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Fagaras Hikes: Moldoveanu The Highest Peak in Romania


fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-peak


The track to the rooftop of Romania is without a doubt one of the most beautiful in the country! As we have already done most rooftops in South East Europe but still didn't manage to reach Moldoveanu peak you can imagine that this mountain was on top of our agenda!

To be honest I am happy we delayed this for so long out of two reasons: one because we had excellent weather and two because we also celebrated our first wedding anniversary!






Before I get into the daily details I'll present some facts about the hike length and difficulty.


  • Total Distance: 28 km (return trip included)
  • Time: 18 hours - walking time without breaks: 15-16 hours
    • Timings can be less if you aren't climbing with heavy backpacks and you don't encounter snow patches.
  • Altitude gain: + / - 2800 m
  • Track via points: 
    • Balea Lac (lake) - Saua Caprei (saddle) - Lacul Capra (lake) - Fereastra Zmeilor - La Trei Pasi de Moarte - Varful Paru de Fier (peak) - Varful Arpasul Mare (peak) - Varful Mircii (peak) - Lacul Podul Giurgiului (lake) - Saua Podragu (saddle) - Cabana Podragu (chalet) -  Saua Podragu (saddle) - Saua Podu Giurgiului (saddle) - Saua Urcea Mare (saddle) - Saua Ucisoarei (saddle) - Varful Vistea Mare (peak) - Spintecatura Moldoveanului - Varful Moldoveanu (peak)  
    • (Return) Varful Moldoveanu (peak) - Spintecatura Moldoveanului - Varful Vistea Mare - Saua Ucisoarei - Saua Urcea Mare - Saua Podu Giurgiului - Saua Podragu - Lacul Podul Giurgiului (lake) - Varful Mirci - Varful Arpasul Mare - Varful Paru de Fier - La Trei Pasi de Moarte - Fereastra Zmeilor - Lacul Capra - Saua Caprei - Balea Lac (lake).

Click here for the Wikiloc GPS Track



Day 1: Balea Lake - Podragu Chalet



Bâlea Lake - Caprei Saddle - Capra Lake - Fereastra Zmeilor - La Trei Paşi de Moarte - Paru de Fier Peak - Arpaşul Mare Peak - Mircii Peak - Podul Giurgiului Lake - Podragu Saddle - Podragu Chalet.


We set out on the road on a Saturday, early in the morning, because we didn't have a lot of time to loose and because the road is pretty long. We reached Balea Waterfall around 12:10 and to our surprise, we found a roadblock and police officers that informed us that the Transfagarasan road is closed because BMW is filming a new commercial and they rented it for the weekend. Noooooo! I checked the official web page of the Transfagarasan road one day prior to departing and the only information I found there was that the road is officially open to tourists. What bothered me more is that you had to climb all the way to the waterfall to find out that the road is closed when they could have simply placed a police car at the base so you get informed and you can decide what to do. The good part was that the BMW crew also had to eat something so they were on a break from 12:30 to 13:30 when the road was open and you could reach the top or go to the other side.

As we were gaining altitude we were looking outside where clouds were gathering, covering the sun completely and the only thing you could see was Balea Lake. We couldn't even see Saua Caprei but what could we do... we gathered our gear and at 13:10 we started climbing the mountain with our heads in the clouds. The good part was that it was chilly, just perfect for hiking!


You start ascending from about 2034 meters from the back of Balea Chalet by following the blue triangle markings - the slope is pretty steep with lots of grinded stone, but with some caution, you should have no problems. In a half hour, you should reach the saddle at 2315 m from where you can see the frozen Capra lake. Unfortunately, we were still with our heads in the clouds so we were hoping for a better view on the return trip.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-capra-lake

Next to the lake you can find the Mountaineer Monument, erected to commemorate some people that were lost in an avalanche. From this saddle, you will descent on the trail until you reach 2140 m.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-capra-lake-frozen

The marking changes at the lake to Red Tape that will accompany us all the way to the saddle above Podragu Chalet. The summer markings are in top shape in the Fagaras mountains and chances to actually get lost are minimal. I am starting to get the feeling this hike will be extremely beautiful!


Meanwhile, we are starting to see the sun from time to time but the wet air is making our feet heavier and our progress not so great. This reminded me about the ascent we did on Krn Peak in Slovenia - a hike that wasn't that difficult but because of the heat and humidity it made me feel exhausted, each new step I did was harder and harder... horror story.

Between Capra lake and Fereastra Zmeilor, we encountered snow patches on the main trail - something not planned. The problem was that I left my hiking poles at home thinking that I don't need them, never going to do this mistake ever again! Without the poles, our progress was further diminished as the snow was unstable and the step sloap didn't help at all.


Finally, we reached Fereastra Zmeilor, I've been waiting to see this for a long time! The hike is excellent as sometimes you cross narrow saddles (less than a few meters wide) with big open chasms on each side.You will feel your heart racing with joy!

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-fereastra-zmeilor

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-fereastra-zmeilor

And wait there's more! Trei Pasi de Moarte here we come! A short descent on chains requires our concentration but we mark it as done and move on. :)

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-trei-pasi-de-moarte

We pass by another place of sorrow where two tourists lost their lives -  the Nerlinger Monument. From here we reach our first peak with a strange name - Paru de Fier (2250m) - the Iron Hair Peak.


After Paru de Fier peak we are starting to feel the demanding ascent in the direction of our next two peaks: Arpaşul Mare - 2468 m followed by Mircii - 2470 m.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-mircii-peak

What goes up must come down and so did we, on a knee demanding slope that takes you from Mircii peak all the way to Podul Giurgiului lake. We found the lake completely frozen with lots of snow around it and hidden in thick clouds that obscured our view, we can only hope that on the way back we will have better weather conditions.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-podul-giurgiului-lake

On our last ascent that took us right below Podragu Peak (2462 m) I started to feel the exhaustion while trying to go over some more snow patches.


Finally, we reached Podragu saddle from where we saw the lake and the chalet. In 30 minutes we descended to 2136 meters and ended the day with a well-deserved bean soup (which wasn't that great but at least it was warm).

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-podragu-saddle


The bad part is that we just returned from Macedonia 4 days prior to this trip and since then we only slept about 5 hours per night and it was starting to show on our performance. I was pretty sad when I reached the chalet exhausted and with knee aches after only a 8 kilometers hike that we covered in 6 hours. This pushed my morale to the ground when I started thinking about the next day when we had to cover 21 kilometers and a lot more altitude gain. Finally, I decided to go to sleep at about 21:00 and to see how I'm going to feel in the morning.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-podragu-chalet


PS: I wound this 4 legged beauty at the chalet -  the owner's pup, one of the most beautiful dogs I ever had the please of meeting - it was pretty hard for me to abandon her and to go to sleep. She was extremely calm and had eyes like marbles!  Can't wait to get my own!




Podragu accommodation


For the hike to Moldoveanu peak (as we have done it) the best place to sleep is at Podragu Chalet - if you are not planning to sleep in your tent. The chalet was built in the 1930s and even though it received renovations over the years it's walls are full of history. The chalet looks decent and the host, a firm and well-built woman will not let you sleep outside even if the chalet is full. The base rule in the chalet is to come with your own sleeping bag and note that it is open from May to November. During winter you can use a side construction as a refuge if needed.

Facilities:
  • 70 sleeping places - beds and bunk beds
  • Canteen with some predetermined menus (a few types of food, depending on what the owner felt like cooking)
  • A few types of drinks
  • Fresh tap water (cold)
  • Indoor toilet



Contact:

  • Chalet: +40745319766 - you will have low to minimum chances the host will have a signal.
  • If you have any other questions you can try to call +40740041766 
fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-podragu-chalet




Hike Info


  • Time: 6 hours with breaks (5 h walking time)
  • Distance: 8 km
  • Altitude gain: +/- 1200 m
  • Markings: Blue Triangle + Red Tape +  Red Triangle
  • Water sources: Balea Lake, Podul Giurgiului Lake, Podragu Chalet, possibly around Nerlinger Monument. 







Day 2: Podragu Chalet - Moldoveanu Peak - Balea Lake




Podragu Chalet - Podragu Saddle - Podu Giurgiului Saddle - Urcea Mare Saddle - Ucişoarei Saddle - Viştea Mare Peak - Spintecătura Moldoveanului - Moldoveanu Peak - Spintecătura Moldoveanului - Viştea Mare Peak - Ucişoarei Saddle - Urcea Mare Saddle - Podu Giurgiului Saddle - Podragu Saddle - Podul Giurgiului Lake - Mircii Peak - Arpaşul-Mare Peak - Paru de Fier Peak - La Trei Paşi de Moarte - Fereastra Zmeilor - Capra Lake - Caprei Saddle - Bâlea Lake.



If you get up early in the morning you will reach Moldoveanu peak... or will you? Obviously, we had a great and refreshing nap and at 5AM, without any alarm, we got up. With so many daylight hours ahead of us we simply must reach the peak! At 6:20 we started our hike. We found outside clear blue skies and warm weather - you can imagine it was 6AM at more than 2000m altitude and we were walking around in t-shirts.


We ascended back to Podragu Saddle on the same track and continued left going under Tarata Peak (2400 m), Corabia Peak(2350 m), Urcea Mare Peak(2434 m), Urcişoara Peak(2390 m) on the red tape markings.


This section of the hike is pretty easy and the slope has a low inclination. It was a pleasure to hike with all the energy we got off a good night sleep. We managed to walk the 6 kilometers all the way to the top in approximately 3.5 hours.


After 3 hours and 20 minutes, we reached Vistea Mare peak (the smaller brother of Moldoveanu) where we took some photos and continued on our way through Spintecatura Moldoveanului, a narrow saddle between the peaks where you need to mind your step. Moldoveanu peak is only 5 minutes away.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-vistea-mare-peak


We finally reached the rooftop of Romania at 10:10 in the morning accompanied by a superb blue sky. The good thing is that most probably at that hour you will be alone on the peak. We only met on the way a young couple that were early birds and that we recognized from Podragu Chalet. As we descended we saw groups of people slowly making their way to the summit. 



We had a great feeling and it was a wonderful place to celebrate our first year of marriage together! Yaaay!




For the return trip, we would go on the same way without descending to Podragu Chalet. We had a long way ahead of us (more than 7 hours walking time) so we started moving. Meanwhile, as we looked back at the peak, we saw with sadness that clouds engulfed it just as most of the people reached the summit. Oh well... that's life in the mountains!





We were thinking about the return trip and the long road, especially about the steep ascent to Mircii Peak... Alex, in particular, had no love for this mountaintop. We had the pleasure of finding Podul Girugiului lake in better weather conditions and without it being frozen (it has nice colors).



Slow and steady we made our way back to the car. After we passed the snow patches in the vicinity of  Fereastra Zmeilor I noticed that my phone's battery was really low. Because I risked the possibility of losing my GPS track recording I galloped the last part of the track, running past Capra Lake.


Before we reached Capra Lake we had a pleasant surprise: a black mountain goat escorted us for a good portion of the road. It happily played in the snow, without caring we were so close by and at one point we made eye contact after which we both were on our way. It was a unique experience for us.




On the last part of the hike, I started feeling strong aches in my knees. I kind of pushed them too hard but it was totally worth as it was an amazing track! Approximately 2 minutes after we set up our tent in the camping area near Balea lake it started raining. After we took a warm shower at Balea Chalet (for the price of 15 lei per person, with towels and soap included) we slept like a log through the whole rainy night.

fagaras-moldoveanu-hike-romania-balea-lake




Hike info


  • Time: 12 h with breaks (11 h walking)
  • Distance: 21 km
  • Altitude gain: +/- 1600 m
  • Markings: Red Triangle + Red Tape + Yellow Tape + Red Tape + Blue Triangle
  • Water sources: Balea Lake, Podul Giurgiului Lake, Podragu Chalet, possibly around Nerlinger Monument.




We didn't expect this hike to be so beautiful and we are more than glad we finally managed to do it so all I can say is that I warmly recommend it to all of you! It is not that easy but the effort is well worth it especially if the weather is on your side.

Romania truly is a wonderful country!














Fagaras Hikes: Moldoveanu The Highest Peak in Romania Reviewed by Karina Isar on 09:31 Rating: 5

4 comments:

  1. hey, what time of the year did you hike?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, we did this one at the end of June. :)

      Delete
  2. Hello guys, how are you? Thanks for share all this content! I saw all your posts about the mountains in Romania and I decided to do a few haha. It's my third time in Romania - my favourite country so far. I would like to ask you 3 things:
    1) For camping at Balea Chalet, they charge you to put the tent?
    2) There is any shelter or other place that I can use as accommodation (just in case that I don't want to sleep at Cabana Podragu (maybe around Podu Giurgiului or Lacul Podragu?)
    3) I will be hiking this mountain at the beginning of February (between 2nd and 3th week). Do you have any idea how is the weather there?
    Thanks a lot for everything! Greetings from Brazil!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Gregory,

    Glad to hear you like Romania :). February usually is a month with the highest snow levels in Romania. Most chalets in the area are closed during winter, especially Cabana Podragu because of the heavy snows. The following chalets are open in the area, as far as I know: Cabana Balea, Cabana Negoiu and Cabana Barcaciu.

    1. I don't think they will charge during winter and there are plenty of places to install the tent. Close to Balea Chalet there is an Ice Hotel open during winter so expect lots of tourist in the area.
    2. The two operational shelters in the area described are: Refugiul Vistea Mare, google maps link: https://www.google.ro/maps/place/Refugiul+Vi%C8%99tea+Mare/@45.6035906,24.744375,15.25z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x474cc1abcda9b64d:0xed900fdb7bde0b58!8m2!3d45.6052712!4d24.7457063
    and Refugiul Fereastra Zmeilor, google maps link: https://www.google.ro/maps/place/Dragons'+Window+shelter/@45.5969917,24.6430617,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x474cea19a390c5e7:0x546ff71ade6f845a!8m2!3d45.5969917!4d24.6504235
    Not sure if you will be able to enter them as heavy snows could cover up the door and it could take you a few hours to dig your was in. (depends if others have gone to it and the amounts of snow)
    3. The weather is not very stable with lots of snow. Also the high altitude hikes in the area present high avalanche risk especially if you plan to go from Balea in the direction of Moldoneanu Peak. In my opinion you need to check the weather 1-2 day max before departure as things can change drastically. TO be honest I think the Balea - Modoveanu Peak hike is totally closed during winter as it is extremely dangerous, with many exposed sections which combined with heavy snow are totally not doable.

    Have a great and safe adventure,

    Alex and Karina

    ReplyDelete

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