We were planning this trip since last year, but somehow it didn’t find its place in none of the available weekends we had last summer. But, as we had a longer weekend this August, we decided to have this 4 days trip in the Făgăraș mountains (again!) to reach the highest peak of the Romanian Carpathians, the Moldoveanu Peak (2544m). It was not as easy to get there as I imagined in the first place, but looking back now, I feel a great accomplishment that we succeeded (with some effort, both mental and physical, but we did it). In the end, that’s what makes a hiking trip so intense and memorable…mountains are always unpredictable, but they do offer an immense satisfaction to someone who is capable of appreciating beautiful and simple things (or places).
OK, now let’s get practical and tell you more about the whole trip. We started our trip from Sibiu (of course) on Thursday afternoon and we went by car to the Bâlea Lake, where we would camp for the first night and where we would leave our car until our return on Sunday. To Bâlea Lake and Transfăgărăşan we’ve been before, many times (read here), but we decided to have this as a starting point for our trip for mainly one very important reason. It’s very easy to get there by car and you are already at 2034 meters high so you don’t have to carry your bags all the way up.
I do have to mention that this was our first hiking trip ever with a tent. It was something that we wanted to do for a long time, we bought quite a good tent last year and it was time to test its capacities. It was, of course a bit difficult because, having a tent included also sleeping bags and extra luggage and that was a pain for our backs, but the idea was not that bad in the end. Although initially sleeping in a tent for 4 nights seemed for me something very uncomfortable, in the end it was actually quite nice (excepting the rain and the cold, of course).
At Bâlea Lake you can camp practically anywhere you feel like to. There is enough available space around the lake, so this will not be an issue. We only stayed for one night at the lake and early in the morning, the next day we woke up and actually started our trip. Our destination for the day was the Podragu Chalet, which is actually the starting point for going to the Moldoveanu Peak. The weather conditions for the weekend didn’t look that good (or as good as I would have liked it), but we still decided to do the trip. So we left Bâlea behind and started our first ascent to the Capra Saddle, following the blue triangle path.
From up the Capra Saddle we took one last look at the Bâlea Lake and Chalet and the Transfăgărăşan Road. From here we had to follow the red line path in the direction of the Podragu Saddle.
And continued on, passing by the Capra Lake. This is also a very good camping place, if you want to go away from the noise from Bâlea.
We had some clouds on the way, but this was good in a way, because we only had to struggle with the weight our pack-packs and not with the heat as well. From Capra Lake in about an hour and a half we got to the Dragons Window (Fereastra Zmeilor), following the same red line path. The trail goes up and down, it’s not always straight, it’s the mountains way to make sure that you don’t get bored and you actually but the necessary effort in getting to your destination.
From this point we are only minutes away from the most dangerous part of the trip. There is this passing point, called Three Steps Away From Death (La 3 paşi de moarte), which can be very dangerous if you don’t pay attention to every step you take.
We tried to take as many pictures to actually show the difficulty of this passing point. If you look down there is nothing, only the abyss, but thanks to some good people, there are chains to hold on to while passing and this makes things a whole lot easier.
Still, we mustn’t forget why we had this trip in the first place. To look around and enjoy what the mountain has to offer. So no matter how hard everything seems to be, stopping for a few minutes and enjoying the view is mandatory.
Around noon we got to the Nerlinger Monument and this was actually where we also stopped for lunch.
Down below in the back you can see the Buda Lake. From the Nerlinger Monument we start our last and most difficult ascent of the day to the Mircii Peak.
I said that the ascent was difficult, but actually the most difficult was going down from the Mircii Peak and getting to the Podul Giurgiului Lake. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the lake but the descent was so abrupt that our knees and muscles where alerted to the maximum.
When we got to the Podul Giurgiului Lake, it suddenly became very foggy and the rain started. We were only about one hour away from the Podragu Chalet and getting there wet was not something that made us happy. So we hurried, we almost started running, also because everywhere was fog and we couldn’t see anything around us. We just followed the path. When we got to the Podragu Saddle, we were 25 minutes away from the Chalet and we were hoping to actually see it down in the valley. But we couldn’t see anything. By the time we actually got to the Chalet, the rain stopped a bit and we hurried to find a place to put our tent. Which proved to be a bit difficult, because everywhere we looked, the grass was wet and there were also quite a lot of people with their tents as well. But we did it in the end.
After we put our tent, the rain started again and we hurried inside the Chalet for something warm to drink and eat.
This is how are tent looked after a heavy ice storm. In the Chalet it was full of people, it seems like we were not the only people who took advantage of the long weekend to go to the highest peak of Romania. In the end we couldn’t get anything to eat from the Chalet, we had something to eat from our own supplies and went to sleep quite early. The trip from Bâlea to Podragu took us about 6 hours, as it was also officially estimated. The next day we were supposed to wake up and conquer the Moldoveanu Peak.
This is the map of our route in the first day.
When we woke up, the sky was clear and the sun was up. We thought this is a very good sign and we should hurry to start our trip.
This is how the Chalet and the lakes around it look like when there is no fog 🙂
The trip to Moldoveanu is supposed to last about 3 hours and it starts from the Chalet going back up to the Podragu Saddle, following the same red triangle path. From the saddle we take left on the red line path and the trail is quite nice and easy to follow, with not too many ups and downs, until we get to the base of the Moldoveanu and Viştea Mare peaks (Viştea Mare is the third highest peak in Romania 2527m).
The weather seems to be quite good, with a little fog from time to time, some clouds as well, but that doesn’t worry us too much, as we soon see the two peaks in front of us and that motivates us to go on.
The Viştea Mare (left) and Moldoveanu (right) – the trapeze in back
From the base of the two peaks is actually where the hard part starts, because we have to climb up, very abruptly.
The peaks looked good, there was also a bit of sun so we had to hurry, because clouds were quickly approaching and we didn’t want to be up when the rain started. We first got to the Viştea Mare peak. And from there in 15 minutes you get to the Moldoveanu peak, but not before passing Spintecătura Moldoveanu, which is something similar to La 3 paşi de moarte. You have to be very careful where you put your next step and you have to use the cables there to make sure you pass without being injured.
And here we are, us and many other people. touching for the first time the Moldoveanu Peak, the highest peak of Romania, 2544 meters.
We were quite lucky to reach the peak and actually see something around us. Because normally the peak is covered with clouds and foggy and it happens rarely that you actually have the chance to admire the mountains, being on top of them.
What can I say… the view was simply spectacular. And combined with the satisfaction that we were there, that we made it, I had the feeling that the mountains were at my feet… well, they actually kind of were 🙂
Unfortunately we couldn’t spend too much time on the peak, as soon the clouds approached and it started to rain slowly. We hurried back to the Podragu Chalet. We got back around 4 PM so the trip lasted in total, including breaks, about 6 hours and 30 minutes. This time, we did manage to get some warm food from the chalet, although it was as crowded as the evening before.
Here is the map of our route:
Sunday was the day that we were supposed to return to Bâlea Lake where we had left our car and go back home. It started raining during the night and when we woke up in the morning it was raining still. We waited for a couple of hours, hoping that it would stop, but seeing that it will not, we decided that we have no choice but to go back to Bâlea like that. So we packed everything and we started our trip. We don’t have any photos from this last trip back home, because the only thing we wanted was to get back to the car as soon as possible.
The weather was horrible. It was raining, there was fog and it was windy and cold. We didn’t have the proper equipment for hiking while raining and soon after we left the chalet all our clothes were already wet. During this return trip was the first time I said that I don’t want to do hiking again. We didn’t even stop to have something to eat, I didn’t even needed water. I just wanted to get as soon as possible to a warm place, with no wind, where I could put some dry and warm clothes on.
This time, the trip took us less than 5 hours (when we went to the Podragu Chalet, it took us about 6 hours and 30 minutes), so you can imagine that it was no time to wonder around and enjoy the view. It was quite difficult at ‘3 Paşi de Moarte’ as the rocks were all wet and slippery, and we had some serious difficulties in passing it. Also, the rest of the trail was very muddy from all the rain, and we did fall a couple of times.
When we finally reached the Capra Saddle (Şaua Capra) we were very surprised to see that area around Bâlea Lake was sunny, with no clouds. It was exactly what we needed to start feeling better again. I, honestly, was very happy to get back there after the last 4 hours and a half.
This was it! It was a long trip, the longest so far in the mountains, with the heaviest back-packs and with a crazy weather that just couldn’t decide one way or the other. Now, looking back at the whole trip, I still feel so proud of myself and happy that we did everything we planned.
I named this post ‘4 days at more than 2000m high’ because from the moment we got to the Bâlea Lake and until we got back on Sunday we were all the time above 2000m high wherever we went!