eulenbaude", and till the top.
* North route, from Lasocin. This picturesque small valley in cul-de-sac offers two ways to reach the top, the green and yellow trails that can be made in a loop.
* East route, from Przełęcz Jugowska (800m), the red trail takes longer than the previous option, but offers more varied landscapes, for example across Kozie Siodło clearing. Less elevation and more distance if we avoid Kozia Równia with the blue-marked and bike-friendly variant. Przełęcz Jugowska is also the trailhead to Kalenica, the other outlook tower of the range if heading East. There is another hut called "Zygmuntówka" just above the pass on this side.
* There are three mountain huts worth mention in the area, one on Wielka Sowa itself, the two others at the trailheads :
- Schronisko Sowa ("Eulenbaude")
- Schronisko Zygmuntówka
- Schronisko Orzeł
* Wildcamping : there is no evident restriction like that in the whole area, but try to avoid doing it on the meadow near the outlook tower.
* Lots of accomodations, from agrotouristic farms to hotels, in the neighbouring localities. However Dzierżoniow, Nowa Ruda and Głuszyca aren't very beautiful places. Look rather for smaller villages around, and look into google for a location name followed by one of the words as follows :
- Accomodation = Noclegi (PL), Ubytovanie (CZ)
- Hotel = Hotel/Hotel. "Hostels" often designate Youth hostels or motels.
- Green lodge = Agroturystyka (PL), Agroturistika (CZ)
- Guesthouse = Pokoje gościnne (PL), Penzión (CZ)
- Summer residence = Dom letniskowe (PL), Chalupa (CZ)
- Flat for rent = Kwatery (PL), Privat (CZ)
- Mountain hut = Schronisko (PL), Chata/Horsky Hotel (CZ)
- Tavern = Chata (PL) => not to mix with the Czech homonym
- Restoracja (PL), Restaurace (CZ)
Some examples :
- Mała Sowa in Rzecka
- Cicha Woda in Lasocin
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