[Romania] The Făgăraș Mountain Ridge from Bâlea to Turnu Roșu
Hiking the Făgăraș Mountains ridge is, let’s say, one of the main goals of any true hiker and mountains passionate from Romania (although nowadays you meet mostly foreigners on the peaks). The Făgăraș Mountains are the highest in Romania, with heights reaching 2500m and the ridge is the longest in the country – about 90 kilometers.
Last year we planned a 6 days trip to hike all the ridge from east to west, but due to bad weather conditions, we had to finish our trip in the 4th day, so we only did about half of the ridge. Still, those days were great, and the trip was very much worth it.
So here we are, this year, beginning of August, back up high to finish what we started last year. The weather forecast was looking extremely good, with clear, sunny skies, no rain at all. So we packed our backpacks, put the sleeping bags and the tent in and, just the two of us, started the journey.
Day 1 – Sibiu – Bâlea Lake
Thursday afternoon, after work, we drove from Sibiu to Bâlea Lake on the Transfăgărașan Road. Going to Balea Lake is a good option for hiking on the Făgăraș ridge, because you’re already at more than 2000m high.
We got there just in time to install our tent and have one of the last warm dinners for the next days. The Bâlea Hut is open all year round and they also have a restaurant with quite good food. Expect however, to get very crowded especially during summer months and weekends.
We spent the night somewhere near the Rescue team house, under a very clear and full of stars sky. During the night the temperature was somewhere around 5 – 6 degrees, but the sleeping bags did their job and kept us warm.
Day 2 – Bâlea Lake – Scara Shelter
Friday morning we woke up very early because we had planned a very full and long day. Sky was clear, sun was rising and we started our first ascent of the day from the Bâlea Lake to Șaua Paltinu (Paltinu Saddle). We followed the red cross path until we got up on the ridge (about 30 minutes) and from there we followed the red line path for the next 3 days.
It took us about one hour to get to Șaua Paltinu and as it was the first ascent of the day, we got warm and in shape for what was about to follow. Our first snack-stop was on the Lăițel Peak (2390m) after hiking through a more difficult area with chains and lots of cliffs. We stopped for about 20 minutes (we were on the road for 2h30 already) to have a quick bite and to admire the beautiful Călțun Lake and the Negoiu Peak (2538m, 2nd highest peak in Romania) in front of us.
Then we started a descent from the Lăițel Peak and got in about an hour to the Călțun Lake. Here you can find a shelter and camping places. The lake looked so good, with a crystal clear water that we were thinking of going for a swim, but it’s forbidden to do that.
We just had a 5 minutes break to enjoy the view and started the ascent to the Negoiu Peak. There are two options to get to the Negoiu Peak – Struga Dracului and Strunga Doamnei. Struga Dracului is now closed due to its difficulty and to the fact that rocks fall quite often and it’s easy to get hurt. Still there were people who chose this option when we were there, but no accidents happened.
There is also a detour option, which is safer and which we also chose. You will see on the way that there are signs saying to go through Strunga Doamnei instead of Strunga Dracului. Struga Doamnei is marked with a yellow line . The first part is a chain area a bit difficult to pass, especially since you have a big backpack to carry.
It took us almost 2 hours to get from the Călțun Lake to the Negoiu Peak and it was already noon when we got there. The sun was burning already, although the air temperature was about 15-18 degrees, but at 2500m it feels different. We were a bit low on water and there wouldn’t be from Negoiu to our shelter that night either, so we had to plan it carefully.
The ascent to Negoiu was quite an effort for us, but getting on the peak and having such a good weather, with a clear sky that allowed us to see all the mountains around us, compensated for all the effort so far. We had been to Negoiu 2 times before and the first time it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything, so catching a clear sky when at 2500m is something you can be really happy about and appreciate.
We had a 30 minutes break on the Negoiu Peak and then continued our trip. We started the descent from Negoiu to Șaua Cleopatrei (about 30 minutes) and then, for the next 2 and a half hours tried our strength on the Custura Sărății. Custura Sărății is the most difficult part of the Făgăraș Mountains ridge and is mostly a chains path, with sharp cliffs and slippery rocks.
There is also a detour option if you don’t have the courage to do Custura Sărății, but we decided to do it as we had good weather, no rain and we needed some extra adrenaline. Custura Sărății needs you to be very careful where you step and to calculate every new move. Some parts where easier, some were more difficult, especially with the heavy backpacks we were carrying.
At some point, almost at the end, I was on the point of saying I give up and I go back and take the detour as we had gotten to a part were I just couldn’t manage to pass. I was getting a bit tired from all the effort, but, out of the blue, a guy came from behind us and carried my backup and I managed to do it, in the end and move forward. I guess everything happens for a reason, at the right time.
On the moment, I kept saying I am not doing this ever again, but now, from the comfort of my couch, I have to admit that I would prefer we were there now. We finally got out from the Custura Sărății and arrived on the Șerbota Peak (2331m) at 4.30PM. It was such a relief to finally be there, so we stopped for a well deserved break, to catch our breath and have something to eat.
In another 2 hours we finally got to the Scara Shelter, where we would install our tent and get a good night sleep. From the Șerbota Peak to the Scara Shelter the path is not that difficult, but you still have to go up some peaks and then go down.
At the Scara Shelter there’s also a spring with fresh water and also the shelter can host up to 10 – 12 people, but as we had carried our tent with us for the whole day, we decided to actually use it instead of the shelter.
The whole day trip lasted for 11 hours and 30 minutes. On the map, they say it should be around 10 hours, but as the weather was so nice and sunny, we decided not to hurry anywhere. We actually even couldn’t hurry, as the effort was quite big. My Polar watch said I burned about 6000 calories for the day, so that was a hell of a workout. We also had some sun burn on our arms and neck, although we had been using sun screen protection all day long.
Trail for the day:
Bâlea Lake (7AM) – Șaua Paltinul (8AM) – Lăițel Peak (9.30AM) – Călțun Lake(10.30AM) – Negoiu Peak through Strunga Doamnei (12.30PM) – Șaua Cleopatrei (1.45PM) – Șerbota Peak through Custura Sărății (4.30PM) – Scara Shelter (6.30PM)
Day 3 – Scara Shelter – Apa Cumpănită
On Saturday we woke up a bit later than the day before as the trip for this day wasn’t supposed to be as long. We had a nice breakfast while the sun was getting up and getting us warm and we packed everything and started the trip.
The initial plan was to get from the Scara Shelter to the Suru Hut and sleep there for the night, but some friends were also around and we decided to sleep together at Apa Cumpănită. From Suru to Scara (the other way around ) we had been in 2014 so we already knew the way and what to expect.
It’s not a difficult path, there is a small part just before the Avrig Lake where there are some chains and you have to be careful, but other than that, the trip doesn’t pose any difficulties. Well, except for the fact that you have to climb all sorts of peaks and then descend them, which of course, is part of what hiking actually means and it’s the actual charm of doing all this.
We left the Scara Shelter at about 9.30 AM and in about an hour we got to Șaua Gârbovei Vest and from there in another approximately 40 minutes we got to the Avrig Lake. Here we stopped for a 20-30 minutes break, to have a quick snack, put our feet in the cold water and of course, enjoy the view. The lake was full of small fish that were swimming around our toes.
At the Avrig Lake there’s also a water spring so good time to drink as much as you can and make a refill.Also it’s a very good camping place, if you decide to spend the night here.
From the Avrig lake the path goes mostly upwards for the next one hour and a half. We got a bit tired now, also because the sun was so hot, no wind, no shade. We were starting to get more serious sun burn on our arms and neck, although we were constantly applying sun screen protection. But, the view was spectacular and that helped a lot in motivating ourselves to go further.
After getting on the Budislavul Peak, there aren’t any more ascents on the ridge, the path is smooth and starting to go down as we are not far from the end of it.
We met our friends on the Șaua Suru and from there we went to Apa Cumpănită. We got there at about 5 in the afternoon. This day was easier compared to the day before. We took even longer breaks to just look around and feel the mountain at its best. On such a good weather, hurrying was not at all an option.
Near Șaua Suru we found two guys doing some endurance motorbiking on the peaks, which got us a bit sad, because this kind of things shouldn’t happen on top of the mountain. They destroy the landscape, the destroy the hiking paths.
Apa Cumpănită is a very good water source, so if you get there and you want to camp, you will get all the water you need. In the after-noon the shepherds passed by to take their sheep from the ridge back to their shelter.
The whole day trip lasted about 7 hours and we followed the same red line path .
Trail for the day:
Scara Shelter (9.30AM) – Șaua Gârbovei Vest (10.30AM) – Avrig Lake (11.30AM) – Budislavu Peak (1.30PM) – Șaua Suru (2.30PM) – Apa Cumpănită (4.00PM).
Day 4 – Apa Cumpănită -Turnu Roșu -Sibiu
Sunday was the day we were supposed to go back to civilization and to leave the beautiful Făgăraș ridge behind, thinking it was the last time we see these mountains for this year. But we did go next for a weekend at the Suru Hut and we will also be there for New Year’s Eve 🙂
We left Apa Cumpănită at about 8.00 in the morning, continuing on the red line path . After about one hour we also found a spring on the way, so we stopped a bit to refill our bottles of water. In approximately another hour we got to Șaua Corbului.
From here the ridge path continues to the west, but we chose to go on the red cross path to get to Turnu Roșu. We started the descent from the ridge and for the first time in the last 3 days, we could see other type of vegetation. We got into the woods and soon the blueberry bushes started to show up. Perfect occasion to stop and pick some.
The last part of the descent towards Turnu Roșu was quite steep and my knees were starting to feel the pressure. At 1PM, after 5 hours since we left Apa Cumpănită, we arrived at the Turnu Roșu Monastery where a friend came and picked us up by car and got us back home, to Sibiu. If you don’t have a car, you can also walk from the monastery to the Turnu Roșu train station (5km on a country road) and from there you have regular trains to Sibiu.
This is not the friend who came and picked us up 😀
Trail for the day:
Apa Cumpănită (8.00AM) – Șaua Corbului (10.00AM) – Turnu Roșu (1.00PM).
And that sums up a total of 30 kilometers of hiking from Friday to Sunday.
Looking back, I would love to be back there now. But I remember that there were some difficult parts of the trip. With passing the Custura Sărății, with the sun burn and the heat, with having a heavy backpack, with all the physical effort. But besides all these aspects, being up there is a wonderful experience for your body, for your mind and soul.
Being able to get disconnected from all the daily routine and just be present in what’s happening around you. We were so lucky to have such a great weather, with absolutely no chances of rain and that made the trip even more beautiful. Because you could see everything around you, all the peaks, lakes, even the villages and towns at the base of the mountain.
At 2000m everything happens differently. Food tastes better, water is more fresh, the air is stronger and fills your lungs, your mind is clear and relaxed.
The Făgăraș mountains still remain my favorite mountains of Romania so far. Not sure what the explanation is, but I feel the most comfortable when I’m up there (if the weather is good, of course 😀 ).
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