Ukrainian Carpathians are a good choice for winter hiking. The highest point is Hoverla Mount, 2 061 m (6 761 ft). Despite this fact, one-day hiking to Hoverla is one of the best routes in the area in terms of difficulty-landscapes ratio. You can stay in an authentic mountain village and climb snowy Hoverla with only a small backpack.
Hoverla is located at the Chornohora Mountain Range (literally means Black Mountain) in Transcarpathian region of Ukraine. It belongs to the protected area of the national park. The entrance price is just 20 hryvnias (less than 1 dollar). If you want to do a one-day hike, you need to get to the nearby village a day before in order to start hiking very early in the morning.
There are three marked trails to Hoverla mount: two of them start from Zarosliak, and one – from Kozmeshchyk. We’ll describe the latter one, which is the most accessible in winter.
There is no legal prohibition of hiking in the Ukrainian Carpathians in winter. Winter hike to Hoverla is suitable for people with normal (average) physical training. But you need to have the right clothes and shoes, a balanced diet with a thermos of hot tea, and sufficient hiking experience, including knowledge about safe snowy paths and avalanche safety.
Certainly, the difficulty is strongly dependent on weather. However, you don’t need mountaineering skills for climbing Hoverla. In good weather, the difficulty will be similar to an ordinary summer hike with a big backpack. The trail leading to the top has a length of about 7 km (4-6 hours). The general distance from Kozmeshchyk to Hoverla and back is near 15 km (8-10 hours).
The first thing to bear in mind is safety rules, which are common for all winter mountain adventures. The most important is next:
- Do not hike alone. If you travel alone, you can meet people who do the same road in the village. Or hire a mountain guide.
- Leave all relevant information about you and your hike to the staff of the national park (you’ll pass a road barrier and their cabin on the way to Kozmeshchyk). The phone number of the chief of the mountain search and rescue unit in Lazeshchyna is +38 (067) 947-14-92. Write it down. Inform also your relatives or friends about your plans and expected contact time.
- Check the weather and level of avalanche danger before the start. For example, here you can check the weather at Pozhyzhevska meteo station (1 401 m), which is located not far from Hoverla; this English language website shows the weather conditions at Hoverla itself; and by following this link you can check the weather in Lazeshchyna village. You can refer to this website to see snow depth (including the fresh one) and avalanche information. Also follow the recommendations of the national park workers. They certainly tell you if it’s safe to hike today or not.
- Go back if the weather is becoming worse. It often happens at the last kilometer before the peak of Hoverla. Bad weather means strong wind, thick white clouds, and fog, visibility of not more than 2 meters. You can lose the path or step on the dangerous snow cornice. It’s especially risky if you haven’t been in the area in the summer, thereby you don’t know the path properly – slopes, cliffs etc.
- Follow the trodden path if possible. In some places, snow depth can reach several meters with alpine pines or rocks under it. If you fall there, you can be stuck decently.
- Gadget with GPS navigation with downloaded offline maps (maps.me, OsmAnd are suitable) is very useful in winter white boundless landscapes. But don’t rely only on electronic devices in terms of navigation. They quickly discharge at low temperatures (the average winter temperature there is -7…-10 which can decrease to – 25 at the top of Hoverla mount). Take an extra phone battery (keep it in the inside pocket) or power bank with you.
- Start your hike early in the morning (in the beginning you will probably need a flashlight). The winter day is short and the distance of 15 km is quite significant for a winter walk. This hike takes near 10 hours.
- Don’t forget to drink water during your hiking. Thermos with a hot tea will help you also to keep warm. Cover your bottle of water with some extra clothes in your backpack to it from freezing for some time.
+ 1150 m
The path starts at the crossroads with a banner with national park information in Kozmeshchyk area and an empty cabin, at 880 m (2 887 ft). You’ll see a sign with a yellow arrow which shows the Hoverla direction (all signs are also in Latin alphabet).
Your path is marked by white and yellow stripes. But take into account that trees are often covered with snow so the marks can be not properly visible. Don’t forget to check the map. It’s very likely that you are not the first on the path so you can just follow the trampled path.
Firstly you will go through the forest. The first 2 hours are not very steep. There is also a spring with good water on the way (you’ll see a sign), which usually is not frozen.
Then you’ll reach a Gropa open field at 1 400 m (4 593 ft). This is a steep part of the walk. But landscapes are becoming more and more incredible from this moment.
After another 2 hours, you are on the ridge. If the weather is good, you’ll see Hoverla in front of you. Like this:
There is mountain hut at the foot of the Hoverla mount. You can have lunch and drink hot tea inside, before the last and hardest 750 meters.
Another 50 minutes, 200 meters of elevation gain and you are at the top of Hoverla. In good weather, you’ll see a cross, Ukrainian coat of arms and flag there (in incredibly frozen shapes).
The way back is easier and takes near 4 hours. At some parts, you can just sit on your imaginary sledge and go down quickly.
WHAT TO TAKE
- A small backpack.
- Hiking gaiters.
- Sunglasses or ski glasses.
- Thermos with 1-2 liters of hot tea.
- Trekking poles (not necessary, but it’s more comfortable with them).
- Snowshoes (depending on the weather, usually it’s possible to hike without them).
- Medical kit.
- FOOD: sandwiches, dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, energy bars (keep them in the inside pocket) etc.
You can rent some of these items in “Gorgany” shop near the train station in Ivano-Frankivsk town. Their website with the prices of rent (English is not available).
If you chose to stay in a bunkhouse accommodation in Kozmeshchyk you also need a sleeping bag and bowl, mug, spoon.
- Warm pants. Ski trousers are best suited.
- Thermal underwear.
- Trekking shoes.
- Waterproof storm jacket with a hood. You can take also a down jacket to wear during stops and at the peak.
- Fleece warm sweatshirt. Woolen or flax sweaters are not recommended.
- Two pairs of gloves – thin and warm (mitten without individual finger openings).
- Warm hat and scarf (balaclava, buff).
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to do a one-day hike, you need to get to the nearby village a day before in order to start hiking very early in the morning. You can live in the village of Lazeshchyna (Ukrainian Лазещина) or at the Kozmeshchyk (Козьмещик) touristic base. Prices start from 120 hryvnias (5 dollars) per night.
Kozmeshchyk is a small area with only 5 houses. Most of them are hostel style, but several private rooms are also available. Accommodation conditions here are simple. Electricity is supplied by private generators.
The main advantage of choosing this place to stay is its location – just at the beginning of the path to Hoverla mount and Petros mount. So you can sleep longer in the morning of the hike day.
Lazeshchyna is a typical Ukrainian mountain village. It is a nice place to relax for a couple of days going for small walks to the surrounding mountains. We recommend choosing this place to stay if you plan to stay in the area for several days and not just for climbing Hoverla.
If you stay in the village of Lazeshchyna, you are 7 km away from the starting point of the route (Kozmeshchyk). You can walk this distance, but a better option is to hire a driver for the ride Lazeshchyna – Kozmeshchyk in the morning.
Ask the host of your guest house about it. Google-translator will help you, because people in the village usually don’t speak English. Ask the driver to take you back to the village from Kozmeshchyk at near 16-17 p.m.
Price for this ride is near 450 hryvnias (16 dollars) per car for one direction.
Locals ride an old UAZ car on the mountain roads. Most likely your taxi will look like this:
The closest big city is Ivano-Frankivsk, where you can take train or bus to get to Lazeshchyna village. The distance between them is 100 km. If you go from Kyiv it’s better to take a train to Yasinya village, which is 7 km to Lazeshchyna. And there is a direct train to Lazeshchyna from Lviv.
There is a train station in Lazeshchyna village. But the train schedule is not regular. For the moment only the train number 606 K from Lviv to Rakhiv (and back) stops here. The timetable (February 2019) is next:
03.46 p.m. (Lviv) – 07.19 p.m. (Ivano-Frankivsk) – 10.38 p.m. (Lazeshchyna);
01.47 a.m. (Lazeshchyna) – 4.43 a.m. (Ivano-Frankivsk) – 08.30 a.m. (Lviv).
Take into account that duration of its stop is only 2 minutes.
Another closest station of passengers trains is Yasinya village (7 km to Lazeshchyna village). It’s a stop of several trains, which are going also through Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and other big cities: train number 357 K Kyiv-Rakhiv; 026 О Odesa-Rakhiv; 015 О Kharkiv-Rahiv.
Book tickets for these trains at the official website (English is available). Note, that this direction is popular and Ukrainian railway lacks of cars, so it’s better to book a ticket in advance (in 3 weeks is the best).
From Yasinya village you can take any bus, which is going toward Ivano-Frankisk. Another options are hire a local driver, hitchhike or walk to Lazeshchyna village. It’s also common among locals to pick up people who need a small ride – just stop a car at the road, tell where are you going and give 20 hryvnias to the driver.
You can take a local train from the nearest big city Ivano-Frankivsk or small town of Kolomyia (60 km from Ivano-Frankivsk). This is the cheapest way, but the longest (trains are with diesel locomotives, slow speed and a lot of stops). However, if you want to immerse into local life it’s the best option.
It’s only one per day. For the moment (February 2019) the timetable is next:
03.51 a.m. (Ivano-Frankivsk) – 07.26 a.m. (Lazeshchyna);
03.28 p.m. (Lazeshchyna) – 06.52 p.m. (Ivano-Frankivsk).
From Kolomyia town:
08.10 a.m. (Kolomyia) – 11.01 a.m. (Lazeshchyna);
07.49 p.m. (Lazeshchyna) – 11.13 p.m. (Kolomyia).
Online booking for local trains is not available. The schedule is only in Ukrainian language here. Buy ticket just inside the train (it’s an official way). One ticket costs 25 hryvnias (1 dollar).
It’s better to take a public bus as closer to the village as possible. Because public buses are often not very comfortable in Ukraine. Get to Ivano-Frankivsk by train and then change for a bus to Lazeshchyna village. The bus station is located near the train station in Ivano-Frankivsk (go out from the main entrance and go left for 300 meters).
You need a bus which goes to the village Yasinya or cities in the Transcarpathian region (Rakhiv, Solotvyno, Mukachevo). You can check the time schedule on this website. Online booking is not available. Actual timetable you’ll know only at the bus station.
One ticket costs 100 hryvnias (4 dollars). Buy a ticket at the ticket office inside the station, not from the driver.
There are a lot of drivers with cars of different sizes near the train station in Ivano-Frankivsk. They are “hunting” for the passengers there from early morning (train from Kyiv arrives at 5.45 a.m.) till evening. Certainly, you’ll notice them. However, your negotiation about price can be difficult, because a few people speak English. But it’s an especially good option if you are a group of people. The average price of the ride from Ivano-Frankivsk to Lazeshchyna village is 150-250 hryvnias (6-9 dollars) per person (if you share a car with other people).
Buy a local sim card. It’s cheap but useful. Although it doesn’t work everywhere in the mountains. “Kyivstar” mobile operator has the best network coverage in the region.
Be ready to use Google-translator every time you communicate with locals. Ukrainians are extremely hospitable. Do not hesitate to ask for help. However, pay attention to drivers’ prices.
Lazeshchyna village – Kozmeshchyk touristic base – Gropa mountain valley, 1400 m – Hoverla Mount, 2061 m – Kozmeshchyk/Lazeshchyna.