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In the footsteps of the tragedy of Hanče and Vrbata

A story of determination and dedication in unpredictable mountains

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In the footsteps of the tragedy of Hanče and Vrbata
Inserted: 13.02.2021
Author: Martin Javorský © gigaplaces.com
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The story of the tragic death of friends Bohumil Hanč and Václav Vrbata is not only a story of friendship, determination and dedication, but also a testimony to the unpredictability of weather in the mountains.24. March 1913, at 7 o'clock in the morning, an international 50 km cross-country race began at Labská bouda. It was beautiful, the temperature was 8 degrees, so the racers set off on the track only in shirts. Within an hour, however, the weather changed dramatically, the wind picked up, cooled sharply, fog fell, and wet snow began to fall and a blizzard began. The race was canceled and the competitors withdrew from the track. Unfortunately, Hanče could not be stopped. Due to extremely bad weather, the lonely Hanč died of hypothermia and his friend Vrbata paid with his life for his efforts to help him. Interestingly, in memory of Vrbat's sacrificial act, March 24 is celebrated as Mountain Service Day.

Ski race

On March 24, 1913, the 8th year of the fifty-kilometer international cross-country skiing championship took place. This picture shows in part where the race route led. It started at Labská bouda towards Martinovka, via Šišák, Vysoké kolo and Sněžné jámy to Violík and from there to Vosecká bouda, then to Labská louka and Zlatá vrchí and on the way before us back to Labská bouda again. The race was planned for three laps with the finish in Horní Mísečky.

Ski race
Author: Martin Javorský © gigaplaces.com

Pančavská meadow

There is a large subalpine meadow with a very large peak peat bog and remnants of glacial flora. The river Pančava springs here, which then forms a beautiful waterfall falling into the Elbe mine. The legendary Czech skier Bohumil Hanč died in this meadow during an unexpected change in weather. Such sudden changes in the weather occur quite often on the ridges of the Giant Mountains. The north wind blows here, which brings a lot of water. The wind from the North Sea stops against the wall of the Giant Mountains and cools down at the height of the ridges. This can turn calm weather into a blizzard in a short time. This is exactly what happened during this race.

Pančavská meadow
Author: Martin Javorský © gigaplaces.com

Monument to Bohumil Hanč

This monument was built on the way from the Golden Hill to the Pančava Waterfall at the place where Bohumil Hanč was found completely frozen and without signs of life. The first monument was erected here by Hanč's opponent Emerich Rath, who tried to save him and drag him to the Elbe hut. Later, a small mound was built on this site, which still stands here today.

Monument to Bohumil Hanč
Author: Martin Javorský © gigaplaces.com

Hanče and Vrbaty mound

A mound reminiscent of a tragic race was built on the Golden Hill in 1925. It is built on the site where Václav Vrbata died, who tried to help his friend Hanč and gave him his coat and hat. Thanks to its location, the mound is one of the dominants of the Western Giant Mountains, it stands on a hill, which is now called Vrbatovo, and a nearby tourist cottage built in 1964 is called Vrbatova bouda.

Hanče and Vrbaty mound
Author: Martin Javorský © gigaplaces.com

Labská bouda

At the time of the race, there was a traditional mountain hut built in 1850. This popular tourist hut was further expanded. In 1965, however, it burned down and in 1975 it was replaced by the current reinforced concrete building. The tragic race at this shed started at 7:10 am and the already dead Hanč was brought here sometime around 15:00.

Labská bouda
Author: archiv Špindlerovy boudy © gigaplaces.com
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