It’s mid autumn and I decided to go with a group of friends and climb one of the 2500m peak of the country. I’ve been trying for a while to get to Retezat Mountains with its highest point in Peleaga Peak.
Situated in Southern Carpathians the mountain was formed by glaciers in Pleistocene era and it covers almost 500 square km. 82 lakes scattered over the entire surface completes the landscape. Among them the deepest, Zanoaga, and the widest, Bucura.
There are about 500km to Nucsoara, the starting point of our route but we decide to make a stop in Targu Jiu. Here one can find three of the most important pieces of the world known Romanian sculpture Constantin Brancusi: Table of Silence, Gate of the Kiss and Column of the Infinite. The ensemble is an homage to the Romanian heroes of the First World War.
We continue our way to the final destination but as we got off the main road it also seemed we have stepped back in time. The unpaved rural road takes away precious minutes and is getting late. By the time we got to Nucsoara it was past 5pm and the sun had set already. Just outside the village the welcoming board and the marking of the route – blue band.
The plan was to spend the night at Gentiana Hut and next morning to go for the Toaca Peak summit. There is a Romanian saying that sounds something like this: the plan that you make at home never matches with the one at the fair. So as we enter the dense forest everything turns white. We were expecting some snow according to the forecast but we were just around 700m altitude. That was definitely not a good sign. It must have been snowed recently and I couldn’t stop wondering if the peak is accessible at all. The route continues through Poiana Cirnic passing by Lolaia Waterfall and further away into the forest.
Must have been around 9pm when we finally saw a light. We were going to find out that was just Pietrele Hut. We however decided to stop there and recover the lost time in the morning. The comfort is quite low for what you pay but at least the hut keeper provided us some fire wood so we can have some heat and dry the equipment. What he didn’t warned us about was the fox that tried to steal our food in the middle of the night. Or the rats that ate half of my cheese. Not so funny after you discover you have shared you breakfast with a pest and desperately reach for the bottle of alcohol at 8 am
After a busy morning and reeking of alcohol we set off. In short time we got to Gentiana Hut which apparently was just 30 mins away. If only we had known. We apologise for missing the reservation and after a cup of tea is time to get going. As previously mentioned our target was to reach the first two highest points in Retezat Mountains, Peleaga and Papusa Peaks. Initially estimated at about 9 hours, we were now facing a much deeper snow which means an extra 2-3 hours.
The forest reaches its limits and from now we start getting altitude. It’s a mix climb through rocks, frozen rivers and dwarf pines. One we got out of the valley in front of us lays Pietrele Lake. A short break to fill up our stomachs and take some pictures.
Leaving the lake behind we keep climbing and for the first time the mountain is shown to us. It’s so massive that the 50mm lens can only capture a fraction. In the centre, Curmatura Bucurei and our next stop. On the left Bucura I and II Peaks. A beautiful view indeed.
The way up is hard, steep and full of snow. But in the end we make it. As the group decided to stop in Curmatura Bucurei for lunch I go ahead towards Peleaga Peak. After 30mins or so the nature wins. The fresh snow covered all the gaps between the rocks transforming it into a mine field. I have to use my trekking poles to test every inch before i make a step or I’ll risk breaking my ankle. On top of this the rocks are covered in ice and I haven’t got my crampons with me. There is not enough time so I turn around. One day I shall return to finish what I’ve started. Having a bite at over 2000m – priceless.
We decide to go back on the same route which now seems even more hard. Nicu it’s taking his time to find an easier way down. There is no rush anymore after all.
The next morning we pack everything, not quite ready to leave the mountain, but at least a hot shower will be waiting for us back home. We all smell like burned wood as washing in the frozen river was not an option. Off we go but not before picking up the trash. I would like to find a clean environment when I shall return and not a pile of garbage.
And in the end a beautiful autumn sunset.