A two-days traverse of the Polish Karkonosze

A two-days traverse of the Polish Karkonosze

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 50.73646°N / 15.72418°E
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 25, 2005
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

A brief presentation of Karkonosze

The Wang norvegian church in KarpaczWang church
Mały Staw, Karkonosze, by DorotaDorota's Karkonosze 2004 attempt

From the top of Slęża, climbed the week before, and despite the sceptical opinion of Dorota, we could distinguish the blur shape of Karkonosze, South West, in the distance. This was the destination of our next excursion. We had planned it for long. We had already planned it in November, but weather didn't allow us. Dorota had been in Samotnia the spring before, but snow prevented her to climb any further. Finally, a stop in May on the road to Prague allowed us a short hike to the Kamieńczyka waterfall and a pleasant foretaste.

Karkonosze is in Poland the most mountainous part after the Tatras, much more West, and shared with Czech Republic. However, the range is completely different. No sharp mountains there, only wide desertic granitic plateaux bordered with glaciar corries. The landscape reminds somehow of Scotland or the french Auvergne.

How to visit Karkonosze in two days ? There is no much choice: being a long-shaped range, it needs to be walked on its length. The return being made by another way, lower, on the second day. Two resorts end each side of the range : Karpacz and Sklarska Poręba. Having already seen the second, which is the less interesting of the two, we chose this time Karpacz (which, as its name doesn't show, is not in the Carpathians :)

Top of Ślęza, looking SW to the KarkonoszeKarkonosze from Slęża, May 2005

Samotnia and red wine

Sunset on ŚnieżkaSunset on Śnieżka
Sunset on the Pielgrzym rocks (the  pilgrims )Pilgrims rocks
Samotnia, Mały StawLake Mały Staw

Gone on Friday afternoon after my work, we head to Jelenia Góra, and Karpacz. During 30mn we struggle in this maze of holiday houses to find a car park near the trailhead. We finally ask a hotel for using their car park. Dorota carries just her camera and me the whole backpack for two days due to her knees problems, plus a bottle of wine, but this is kept secret for now. The path is cobbled and goes along the Wang church (a Norvegian one, dismounted and rebuilt here some centuries ago, with all its viking ornaments), and cross few bare meadows before heading into a deep valley.
Samotnia, Mały StawLake Mały Staw
The Samotnia hutSamotnia hut
The Samotnia hutSamotnia hut
The Śnieżka building on the topŚnieżka observatory
Cliffs over Wielki StawCliffs over Wielki Staw

The sunset illuminates the range and its summit Śnieżka, we couldn't expect a best moment to walk along right here. In the valley, we quit the cobbled track for a small path... obscurity. Then we reach the hut of Samotnia, on the shore of the lake Mały Staw, nestled in a corrie. The hut is desert, the hutkeepers are not really friendly and the atmosphere feels kind of gloomy. We drink the wine.

We start walking the next morning: first, we climb Śnieżka, 1602m, from where we dominate all the Sudetes, there is an observatory (a bit awful) standing on the top. We climb down and decide to replace our heavy hiking boots by the sandals once back on the flat track. We follow the main ridge, along the border with Czech Republic, overlooking the lakes Mały Staw and Wielky Staw, and we head into endless vast grassy meadows. It could be Scotland, or some regions of the Massif Central like the Margeride or the Aubrac. Dwarf pines and granitic boulders are found here and there. The first half of this hike is completed as we reach the road pass Przełęcz Karkonoska.
Obrí důl valley from Śnieżka Obrí důl valley from Śnieżka

Outcrops, glaciar corries, fainful feet and thunderstorm.

Wielki StawWielki Staw
Trail near the Karkonosze pass (Przełęcz Karkonoska / Spindlerove Sedlo)Near Przełęcz Karkonoska
The Karkonosze pass (Przełęcz Karkonoska / Spindlerove Sedlo)Near Przełęcz Karkonoska

Some surprising prominentgranitic outcrops, similar to those found on the french Brittany sea-side (côte de granit rose), or somehow similar to Fontainebleau, stand from time to time, defying the laws of erosion: The "pilgrim", the "Marguerite", the "3 horses".. In the end of the afternoon, the sky gets cloudier. We are now walking along the cliffs of Śnieżne Kotły, the "Snowy corrie", another glaciar valley whose walls are very sharp, and in the botom of whose are lying three little lakes.

Śnieżne Kotły, Karkonosze s largest glaciar corrieŚnieżne Kotły
Rocky outcrops on the Karkonosze ridge : Śląskie Kamienie/Dívči KamenyŚląskie Kamienie
Rocky outcrops on the Karkonosze ridge: Słonecznik/Polední kámenSłonecznik
Szrenica mountain hutSzrenica mountain hut
Peat bog under SzrenicaPeat bog under Szrenica

Far in the distance, some large forests of high coniferous, unfortunately damaged by acid rains few decades ago. Small trees just start to re-invest the places. We end on Szrenica, ultimate hump of the range, on whose top stands the second mountain-hut of our journey, 1310m. The sky is now really black. Feet are painful. As we eat and take a shower, surprise: the thunderstorm resonate.

When we wake up the day after, I have a glance through the window: we cannot see anything through a thick fog, not even the antenna of the hut ! Our plan was to get back to Karpacz via the forest trail below, but a misty rain and painful legs change our plans and we decide to hike down to Sklarska Poręba and catch a bus taking us back to Karpacz. As we drive back to Wrocław, a splendid sun reappears as we drive away from the Sudetes, and the heat of June warms us again to our great pleasure.

Śnieżne Kotły, Karkonosze s largest glaciar corrieŚnieżne Kotły

Back to Wroclaw and epilog

Karkonosze from the planeKarkonosze from the plane, November 2004

Trail from Szklarska Poręba to SzrenicaBack to Sklarska Poręba
Trail from Szklarska Poręba to SzrenicaBack to Sklarska Poręba

Despite we told ourself that we must come back to hike that trail below together, we still haven't done that. We only gave back the Karpacz church a winter visit so far. But, on the other hand, we also realized that the Czech side must be full of interest: a goal that I fulfilled since then by bike, and whose photos can be seen in this album.

Kamieńczyka waterfallKamieńczyka waterfall
On the way to the Kamieńczyka mountain hutBack to Sklarska Poręba
The Wang norvegian church in KarpaczWang church in winter
Lakes in the bottom of Śnieżne KotłyLakes in Śnieżne Kotły
On top of Śląskie Kamienie/Dívči Kameny, rocky outcrops on the Karkonosze ridgeTop of Śląskie Kamienie


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