Nutshell

Michal Medek walked across 49 Carpathian mountain ranges in 74 days. He started his journey in the westernmost Pálava range in the Czech Republic on 10th June 2019 and descended to the Danube on 23rd August from Munții Locvei near Coronini, Romania. He walked 2300 km across the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.

Michal made these pages to inspire others for hiking the Carpathian ɔirɔle as some did before him. Along the way he gathered coordinates of shelters and water sources, stay tuned, it will be available for download in the next months. The original planned trail he followed 90% of the hike is available for download at the moment.

Why

It all started back in 1991 when a man sold me a book Karpatské hry (Carpathian Games). The transaction happened during a workshop on organizing summer camps for children and I can remember him saying: “Some people love this book, but I am personally not fond of it.” The book stroke my soul. Poetic descriptions of Romanian mountains along with “games” one can play on a hike made me wishing to walk all the Carpathian ranges.

And I did: Alone. With my girlfriend and later with my wife. With friends. With troops of teenagers. Dozens times. Thousands of kilometres. All seasons. Carpathians are beautiful for their variety.

Thanks to a friend I got internship in Teton Science School (WY) back in 2002. On my way to Wyoming I was hiking in Yosemities area and spent 3 days on the Pacific Crest Trail. Meeting the hikers and learning about PCT impressed me so much I had been wishing to hike this trail once our children grow up (the oldest one was about to be delivered in December that year).

My dream started fading couple of years ago. Something happened with the PCT. For years I could hardly found a person aware of the PCT in the Czech Republic but few years ago it came into fashion. I also noticed that numbers of hikers on the trail skyrocketed. A hiker wrote a book about her experiences and a film was made. I have never seen it but I knew the PCT is not for me anymore.

And thus came the idea of putting these two dreams together and hiking across the Carpathians.

The trail

There is not a single trail across Carpathians. At some parts the main ridge is obvious (Făgăraș) while in other sections a hiker can choose between different mountain ranges.

Some have already tried to chart Via Carpatica or Carpathian Divide Trail but these plans are materializing slowly and have not been completed. Meanwhile handful of people are walking across the whole range every year.

I planned my trail the way it connected ranges that have place in my memory. It started in the westernmost point of the range, at a place where Carpathians collide with much older Hercynian platform and where archaeologists still study one of the paleolithic cradles of humankind. Through Slovakia I followed footsteps of Svetozár Krno, Ľuboš Calpaš and Pavel Mach who traversed the Circle in 1984. The original calendar of the journey can be downloaded here.

I am grateful to my friend Emilio Horatiu Popa – a keen tourist from Cluj for tips regarding Northern Romania and of course Miloslav Nevrlý for his inspiration.

Luboš Krapka created this map based on my smartwatch treklog (not finished).

Links to more info from other hikers who walked across the whole Carpathian mountain range:

Łukasz Supergan manages this more comprehensive list of hikers in Polish (though my entry is not listed correctly there).

Blog

Hike blog overview

10. 6. – 17. 6. 2019 The hot first week Pálava, Modré hory, Bílé Karpaty, Strážovské vrchy, Malá Fatra 18.6. – 25. 6. 2019 In the high mountains Velká Fatra, Nízké Tatry, Slovenský raj 24. 6. – 30. 6. 2019 Landscapes touched by warfares Levočské vrchy, Čergov, Ľubovnianska vrchovina / Góry Leluchowskie, Busov, Ondavská vrchovina …

Practicalities

What is different in Carpathians

Contrary to many other long-distance hikes, in the Carpathians you find few ranges where you can meet scores of tourists – Strážovské vrchy, Tatry, Východní Beskydy, Muntii Rodnei, Piatra Craiului, Fagaras, Retezat – but mostly you walk trails, ridges and forest roads where you are the only hiker in a day, week or even a month. At some places there is no trail visible and you need to make the trail on your own.

To make the point, in Slovakia I met only 1 multi-day hiker on 200 km between Slovenský raj and the Dukla pass. Apart from Polonina Borzhava I met only 2 hikers in Ukraine but could see 3 tents at Polonina Svidovec. The number of multi-day hikers I met between Rodnei and Piatra Craiului was 2 (two) on the distance of 500 km.

This does not mean there are no humans in the mountains. A settlement is rarely more distant then a day walk and the mountains are inhabited by shepherds along with their herds and dogs in summer. Hikers are visitors in their land and it is better to avoid Carpathians unless you want to accept this fact. Hiking trails follow the paths they have been using for centuries and that is why the shepherd-dog attacks are so frequent in Romania. At many places a walking hiker is treated as a being that appeared out of thin air and the locals simply do not know, how to react in this situation.

Apart from Slovakian E8 it is very unlikely you meet any long-distance hikers. I almost met with Michal Kulanek who was going the same direction and we connected through FB.

My gear

Unlike in the Alps, outdoor shops are far, far away from the mountains and you can easily tear your gear while elbowing through bushes or new growth at places where once might had been a path. The „land management“ has been changing significantly in Romania and Ukraine since 1990s, after clearcuts paths are blocked by logs and overgrown by high grass and bushes. Often old paths diminish in the new growth as they are not used so frequently today. This means lot of improvisation and preparedness.

My gear was not the lightest one for I knew I might not meet a person for days and wanted to be prepared for all sorts of troubles. Thinking back I did not use about 450 grams of repair kits, first aid stuff and pepper sprays but I would not give up more than a third of it next time.

The backpack base-weight at the start was 9,3 kilos but I reduced it later to 8,8 kilos. Along with water for a day and food for 5 days I tried to be always below 16 kilos of total weight. I could go below 8 kilos base-weight without my Epipen medication, solar panel, keyboard, Leatherman knife and reducing my cookware.

I promise to share more about the gear later.

Philosophy

However much I did not considered my journey a sport performance but a pilgrimage, I must admit that the fact I wanted to walk all the Carpathians in the given time turned the hike into kind of a contest. Unlike during my previous journeys I felt I lost the feeling of freedom once I was comparing my advance with the schedule I prepared before.

But in other aspects I followed the philosophy I had embraced 25 years ago: local sources + less comfort = less weight = more experiences. The philosophy I learned in the book Carpathian Games by Miloslav Nevrlý.