It is the highest and undoubtedly the best known range of The Sudety Mountains. Owing to its very well developed tourist infrastructure (network of tourist trails, mountain hostels, ski lifts) for centuries it was the key destination for mountain hikers and skiers. The region’s unquestionable beauty, abundance of unique natural curiosities, enchanting landscape panoramas and distinctive atmosphere has been attracting artists and people sensitive to beautiful, natural surroundings. The original flora and fauna constitutes a great attraction for natural environment researchers and scientists.
Karkonosze Mountain range, also called The
Giant Mountains, is 36 km long and extends from Szklarska mountain
pass in Jakuszyce (886 m above sea level) in the west to Brama
Lubawska [The Lubawska Gate]
(511 m above sea level) in the east. The main crest called Śląski
well visible in The Karkonosze landscape extending from Szklarska
Poręba to the mountain pass at the
foot of Śnieżka (1603 m above the sea level) - the highest
culmination of The Sudety Mountains, have always been admired and
respected by visitors.
The Karkonosze Mountains, just like most mountain ranges, are different in their north and west part. Their northern end constitutes a distinctive wall with characteristic steep slopes, while in the south the Czech part presents a levelling structure of gradually moving upwards layers turning into higher and higher mountain crests.
Regarding geological structure The Karkonosze Mountains are a part of The Karkonoski-Izerski mountain block. From the west side forming The Plateau at Śnieżka in the east. Śnieżka itself is made mainly of metamorphic hornfelses, while the rest of eastern crest is built of Prterozoic gneisses, mica slates, granite-gneisses, chlorites, quartz and granite conglomerates as well as greywacke at the bottom.
The present configuration of The Karkonosze Mountains results from Variscian tectonic movements which occurred about 300 million years ago with the period of erosion and denudation to follow. Next the central mountain massive was lifted again in the period of Tertiary Alpine orogenesis. As the result of tectonic movements, with erosion and denudation periods to come later, The Karkonosze Mountains were finally formed with their characteristic broad crest dominated by the domes of distinctive peaks.
However, the most attractive elements of The Karkonosze surface sculpture were created in the period of intensive erosion during glaciations (Pleistocene) and after the continental glacier receded. Postglacial kettles with steep rocky walls are the result of these processes with taluses, alluvial cones, ground, lateral and terminal moraines, postglacial ponds and lakes situated in Kocioł Wielkiego Stawu[Great Pond Kettle], Kocioł Małego Stawu [Small Pond Kettle], Wielki Śnieżny Kocioł[Great Snowy Kettle]. High mountainous, almost polar climate and weathering resulted in the formation of numerous rocks presenting fantastic shapes and spread all over The Karkonosze Mountains like: Pielgrzymy [The Pilgrims], Słonecznik [The Sunflower], Paciorki [Beads], Twarożnik [Cottage Cheese], Trzy Świnki [Three Pigs], Końskie Łby [Horse Heads] or Śląskie Kamienie [The Silesian Stones].
A characteristic feature of some rocks in The Karkonosze are the, so called, weathering kettles.
climate of The Karkonosze is much harsher than one could judge from
mountain altitudes. It is similar to that of high European mountain
ranges. In The Karkonosze Mountains
average temperature drop is 0,6°C
per 100 m of altitude. Therefore temperatures in eg. Szklarska Poręba
are by 4-5°C
higher than at the top of Szrenica.
Annual rainfall and snowfall at Szrenica and Wielki Szyszak [The Great Helmet] exceeds 1400 mm and 1200 mm at Śnieżka.
In winter precipitation in the form of hoar-frost or rime covers buildings, trees or grass blades with icy needles.
The beauty and charm of The Karkonosze is complete owing to creeks, streams and rivers flowing down steep rocky valleys cascading and creating spectacular waterfalls in ravines. The highest and most outstanding waterfalls are called Kamieńczyk and Szklarka (*)
(*) – text based on The Karkonoski National Park information and “Karkonosze” by Marek Staffa
More pictures in Zygmunt Trylański’s gallery