Snezka (5,256ft) – Highest Mountain in the Czech Republic
Eric and Matthew Gilbertson
August 12, 2014
We left Zermatt on the morning of August 11 after successfully climbing Dufourspitze, the Switzerland highpoint. Matthew took the wheel of our little Opel Meriva rental car and we headed north for our next objective, Snezka, the highest mountain in the Czech Republic. We were in Europe for a 2-week peakbagging trip to celebrate me handing in my PhD thesis, and were trying to hit as many country highpoints as possible.
Heading north and east we soon crossed the border into Germany and merged onto the autobahn. This was a little scary because there was no speed limit. Every once in a while a car would blast by us in the passing lane going twice our speed, but we soon got used to this.
By evening we made it to the Czech Republic, and needed to look for a place to sleep. Usually when we’re bike touring it’s very easy to find a place to sleep, even in Europe. We merely stop where we see some woods on the side of the road, and disappear into the woods to sleep. When we’re in a car, though, it is considerably harder to stealth camp. There aren’t really the equivalent of national forests in Europe like in the US, where camping is permitted anywhere because it is public land. Europe is much too populated. All the campable places we passed that would work if we were on bikes wouldn’t work in a car, because it’s not easy to hide a car. We really needed a secondary road into the woods, then a tertiary road off of that, and needed nobody to live along the road, and for the road to be in the woods.
Those requirements are all very difficult to satisfy when searching in the dark. We soon gave up looking and resigned to stay in a hotel. Hopefully a very cheap hotel, we thought.
Near the town of Pilsen we saw a lot of truckers pulled off at a restaurant-hotel combination that looked like a potential sleeping spot.
“I bet you that’s the cheapest place around,” Matthew said. “Truckers wouldn’t pay big money just to sleep.”
We pulled over and walked inside. The owner only knew a few words of English, “OK” and “Hello”, and we didn’t speak Czech, but we got a room for 15 Euros for the both of us. It wasn’t super clean or super fancy, but met our requirements and we got a good night’s sleep.
In the morning we finished our drive, through Prague to the trailhead town of Pec Pod Snezkou. Every state or country has an adventure town – like Mammoth Lakes, CA, Jackson Hole, WY – and this was the adventure town of the Czech Republic. Pec Pod Snezkou was located at the base of Snezka, and had numerous hiking trails leaving town, as well as chairlifts bringing tourists up to good vistas.
On this sunny summer day the parking lot for the normal route up Snezka was completely packed, with men in green vests directing people where to park. It’s pretty impressive how active people in the Czech Republic are to be coming out to hike in such numbers.
We managed to find a parking spot and quickly started off on the Obri Dul hiking trail. The trail wove through some old farms in the Obri Dul valley, then switchbacked steeply up the western slopes of Snezka. We passed many other hikers, some going up and some down.
Eventually the trail broke out above treeline and we crested a ridge onto the Polish border. Here even more people were crowding around a big building (the Slaski Dom we later learned). We avoided the building and turned southeast up the rocky ridge to the summit.
The summit was capped with a bunch of buildings – some selling ice cream and hot dogs and all sorts of souvenirs. It definitely wasn’t a wilderness experience, but it was a nice view. Farmlands of Poland spread out to our north, and the rugged Czech hills stuck out to our south.
We spent a few minutes walking around trying to tag the highest rock, and walked up to an observation tower. Eventually we started back down, this time taking the southern ridge route over Ruzova Hora. This route was much more gradual, at times passing under a cable car that transported people directly to the summit.
By mid afternoon we returned to the car. One more country highpoint was completed, and we moved on to our next country, Poland.