– Summit (2509m)
– Guided by 7 Munti.
1st – 2nd August 2014.
I was encouraged to hit this trek by my expert guide of the 7 Munti – Clubal Montan Altitudine. They not only know every inch of the mountains they trek and climb, they are passionate about what each mountain and National Park offers us individually. Each one different, but not one better than another. Although it was going to be a tough ride getting to this mountain region of the Southern Carpathians within my limited time left in Romania, my word it was worth it.
As a solo traveller I was told to expect roads unlike I’ve experienced before. I did in abundance and urge you to read my guide on driving in these regions in my soon to be published “Road to Retezat” blog. After driving solo for approximately 2000km and through 7 counties in the Carpathian region, I can consider myself rather enlightened.
I arrived in Hateg at the Police station, (yep, but don’t be alarmed by my errors) Clubul Montan kindly came to drag my sorry ass out of there and up the mountain.
Leaving the car at Cabana Cârnic Cascadă, we set off with 7 Munti for a short trek following the continuous waterfalls of the Raul Mare up to the chosen Cabana for the night. It was the beautiful Cabana Pietrele situated in the alpine woodland setting at 1480m altitude. A few scattered lodges and serving excellent Vin Fiert and hot food (friendly and efficient) I was settled in this glorious flora of the Carpathians with Ovidiu and his guests to try out the homebrewed infamous Plum Brandy. It was the the quality gear for sure.
I woke with sun streaming through the woodlands and was fascinated by the flowers surrounding every footstep. The perfect tonic.
Up for breakfast and off we trotted through this wonderfully covered terrain that only the Carpathians can offer us in Europe. The tree roots, granite stones, moss, mushrooms, flowing rivers and flowers are towered over by the pine forests for the next hour or so until you reach this little “happy place” The Cabana Gentiana. I call it the happy place, for the name is soothing (depicting the species of flower surrounding it) and the chap who runs the cabana smiles beautifully in Romanian. If travelling solo, which I was on the descent, he is a friendly and calming man to come across. Additionally, I can relate to anyone who has a “wolf” that adores him.
Next hike was to the summit, but not before fast flowing streams and dwarf pine formations that allow you to now see the depths of the valley we were in, heading towards the surrounding peaks. There are 60 peaks over 2300m and over 80 crystal clear glacial lakes, spring water can be collected from the streams at this altitude in the national park. Everywhere you look there are spotted gentian and orchid species. Still striking even when not in flower, the foliage is a distinctive backing to all the other delicate species. Many of which are native Carpathian orchids.
We arrived at Lac Pietrele and although I’m all for trekking to get to a destination or summit, this is most definitely a place to spend time, it lacks nothing but offers everything you want when travelling amongst nature. Everywhere you look, the Retezat peaks, the forests, the streams and lakes, this is the heart of the unspoilt wilderness of Romania. Surrounded by the bio-diversity of this region, this is why I came, to feel the presence of its beauty and to only see what shows itself. I crave to see the wildlife but am just as thrilled it hides from us. Ultimately this is the attitude of leaving no trace, not enforcing an encounter by food or pushing too hard towards the areas they dwell. Trek through, take it in, leave nothing.
The Retezat Marathon was taking place on the 2nd August, this must be one of the best trail runs in Europe for the ultimate athlete who not only has stamina but excellent eyesight and judgement. I cant imagine the speed of ones brain to judge every footstep down the terrain when running. My mind boggles how they stay upright.
We reached the summit, well the first of the two. I believe to be Bucura (2433m). As soon as Clubul Montan Altitudine returns from Russia, I will be asking him. They are currently on an expedition to the summit of Elbrus Mountain, the highest peak in Russia (5642m) Ovidiu takes his youngest Daughter Geta (11 years) to follow in her sister Crina Coco Popescu’s tracks of being one of the youngest to reach the 7 summits. I had to leave the trek at this stage to achieve getting back down the mountain and drive over the Carpathians before nightfall as I was heading back to England the following morning.
The solo trek back to base took me 4 hours and I still loved every moment alone. I tend to be thinking of the little beasties around me, so never feel completely alone. It was glorious sunshine for two hours whilst in the peaks, the meadows and tarns but when I arrived at the forest, the heavens opened. I have never heard thunder crack so loudly and seen lightning strike so brightly in daylight. The waterfalls that we’re beside me all the way down were furious and energising. This is nature, enjoy and endure it. For that is what it is, nature and the elements, wild and unspoilt – it spins my world.
My drive back to Bucharest was awesome but should be enjoyed without a timeline. The 7a road was a definite favourite. Although my trip to Retezat was a big challenge whilst alone and within 36 hours flat, I’m so happy I was encouraged to take it. If I had left Romania without it, I would have missed so much. I thank Ovidiu Popescu of 7 Munti for this encouragement.
When leaving this unspoilt wilderness of Romania on my plane home so shortly after, this massive ecosystem leaves you thinking of what our world once was. We only need to take a window seat on the next flight over Europe to appreciate how much of our land has been taken by crop fields and farming to understand how much wildlife habitat has been destroyed over thousands of years. This is why the Carpathians are so important to us, retaining its glorious flora and fauna, the habitat of the bear, wolf, chamois and lynx. The largest surface of virgin forest in Europe, with the Southern Carpathians being the largest un-fragmented forest area. The 1500 km mountain range is the second longest in Europe (only after the Scandinavian range at 1700 km)
Sustainable tourism and awareness are key factors in helping it retain its size and beauty as well as the communities benefiting from it’s income than that of illegal logging. The Retezat National Park was the first protected area in the Country in 1935. It retains one third of the countries flora and rare alpine species.
To enjoy the beauty of the Carpathians then Clubul Mountain Altitudine of the 7 Munti can assist you not only safely traverse these mountains but allow you to see the best of it and do so without leaving a trace. Let them guide you with their understanding and love of the Carpathians. Attempt to do all 7 peaks in 7 days perhaps, or take a couple of holidays to do a few at a time. Clubul Montan Altidudine’s other passion is to ensure the local school children understand what they have on their doorstep, to spend time in the mountains, introducing them to rock climbing, trekking and the fulfilment of reaching a summit. His work in Romania is so important for future generations and I will be featuring his and both his daughters inspiring achievements here on TOMORROWBEAR.