Goodbye, winter

February was cold. Compared to January, really cold. At least here in central Europe. But it seems that with the shortest month gone, so will be the winter. On Saturday, even still on Sunday morning, it was around -15°C, as it was for more than a week before. Today, it’s around zero and forecast estimates rise to +15°C by the end of the week. It seems that my coming hikes will be devoid of snow from now on.

Late January, first snow…

Even though the waif for first snow was really long, and even longer for it to be in decent amount, it seems that winter did not give up easily and I eventually had some chances for winter-y photos. Now, I guess my gaze will go down in search for some first blossoms. But before that happens, I’ll repost my most favorite photos of this winter…

More snow up in the hills…

…less of it in the lowlands


That’s it from me for today.

Just behind the city

With almost two weeks delay, I am making a short post of a ‘hike’ – because it was more of a calm walk – that is typical for what I usually do in February (which is now gone, bah). That means, going to places close to the city, yet far enough to be landscape that allows relaxation.

I really liked this sight, snow-covered path and a tree, with mist shrouding the background.

If the weather is like winter, then these are perfect as mountains are covered by a lot of snow and not so easy to walk. This year, February seemed to try hard on catching up with winter as January was slacking a lot.

For this particular day, it started by a while between fields, then going slightly downwards and following a small river, then upwards to another village.

There, we could see this detailed replica of a wooden windmill and even look inside. I wished I could take a bit better picture, but the fence around it prevented me from that.

Then the journey continued on, eventually leading us to an arboretum, which is usually visited in summer. On the other hand, it was not crowded, which is good, and some of the trees, especially the Asian evergreen ones, stood out.

There was also a greenhouse with cactus collection and indoor section with insects. That part was slightly underwhelming as the old greenhouse was suffering from rust and had to be taken down, but the new one is not built in full scope yet.

Calm winter scenery

Truth be told, for me it was mostly about calm relaxation, much unlike the hikes the week before and week later, when I went to the mountains and kept myself at quite fast pace.

Island with willows on partially emptied and frozen pond.

Now, as the cold that gripped Europe hard in the last few day recedes, I’ll wait and see what craziness the weather will do next and as usual, try to make the most of it on my next hike. I guess it won’t have much snow, so this is probably my last mention of it for the coming months…

Snow and wind, walk with me

Another Saturday, another hike, this one close enough to my home I am writing about it on the very same day. What I went for this day was actually ‘plan B’ for pre-last Saturday, and so I spent almost no time planning it.

Also, in my last hiking post, I considered merging post about this hike with the previous one, but since this one is worth solo post, I’ll most likely return to my 17.2. hike on its own soon.

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Look back: February hiking

In my experience so far, January is usually the worst month when it comes to real hiking. It’s usually around zero, which means the uncomfortable mix of snow and mud. There were a few years when mid-February was quite a cold wave – 2006 comes to my mind, when the temperature remained around -20°C day and night for great part of the month, the lowest temperature here in the city being around -25°C during day. Or it’s not as cold, but there’s cold and strong wind. The unpredictability means that for hikes planned by the club, it’s usually short walk near the city where it’s not that hard to make some last-minute adjustments. And it was long before I decided to go out alone in this month.

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Walker among skiers

The last Wednesday got us some intense snowfall (took around 10 hours and was enough to get quite some snow even in the cities) and so I was decided to go to the hills on Saturday. It took me some thinking to choose the best destination – while I had my preferred pick, I was not really sure I’d be able to do it if there was a lot of powder snow and considered going somewhere else, option I eventually tossed aside for now.

Photo taken from the train some 20 minutes before getting off (~9:10)

When I usually keep closer to home on winter hikes, this time I was to a bit further away and so my preparations were at similar scale as the hardest summer hikes and maybe more than that. I took food that would last me for 24 hours in the worst case and even headlight in case I’d not manage to reach my destination before dark, which fortunately did not happen.

Birch at the ski slope

The main reason I did not back away from my original plan was that I planned to use paths I know, at least in summer. Well, I make mistakes, and this time I made one just one kilometer after starting. I did not notice the turn of the path I knew was “somewhere around here” and instead of going around, I walked right up the ski slope. While ski slopes are quite perfect for going downhill, they are the worst possible way to walk uphill.

 

Good part was that it was side branch of the main ski slope that was not being used much, at least at that moment. For a while, I followed a guy that had mountaineering skis and just used these to go up (I presume to then go ride down somewhere away from the slope).

With heavy breathing and actually surprised how well it went for me (I was not really sure about my condition as the last time I went for serious hike was in late September), I eventually managed to reach the slope’s ski lift mid-station quite fast, even overtaking the guy on skis half-way through the slope. Finally there, I returned to the originally intended path.

Walking up a ski slope, not the best idea…

Back at the trail

From there on, I enjoyed some solitude. I presumed that those going for cross-country skiing on the main trail up there just used the ski lift to save them of the ascent.

The forest’s upper end

Since it was supposed to be around -10°C during the night, I hoped that most of the snow will be frozen through enough to carry my weight on foot (fortunately my weight is not much for an adult). In that, it turned out that I was right.

Shortly after, I was once again surprised how well it went. Short distance from the photo above, the main trail connects, and I was meeting many skiers on the trail. For the short while the path went straight or a bit downwards to the pass, they were faster than I was, and some even surprised what am I doing there in just boots…

The situation changed drastically when the path started ascending to the highest peak of this portion. It’s not that steep, but I guess going uphill on cross-country skis is not that efficient. In the ascension, I was overtaking them easily, to which one woman commented something like “seems he made a good choice not taking skis”.

Photo at the ‘Keprník’ peak (1423 meters)

I took a short 10-15 minute break at the peak, hoping that some of the clouds might go away and allow me to see further, but the opposite happened, so I went on. The descent was quite fast as well. It changed after reaching another pass, after which the path goes on a side of the next peak instead of over it, and the narrow path was quite uncomfortable with all the snow, regardless of what kind of gear were people using.

This part of the trail ends at a place that once hosted a chalet and chapel, but they were destroyed in fire I believe 3-4 decades ago and due to the harsh terrain they were not replaced (though some plans appear every few years).

These days, the only thing here is the small structure looking a bit like chapel that covers the spring there (welcome in summer). This time, as visible on the photo, it was a bit covered by the snow.

Anyway, after another very short break, I continued. The trail changes here from narrow path to wide one, leading towards the ski resort that is some 3,5km away from it and easily reached by car. That fact makes the path overused in summer as the terrain is easy and many people just go to the spring and back.

Fortunately, it’s not that overused in winter, or at least it was not that day. Going from there was relaxing and quite easy as the road’s width made passing others in both directions not an issue. Eventually I reached the last stop of my hike.

‘Červenohorské sedlo’ ski resort

There, I took a bit longer break, having a hot mint tea in one of the restaurants there before going for the descent. For the train I wanted to catch, I had almost 2,5 hours, which was definitely doable unless the terrain would be awful. Again, knowing the path in summer, the only risk would be that it would be completely unused and I’d need to push my way through.

Fortunately, it turned out to be mostly the opposite and the 6 km on continuous downhill trail was quite easy. Enough that I made it much faster than I expected, and managed to catch a train an hour earlier than I presumed.

To sum it up, it was really nice day even with the lack of sunshine, but knowing myself, it was probably better as snow reflects light very well and intense sunshine in snow-covered mountains can be almost blinding even with sunglasses.