Background

I call my expedition European Peaks. I climbed the highest mountain of every European country according United Nations + Cyprus which is member of the EU. I made this trip between 16th June and 13th June 2019 and I became the fastest person to reach all these European mountains.

I actually first climbed only the highest mountain of each EU member which I managed during just 88 days during summer 2018. However, I fell in love with European mountains during this challenge so I decided to continue and climb the highest mountain of every European country. My slogan is: For united and healthy Europe! Look at the summary of both the first and second part of my expedition.

PART 1: EU PEAKS

Watch the summary of the first part of my expedition in HD

I have just climbed the highest mountain of Croatia which was the last mountain of my expedition! That means only one thing: I managed! I needed 88 days to conquer the highest mountain of each EU country. These 27 mountains created 27 amazing stories which I will bear in mind for the rest of my life. It really has been an extraordinary trip with many obstacles on the way but now I am very happy I made it. What a feeling to fulfill your dream. Look at a short movie from my adventure and my quick summary and reflections from my trip below and see what is coming next 🙂

Sunrise over the highest mountain of my expedition – Mont Blanc; camera Nikon D750; lens Tamron 15-30mm, f/2.8; Panorama made by 24 pictures – 4 pictures in 2 rows; 3x Exposure bracketing

I always wanted to accomplish a longer expedition. When I saw documentaries about reaching the North Pole, climbing Mount Everest or biking through the Sahara I was thinking what my expedition could be. After visiting over 55 countries around the world and completing the Adventure Academy course I felt prepared for my first big trip.

I decided to climb EU Peaks for simple reasons: I love mountains and viewpoints & I would like show how easy it is to travel nowadays in EU compared to problems which for example my parents had. In recent years one can read many negative things about EU in the news so I wanted to show also some positive ones. Don’t forget that the best thing we have nowadays is freedom and amazing opportunities to travel. Look how much beauty we have around us!

View from the highest mountain of Sweden, Kebnekaise; camera Nikon D750; lens Tamron 15-30mm, f/2.8; single exposure

During my journey I hoped that at least somebody was following my trip. Now I am sure. After the last summit I have received so many positive messages that I am glad I decided for such a trip. I am most happy for the messages telling me that I motivated people for their own adventures. If you also feel like making a similar trip or just climb some mountain, let me know. I will be glad to help you and answer your questions.

I found also other unique places on the way, not only mountains. Look at a hidden gem of Portugal – the amazing village Piodao; camera Nikon D750; lens Tamron 15-30mm, f/2.8; Panorama made by 4 pictures –  2 vertical pictures; 2x Exposure bracketing

This trip was a huge lesson for me. I managed many things well but I also made many mistakes. I am really happy for the experience to work with my amazing sponsors (Interrail, Outnorth, Panosociety, Lifefood, Granitbiten, Pod 7 kilo). I am thankful as well for the experience to become a reporter for the largest Czech Radio Impuls or for cooperation with other media such as Aktuálně.czHospodářské Noviny or Soffa. On the other hand I learnt a lot from mistakes that hurrying in the mountains doesn’t make sense and can cause accidents. I don’t want to come back in detail to our car accident which happened in Scotland but it was definitely the worst experience in my life. I am still so thankful that nobody got hurt. To be honest I’ve never felt worse in my life after that happened. Only thanks to my amazing family and friends I got over my depression quickly and I could continue on my journey.

Looking at the decision now I am sure it was the best I could do. The rest of the trip was just epic. Standing on the highest peaks in the Alps can’t be described by words. If you like mountains, please visit at least one of the peaks.

On the way down from Grossglockner clouds suddenly disappeared and we had this amazing view; camera Nikon D750; lens Tamron 15-30mm, f/2.8; single exposure

You will see the rest of articles about each mountain soon on my blog but I would like to share with you some numbers and fun facts already now. Look at what all you can experience during just three months of travelling. Check also what country won in which of my charts 🙂

  • Countries visited: 28 (the whole EU)
  • Mountains climbed: 27 (the highest point of each EU country, France and Italy share Mont Blanc)
  • The overall elevation I climbed: 25 380 m (counting only the summit days, not extra hikes): 38m (Estonia), 45 m (Latvia), 12 m (Lithuania),  3 m (Denmark), 1451 m (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg- biking), 826m (Czech Republic), 1283 m (Poland), 1001 m (Slovakia), 22 m (Hungary), 1880m (Romania), 1463m (Bulgaria), 1862 m (Greece), 127 m (Cyprus), 1m (Portugal), 1237m (Spain), 1004m (Ireland), 1249m (United Kingdom); 1920m (Austria),  2151m (Germany), 1878m (Slovenia), 2474m (Italy/France); 626m (Finland); 1599m (Sweden); 1228m (Croatia)
  • Number of trains taken: 38 and the whole travel journey took ca 8400 km. All thanks to my Interrail card. Besides that I took 9 planes to reach islands and 1 ferry
  • Number of pictures and videos taken: 26 823 (731 GB)
  • Number of friends & family joined: 19
  • Summits during sunrises/sunsets: 14
  • Summits during middays with sunny weather: 9
  • Summits during cloudy/foggy/rainy weather: 4
  • Lifts taken: 0
  • Interviews for Radio Impuls: 28 (you can listen to them here)
  • Three best viewpoints from EU peaks: France/Italy – Mont Blanc, Sweden -Kebnekaise, Poland – Rysy
  • Three most impressive mountains: Greece – Mount Olympus, France/Italy – Mont Blanc, Triglav – Slovenia
  • The most busy EU peaks: Germany – Zugspitze, Austria – Grossglockner, Czech Republic – Sněžka
  • The most calm EU peaks: Romania – Moldoveanou Peak, Croatia – Dinara, Luxembourg – Kneiff
  • The toughest climb: Grossglockner, Austria (the most challenging climbing during freezing conditions)
  • The worst weather during my whole trip: Sněžka, Czech Republic – raining like hell
  • The longest climb: Kebnekaise, Sweden – 7 days
  • The shortest climb: Torre, Portugal – there is a roundabout on the top. I just drove there and I was there.
  • The most mosquitoes on the mountain: Suur Munamägi – Estonia
  • The most expensive summit: Slovakia – Gerlachovský Štít: It is the only mountain which you can’t climb on your own and you have to rent a guide. It costs 262 EUR
  • The most unpredictable weather: Carrauntoohil – Ireland: The only mountain where the forecast was completely wrong. It was supposed to be sunny and it was completely foggy
  • The most confusing story about the highest point of the country: Denmark – Danish people actually regard 4 mountains as their highest. Read the whole story here
  • The shortest distance to the sea from the highest point: Malta – the highest point is actually a cliff called Dingli
  • The best three peak beers: Prešovský Medový ležiak 14° (Slovakian honey lager) on the Slovakian peak Gerlachovský Štít; Belgium Peak Beer La Brune (A double highland beer, the brown Peak) on the highest Belgian Peak; Suur Munamäe vaatetorn (Wheat Ale) on the highest point of Estonia
  • The most visitors unfriendly mountain: Cyprus – Mont Olympos. There is a radar on the highest point. It is forbidden even take pictures there
  • Mountain where I felt most cold: Mulhacén – Spain: I simply underestimated how cold it can be in Spanish mountains. Temperatures around zero degrees Celsius together with strong wind caught me unprepared.
  • The most interesting story on the journey: From Ylko from Finland who came to mountain Halti to quit his drinking lifestyle. He drank 6000 beers during the last year and decided to stop. He symbolically poured the last one on the highest Finnish point.
  • The most cozy mountain huts: Slovakia – Chata Pod Rysmy (on the way to the Polish highest peak); Bulgaria – Ledeno Ezero; Greece – Kakkalos Refuge
  • The most tasty food on the way: Burger in Luxembourg
  • The most bizarre food on the wayCold pink soup in Latvia
  • Three best accommodations: Germany – Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Malta – Valletta, Sweden – Kiruna
  • The best bartender met on the way: Croatia, Pakoštane – bartender Nikola and his drink Piňa Colada
  • The easiest mountains to reach: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg (all three managed in one day by bike)

And what is coming next? My optimistic plan to update my blog after each climb didn’t work so I will finally have time now to make all the updates. You can look forward to read about tips for each EU Peak soon, nice pictures and my funny experiences. The articles will help you prepare for your own adventures so you will be able to enjoy your time in the mountains in a safe way. Besides the mountain posts, I am planning to disclose you also some photography tips. Stay tuned!

And what about my travelling and new peaks? Now I will take a short break to gain new power but the world record in managing all European highest points is very tempting. Since it is only 22 peaks left I have to give it a try 😉

One of the nicest sunrises of the expedition – Triglav in Slovenia; camera Nikon D750; lens Tamron 15-30mm, f/2.8; 3times bracketing

Lastly, I would like to thank to all my friends, my family and my girlfriend for incredible support. Without you I would never be able to make this trip come true. I hope that those who joined me along this trip enjoyed it as much I did and I hope to welcome you for future trips and expeditions. Thanks also to Adventure Academy and all my teachers for the amazing preparation especially during the course Hell Week and of course to my sponsors who helped me get new equipment to finish my expedition! Big thank comes also to those who helped me on the way with providing accommodation, food or just advice and finally thanks to all my readers for following. Now the exciting articles will come 😉 Stay tuned!

My friends who joined me on my expedition; collage made by 16 pictures from my camera Nikon D750, GoPro 6 and iPhone X

PART 2: EUROPEAN PEAKS OUTSIDE EU

After almost a year of frequent travelling, hiking and climbing I am lying on my bed without any specific further traveling plans. Now, I finally have time to go through the thousands of pictures and videos which I captured during my mountain expedition European Peaks. I still can hardly believe it but my pictures confirm that I made it! Despite all the obstacles I managed to climb the highest mountain of each European country and even during the shortest time ever. Liechtenstein and its surprisingly sharp mountain Vorder Grauspitz was the last mountain on my list. Here are my first reflections.

Vorder Grauspitz, the mountain which showed up several times in my nightmares, was conquered on 13th June, 2019, exactly 361 days after the first summit of a European mountain of my expedition which was a small but beautiful hill in Estonia. I expected to have difficulties with other giants such as Elbrus in Russia, Dufourspitze in Switzerland or Mont Blanc in Italy/France but it was this only 2599m high mountain in Liechtenstein which caused me the biggest troubles. I had to give up during the first summit attempt in the beginning of June due to high avalanche risk and this potential avalanche woke me up in the middle of several nights after our unsuccessful attempt.

Crazy a lot of snow at the beginning of June in Liechtenstein caused high avalanche danger. This is a wayout of a tunnel

Who would expect such climbing difficulty from the fourth smallest country in Europe? I was so scared of an accident on this mountain but also so close to the end of my expedition that I decided to climb it for the second time with an experienced mountain guide. I just couldn’t leave the expedition unfinished. And it worked! We waited for a perfect weather window and our summit day was just perfect. The freezing night made the snow stable for our summit and the weather even prepared impressive views for us. Can you imagine a better climbing day than above an ocean of clouds? The climb was actually not as difficult as my nightmares suggested. After a few hours I was already standing on Vorder Grauspitz and enjoying the last peak beer. That feeling of victory on the top of the mountain which scared me over two weeks was undescribable.

Second attempt to climb Grauspitz during much better weather than for the first time

Global warming took a short break

During the first part of my expedition (check the summary here) I climbed the highest mountains of all EU countries and I was pretty lucky with the weather. I had troubles with weather only once in the High Tatras when I was attempting to climb the highest mountain in Slovakia. However, the second part of the expedition prepared for me completely opposite conditions. I had difficulties with weather at almost each mountain due to never ending winter and lots of snow. The most crazy conditions waited for me besides the above mentioned Liechtenstein also in Russia where I had to wait 5 days for good weather. When it finally looked like the forecasts will recover my partners and I ended up in the biggest snowstorm I have ever seen.

Snowstorm in the base camp of Elbrus at 4100m. We had to return.

Bear is not as fun to find as a beer.

Similarly, I faced complete winter conditions in all the Balkan countries where the summits would never be possible without crampons and an ice axe. Why do all articles I found online say that hiking in the Balkans in the end of May should be snowless? Besides snow difficulties, Bosnia and Herzegovina prepared for me another wildlife survival test – how to survive a meeting with a bear. I was very glad at that moment that I visited the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania where I was explained what to do not to be eaten as a desert (see the picture below). Despite almost getting my pants full I found out that it actually works to pretend you are big and to start a karaoke.

I started to use a lot Instastories during my expedition. Very easy and quick way to share instant experiences. Check my Instagram account if you don’t follow me there yet.

In Iceland, I faced another challenge. Since none of the mountain guiding operators to the highest peak Hvannadalshnjúkur offered a tour on the date we needed, my friend and I decided to reach the peak on our own. Since my friend was on a glacier for the first time, I didn’t have any other option than leading the climb over a glacier for the first time in my life. It was a very challenging experience. It was not only an extremely long climb but taking the responsibility is a much harder burden. Any mistake could result in an accident. I am very happy we had probably the best weather in Iceland’s history so we made it to the peak safely. At the end, we were even awarded by an amazing sunset on the peak and the shining northern lights on the way back.

The highest point of Iceland climbed!

Waiting is worse than the toughest climbs

Climbing Elbrus is nothing technically difficult. But if weather goes bananas your butt will shake off as I could experience. I had to wait for good weather for five days in an improvised simple accommodation, lack of oxygen, eating freeze dried food and hearing mice running above my head. The biggest problem was though that the toilet outside and 100m far from our cottage. I knew that you must drink a lot when staying in high altitudes but I didn’t know that the bladder has much more difficulties to work. Running 5 times a night to the toilet in freezing temperatures is not an experience which I will miss after this expedition.

I found out that having “skiing instructor certificate” doesn’t mean anything if you go ski touring. Reaching peaks in in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Andorra was an amazing experience but followed with a number of non expected falls. The most crucial fall happened in Switzerland when I lost a pole. It taught me though that a broom can be an amazing pole too. Why spending so much money for new skiing poles when you can create your own?

Small mountains can surprise

I am glad that European highest points didn’t only bring me to high mountain ranges but also to countries which I would probably never visit without this challenge. The best example is Moldova, the poorest country in Europe and the least visited country of the European continent. I discovered completely untouched places there, met interesting people in tiny villages, celebrated orthodox Easter and visited the largest winery in the world. Yes, you read correctly. There is the largest winery in the world – Cricova with a huge underground city full of cellars and 100km of corridors. Even though the highest point itself of Moldova is very easy to climb, I had difficulties reaching it because before my summit day I spent in Moldova an intense prolonged weekend with surprisingly tasty wine, great people and one of the biggest parties in my life.

Babushka selling Easter cakes in Moldova

Climbing with the nearest

Since most of the climbs in the non EU countries were very demanding I never wanted to manage them on my own. Luckily, I have amazing people around me and I managed to find a climbing partner for every peak during the second part of my expedition. On the other hand, I learned that being scared for others can be much stronger feeling than being scared for myself. When my mum, my girlfriend and I walked off a snow covered walking path in the Balkans and we showed up in a very steep and insecure snow terrain, I was very worried something would happen to them. I was ready to cancel our summit attempts and return back down. Luckily, the women around me are so brave that they managed to pass these tough parts and we successfully made it to these amazing peaks.

Joanne’s face explains exactly what she thinks about this steep part on the way to Maglič, the highest point of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Overcoming prejudice and enjoying the simplicity of every day life

These were some of the strongest experiences I had during the second part of my expedition. As I said it was a very tough year with a lot of challenges but it was worth the pain and stress. The feeling when you successfully finish the whole expedition is simply amazing. I hope my story has motivated at least some of you reading this article. I wish everyone who has a dream expedition in mind to start. That’s the most difficult moment. Once you begin your adventure, the goal will be close.

If you don’t think of any dream adventure, consider climbing at least one highest point of a European country this summer. Europe is so beautiful and various that everyone is able to choose. The best thing is that if you decide to climb a mountain you don’t only make your body healthier by moving in the nature but you also meet interesting people and learn about different cultures. For me climbing the mountains was never only about the peaks. I always tried to find out as much as I could about the country and the region I visited. I liked especially participating in free guided tours in the cities on the way and of course talking with locals. I learned a lot of new interesting things about our continent and overcame lots of prejudice (you’ll see examples in my future blog posts).

Before my adventure I was very restless. I traveled to a new place and especially mountains every free moment I could. However, after this expedition, I never thought I would say this but I am happy that I have no travel plans at the moment. I am happy with my plan to stay in the lowland around Stockholm and Prague over the whole summer, just work with photography and go through all my pictures, videos and notes from my expedition. I am looking forward to complete my blog so you have tips for the highest mountain of each European country in one place. If you like reading my experiences and looking at mountain pictures, you have something to look forward to during this summer.

Time to enjoy Swedish summer and endless sunsets

What will be the next expedition?

This is probably the most common question I am getting these days. My big challenge is to stay calm and not to travel  much this summer. Haha. My current expedition will be to start writing a book which was always my dream. But for those who know me I will not be able to stay a long time without adrenaline. I have one big mountain dream in mind but I will keep it for myself at the moment. Stay tuned.

Lastly, I would like to thank all the people who helped me to make my dream come true. Especially, I am thankful for support and patience of my family and my girlfriend. Thanks also to all who decided to join me for a part of my expedition and to those who helped me in any other way.

The best people who joined me on my adventure this year

PS: Thanks also the EU for its existence. I realized how easy it is to travel in the Shengen area during the second part of the expedition. I almost forgot how much pain in the ass it is to travel through borders with the security controls and bureaucracy. Similarly, I am happy to be back in the EU now where I can access internet on my phone anywhere without a problem. I spent hundreds of EUR only because I just needed to let my family know that I am alive.

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