The mountains of Translyvanian
conjur up images of dark serrated ridges and peaks, swirling mists, crumbling
castles and above all the image of Dracula. Dracula history is certainly there,
there are crumbling castles and a lot of swirling mists but dark and serrated
the alps are not.
Moldeveanu – evening view from the West
In fact, the Translyvanian ranges are mostly gentle green hills, big hills at
that. Moldeveanu, nestled in the Fagaras range of the Translyvanian Carpathians
and the countries highest point, lies as a slightly bigger bump on a huge
sweeping ridge, swoop after tiring swoop until you eventually get to Moldeveanu
Summit of Moldoveanu (on the left) (late August 2003)
One notable fact of Moldeveanu is the fact that it lies a good distance from
the road head and would require a good four days round trip from Brasov (unless
you are a super man).
The climb is nothing more than a walk although the distance from the road head
means you have to carry enough gear for the four days – although there are huts
on route. Sharing the route with Romanian back-packers this can be a very
This is probably best approached
from Brasov in the west or Sibiu in the east. A train link between the two
drops you at the tiny (nothing there) station not to far from the town of
Victoria called Ucea de Jos. From here a bus (eventually) will take you to the
town of Victoria. Vicotria is a pretty rough place but a good trail from here
will take you to the Sambata monastry a few further miles up. Sleep here and
begin the route the next day.
The mountan can be climbed all year
round but Romania has infamous deep freezes and like any mountain range tread
carefully if plastered with snow. The mountains can be a long way from anywhere
if you encounter an emergency. Summer are good months but sudden rain, thunder
and lightning and hail can make going tough.
Being a wilderness area it is
permissable to camp anywhere but of course – take in what you take out. A
better (and cheap) option is to use the huts on route. Tiny cabins are
available just near the monastry (Sambata Monastry), a hut is available below
the main ridge on the red trail (Valea Sambetei Chalet – 1407m) on the east
(Brasov) side and a hut is available on the blue trail on the west side of
Moldeveanu (Podragu Chalet – 2136m).
Above the Valea Sambatei Chalet on the red trail
Warning: the huts are okay but unheated, and only have miserable itchy blankets
– not very pleasant if its been wet (especially on the blue trail) and
generally stay cold. The beds on the red trail are individual beds but at the
blue are large bunk style. Bring sleeping bags and warm clothing!
Warning No 2: For us western climbers the food served at these huts is pretty
shocking. Tea is luke warm, just like everything else. They have the shocking
practice of letting tea cool down before serving. But then youre not in Kansas
The blue hut from a distance looks like a perfect Yorkshire cottage with
roaring fire – except on close inspection theres no fire and not perfect.
Map overlooking the Fogaras Range.
The common route is to ascend from
the monastry to the red trail and will take about four hours to the red hut. I
stayed here and was quite glad because the next day is a tough push to the
summit of Moldeveanu. The route ascends from above the Red Hut and is quite
steep upto the main ridge. Here the route heads west over a series of swoops
(many) before eventually the pull up to Moldeveanu which is north of the main
ridge. A wind blowing east makes things tough.
The peak of Moldoveanu viewed from the main ridge trail. Summer 2002.
last meters to the Top Moldeveanu (end of
From the Moldoveanu summit (2544 m)
Heading back to the ridge, more swoops head west where a sign will tell you it
is four hours to the next hut. Three is plenty for most people and a sign will
direct you off the ridge to the blue hut. The blue trail back down to Victoria
is a long push and will take six hours or more on a sometimes intermittent
trail. It seems little used but has plenty of deer about.
Like any mountain range the weather
can turn from wonderful to nasty in seconds. A strong easterly wind makes the
main ridge a tough walk. Storms seem to close in from the south and surround the
peaks within seconds. Be prepared and you can end up at the miserable Blue hut
like a drowned rat .