Last year I was hiking the Polish part of Carpathians, Bieszczady, which also happens to be the part of the longest trail in Poland – Beskid Main Trail (Główny Szlak Beskidzki).
The views and the beauty of the mountains were incredible and I made a decision to hike the entire Beskid Main Trail. This year I started from the beginning and embarked on a journey to section hike the whole thing.
In early September, using last true days of summer, in 5 days I hiked through 5 sections of the trail 115km long. In total I gained 5040m and lost 4020m of elevation and reached the highest point of the whole trail with 1725m above sea level. In average I hiked 10h per day with a speed of 2,5km per hour and average 23km per day.
The trail was diverse, hard and demanding but also very picturesque and rewarding. I did things I haven’t done before and met great people although it was never my goal.
So how did every day look like? Let’s dive right in..
Day and section 1
Start: Ustroń Centrum
Finish: Wielki Stożek (mountain shelter)
I started my hike on Monday morning after reaching Ustroń by bus. Initially I walked through the town following the red markings and soon entered the forest. First summit of the trip was Równica (885m) The ascent was very steep and tiring especially with backpack full of water and food for 5 days. The top of the mountain is easily accessible for less demanding tourists (paved street) and offers many amenities and entertainments.
Next part of the trail took me partially by street to Ustroń Polana where I crossed Wisła river and made my first power up stop. After small rest I continued and faced another summit that day Czantoria (995m) This ascent drained me as it was a killer. On a distance of 3,4km I gained over 600m of elevation and I could feel it in every muscle of my body. The top of the mountain is covered in trees and to admire the views one needs to climb 29m high view tower. I spared myself this pleasure and made a nice and relaxing rest.
The next part of the trail runs along Polish-Czech Republic border and you can see the small border pillars along the way. I reached couple of other summits on the way Soszów Mały (762m), Soszów Wielki (885m), Cieślar (920m), Mały Stożek (843m). The trail was leading up and down and got me to the final ascent that day – Wielki Stożek (978m) where I also found a mountain shelter, my first accommodation. I decided to spend a night there due to a couple of reasons main one being my knee – my old injury came back and I started getting worried.
The shelter, opened in 1922, was empty. Apart from me and another hiker there was no one. I got some boiling water for my dinner, took a shower and was asleep in a blink. Next day I had to cover ~33km and I needed some proper rest.
Day and section 2
Start: Wielki Stożek
Finish: Węgierska Górka
As usual I woke up at around 5:30am and started getting ready. I never sleep long when I hike and start my days early. Mornings in the mountains are magical.
The trail nicely and easily lead me through Kyrkavica summit (973m) all the way to Kiczory (989m) The path goes through the ridges and provides nice views. From Kiczory I started a very steep descent to Łączecko pass and that’s when my knee turned against me. Piercing pain slowed me down considerably and marked my whole day – a long day of painful hike. Thankfully I had my trekking poles which saved my entire trip.
From Łączecko pass I followed the trail east heading towards Kubalonka pass. The path was really nice with some great views. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this beauty tormented by the pain. After reaching Kubalonka it finally was time for a proper rest.
Next section of the trail took me to the private shelter Stecówka which was currently in renovation and closed. The trail runs slightly up, then down to the river valley and takes you steeply up to another mountain shelter at the feet of Barania Góra. The shelter doesn’t really look like a typical one in that region and reminds more of a hotel than anything else. I took a short brake, refilled my water supplies, spoke few words with a hiker who slept in the same shelter the night before and marched on. By that time I have bandaged my knee to give it more support and survive the day without any major damage.
The ascent to Barania Góra was not a pleasure. Trail was very stony and steep. Added heat and painful knee wasn’t helping. I finally reached the mountain top (1220m) and made it to the top of the metal view tower to reward my efforts and admire the views.
After short brake I continued my hike down the mountain towards a pass and then slightly up to Magurka Wiślańska (1140m). From there the trail runs through very picturesque ridges and provides great views. Being there you can see the devastated landscape of fallen and dead trees – most damages happened in the 80s due to vermin and in later years by strong winds.
From Glinne pass I started a never ending descent towards Węgierska Górka – a small town in which I wanted to sleep. I have to say that after a very long day, especially with an aching knee, that way down was hell.. I didn’t enjoy one step of it – just wanted to finally reach the town. After what seemed to be an eternity I managed to finish my hike and get a warm room.
Looking back I have to say that was the worst day of the entire trip and I was only looking forward to the next day which offered mainly ascents and gave me hope hiking can be pleasurable again.
Day and section 3
Start: Węgierska Górka
Finish: Hala Miziowa (mountain shelter)
As usual an early start and by 7am I was already on my way. Morning was much colder than the day before. Initially the trail took me along the road (around 3km) slightly gaining elevation. After Żabnica it started steeply going up. I walked through the fields and forests constantly getting higher. The morning smelled amazing – fresh and sweet smells of late summer.
In many places the trail was very muddy and crossing that pools was super tricky. I also got lost for a short time as the markings were missing and I took a wrong turn. At the private touristic station Słowianka I took a short brake. My knee, after taking some Paracetamol the night before, was doing very well – I was really happy that the injury was getting better.
The next part of the trail was extremely hard and demanding. After short and pleasurable walk I started climbing Romanka mountain to reach the point where I would traverse it towards Pawlusia pass. That climb was a nightmare! It was hot, very stony and very steep – when I reached the traverse point and looked back I could barely believe I made that all way up. Traversing Romanka was an experience of its own. Firstly I faced the sign saying that the trail is closed due to felling but having no other choice as to continue my hike I ignored it. It was quiet, I couldn’t hear any sounds of work and definitely couldn’t imagine walking all that way down to take an alternative route. Swiftly I hiked forward to leave the felling zone and dived into a nature reserve. The slope was wild and pristine.
After an immense effort I reached very picturesque Pawlusia pass and made a final effort towards Hala Rysianka (1322m) There I had a very deserved brake enjoying the sun, the views and the pleasure of ventilating my shoes and feet (BEST strategy to prevent blisters).
The next section of the trail took me up and down through couple of summits, Trzy Kopce (1216m) and Palenica (1343m) and along the Polish-Slovakia border. Being surrounded by thousands of blueberry bushes I finally gave up and made a stop to stuff my face with them – there is nothing better than a fresh blueberry straight from the bush! Just before reaching the mountain shelter on Hala Miziowa (1330m) I had to cross a flooded, spongy meadow which, despite my efforts, ended up in my right foot being sucked into the sticky ground.
The shelter appeared suddenly and I was surprised I already made it to the end of that day. I was before foreseen schedule – a nice change. In the shelter I asked for a room and was surprised when there was nothing available apart from a group room. That shelter is immense and I was shocked there are no more smaller rooms available. I took what I got and in that way I was about to spend my first night ever in a group room with complete strangers. Later on that hiker I met before came to the same room and we ended up chatting which was an unexpected pleasure.
Day and section 4
Start: Hala Miziowa
Finish: Markowe Szczawiny (mountain shelter)
Can you deal with snoring? Well I can’t, like at all. That’s why I started my day much earlier than I wanted. One of my “roommates” snored terribly which killed my sleep. Oh well.
Morning views with a rising sun on such heights is something unforgettable. I started traversing the northern slopes of Pilsko (1557m) which was very nice. I must say my knee was doing even better than the previous day which improved my mood by a lot.
Unfortunately the super steep descent that followed killed my great mood – it was horrible. After over 2h of constant elevation loss I finally reached Glinne pass (809m) where I used the chance to rest.
What followed next was a 10km stretch of steep ascents and descents. Constant ups and downs drained me almost completely. This very demanding part of the trail is also not very rewarding – the views are not so great and there aren’t even signs to confirm you actually reached a summit. Just a tiresome hike. At the Głuchaczki pass I visited tent base – it was empty as it’s only opened during high summer. The problem of this entire section of the trail was water supply – between start and finish there was no opportunity to refill. It was a dry day for me as only carry 2l of water with me and refill when I can.
I continued to hike to Mędralowa (1169m) and then towards Jałowiecka pass where I entered Babia Góra nature reserve. The last stretch took me to traverse the Mała Babia Góra and lead me to Markowe Szczawiny mountain shelter (1180m). That shelter was completely renewed in 2009 and is one of the best ones in the complete Beskidy range. There I got a bed in another group room where I had a pleasure to chat to my already met fellow hiker and some other people.
I must say that I didn’t look for a company during that hike but everyone I met and everyone who I talked with was super nice. It’s amazing how much in common we hikers have.
I was completely finished by the lack of sleep the previous night and a very difficult day so I fell asleep without even realizing it. This time no one snored and I slept the whole night like a baby. Next day was my last one and I had to get even earlier than normally to catch my bus.
Day and section 5
Start: Markowe Szczawiny
Finish: Zawoja Policzne
I got up at 4:30am. Early I know but I don’t like stress myself plus there was a massive summit to reach and I wanted to have enough time.
By 5:30 I was on my way climbing my way up in the dark. The ascent is violent, within 1km I gained around 300m elevation and reached Brona pass (1408m) The day was getting brighter and heading towards the top of the mountain I was lucky to experience the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. It was even more amazing as I didn’t plan it. The views were breath taking and the atmosphere unparalleled. The sun swelling with each moment grew from a tiny point to a ball of fire. I have to admit it was a highlight of the entire trip.
I continued to hike through the rugged terrain towards the summit. It was extremely windy and quite cold. I had to fight my way up moving through massive, wet stones. When I reached the top of Babia Góra, Diablak (1725m) I was rewarded with the most wonderful views. The clouds disappeared and 360 panorama unraveled before my eyes. At such early time there was no one and I had the mountain exclusively for myself. It’s hard to describe how beautiful it was so just look at the pictures below.
After an eternity of taking pictures I started to descent. Initially I hiked on the ridge but then the trail went sharply down all the way to Krowiarki pass. It was long and hard descent and I didn’t envy all those people going up. I got to the pass and after short brake I took an easy trail towards my final destination and bus station Zawoja Policzne. I was way ahead of time so took an earlier bus to get home.
My overall impressions of the trail are positive. It’s a diverse and demanding hike offering a variety of landscapes. Water supply in most cases is easy and you don’t have to worry about that.
The trail was designed in a way to offer an accommodation in a mountain shelter between each sections. I would really recommend using those places – they’re cheap and with good standard. Only in a later sections of the trail you might require a tent.
I hiked first five sections and there is still a lot ahead of me. I will continue next year and bit by bit move forward.