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Fagaras Mountains: Our First Winter Hike

Now I can honestly say with great confidence that I have stepped on the road without return: winter hikes on the snowy peaks! I am saying it is without return because this hike has completely conquered my heart and my enthusiasm grew without boundaries. It is going to be a long story, so hold on tight! :)

Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_piatra pranzului


Foreword

It so happens that in 2015 the 30th of November and the 1st of December, which are bank holidays in Romania, were on a Monday and on a Tuesday, which meant a longer weekend for us during the trip we have planned. We were eager, more than ever, to go into the wild because of one good reason: since we returned from Iceland we did not manage, from various reasons, to go to the mountainside and, to be honest, this was starting to take its toll on us.

What to do, what to do... we started researching and to see which mountains were calling for us the most. The winner was the Fagaras Mountain Range because we have some dear friends there that we could visit and also accompany for a trip on the cold peaks. The plan was to leave on a Friday afternoon from our lowlands in the direction of Sibiu and then on Saturday to move our camp at Bărcaciu Chalet. On Sunday we would head in the direction of Negoiu Chalet and on Monday we would do some hikes in the region and descend back to the old town of Sibiu where the holidays spirit was starting to take over the city. 



Day 1: The hike to Bărcaciu Chalet


Because our plan was to do a circuit where the starting point and the end point were different we had to make some logistical decisions regarding the whole trip. We had the following situation: two cars for 7 people that had to reach Bărcaciu Chalet, three of us (Me, Karina and Dan) would sleep there and hike the following days and the others (Tudor, Andrada and Monica) would return the very same day back to Sibiu. This sounds like a math exercise, right? :) Taking in consideration we would descend from the mountains on the other side in the direction of Porumbacu de Sus village, we took our car and parked it somewhere above the settlement, close to the stone quarry on the forest road, which is in pretty good condition (not the best, but manageable for small cars). During winter, you can expect heavy snows in the area so have your winter tire chains with you! We then returned with the second car to the starting point of our hike in Poiana Neamtului.

1,2,3… GO! We started our GPS in order to record the track and off we went on a muddy steep ascend. Winter: installation progress - 90%... The altitude at which you start the hike is approximately 700 meters.

Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_start

It didn’t take long until we left the muddy road behind us and started ascending on the snow covered footpath in the forest that was situated on the other side of the river (you will find a small bridge there). Everything is shrouded in mystery because of the misty atmosphere and we are looking for great shots for our camera.

Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_above_poiana_neamtului


We are following the red cross markings that guide us through the forest. The markings are in excellent conditions and the hike is pretty easy. Just before reaching the chalet we arrive at an area where the trees have been put to the ground (probably the result of a storm) and you have a clear view of the Fagaras Mountains peaks, but most notably the haughty Scara Peak.


Just a few more minutes and we arrive at tonight’s host -  Bărcaciu Chalet 1550 meters - after a 5-kilometer long hike we managed to cover in 3 hours (during summer with a bit of haste you probably can do this in approximately 2 hours).

Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_barcaciu_chalet

Sleeping at Bărcaciu


The overall atmosphere in the chalet is looking promising as a pretty big group of people from Sibiu have already started the fun. They were waiting for some other two members from their group to arrive and they were constantly making fun of them for being so late. We made our bed for later and we started eating and drinking some warm tea; afterward, we started tasting different types of “țuică” (traditional Romanian alcoholic beverage - you must try it) and playing UNO and Saboteur.

We also met our hosts - a couple of old people with big hearts, love for the mountains and a lot of humor at the expense of the people in the chalet :). They earned our admiration when we found out that the chalet is a family business developed with passion and pretty hard work. Just so you know there is no road access to the chalet so they resupply using donkeys. 


Bărcaciu Chalet details:

  • There are 26 sleeping spots in the chalet.
  • The accommodation price is 35 lei / person / night.
  • You will be sleeping in bunk beds so don’t expect too much intimacy.
  • As an advice: get some earplugs and a small summer sleeping bag (if you don't want to use their itchy blankets).
  • The heating is wood based so you need to constantly take care of the fire (we were lucky as there was always someone taking care of this aspect).
  • There is running water at the spring behind the chalet.
  • The toilets and sinks can be found behind the chalet and they are in really good condition.
  • You will find plenty of food and drinks at the chalet for a fair amount of money.
  • For reservations use these phone numbers: +40744-858140, +40740-059805

Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_barcaciu


Poiana Neamțului - Bărcaciu Chalet Hike


  • Time: 3 hours for a winter hike (probably 2 -2.5 hours during the summer).
  • Distance: 5 kilometers (one way).
  • Altitude gain: +800 meters.
  • Markings: Red Cross.

GPS Track MapMyHike





Day 2: Bărcaciu Chalet - Negoiu Chalet Hike



In order to reach Negoiu Chalet from Bărcaciu, you have multiple paths to choose from. Two weeks before when we started planning the trip and winter hadn’t fully installed in the area we wanted to reach Negoiu Chalet following the path that also takes you to Scara Peak. This all changed when we reached Bărcaciu and we decided to take the low path that goes directly to Negoiu, safety first because of the considerable snow levels in the area and because of the constant mist.

Our morning started with a little fuss as we made our backpacks and gathered our gear while most of the chalet was still sleeping. We afterward went outside and had some fun with the four dogs that were playing with each other. After a short photo shooting with the dogs, we proceeded to immortalize a shot of us holding the Romanian flag - after all this whole trip was dedicated to the National Day of Romania.

After we finished the whole thing we grabbed our backpacks and made our way to Negoiu Chalet, on the red dot markings that would guide our path all the way to the end. The sign indicated we would reach our destination in 2.5 hours during the summer season, but in winter, we will add some extra time. The hike is pretty easy as it goes along the same elevation curve but it gets more demanding where you are out in a clearing and there is a lot of snow.

After walking for no more than 45 minutes, we start to see partially in panic, partially amazed some fresh bear tracks that are accompanied by some smaller cub ones and that are walking in the same direction we are heading. F**K! Karina was already thinking of returning back to Bărcaciu, even though she said nothing at that time. A strange silence overtook the group as we all started listening for movement in the forest and we were constantly looking around. 

To my surprise, I thought that it was nap time for bears, but it seems I was wrong. This was the first time something like this happened to us. It isn’t that I don’t know there are a lot of bears in Romania and that the forests they live in are constantly getting smaller but you know, I never thought I might meet one literally. We didn’t even stop to take some photos of the tracks but thankfully we managed to get some from some really nice people from București we just met, Georgiana and Vlad.


We started feeling better when our path was going up and the bear's was going down. Phew! My heart resumed its normal beat rate and I started looking around for stuff to immortalize :).


All the while we were walking through the forest I never had any problems getting my bearings. The markings are good and the path is pretty obvious. When you reach a big clearing in a small valley and if you are as lucky as we were to be accompanied by mist and lots of snow you will see that finding the footpath will not be that easy. Because there are no trees all the markings are made on stones that are covered by a thick layer of snow. 

Luck was with us as just when we were crossing over the small river we met some people that were doing the hike in the opposite direction. As such we exchanged paths and we continued our way relaxed. We have completed three-thirds of the track and we were pretty relaxed as we still had a lot of daytime hours left. It was snowing and we were really happy because this was our  first winter hike with a lot of snow.


Sleeping at Negoiu


After 4 hours and a half spend on the 6.6 kilometer hike, we finally reach the huge Negoiu Chalet. As we had expected the atmosphere here isn’t that friendly and intimate as it was at Barcaciu. Nevertheless, we had lunch, got our room and we waited to see what the evening had to bring.

Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_negoiu_chalet

Negoiu Chalet Details:

  • There are 160 sleeping spots in the chalet.
  • The accommodation price is 35 - 40 lei / person / night (35 lei for the big rooms and 40 lei for the 4 sleeping spots room).
  • The conditions overall seem somewhat worse than Bărcaciu and the whole chalet seems to have been forgotten in time since the last dictator.
  • As an advice: get some earplugs and a small summer sleeping bag (if you don't want to use their itchy blankets).
  • The rooms are ice cold when you reach them as you are responsible for making the fire in the fireplace. The good this is that the wood is already cut and you just have to ask for more.
  • There is running spring water in the toilets.
  • The toilets even though are indoors are colder than the ones at Bărcaciu and from the cleanness point of view look pretty bad. Not to mention there are only 2 for the whole chalet.
  • You will find plenty of food and drinks at the chalet for a fair amount of money.
  • For reservations use this phone number: +40744 573 875


We waited for nightfall and for the people to start making their way to the canteen area when we revealed our socializing instruments once again: Uno and Saboteur. Some people fell in our net and we are glad we met them for together we had a pretty good night. Small tip: the hot wine is pretty good there, you should give it a try!



Bărcaciu Chalet - Negoiu Chalet Hike


  • Time: 4.5 hours with breaks for a winter hike (probably 2.5 hours during the summer).
  • Distance: 6.6 kilometers (one way).
  • Altitude gain: +/-300 meters.
  • Markings: Red Dot.



Day 3: Negoiu Chalet - Piatra Prânzului - Negoiu Chalet - Porumbacu de Sus


This morning we slept as long as we felt like it and as such we got out of bed pretty late, but when we looked outside the window we saw it was still snowing and that the clouds are pretty low. We weren't feeling like descending just yet to the car so Dan proposed an interesting hike in the direction of Negoiu peak.



We had breakfast, left our backpack at the chalet and took with us only the bare minimum for a short, 2 hours, hike following the blue triangle markings.

I had no idea how wonderful this hike would be. Dan informed us about some suspended bridges and stairways but I don’t think we truly understood what he had to say. The good thing about this is that we had a great time and wonderful surprise.


The road is like depicted from a fairy tale, with a narrow footpath winding among steep cliffs with huge icicles and suspended bridges that transported you over deep valleys.


I think this track might be one of the most visually stunning hikes in Romania and I’m surprised I didn’t know about it before, which brings me to conclude yet again that the touristic information infrastructure in Romania is pretty bad, unfortunately. But we are working on it! :) 

When we entered the clearing at Piatra Prânzului, after leaving behind the shelter of the trees and of the narrow footpath, we decided that this would be our return point, convinced also by the fog and blizzard that contributed to the white-out ahead.


Because we couldn’t forget about Romania’s National Day we celebrated it with a small photo shooting waving our national flag.



Negoiu Chalet - Piatra Prânzului Hike


  • Time: 2 hours with breaks for a winter hike (probably 1.5 hours during the summer).
  • Distance: 3 kilometers.
  • Altitude gain: +/-200 meters.
  • Markings: Blue Triangle.





For the return trip, we came back on the same track to Negoiu Chalet where we gathered our stuff, played a bit with the cute donkeys and then proceeded downhill in the direction of Porumbacu de Sus village, more precisely to the rock quarry where we had our car parked.


On the way, you can do a small detour and descend to Șerbota Waterfall. After 20 minutes from Negoiu Chalet, you will find the markings that indicate the way to the waterfall. The whole detour lasts about 30 minutes and it is totally worth it.



Negoiu Chalet - Șerbota Waterfall - Quarry (in the direction of Porumbacu de Sus) Hike



  • Time: 1.5 - 2 hours downhill.
  • Distance: 6.2 kilometers.
  • Altitude gain: -600 meters.
  • Markings: Blue Triangle.

GPS Track MapMyHike


Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_Clay Castle

Epilogue


Before we left nature for good we made a short stop at the wonderful Clay Castle where we had the pleasure of meeting its "king". He took the time to explain the story behind it and the hard work, passion and love it took them to get this great project to its current status, but also the future plans tourists in the area can expect.

We can only hope they will finish their castle as soon as possible and we wish them all the best in the future as surely they deserve it!

For those who are interested here is the Facebook page for the Clay Castle from Valea Zânelor (Fairy Valley). Can you imagine sleeping one night here? :)


Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_Castelul_de_lut


To make our departure easier, we spent the night in Sibiu which has been engulfed by the holiday spirit. The central square was full of people enjoying a warm glass of wine, cookies or other delicious treats. We found a really cute pub in the small square with excellent service and really good pizza - Lili’s Cafe.


Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_Lili's_bar_Sibiu

And this is how our extended weekend dedicated to our nation’s day ended, we had a nice hike in the mountains, we met our friends and forged wonderful memories.

Hope you found the information helpful and accurate, but remember, if you have any questions drop them in a comment below!



Fagaras Hikes - Winter weekend_Cabana_Negoiu
Fagaras Mountains: Our First Winter Hike Reviewed by Alex on 09:33 Rating: 5

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