When the summer was at its zenith Podia decided to search some cooling on the slopes of Skrzyczne, the highest peak of the Beskid Śląski and one of the diamonds in the Crown of Polish Mountains.
Our picturesque route went through the historically rich Żywiec Valley and the passes of Beskidy – Kubalonka and Salmopol. A loop of 135 km offers many opportunities to experience the historical and cultural sides of the region.
The starting point was in Andrychów. We used the 781 to get to the Kocierska Pass. A steady climb in the shadow of the forest allowed for the stretching of legs before a long day ahead.
After a fast descent, we reached the suburbs of Żywiec – the biggest city on the loop. Unfortunately, instead of visiting the main square we had to use the time to search for a local bike shop to fix a mechanical issue. We also missed the opportunity to visit the biggest brewery in Poland; located not far from the center, it dates back to 1856, when it was established by the duke Albrecht Friederich Habsburg.
Continuing the ride in the direction of Węgierska Górka, you will find more historical sites. In the September of 1939, in that very town, a small group of polish soldiers stopped German and Slovak forces in the first days of the war. One of the former bunkers remaining from that era serves as a war memorial and museum, one of the other bunker sites is where someone built a house!
From Cisiec the road goes up again, turning right on the roundabout in Milówka the second longest uphill of the day begins. The steepest part of the climb can be found by Szare. You can test your legs and lungs on the last 150 meters of tarmac, which reaches 20-25% gradients. After one more short paved climb, we got to Ochodzita and Koniaków; famous for its hand-made laces.
We headed towards Jaworzynka and Istebna using the 941, which along with Koniaków make the so-called ‘Three-Villages’ of Beskidy. The Kubalonka Pass is the third longest climb of the day and with each meter of ascent the views become more beautiful. At the top, we choose the descent to Wisła Malinka that runs alongside the Wisła River right by the rivers’ source. It is also the location of the Polish Presidents holiday retreat.
The residence itself has a long history, which starts with the presence of Habsburg family. After the WWI the hunting palace of the emperor’s family was rebuilt and offered to Ignacy Mościcki – the last President of Second Polish Republic. Today it remains a place of summer and winter holidays for polish presidents. Some parts of it are also made available for visitors.
From here, the hardest climb of the day to the Salmopol Pass begins. The hair pinned road we are using was constructed in late 1960’s. Before then, a mountain refuge built on the top by the German Beskidenverein was only reachable by a footpath. At 934 meters above sea level it is also the highest point of our trip.
What remains is the long descent to Szczyrk and after navigating over the S69 we reached the Żywiec Lake for the second time of the day. Crossing the river in Tresna we were soon faced with a dilemma: to attempt one more climb to Żar or just return to Andrychów?
Loosing so much time earlier in the day to a mechanical meant we had to decline, but for science enthusiasts Żar mountain is a must. Besides the stunning views from the top, and the old but still operational grass-runway airport (used mainly for parachute and glider schools) there is also a pumped-storage hydroelectricity plant with a large water reservoir.
Heading north with the 948 through Porąbka there is another treat for touring and sightseeing cyclists among us – an impressive dam made by Gabriel Narutowicz – the first Polish President after 1918.
From here only the last uphill awaits. A steady climb, but for the steeper 400m at the end, it presents the perfect final effort after a long day. Andrychów is just round the corner…