Oh Făgăraş. You kept me waiting for so long! But It Is Finished: I hiked across the entire length of the Făgăraş Mountains in less than a week! Five days and a rest day, to be precise. I still find it hard to believe that it went so well. But the pictures, the bruises on my legs and sores on my feet serve as good reminders that this actually happened: the longest hike is down! So, hiking in the Făgăraş: this is how you do it!
Hiking up to the ridge
On Saturday I met Dan in Braşov. We took a train to Zărneşti, stuffed ourselves with pizza, bought some groceries and took a taxi to Canton Rudariţa. We were lucky that the taxi driver was willing to drive us all the way there – it saved us a 9km walk along a boring road from Plaiul Foii. We didn’t much feel like camping near Cabana Plaiul Foii – it’s an extremely busy area and apparently there are thieves around. So we found ourselves a peaceful spot in the forest along a stream, so that on Sunday morning we could quickly hike up to the ridge along the red stripe trail and managed to hike 15km to Curmătura Brătilei (2125m). We were soon greeted by clouds but thankfully had good views most of the time.
‘The salted ridge’
Throughout this week, we only had rain twice: during the last hour of our long, long hike to Refugiul Viştea Mare at the foot of Viştea Mare and Moldoveanu Peaks on Monday, and a few drops (and thick clouds all day) during the gruelling section after Negoiu Peak, Custura Sărăţii – ‘the salted ridge’. And I can tell you it was very peppery indeed. I had heard many reports about the Negoiu being the most difficult mountain to conquer in the Făgăraş, so I was surprised to get to the peak (via Strunga Doamnei – Strunga Dracului is permanently closed) without much trouble. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. We frolicked around on the peak a little, waited for a view that didn’t come, had a bite and then started moving towards Șerbota Peak.
I knew there would be ‘some more climbing’ and there were some exclamation marks on the map, but I shrugged these off. But it was no joke: Custura Sărăţii is a seemingly endless concatenation of steep climbs and descents with cables and chains – and with a full pack, a sugar low, some rain and thick fog this was extra challenging. I got a little weepy and whiny (sorry Dan) but prevailed in the end. My oh my. I previously wrote that I believed the Creasta Sudica in the Piatra Craiului was the hardest hike in all of Romania, but I have changed my mind: Custura Sărăţii is definitely much more difficult. Fortunately, it wasn’t as long as the Piatra Craiului ridge.
We made it all the way to Refugiul Scara where we were reunited with other people we had met on the trail – three girls from Germany and Poland who were also doing the entire ridge, and a cute German couple. All of us were carrying tents – none of us felt like pitching them in the never-lifting clouds. So we all ended up in the refuge cooking our meals and sharing experiences. I think none of us expected this would be our last night in the mountains – but it was, because the next day we all made it down to Turnu Roşu station. It was a 25km hike, but there were only two peaks; for the rest it was a fairly gentle descent.
The lower we got, the more treats we found: blueberries and cranberries at first, and loads of blackberries on the road into Turnu Roşu. We were daydreaming about pizza and beer, but when we got to Turnu Roşu we found out that there was no food to be found – so we spent our last hour together a little dazed at Turnu Roşu station and then parted ways – back into the ‘real’ world, which, for me, is always extra disturbing after a hike on which all my senses have been 200% open.
So right now I need to shield myself a little bit – which I do by keeping my headphones on, and sifting through almost 1000 pictures. And every now and again, I cast a look on the Făgăraş ridge which I can see from here – and feel immense satisfaction. I was up there. Ninety kilometres. Up 4564 metres, down 6439 metres. Blue lakes, sparkly waterfalls, refreshing springs. Fourteen or fifteen chamois; four marmots; semi-wild horses; countless sheep. Oatmeal, rice, oatmeal, pasta, oatmeal, rice, oatmeal, pasta, oatmeal. (Anyone want oatmeal? Yikes.) My heart feels full, but I also feel addicted: I can hardly wait to go on my next hike. I’m afraid my itchy feet need some time off – but I will be on them again as soon as they let me!
Stage One: Canton Rudariţa-Curmătura Brătilei: 17.5km
Stage Two: Curmătura Brătilei-Refugiul Viştea Mare: 19.4km
Stage Three: Refugiul Viştea Mare-Capra Lake via Moldoveanu Peak: 13.4km
Stage Four: Capra Lake-Refugiul Scara: 13.1km
Stage Five: Refugiul Scara-Turnu Roşu Station: 25km
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