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 2200 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 you can download.

 Take a look at the blog and move your mind to the Carpathians. Your comments and insights are welcomed.

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 from 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 at Pálava – the westernmost point of the range, where Carpathians collide with much older Hercynian platform. Through Slovakia I followed footsteps of Svetozár Krno, Ľuboš Calpaš and Pavel Mach who traversed the Circle in 1984.  Unlike most other hikers, I did not finish in Orșova, but reached the Danube in Coronini walking extra 100 km to the west. As there are Czech settlements in the area, it made the magic of hearing my mother tongue at both ends of the Carpathian journey.

Map of the hike

To download:  

Other hikers

Pages of (reference to) other hikers who walked across the whole Carpathian mountain range:

Łukasz Supergan manages this more comprehensive list of hikers in Polish.

I must note that „walk across Carpathians“ can mean different things depending on the trail and philosophy you choose so I would be very cautious making any comparisons.  Weather plays significant role while on the hike. Startimg and finishing points differ. Some walk highest peaks only, some also walk valleys or lower ridges. Some have support teams, some depend on local resources. Some walk fast, some slow. Some collect thousands of Euros for their journey, some set their survival limit to 1€ a day. Some sell their experience, some keep it for themselves; I decided to make these webpages to inspire others to fall in love with the Carpathians.

Thanks

I am grateful to my friend Emilio Horatiu Popa – a keen tourist from Cluj for tips regarding Northern Romania and updates on snow conditions in Făgăraș that made me starting from the northwest. Joachim Bungert for his superb Quo Vadis software I used for planning and processing maps, POIs and the final version of the trail.

And of course Miloslav Nevrlý for his inspiration.

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 the 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, a week or two. At some places there is no trail visible and you need to make a 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 shepherds have been using for centuries and that is why the shepherd-dogs 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. On the other hand, you can be sure the locals help you, when in real need.

Apart from Slovakian E8 it is very unlikely you meet any long-distance hikers. I almost met with Michał Kulanek who was walking across Carpathians in the same direction and we connected through Facebook. He was probably the only other person who hiked the Carpathians that year.

The other side of the coin of isolation is freedom. Freedom to walk and camp, collect forest fruits one hardly experiences in other European mountain ranges today. This of course does not apply to strict national parks (Tatras, Bukovské vrchy, Rodnei, Ceahlau, Fagaras, Piatra Craiului, Retezat), where hikers should stick to the designated paths and camping areas.

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 and thunderstorms 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 to keep on the safe side.

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 7 days I tried to be always below 15 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. However, water and food management play the important role at the end of the day.

I promise to share more about the gear later, however, my advice would be do not apply experiences from popular US trails to Carpathians and mind that the guys out there making videos about ultralight backpacking earn their money from your clicks.

Risks

Bears, „wild“ dogs, ticks and thunderstorms are the realities you cannot avoid walking across the Carpathians.

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.