Situated in Southern Carpathians Fagaras Mountains are the highest mountains in Romania. With eight peaks over 2500m and many glacier lakes these are a major attraction for both local and foreigner tourist.
Our plan was to climb the second highest peak – Negoiu. There are many routes for reaching the top but the most popular must be from Balea Lake. The biggest of the glacier lakes in Fagaras which now has become a winter sports resort and a base camp for climbers during the summer time. Transfagarasan, one of the most Europe’s famous road cuts his way through the mountains like a snake just meters away from the lake. One that stops at Balea is delighted with a splendid view of the valley and the northern part of the road.
On the 4th of August 2011 we packed our bags, jumped into the cars and off we went. What normally is a 4h drive trip became a race to get there before midnight. The bumpy road limited our speed under 30km/h for the last part of the drive. When we got to Vidraru Lake it was already dark. That didn’t stop Dan to rob my music cd collection.
When we finally got to Balea it was after midnight. Temperature must have been under 5C and very windy. Hardly we installed our tents, had something to eat and straight into the sleeping bags. The wind was blowing so hard and since I was struggling to fell asleep me and Cristina decided the car is a better option. It was “fun” having to wake up every hour, start the engine and turn the heat on. Barely got any sleep that night. When the morning finally came we were already ready to go.
The trail starts from Balea Lake through Caltun Lake and to Negoiu Peak and ends in the same point 12 hours later. At first one has to follow the blue/white band for about an hour until Saua Paltinu is reached. The path is well marked and shortly after the climbing starts we get the first feel of the mountain. A view of Balea Lake resort.
Once arrived in Saua Paltinu we continued our journey following the red band mark which took us up to the top. At last the sun was up and we could get a better view of what was waiting for us.
First stop was Laitel Peak. We had the pleasure to be the only ones up there so was enough space for a short stop to regain our strength and take some pictures. There was still long way to go and we were not even at Caltun Lake.
But just when than crossed our minds we see it. Far in the distance there is something between the peaks that looked like a pond. Excitement settled in as we saw Lespezi Peak in the clouds and Negoiu on the far right. The remains of last winter can still be seen as the snow still covers parts of the mountain.
The way down to the lake seemed to be easier from the top than what it actually was. The last section was not very difficult but there was a major risk of rock fall. There is also a refugee where one can spend the night if the weather turns bad. However the lake is the shadow of Lespezi Peak so the temperature at night is below freezing and very windy even in the summer.
From here on we had another 2- 3 hours of climbing on mix terrain. So far it was more of a hiking style. However from Caltun Lake it gets harder. There are a lot of sections secured with chains and the route becomes what we call a via ferrata. The tougher part of the route is the one before the summit. Strunga Dracului (Devil’s Pass) is a very narrow crack in the mountain about 200m high and almost vertical at 80 degrees inclination. It’s a very dangerous section with high risk of rock falling and it becomes extremely unstable when the bad weather hits the mountain. In present the access has been closed.
After hard work and a tough climb we’ve made it. Second highest peak in Romania at 2535m – Negoiu Peak. It’s covered in clouds and we can barely get a glimpse of the surrounding. Just enough time though to take a picture. Nevertheless happy and aware that we are only half way through.
On the way back we’ve decided to try Strunga Doamnei ( Lady’s Pass) which is a bit more easier but still secured with chains. We had another 5 hours until Balea Lake and it seemed like it was going to rain soon so we start moving. Once we got into the valley we split in smaller groups and the more fit ones went ahead. In the evening we had a nice warm dinner at the restaurant. Exhausted but happy we had good weather and were able to get to the top.
The next day we visited Capra Fall and took some pictures of Transfagarasan road before we head back home. This was no doubt a demanding route but Strunga Dracului made it worth it. I’ve never felt more alive than when I’ve climbed it.