Śnieżka – the highest peak of Karkonosze
Śnieżka is the highest peak of Karkonosze (1602 m n.p.m). That’s interesting, in the XVI century it was thought as the highest peak of Europe. How it had happened? It was caused because of a wrong measurement. According to the explorers of that time, Śnieżka was 5500 high! Śnieżka was suspected to be an extinct volcano, too. Its conical shape looks like the extinct, european volcanos. However the studies of its structure deny it decisively.
Geological section of the mountain is nothing else like granite and metamorphic rocks. Upheaval of Karkonosze mountain range with Śnieżka Peak dated at time of Oligocene. The most inaccessible are the southern and northen slopes, that fall into two deep, postglacial valleys. Eastern part of the mountain falls gently to Solar Valley. The Peak of Śnieżka was probably reached the first time in the middle of XV century.
Capricious White Lady
Śnieżka, as befits the White Lady, during major part of the year is white. The name of the mountain come from the XIX century, from the adjective „ snowy”, what means covered with the snow. It was called as well „ Huge Mountain” or „ Lady of the Wind”. The last nickname is thanks to atmospheric conditions at the top of mountain. The climate at the Peak of Śnieżka is similar to the climat of Arctic Circle. Due to these conditions, a lot of plants typical in the High Alps region grow there. An average temperature at Śnieżka Peak is 0 degrees Celsius.
During holidays months the temperature varies between 9 and 11 degrees Celsius. On 23rd of July 2013, the record of temperature was set, 24 degrees Celsius at the top. The hallmarks of Śniezka are hurricane winds with the speed of 80 m/s. An average speed of the wind at the summit of Śnieżka is about 12 m/s. There are the months (especially the winter ones) when the wind blows 25 m/s. The peak is shrouded with a thick fog over 300 days of the year. Śnieżka is a paradise for the observers of atmospheric pheonomenons. At its top, the corposant can be seen. When the phenomenon appears, the shelter should be found.
At the top of Śnieżka, a phenomenon of Glory (optical phenomenon) can be seen as well. That is multicoloured aureola around the shadow of human body, reflecting in the clouds. From another perspective, the same shadow can be seen, but enlarged in the cloud. The explorers also mention Northern Lights. Śnieżka, because of its location, is a great place to study the climate change. When the weather is good, the Śniezka Summit offers a marvellous view of the mountains and Jeleniogórska Valley.
Climbing to the summit of Śnieżka
The summit can be reached by walk. There are a few trails to choose:
- Blue trail - relatively long, but easy one, too. From Wang Church leads paved route. An ascendant trail with no hilly line or vertical climb. There are some shelters where you can rest for a while while climbing. Very popular trail – for families with children and older people.
- Yellow and green trail - the route is quite exhausting and rough, but short one. Full of hilly lines. It is recommended to the amateurs of mountain climbing.
- Red trail - the route is divided in two parts; tougher section (with beautiful views) and easier one (with no interesting views) for intermediate amateurs of mountain hike.
- Black trail - stony route and rather hilly. It is recommended to advanced hikers. Not allowed to families with children and older people.
- Urban cableway to Kopa - it has been operating since May, 2018 (when it was renowated); four-seated cableway that takes tourists to Kopa. The route from upper station of cableway to the top lasts 2 hours by walk. The weather conditions have to be check before you hit the road from the lower station. When the weather is windy, the cableway is closed.
- Czech Republic area - Pec pod Sněžkou – from the Czech area, you can reach the summit using gondola cableway. The route is divided in two stations – middle one and upper one. There is a bus stop Bachus in Karpacz whence the bus departures to Pec regularly. The distance between the villages is 35 km. The timetable is available on the website (www.karpaczbus.pl).
Gondola cableway, the same like cableway to Kopa, is closed in windy weather.
Blue trail length is 11 km. Beginning of trail: Wang Church. You will travel this trail through „ Jubilee Route”. This is quite flat and easy trail. Its capstone is the last section of hiking to the top of Śnieżka. During hiking you can admire the landscape of Little Pond Glacial Cirque. Going in the neighbourhood of „Samotnia” Shelter, you can stop for a while and taste a traditional kitchen.
Yellow and green trail
Yellow and green trails length is about 5,5 km. For some people, the trail is tough and exhausting. It leads through Pląsawa Valley till „ Strzecha Akademicka” Shelter.
Red trail – its length: 9 km. Beginning of trail: Orlinek. You can choose the following trails: Łomniczka Glacial Cirque, Sowia Valley, and then Black Ridge ( tougher, but with beautiful views ), Śląska Route: Biały Jar and Kopa ( easier but duller within initial part of the trail ).
SBlack trail – its length: 9 km. Beginning of trail: Biały Jar. The trail leads the tourist along Złoty Potok that flows below. You can admire the landscapes of Little Pond Glacial Cirque and Huge Pond.
Śnieżka on the pilgrim’s route
There is Saint Lawrence Chapel at the top of Śnieżka. It is the oldest, baroque building in Poland located so high. The chapel was founded by Count Christoph Leopold von Schaffgotsch, who wanted to emphasize this way his rights to Śnieżka. Construction was started in 1655, and was supervised by Bartłomiej Nantwig. Setting of chapel at Śnieżka had to disenchant whimsical mountain. People believed, all the weather anomalies were caused by Mountains’ Ghost.
Placing it at the top of Śnieżka symbolised the victory of Good over Evil. The altar of chapel was brought from Krzeszów ( in 1810 the altar was brought to Sainte Ann Church in Sosnówka ). Opening and consecration took place on 10th of August 1681 (Saint Lawrence day). The new chapter in the history of Karkonosze had begun and was called – pilgrims’ tourism. The day of chapel consecration became an annual fete of the sudeten guids and people of the mountains.
The Holy Mass has been organised in Saint Lawrence Chapel since 1981 and collects several hundred persons, mainly from Poland and Czech Republic. In 2010 during devotion, President of the Republic of Poland and President of Czech Republic met in its walls. At present, during summertime you can meet the Mountains’ Ghost in the chapel who willingly poses for photos with tourists.
What is situated at the summit?
First meteorological observations at Śnieżka have been made since 1824. The quality of measurements was so good, therefore the decision to build a permanent base was taken in 1880. As it turned out later, because of the measurements quality, it was a good decision. During The Second World War an observatory was used by Luftwafe. The listening post and comm center were located in nearby shelter. In 1946, the building was joined to Polish Meteorological Service. The observation continuity was kept. In 50’s, The decision to create a new observatory was taken because of bad condition of the old building. The project was entrusted to doc. dr. Inż. Witold Lipiński.
UFO „ landed” at the top of Śnieżka in 1974. An architect explained his idea with a common interest of UFO theory. He always emphasized his fascination of curve and orbicular lines. Since then, they were one of two existing Mountains Observatories located in Poland. Nowadays, the range of observations is as follow: the measurements of solar radiation, air pollution, air radioactivity and standard weather observations. There is the Point of Eco Education inside the building and meteorological equipment exhibited. Since April, 2018 the lower level of the building has been reopened for the tourists. In huge construction there is a place to drink a coffee and admire the view of Karkonosze.
Post office building
At the top of Śnieżka, you can buy some postcards and send them, too. Within the territory of Czech Republic, there is the highest located Post Office building in this country. Its unique location was honored with an unquotable post code – 542 91. The beginning of Post Office functioning dated in 1847 (within an activity of shelter then). First post card in the world was issued in 1873 at Śnieżka Summit. About 1500 postcards per day were sold in 1900. In 1936, Post Office was brought to the small souvenir shop. In 1994 it became an separate unit. You can buy some post cards, souvenirs inside and drink a tea with rum.
Śnieżka by bike
Within Karkonoski National Park you can ride a bike only on the trails and interal routes previously marked.
- Route I: I Sudecka Route – lower and upper internal route in the area of Szerzawa and Kopista Mountain
- Route II: Blue trail from Przesieka and Borowice to Karkonoska Pass
- Route III: Urszula Route
- Route IV: Red trail to PTTK Shelter by Łomniczka
- Route V: internal route by Chojnik (next to Urban Activity Center in Sobieszów)
Route to Śnieżka leads through Karkonoski National Park, where ride a bike is forbidden. Cyclical events are the exception, for example: Uphill Race Śnieżka, Karkonosze by bike and Śnieżka by bike. You can register your participation at the beginning of the year.
Tourists at Śnieżka
Śnieżka is the place visited by the tourists from all over the world. Its beauty attracts not only hiking amateurs. Crowds visit Śnieżka, especially in the summer. It is a challenge for tourists in the winter. Because of specific climate and rapid change of weather conditions, it is necessary to wear appropriate clothes and boots. The mountains are unpredictable.
Weather at Śnieżka
An average annual temperature at Śnieżka is 0 degress Celsius. Queen of Karkonosze hallmarks is an hurricane wind over 80 m/s. An average speed of the wind at the top is 12 m/s. It is one of the most windy mountains in Europe. There are only three days with no wind. Over 300 days a year, the mountain is covered with thick fogs.
The coldest months are: January and February, when the temperature goes down below 0 degrees Celsius. The record winterday at Śnieżka was the day with temperature – 33 degrees Celsius. White Lady is covered with snow over 200 days a year. The warmest months are: July and August when the temperature ranges between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. On 28th of July 2013, there was a record temperature at Śnieżka – 24 degrees Celsius.