Our sea may be cold and remote, but outside Poland’s biggest cities, stunning rocks and amazing mountain-top views are awaiting your arrival.
So whereabouts are you going to travel?
Katowice, Kraków, Częstochowa - I can go anywhere!
Well, I've heard Kraków is the new black
I'll be visiting my ciocia in Wrocław
Perhaps the most popular area for climbers in Poland is the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, also known as the Polish Jurassic Highland (in Polish: Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska). As the name suggests, it’s located in between the cities of Kraków and Częstochowa and is proud to offer hundreds of peaks of various shapes and sizes.
Dolina Będkowska, Kobylańska, Bolechowicka, Kluczwody
Less than 50 kilometres north-west of Kraków are three highly popular climbing areas: Będkowska Valley (Dolina Będkowska, around 25km from Kraków), Kobylańska Valley (Dolina Kobylańska), and Bolechowicka Valley (Dolina Bolechowicka). The valleys are a part of the Kraków Valleys Landscape Park, which contains five nature reserves.
The three valleys stretch between two small villages - Będkowice and Bolechowice.
Dolina Będkowska hosts one of the most popular Polish peaks – Dupa Słonia (literally ‘Elephant’s Arse’). It offers nearly 70 routes at difficulty levels starting at IV (Polish grading – Kurtyka scale; IV equals to 5.6 in the Yosemite Decimal System, YDS) to VI. 6+ (equal to around 5.13d-5.14b in YDS). In close proximity to Dupa Słonia is Iglica (across the street from the picturesque Szum waterfall) and the highest peak of the Polish Jurassic Highland – Sokolica, with its 60-metre-high walls.
You can find some inexpensive accommodation in the area of Będkowice and Bolechowice, including camping and rooms to rent under Sokolica and in the neighbouring village – also some fancier options, such as a spa (if you happen to be in need of some rest and relaxation after an especially arduous climb).
Dolina Kobylańska, located on the other side of Będkowice, offers dozens of peaks including the tall Kula, Szeroka Turnia, Wielka Wronia Baszta (up to 30 metres tall) as well as the smaller Okręt (routes up to 20 metres) or Cyrk (routes up to 9 metres). In general, this area is littered with different climbing routes, so the best thing to do is just have a look for yourself!
Bolechowicka Valley offers five peaks which are nearly neighbours. These also vary in route difficulty and height, ranging from 5.5 to about 5.13d in YDS.
North from Bolechowice is another valley, called Kluczwody Valley. It’s home to one of Jura’s most challenging peaks – Jaskinia Mamutowa (‘Mammoth’s Cave’, also called ‘Wierzchowska Dolna’); its difficulty level stretches from 5.5 to 5.15a in YDS. Jaskinia Mamutowa was one of the sites where Marcin Koszałka filmed Declaration of Immortality, a documentary about Piotr Korczak, a famous Polish climber who also pioneered some of this peak's ground-breaking routes. Jura’s second longest cave, Jaskinia Wierzchowska Górna, is located nearby. Kluczwody Valley offers several other less challenging peaks as well.
In the middle of the Eagles' Nests Landscape Park (Park Krajobrazowy Orlich Gniazd), which stretches for about 50 kilometres south from Częstochowa, you will find over a hundred limestone rocks that you can climb. We’ll focus on two particular ranges. The first one is set between the village of Mirów and the town of Bobolice, just over 40 kilometres' ride from Częstochowa. Both locations offer accommodation, restaurants, bars and sightseeing attractions, like the ruins of 14th century castles in both Bobolice and Mirów.
There are eight peaks in this area. The most popular one is Turnia Kukuczki (Kukuczka’s Alp), named after Jerzy Kukuczka – a famous Polish Alpinist and high-altitude climber, who conquered all fourteen eight-thousanders in less than eight years. Turnia Kukuczki's walls reach 20 metres. The peak offers 39 routes with difficulty levels ranging from 5.6 to 5.13c in YDS. You can also find picturesque hiking and cycling trails in the area.
About 10 kilometres away from Bobolice and just over 50 kilometres from Katowice is another strip of scenic limestone peaks, placed between Rzędkowice and Podlesice – each of this villages is often dubbed “Poland’s rock climbing capital”. There are even a few climbing schools based in Rzędkowice, and both villages are prepared to host visiting climbers. Some rocks and routes in this area exceed 30 metres; Sektor Okiennika is 32 metres at its highest point. The rock includes 81 routes, with difficulties ranging from 5.3 to about 5.14a in YDS. Other popular rocks are Biblioteka (Polish for ‘library’), Góra Apteka (Polish for ‘Pharmacy Mountain’), and the region of Góra Zborów – a hill which contains various walls to climb.
An interesting gem hidden right in Kraków. Zakrzówek is a suburb of Kraków placed just a fifteen-minute ride south-west from the Main Square. Legend has it that the Polish Faust, Pan Twardowski, had his laboratory and a school of black magic in the area. Rocks that still hold his name arose there upon the explosion of his laboratory. The slightly more boring, but true, history of this landmark is that it used to be a limestone quarry (a random, but perhaps interesting, fact: Karol Wojtyła – Pope John Paul II – used to work here in the 1940s). In the early 1990s, when the quarry no longer functioned, the pit was filled with water. The pond is now open to diving enthusiasts, however, swimming in the reservoir recently became illegal. Back to the topic though – apart from the picturesque diving spot, there are also some post-quarry limestone rocks, and when climbing them, you get the chance to see a priceless panorama of Kraków. The site is also very popular for mountain cycling and hiking.
Rudawy Janowickie is a mountain range in the Western Sudetes, fairly close to the border with the Czech Republic and Germany. It’s located about 100 kilometres west of Wrocław and is enclosed by Rudawy Landscape Park (Rudawski Park Krajobrazowy). The mountain range is commonly divided into four regions: Rejon Zamku Bolczów, Grupa Fajki, Grupa Skalnego Mostu and Starościńskie Skały, each of which offers numerous granite rocks, higher than the limestone peaks in Jura. Numerous hiking trails intersect in the area.
The first region is named after a 14th-century castle, Zamek Bolczów, that can still be found in the area. Rejon Zamku Bolczów has over a dozen rocks, a few of which surround the old ruins. The walls of Strażnica, located about 300 metres from the castle, reach 35 metres. For the 19 routes described for this peak, the difficulty range begins at 5.5 and goes up to about 5.11c in YDS.
If you’re only at the beginning of your climbing adventure, try Starościńskie Skały, where you’ll find some easier routes. Wielbłąd and Ślimak's walls are 8 to 18 metres tall, however the difficulty of routes begins at 5.2 in YDS. If you're looking for something more difficult in this area, try Starościńskie Skała i Stare Miasto – walls and routes here reach 30 metres.
One of the tallest rocks in Grupa Skalnego Mostu is Skalny Most, whose walls are 45 metres tall. Its routes range from 5.3 to 5.13b in YDS.
Fajka (Polish for ‘pipe’), the main rock of Grupa Fajki, has a distinctive pipe-like shape. It's 25 metres tall at its tallest point. The 57 climbing routes on Fajka range from 5.5 to 5.13a in YDS.
If you're looking for additional attractions, explore the surroundings of Rudawy. It was a mining area in the 18th and 19th century. As a result of the particular chemical composition of former mining pits, exceptionally colourful (yellow, azure and purple) ponds can be found nearby (look for Kolorowe Jeziorka). A camping area is located a short distance from the Purple Lakelet, where you can also book a tour with a qualified guide or rent bikes to travel the neighbouring areas.
Góry Sokole is the north-west edge of Rudawy Janowickie, but is often regarded as a distinct location. The rocks here are also granite, and the area is subdivided into three regions: Krzyżna Góra, Rejon Sokolika and Rejon Sukiennic, all of which are also a part of Rudawy Landscape Park.
Krzyżna Góra is the highest peak of Góry Sokole. At its feet one can find relics of Sokolec Castle from the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as the popular mountain hut Szwajcarka, which has stood there unchanged since 1823. It also stands at the cross-section of five hiking trails. Krzyżna Skała is the highest part of Krzyżna Góra and serves as the area’s main viewpoint. The tallest wall of Krzyżna Skała is 30 metres tall, however, the difficulty levels of the 46 routes range from 5.5 to 5.11c in YDS. Placed a little further, Jastrzębia Turnia has over 40 routes, the longest reaching 40 metres, but other walls and peaks of Krzyżna Góra have lower stage of difficulty.
Rejon Sokolika got its name after the second highest peak of Góry Sokole – Sokolik. In this area there are 6 rocks, but Sokolik Mały (Small Sokolik) and Sokolik Duży (Big Sokolik) are interesting in particular; some of Sokolik Mały's routes exceed 50 metres, while the longest route on Sokolik Duży is “only” 35 metres! Sokolik Duży, however, offers a wider range of difficulty levels of its routes – from 5.3 to about 5.12c in YDS, while the routes of Sokolik Mały are a bit more challenging – 5.6 to 5.13c in YDS.
Rejon Sukiennic (yes, the name may be familiar – Sukiennice is one of Kraków's most famous landmarks) consists of 12 rocks, one of them being Sukiennice. It has over a hundred routes of difficulties ranging from 5.3 to 5.12c in YDS. At its tallest wall, Sukiennice is 30 metres high. Krzywa Turnia can also be a challenging one; its walls reach 65 metres, but the difficulty level begins at 5.5 in YDS.
Did we get you to consider rock-climbing in Poland? If so, here are just a few answers to questions you might want to ask:
- if you’re going to climb in Poland, consider visiting in early autumn. The temperature will be milder, yet the landscape is still in blossom.
- If you don’t want to or can’t bring your own climbing equipment – don’t worry, there are plenty of rental services in major Polish cities.
- If you haven’t climbed yet – have a look around, there are climbing schools and courses in both larger cities and in the smaller villages near the climbing areas.
- This website may come in handy at some point: http://topo.portalgorski.pl/. Unfortunately it’s only available in Polish. You can however find climbing guides in English in Polish bookstores or climbing equipment shops.
Sources: topo.portalgorski.pl, own information and materials.
Author: Agata Dudek-Woyke, 07/07/2015.