Sometime around 3 a.m., local time, on an early September morning, when most Pratt residents slept warmly and comfortably in their beds, my wife and I were ascending to the highest point in the Czech Republic. At 1,602 meters, Mt. Snezka is roughly the same height as Denver, Colorado (and it's also 7 time zones [...]

Sometime around 3 a.m., local time, on an early September morning, when most Pratt residents slept warmly and comfortably in their beds, my wife and I were ascending to the highest point in the Czech Republic.
At 1,602 meters, Mt. Snezka is roughly the same height as Denver, Colorado (and it's also 7 time zones later than CST).
Reaching the summit required a moderate-difficulty hike/climb of 800 meters (roughly 2,264 feet) from base camp (our motel) in Pec Pod Snekzou.
It's not particularly difficult to hike to the top, although weather conditions may add to the challenge. Before we departed the village under the mountain, an electronic signboard informed passersby that the temperature at the summit was 3 degrees Celsius (roughly 37 F) with 89 kilometers per hour winds (about 55 mph). The temperature reading was the same when we returned to town later in the afternoon, with only a slight decrease in wind speeds to 84 kilometers per hour.
While the hike isn't that difficult, it can test your lung capacity at times, depending upon your pace. And the temperature can change dramatically over the course of your hike. Reading the temperature and wind speed on the signboard is quite different than the reality of mountain wind chill. It was cold. Higher up, clouds crisscrossed the trail and also enshrouded the mountain.
While a hike in a national park in the US may offer moments of solitude and contemplation, that is generally not the case here. Europe has a high population density, and, even in this remote area, we were two small dots amidst a multitude of hikers from Germany, Poland, and Czech, and other points unknown once we began the final, steep ascent near the junction of multiple trails. By this time we zipped our rain jackets around our jackets, trying to provide a little wind block, also tightening up our hoods around our heads with gloved hands. Sometimes it was a challenge to keep our footing on the natural stone stairway while wind swirled around the mountain, pushing against us. All around, our fellow hikers struggled against the elements, some pausing on the way up to catch their breath.
If and when you arrive at the summit of Snezka, you will discover that civilization is not far away. We stepped inside the Ceska Postavana/gift shop/bar/grill, where I mailed some postcards written earlier. Outside on the windy peak, a group of Polish teenage girls snapped our photograph at the elevation sign, after we had taken their photograph, while others toasted the summit with a shot of schnapps.
Several hundred steps back down the trail, we discovered warmth and a light lunch in another building. I asked the clerk at the cash register, in Czech, what the 'zl' after the prices meant. After pointing at the menu board and trying to explain what I was referring to, he finally answered me in English, 'Ah, you're in Poland. Czech is 5 kilometers to the west.'
All in all it was a grand adventure, even if a bit cold for 8 September. I am thankful for the ability to have made the climb and also to have discovered a small slice of Poland along the way.
Note: unable to use Czech diacritical marks due to formatting issues with blog posting site.