From Náchod it was uphill again, with skis in hand and sledges on our backs. The snow was light, but the rocky terrain around the infantry logs would have significantly overgrooved the already well-grooved ski. I enjoyed the views from the famous Birch Bunker and the variety of the surrounding terrain, knowing that the first serious section on tarmac would soon be coming. The fields were covered in snow, and it was tempting to put on skis on the way downhill. Which meant stopping and changing into my ski boots. Which also often meant discovering a few hundred metres later that it was impossible to ski any further. Then hesitating whether to walk in skis or change. Of course, when I chose to return to my cross-country boots, there was usually a beautiful snowy field around the bend. Sometimes I couldn't make it and had to get back into my ski boots.
A bit crazy and nerve-wracking, but then again I had already practiced this exchange effectively and it didn't take me two minutes. You don't want to go 12 km down the road in ski boots. Martin and Vitek could tell about this, as they didn't have to solve the dilemma of changing their boots, but they would like to. They had only ski boots and while I was walking in my running shoes they were suffering in ski boots and the road to Olesnica was dragging like a stink.
After Olešnice we all put on our skis and started to climb up to the Orlické Mountains. And it was romantic like crazy. The sun was shining, the trail was groomed with a snowmobile, the landscape was all white and frosty, sometimes you had to climb fallen trees or get a little lost, so that you could pay more attention to navigation than to enjoying yourself. According to the gps tracking I saw that the guys were taking a break at Masaryk's hut, one of the few places to stop for a drink and a piece of that grub in the Orlické Mountains. So I was looking forward to lunch there, as I hadn't gotten around to eating yet today.
When I arrived there after three hours, I was amazed at how many people, especially the Polish ones, were there. I desperately joined a long queue waiting for a table to open up. I stood there for a while before I realized that this was not the way. I remembered from last time that the Mountain Service had a cafeteria 5 km away, but it wasn't open during the week. It may be Monday, but my intuition tells me it might work. And it worked, no people, a bottle, two instant soups, two tarts and instant coffee. It wasn't a gastronomic experience, but that's not why I'm here. I was convinced that Orlický can be strict too as soon as I left the buffet. A few minutes ago it was clear and windless, suddenly you can't see a step and it's blowing. Still, I'm enjoying it.
In the meantime Lenka and Vít, after a hard night, socially speaking, set off towards the Broumov region towards noon. Vitek's equipment didn't cooperate much and the biggest problem was that his bindings froze in the cold and he couldn't take off one ski. Which was not suitable in this landscape of rocks and fallen trees. He solved it by always having to pour warm tea on his bindings. When the tea ran out, there was only one warm liquid at hand, and it was time to pee. On top of that, there were other problems, when the climbing belts didn't hold the skis, and the Broumov walls didn't want to give up so easily. It was not surprising that when they finally left them, they decided that it was not worth the trouble and took advantage of the proximity of Hronov, where they hung their journey on a nail. Still, they had an intense two days and we're glad they didn't fear the wolf any and went for it. Congratulations are in order.
Martin and Vitek were already making their way in the late afternoon in the second half of the Orlické Mountains, which is not very skiable and especially scary at night. It leads along the so-called concrete border, where on a stretch of about 20 km there is a bunker almost every 100 m. I've driven through here in deep darkness and this place has a strange atmosphere, no one anywhere, deep forest and concrete bunkers looming out of the darkness. I had had quite enough and started thinking about a bivouac, but even if I was completely knackered I wouldn't lie down in a bunker.
The finale of the Orlické was not nice and we had to walk on frozen snow full of fallen branches. At the Zemska Gate a sign welcomed us with the sign Pardubice Region and the road to Mladkov. I didn't feel like bivouacking in the forest and not at all by the road, so fate finally threw a tourist hut on Čihák in my way, surprisingly in operation, and even late in the day I was at its mercy. As it was quite cold, -16°C, even the boys didn't want to bivouac this time, so they hurried to Kraliky to catch the open hotel. First they had to go through the crazy terrain and hills above Mladkov, where they had to improvise and choose a different route and then run very briskly 5 km on the road. They made it, and they said it was one of the worst experiences.
I started from Čihák very early and thanks to the moon I almost didn't need to shine my headlamp. A beautiful freeride through the fields to Mladkov. There I followed the boys' footsteps into a total hill climb over the hills to Králíky. Deep snow, no road and fallen trees everywhere. Speed 2 km per hour. On the way I lost the climbing belt and only the rising sun gave me optimism. By the time I got to Kralik I was riding through snow-covered fields in a thick morning fog, through which the sun was breaking. I imagined that I was somewhere in the far and wild north and enjoyed it.
My idea of the wilderness and the north was spoiled by the huge pile of manure, the smell and the adjacent agricultural cooperative. I had my favourite breakfast in Králíky, where after a few hours I hungered at a Vietnamese grocery store and consumed everything on the steps in front of the town office. Martin and Vitek were already climbing Kralický Sněžník, so I followed them. The sun was shining, the wind was not blowing and it was great. It was still uphill, but after a couple of hours of driving through fields or walking on the road, it was on beautifully groomed trails, which is quite noticeable. I mean, up to Kralický Sněžník.
Getting up from the Czech side was a real chore. A wild ride through loose terrain, brutally uphill and you had the feeling of wilderness again. I lost it again when I saw figures walking down in peace a little below Sněžník. I don't want to believe my eyes, but a little ahead of me I see a lady in a leather coat with a fox tail around her neck and a hat with Mickey Mouse ears. I start to think I'm hallucinating, but then I emerge from the deep snow onto a snowmobile trail from the Polish side, which is frequented by quite a few tourists, including this apparition. I'm guessing there will be a cable car or other transport a short distance away. The views from Sneznik are incredible. The frost has been out here a lot in the previous few days, so I can't help it. What follows is a beautiful and, from a spectator's point of view, certainly very funny descent down. The skis are controlling me rather than me controlling them and the sledge is also doing its own thing, so I'm hurtling down in a spasmodic X position. It even gives me a laughing fit.
The Jeseníky Mountains are a reward. They can be the cruelest mountains, but now they are showing their kind face. The road goes by and although it's always up or down, it's beautiful. It's nearing afternoon and Martin Mazal and Vitek Pucalek are the first Montane JIBE JAHA winners to reach the finish in Petříkovice. They completed the route in 4 days and 6,5 hours. Incredible performance and huge congratulations. They didn't sleep much on the way and their movement was quite efficient. However, they are no slouches either and have experience in high mountains. They didn't even warm up properly at the finish and an hour later they had their skis back on and were on their way down to the train to go to work the next day. Hats off to you guys. It took me another four hours and one nasty fall to reach the finish of the shorter route too. For me though, it was just a checkpoint and a longer break under the roof. And the checkpoint was incredibly cozy with a great atmosphere, for which I have to thank Lenka and Eva Zemin. Thanks also to my father Karl, Hosta and Eva for their home care. In the morning I continued on and had a good warm-up by skiing up the slope to Šerák.
It was like a fairy tale over Keprník and Červená hora. Then I connected to a modified highway and followed it all the way to Praděd. At Švýcárna I rewarded myself and prepared for the worst. The sun was dropping towards the horizon and I had to make my way along the ridge over the highest point of the race, the High Pole, 1464 m. I was worried that I would have to claw my way up and that it would be difficult in the dark. But the opposite was true. The sun was setting, it wasn't windy, the trail was tough and crowded, and most importantly it was an incredible experience.
The sky turned orange, it was calm, quiet, the first stars were rising and I could see to the end of the world. It was the best experience of the whole race. When darkness fell, I started going down, which was not such an experience anymore. When I reached the groomed road again, I was all excited to get on it, only to find out half an hour later that I had gone in completely the wrong direction. I didn't want to go back, especially when I knew that the right road hadn't been traveled at all. By the time I got from the main hills to Dolní Moravice, it was decently cold, I was sweaty and found I didn't want to sleep outside. I knocked on the door, fired up the phone, but by 10pm on a weekday evening there was no answer. But finally the last attempt before the bivouac stop worked and I was happy as a little boy.
Again in the dark I set off, and according to the map it was the Jesenický magistrála, but in reality it was a track through the fenced pastures. On one of them someone started shouting at me quite aggressively, but I pretended not to hear and quickly disappeared over the horizon. Surprisingly, I was still skiing under Bruntál, but I had to walk to Slezský Hárta by road. My torn meniscus was not happy about it. Fortunately, after Harta I turned into the terrain, and there it was skiable again. And that's only thanks to the foresters, who plow a lot of roads for feeding the game and logging. I often swear at them, but now I was thanking them. When I passed the Moravian-Silesian Region sign, I did a little battle cry to celebrate.
It was on skis until before Budišov nad Budišovkou. There I still managed to open groceries in the late evening and again I did not save myself. Early in the morning I continued through the beautiful Budišovka valley, where there are remnants of slate mining. The old mines, log cabins and the whole thing reminded me a bit of the Yukon, where along the way I encountered time forgotten relics from the gold mining days. It had a mysterious atmosphere and it was similar here. As soon as the Budišovka River flowed into the Ohře, the snow started to fall and the clowning around with putting on and taking off skis began. I used every millimetre of snow and skied on the fields as much as I could.
A local man on a walk, whom I passed three times in half an hour and last met when he came out of his house, told me to stop and wait. I made no resistance, he disappeared and came out a moment later with a bottle of slivovitz. I had a very merry time after that. The snow disappeared for good and I looked like a fool in front of the town of Odry. People were cycling on the cycle path, there was no sign of snow anywhere and I was scrambling with a sledge on my back and skis in my hand. I'll never forget the look on the face of the kebab seller when I walked into his shop in Odry with my skis.
I don't know why, but I was really looking forward to skiing up our Czech painful D1 highway. I had a great time. I could already see the Beskydy Mountains looming ahead. On the cycle path before Jeseník nad Odra I practiced the correct Moravian dialect to fit in with the local region. But instead of the region, I fit in at the train station in Jeseník nad Odra to clear the positions, although very reluctantly. My meniscus was very tolerant and didn't get too angry on the way. However, it was time to take it out and throw it away. And in order to make it to the bed under the scalpel, I had to plug in the sticks, turn off the tracker and get on the train. But I had a good time.
The first year of Montane JIBE JAHA is over and we are already looking forward to the second one. Because although it is very often painful and uncomfortable, it is above all the adventure that accompanies a journey like this that is a huge bonus and a boost to everyday life. We are also planning a 150km option for next year for those who are just gaining experience. A big thank you to Vertone and Montane for being fans of the experience as we are and supporting us in this event. We couldn't do it without our friends and family who gave up their free time and helped wherever they could - Karel Francke, Aunt Vera, Mara Held, Eva Zemínová, Lenka Daníčková, Anetka, Petya Šilhánová, Vitek Syrový, Eva and Zdeněk Hostinští. Thanks! And the biggest thanks to my wife Hosta, without whom nobody would know this race except me.
Looking forward to seeing you in early February 2024 :)